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Outdoor Kitchen Buyers Guide - The Grilling Life

In this ultimate outdoor kitchen buyers guide, I’m going to be giving you everything you need to know for building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. A Grilling Life guide for outdoor kitchens.

You will transform your backyard or patio into an epic outdoor experience for family and guests alike when installing an outdoor kitchen.

Equip your outdoor space with food, drinks, utensils, and all the cooking accessories you need to create lasting memories without having to set foot inside.

Are you ready to make your dream outdoor kitchen a reality?

We’re here to help!

In this article, we’ve broken down all the details that go into buying your outdoor kitchen.

It will help you feel confident in your purchase so you can stop dreaming and start cooking!

In This Article, We’ll Explore:

Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.

Determine your Project Scope & Budget

Before you get started, you need to have a general plan of what you want to include in your outdoor space.

This will help you create a budget and have realistic expectations for your outdoor kitchen.

Your project scope and budget will also help you with your game plan and make the entire process much more enjoyable and not so overwhelming.

For starters, make a list of all the features you want to include in your outdoor space, then decide which ones are in your budget and are most important to you.

Your list might look a lot like this:

  • The Grill – Will it be Freestanding or Built-In Gas Grill? Do you want to include an Electric Smoker, Charcoal Grill, or Pizza Oven? How about a Flat Top Gas Grill?
  • Sinks – How many? If you decide to include a bar area, will that sink double for food prep? Or do you want these spaces to be separate?
  • Refrigerators – Will a mini-fridge suffice, or does a full-size fridge make more sense for your space?
  • Countertops & Islands – What is your kitchen layout, and how much counter space will you need?
  • Flooring – Do you need to upgrade your current patio or decking, or will it suffice?
  • Storage – How much food, appliances, and utensils do you plan on keeping outside? How will you keep it protected from the elements or pests?
  • Garbage Receptacles – Are you content with an outdoor trash can, or are you planning on installing a garbage disposal in your sink? How about a built-in trash bin? Do you have a compost you can incorporate?
  • Bars & Accessories – Will you have a fully stocked bar? How will you store bar items? Will you include bar stools, or will it be strictly a standing bar with other seating available?
  • Shading – Do you have plenty of natural shade in your backyard, or will you need to invest in pergolas, canopies, shade sails, or a gazebo?
  • Lighting – What kind of lighting are you planning on incorporating? How will you power those lights?
  • Décor – How will you use throw pillows, signage, candles, kitchen accessories, and other decorative features to express your style and create the backyard vibe you want?
  • Utilities – What utilities will your design require? Is running water, gas, and electricity to your outdoor kitchen within your budget?
  • Winterization – If you live in a cold climate, how will you insulate and protect your oasis through the cooler months.

Use this checklist as a starting guide as you plan the budget and project scope of your outdoor kitchen.

Figure out where you will Install your Outdoor Kitchen

You want your outdoor kitchen to be a convenient distance from the house without creating any fire hazards. Ideally, the grill should be between 15 and 20 feet from your indoor kitchen.

Keeping your grill at a convenient distance will make it easier to bring food and supplies from your house to your outdoor kitchen. You’ll also save money by running utilities a shorter distance.

If your outdoor kitchen is close to the house, you can place seating and tables closer to the outside wall to provide shade and shelter to your guests at no extra cost.

To eliminate the hazard of fires, don’t use your grill on an enclosed patio or under a covered patio without a grill vent hood. You should also keep it at least 10 feet from any combustible materials like wood siding, deck railings, and tree branches.

Decide between a Custom Build or Stock Solution

Custom building your outdoor kitchen gives your complete control over the finished product. You get to choose and customize the layout, appliances, storage systems, and kitchen materials.

Unfortunately, the custom kitchens come with a much higher price tag depending on the options you choose. They also require more decision-making.

However, because they offer the most flexibility if it’s in your budget, custom is the way to go. Custom built-in kitchens can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $50,000.

Stock kitchens come with their pros and cons. While you won’t be able to customize each aspect of your outdoor space, there are still plenty of pre-made options that allow you to find something that fits your budget and your personality.

Many stock kitchens give you options to upgrade certain features such as refrigerators, lighting, and countertops. You will also be able to get cooking faster in a prefab kitchen since it will be ready to use on installation day.

You might sacrifice a level of control with a stock kitchen, but you’ll save a lot of money in the long run. Depending on the options you choose, a stock kitchen costs between $2,000 and $30,000.

Choose which BBQ Island Layout is Best for you

An island is an excellent option for your outdoor kitchen layout. Its universal shape works for both small and large set-ups. If you’re working with limited space, an island is an ideal way to bring all the elements of an outdoor kitchen without causing crowding.

Typically an island consists of countertop space and a grill. In a small space, it’s really all you need to complete your outdoor kitchen.

For larger areas, an island is used as a centerpiece to the kitchen and is reminiscent of the traditional indoor kitchen set-up. It adds extra workspace and encourages your guests to gather around.

If you’re limited on space or have a lower budget, the island layout doesn’t require any additional construction and gives you the most versatility.

Pick the Appliances you Want to Include

Apart from your grill (which, by the way, is an essential appliance you’ll buy for your outdoor kitchen), you’ll have to choose other kitchen appliances that will last for years to come.

High-quality products rated for the outdoors are always the way to go when selecting your kitchen extras.

Make sure you include and budget for any of the following for your outdoor kitchen:

  • Refrigerators
  • Sinks
  • Storage drawers and cabinets
  • Side burners
  • Pizza ovens
  • Must-have grill accessories

Other features like built-in safety systems are also important considerations when you purchase your kitchen equipment.

Safety systems on grills protect against gas build-up and uncontrolled combustion.

Choose The Fuel Type For Your BBQ Grill Island

As with any grill purchase, you need to consider the fuel type of your BBQ grill island.

For the most part, choosing the fuel type comes down to personal preference, convenience, and cooking style.

We’ll cover some of the basics of each grill island fuel options below.

Propane BBQ Islands

If you want to have a portable island that can be easily moved or broken down depending on the season, a propane BBQ is a great option.

Most grills islands are designed to fit a standard 20-pound cylinder. Depending on your set-up, they can also be used with a bulk tank.

The only downside to propane BBQ islands is that you will need to keep an eye on fuel levels and occasionally refill or exchange your tanks.

Natural Gas BBQ Islands

For homeowners that already use natural gas in their homes, a natural gas BBQ island is highly convenient.

As long as you pay your gas bill on time, you’ll never have to worry about running out of fuel.

Natural gas BBQ islands require that a professional run a gas line to the grill, and precautions should be taken to ensure sufficient ventilation in your cooking area.

Electric BBQ Islands

Electric BBQ islands are essentially carefree once they are correctly installed.

You need an available electrical outlet for the grill at the installation site, which might require a professional to install.

However, once the initial setup is over, cooking is as easy as plugging your grill into the island’s outlet.

Grill Island Ventilation – Do I Need a Rangehood for my BBQ?

Rangehoods are a practical addition to your BBQ because they keep your new pristine kitchen free from smoke, grease, and odor.

The powerful exhaust system not only whisks away lingering smells but also works as a safety measure.

As mentioned earlier, proper ventilation is vital to a safe and effective kitchen, especially if you choose to use a natural gas grill.

BBQ range hoods can be 650mm to 800mm in depth. When purchasing, make sure that it is the same size or larger than your BBQ and should cover add-on grills and hot plates as well.

To keep up the cohesive flow you’ve worked so hard to achieve, choose a range hood that compliments the design of your outdoor kitchen.

Rangehoods come in three different styles that include canopy, fixed, and downdraft.

Choose your Base Frame & Cabinetry Materials

When it comes to building the base cabinetry, you’ll want to pick materials that complement your style and are long-lasting.

Wood frame bases are the most affordable. You can customize a basic wood base by pairing it with either drywall or cement board and finishing it with stucco or tile.

Although the cost upfront will be considerably less than other options, wood frame bases have a much shorter life expectancy and stability.

Concrete blocks also work well as a base and can be finished with stucco or tile. They are also an affordable, durable option for base frames, but they limit your storage space.

Welded aluminum frames with stainless inserts are a step up from wood and concrete but still help you stay within budget.

These frames come with an attached fiber cement board and can be customized with paint or stucco. They hold up well in humid climates and allow you to add in garbage bins, refrigerators, or storage as needed.

Paver frames with stainless inserts are increasingly popular, especially if you enjoy that southwestern style.

Pavers are stacked with adhesive to create a base, keeping in mind the planned opening for the cabinets, grill head, and refrigerator. You can choose from endless color and pattern options that will stand the test of time.

For cabinets that outlast the humidity and never go out of style, stainless steel is the way to go. Stainless steel cabinets work for any layout and easily connect together.

If you’re looking for additional storage, adding upper-level cabinets is a breeze. Different grades of stainless-steel offer better durability levels, so choose one based on your budget and climate for the longest-lasting option.

Plan on how you will Handle Delivery & Installation

Prepping ahead of time will make delivery and installation faster and eliminate frustration for you and the installer.

If you’re ordering a large island, you might need a forklift to get it off the delivery truck. Know ahead of time if that’s included in the delivery or if you need to rent one.

The installer should also know which utilities your outdoor kitchen requires and the appliances’ BTU ratings. Your gas supply should be able to support the BTU ratings of all your appliances together.

Make an Aesthetic Statement by Choosing the Perfect BBQ Island Finishes

The right finishes to your outdoor kitchen will add to the aesthetic of your space. With so many colors and textures to choose from, where do you begin?!

Start with what you want your kitchen to say. How do you want the space to feel? Fun? Romantic? Rustic? Do you like beach vibes, bar vibes, or both?

Once you’ve identified the general style you want for your outdoor kitchen, choose your finishes accordingly.

Popular BBQ island finishes include:

  • Black metallic
  • Brownstone
  • Brick
  • Copper metallic
  • Greystone
  • Slate grey metallic
  • Stainless steel
  • Whitestone

You can’t go wrong with stainless steel features, solid colors, and stones. They make great backdrops and match almost all appliances and allow freedom in the future as your space evolves.

Picking your BBQ Island Countertop Material

Countertops are often the first thing you notice walking into a kitchen, so you’ll want to choose a material and color that enhances the overall feel of your outdoor kitchen. More importantly, the countertop you choose should be easy to maintain and practical for everyday use.

I’ll cover four of the most popular countertop materials below.

Tile Countertops

Tile is a common option for countertops because it is easy to install, comes in various shapes and colors, and is affordable. Unfortunately, tile grout is difficult to clean and stains easily. It also creates an uneven surface for drinks.

Stainless-Steel Countertops

Stainless-steel countertops are easy to clean and must-haves in professional kitchens. They also have an industrial feel to them and are long-lasting as far as countertops go.

Just make sure to choose a high grade stainless-steel, with 304-grade being the best choice for withstanding the elements.

Concrete Countertops

Concrete countertops are also on-trend if you enjoy the industrial style. Concrete can also be stained and stamped in unique ways that add a special touch to your kitchen decor. The only downside to concrete is that it takes work to maintain, it can crack in freezing and thawing climates, and it costs nearly as much as granite to install.

Granite Countertops

Granite holds up to humidity well and will likely outlast the rest of your outdoor kitchen. It comes in countless colors and patterns and is available in different grades, so you can find one that fits your budget.

Should Outdoor Storage Match your Grill?

While outdoor storage doesn’t necessarily have to match your grill, you should still choose storage that compliments it for a cohesive look.

Keep in mind that if you buy a line of BBQ island storage to match your grill, you can expect to invest more than if you choose your storage separately.

While matching island storage isn’t a priority for everyone, it does make the area flow together nicely. However, if it’s not within your budget for storage to match your grill, at least consider buying matching components. For example, search for cabinets with the same style of handle and general shape and finishes.

Choose your BBQ Island Storage Class

There are generally two storage classes you can choose from, based on the quality of their builds, features, and performance. Which class is right for you will depend on your lifestyle and budget.

Premium BBQ Island Storage

Premium brands match their storage lines to their grills for a harmonious look. The small details and the variety of colors included making your space stand out. 

They often include hidden hinges, soft-closure mechanisms, and recessed handles to give a luxurious feel. Storage components in the premium class also include gaskets that protect dry goods, dishes, utensils, and glasses from the elements. 

Premium storage lasts a long time thanks to a minimum of 304 stainless-steel build materials.

Standard BBQ Island Storage

If premium isn’t in your budget, or if matching your grill to your storage system isn’t on your list of must-haves, then you’ll want to stick with standard storage. 

The generic stainless-steel style usually includes visible hinges and simple handles. The 304-grade steel continues to ensure durability and provides a clean, minimalist look to any outdoor kitchen.

What are the Outdoor Kitchen Storage Necessities?

Outdoor kitchens come with countless add-on options that can get overwhelming and break your budget quickly.

There are, however, a few BBQ island storage components that are a must in every outdoor kitchen and I will cover them below.

Outdoor Kitchen Access Doors

You don’t need BBQ access doors directly beneath your grill, but they are vital to accessing the grill’s gas connections and water lines to the sink. Ideally, they should be within 6 feet of your BBQ island so you can easily attend to them these hookups when needed.

If any of your appliances are connected to gas or water, stainless steel outdoor kitchen doors are a stylish way to conceal these critical points of access.

Outdoor Kitchen Storage Drawers

Drawers are a basic necessity in any kitchen, and it’s no different for your outdoor cooking space. They provide organization for utensils, cookware, flatware, grilling tools, and towels.

Everything you need in a kitchen is at your fingertip. When you’re not using your outdoor BBQ island, storage drawers also keep these items dry and dust-free.

Access Door & Drawer Combos

Door and drawer combos can be customized in several different ways allowing you to pair up to two doors and four drawers. They provide a tidy, space-saving solution for any BBQ island.

Access doors and drawers can be installed as a stand-alone unit within six feet of your grill or set up directly below it.

Propane Tank Enclosures

For propane grills, a propane tank should be securely housed yet easily accessed. Propane tank bins provide a safe place for tank storage that is out of the way of foot traffic and gives your kitchen a clean and tidy look.

Enclosures with a sliding roll-out drawer make it easy to pull out empty tanks and hide away full ones. Your grill manual will have further instruction on proper tank placement.

Outdoor Kitchen Trash Bins

Prepping, cooking, and eating all create trash, and nothing kills the mood faster than the smell or sight of old garbage.

Rather than making countless trips into the house with garbage or leaving out a large, ugly trash bin, opt for a built-in trash bin. BBQ island trash bins can slide or tilt out. Trash chutes allow you to swipe your trash directly into the bin from your countertop, meaning you only have to open it when you empty it.

A built-in trash bin keeps trash out of sight and prevents insects and pests from making a further mess. Since it’s covered, it will also keep the smell down and the party vibes up.

Outdoor Kitchen Storage Options you’ll Wish you Included

When you’re on a tight budget, or you’re just trying to wrap up your project before the summer months roll around, it becomes easier and easier to start saying “no” to extra outdoor kitchen features.

While the following items aren’t necessarily on our must-have list, they are definitely an excellent addition to your island BBQ. Consider investing in them now to prevent any future regrets.

Enclosed Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets

If you think a refrigerator will cover all your food storage needs, consider how many dry goods you use while you’re cooking. Dry rubs, spices, condiments, and more could all be ruined by the elements if not properly enclosed.

Dry-storage cabinets will prevent these items from being affected by moisture, humidity, and insects. Stainless steel outdoor kitchen cabinets that are labeled as water-resistant, waterproof, or dry-storage are your best bet so you can stop throwing away spoiled food and get back to hosting.

Outdoor Kitchen Warming Drawers

Depending on the size of the crowd, it’s most likely impossible to cook everything on your grill at once. Thankfully, stainless steel warming drawers can help keep your food warm after it’s been grilled so everyone can enjoy a hot meal simultaneously.

Some warming drawers also double as bun warmers or can be used to heat side dishes.

When your grill isn’t in use, use your warming drawer to keep pool towels toasty so your guests can stay cozy after a refreshing swim.

Outdoor Kitchen Paper Towel Holders

Your BBQ island is excellent for making the most of a small space. Additional accessories like paper towel holders work nicely as space savers as well.

Rather than using up precious counter space, a paper towel holder keeps towels handy for small spills yet out of the way and out of sight.

Ice Bins & Ice Chest Drawers

Ice bins and ice chest drawers are a must if you plan on including a bar area in your outdoor kitchen. These stainless steel ice chests look sleek while keeping beverages cool for your guests.

Ice chest drawers can hold the ice bin or ice chest and work well with ice makers placed in your BBQ island.

When your bins are empty, use them for seasonal storage of tablecloths and napkins.

BBQ Island Spice Racks

No grill master is without his favorite spices on deck. Adding a spice rack inside your outdoor kitchen drawer keeps your seasonings organized so you can spend less time rummaging around for them and more time cooking.

Spice racks also eliminate counter clutter so your guests can enjoy your delectable creations in comfort.

What are the Latest Outdoor Kitchen Storage Trends?

Every design decision you make regarding your storage areas will help establish an overall theme in your kitchen.

So whether you want to match the storage to your grill, choose individual components, stick with the basics, or splurge on every item available, we’re here to help you create the grill island of your dreams.

Below are some of the hottest outdoor kitchen storage trends currently hitting the market.

Stainless Steel BBQ Storage

Stainless steel has a clean, sleek look to it that goes well with most styles but mainly traditional or industrial designs. It looks especially great with red brick, painted brick, or stone. It’s also a great way to have your storage match your grill.

If you choose stainless steel BBQ storage, make sure you pick commercial-grade 304 stainless steel for a long-lasting storage solution. It’s also important that you clean and dry stainless steel regularly to prevent fading and discoloration.

Colorful Stainless Outdoor Cabinets

If you love bright and bold designs, your outdoor kitchen should reflect that. You can draw attention to your colorful taste with colored stainless outdoor kitchen cabinets and drawers.

They look best with ledge stone, stucco, and stacked stone. Pair colored cabinets with black soapstone, marble, or quartz tabletops for festive yet tasteful results.

Teak Grill Island Storage

If you love earthy tones and natural textures, then teak will give you that warm and inviting feel that leaves your guests feeling relaxed and far from civilization. Pair your teak cabinets with concrete countertops for a fresh, modern look.

Teak requires maintenance at least twice a year to keep it looking its best. We recommend applying oil or sealer to prevent it from looking faded and outdated.

Final Thoughts on our Outdoor Kitchen Buyers Guide

There are a lot of details to consider when designing your outdoor kitchen.

From the type of grill to kitchen accessories to the colors of your countertops and throw pillows. But putting in the extra time to research and plan now will ensure that your finished product is your dream outdoor kitchen.

Remember to keep in mind your budget, style, and overall practicality of the items you purchase for your grill island, and you’ll be happy with the end result.

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Disclosure: At The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.

Patrick Ginise

A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!

I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!

I have personally tested over 150+ Grills and Smokers and hundreds of grilling thermometers, temperature controllers, grill brushes, grilling tools, fire starters, and other BBQ products.