10 outdoor kitchen ideas – create a food prep station in your backyard

Take barbecue season to the next level with a smart and practical outdoor cooking station that’s perfect for relaxed al fresco living – all summer long

Outdoor kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

Outdoor kitchens and dining spaces have become really popular over the past year, with homeowners finding new ways to really ‘live’ in their gardens. No longer just an area to plant flowers and have the odd summer barbecue, the garden has become an extension of the home for people to entertain or cozy down on a summer’s night. From full-on galleys to shady bar areas, cooking and drinking in the fresh air has gone all high design and super efficient. 

But the key to creating a stunning outdoor kitchen space is to ensure that your garden is set up for al fresco dining, entertaining – using the correct color schemes, materials and sun protection.

Take a look at these outdoor kitchen ideas for advice and inspiration before you start your design project. Once you are done, hop on over to our garden section for more inspiration.

1. Coordinate materials within your existing space

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

Take inspiration from your property’s architecture to achieve a stylish outdoor kitchen that feels like a natural extension of your home. This shiplap outdoor kitchen, painted in the same duck-egg exterior stain as the house, blends peacefully into the background, leaving the focus on dining. 

2. Install storage in an outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future)

The key to a successful outdoor kitchen is sufficient storage to stash everything where you need it. No need to run back and forth to the house every five minutes to grab those tongs of matches. Ideally you should opt for weatherproof (leak and frost-resist) storage for crockery and glassware, as well as cooking utensils and coal. 

Comfort is also essential to enjoyable outdoor living. ‘While textiles suitable for outdoor use should be capable of surviving the odd shower, it’s wise to include somewhere to store seat cushions overnight,’ adds Peter Humphrey, Design Director and Founder of Humphrey Munson. Many garden furniture ranges include storage under the seats. An airtight container inside on of your outdoor kitchen cupboards will work, too. 

3. Keep your cool

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Alicia Taylor)

Remember the importance of garden shade when setting up an outdoor kitchen. Protecting yourself from the midday sun while flipping burgers is vital for skin protection and all-round comfort. In colder climates it’s best to go for a flexible solution that can move with the sun and easily close down when not required. A cantilever parasol is ideal for shading large areas without getting in the way. Go for a gazebo for day-long sun protection, adding side panels to block breezes. 

Take a look at our shade garden ideas for more advice and inspiration.

4. Create a moveable feast

Outdoor kitchens

(Image credit: Morsø)

An outdoor kitchen should be positioned out of the wind and close to water/electricity connections. However, this doesn’t always equal the best spot for al fresco dining. A portable option allows for more flexibility. ‘A barbecue that can be moved around is great for tracking the sun – and pitched close to the table – allows the cooking to become part of the entertainment,’ says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, MD of Morsø.

5. Pick and mix your appliances

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Morsø)

Fully loaded, permanent outdoor kitchen can prove pricey. Spread the cost out with a modular system that can be added to as funds become available. Start small will also give you a chance to asses what you actually need. Choose an outdoor kitchen with segments – so you can build up as your outdoor cooking confidence grows. You could even add a pizza oven, sink and a wine fridge. 

6. Find the perfect place for an outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

Choosing the location for your outdoor kitchen solely based on views is a common mistake that can impact the enjoyment for both the chef and guests. ‘It’s best to position your outdoor area near the kitchen – for ease of access – and it a sheltered spot, to prevent smoke blowing on guests or back into the house,’ says barbecue expert and chef Paul Yates.  

Prevailing winds come from the southwest and west, so try to locate your cooking area with your back facing that direction. ‘Place your barbecue on fire-resistant blocks to prevent high heat from damaging your garden kitchen furniture.’

7. Set up an outdoor kitchen in the shade

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: South Hams Fencing & Landscaping Ltd)

Although the dream of catching some rays while cooking outdoors sounds good, it’s much more practical and comfortable to include some shade. ‘If your garden doesn’t have a covered spot that offers protection from the sun, you can create a pergola and grow wisteria and vines that will provide beautiful dappled light and relief from the heat,’ says Wayne Cocker, director, South Hams Fencing and Landscaping.

8. Create a laid-back look

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / WWOO)

Open shelving provides a laid-back look in a concrete outdoor kitchen. Created by Piet-Jan van den Kommer, this outdoor kitchen comes in modules that can be linked to scheme your desired width. ‘You can include a cooking facility such as a Big Green Egg grill, plus a sink and dining furniture to really take the indoors outside, ‘ says Simon Hawkins, director, WWOO. The use of portable wooden crated for crocked and table linens aids speedy set-up. They can be stored inside to help protect from weather damage. 

9. Invest in handy appliances

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Gaze Burvill)

Convenience is key when planning an outdoor kitchen. ‘Most people only focus on the grill, but we’ve installed fridges, pizza ovens, cocktail bars and teppanyaki griddles,’ says Tom Evans, marketing manager, Gaze Burvill. ‘Decide your amenities list early on to ensure the necessary pipes and cables are laid in the right places. Appliances must be rated for outdoor use and have CE certification. A warranty is also useful as they will be exposed to the extremes of heat and freezing. A good outdoor kitchen designer will provide a utility drawing, detailing plumbing and electrics.’

10. Ensure your outdoor kitchen is weatherproof

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Subzero Wolf)

All-weather outdoor kitchens are best made from robust materials – natural stone and slate are a perfect choice for enduring use summer after summer,’ says Craig Davies, managing director, Sub-Zero & Wolf. ‘For a really cohesive outdoor kitchen, choose stones in colors and textures that complement your property’s architecture and the garden’s hard landscaping. Natural stone also strikes a smart contract with the sleek stainless-steel surfaces of our outdoor appliances.’ 

What is the best outdoor kitchen?

The best outdoor kitchen is one that include all the essentials. Whatever your space, start with a barbecue with a work surface/countertop beside it. Choose between a gas or charcoal barbecue, bearing in mind that gas will be easier to keep clean and give your the option of using it year round. 

If your budget allows, look for a design that features a rotisserie for slow-roasting meats – great for summer dining or Sunday lunches. Storage cabinets are always a handy extra for stashing utensils and cookware, while other optional add-ons include pizza ovens, outdoor sinks with taps and even fridges.

How do I build an outdoor kitchen on a budget?

For a flexible solution that’s budget-friendly, put together a temporary outdoor kitchen be being creative with off-the-shelf outdoor trolleys and a portable BBQ. Choose lightweight furniture with wheels to make it easy to stash everything away in winter. ‘Trolleys are great for stowing away plates and accessories for serving, with space on top to prep and dish-up, ‘ says Lisa Bradshaw, Outdoor Furniture Sales Leader at IKEA