Outdoor kitchen ideas make preparation, cooking and serving food for family and guests as easy as it is inside your home.
They can include countertops, storage, sinks and faucets, refrigeration, bar areas and more so everything is to hand and there’s sufficient space to work. And they can be sized to suit small backyards as well as large areas.
Select materials that complement your backyard ideas to blend an outdoor kitchen into the space, and plan room for dining, shade, and planting for a handsome addition, too.
Outdoor kitchen ideas
Be inspired by our selection of outdoor kitchen ideas, from DIY solutions to sleek modern designs, and take advice from the experts.
1. Coordinate outdoor kitchen ideas with your yard
Take inspiration from your property’s architecture when you plan an outdoor kitchen to achieve a stylish space 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. Opt for covered outdoor kitchen ideas
Consider covered outdoor kitchen ideas to stay cool when when using it. You might want to include cover for outdoor bar ideas at the same time, as seen here.
Although this design is situated in a large space that includes a swimming pool, it could easily work in a smaller garden, but whether your garden is large or small, it’s important that your outdoor kitchen blends well with your overall look.
‘This home was designed to balance a modern aesthetic with warm, natural materials, focusing on the connection between the interior and the outdoors,’ says Eddie Maestri, architect and designer at Maestri Studio (opens in new tab). ‘With a surface of honed absolute black granite and a face of Lueders limestone, the outdoor kitchen island is easy to care for and resilient, a perfect match for the outdoor elements.’
3. Install storage in an outdoor kitchen
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 tongs or matches.
Ideally you should factor weatherproof (leak and frost-resist) storage for crockery and glassware, as well as cooking utensils and fuel into outdoor kitchen cost.
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,’ says Peter Humphrey, design director and founder of Humphrey Munson (opens in new tab).
Many garden furniture ranges include storage under the seats. An airtight container inside outdoor kitchen cupboards will work, too.
4. Consider DIY outdoor kitchens
There are some great DIY ways to create a stylish and practical outdoor kitchen, including the GRILLSKÄR (opens in new tab) range from Ikea, which has all the bells and whistles you’ll need to take cooking outside.
When you’re planning your perfect DIY outdoor kitchen consider including items such as a sink, stovetop or space for a BBQ, open shelving for the items that you want to use regularly and cupboards for tableware and utensils. A good sized countertop allows you to prep space, too.
5. Keep your cool
Plan shade for outdoor dining adjacent to an outdoor kitchen, as well as for the prep and cooking area.
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 an ideal patio cover idea for shading large areas without getting in the way. Or, go for a gazebo for day-long garden shade, adding side panels to block breezes.
6. Make it modern
Complement a modern garden design with outdoor kitchen ideas that are equally contemporary and sleek.
This outdoor kitchen, by French interior designer Stéphanie Coutas (opens in new tab), includes an island – which she says is a crucial part of a social space for hosting guests. ‘Outdoor kitchen islands are the perfect design for open spaces. It brings family and friends together, allowing some to sit with a glass of wine at the island and others to cook but still feel present in the conversation.’
7. Pick a design for small spaces
Outdoor grill station ideas work for small yards, and they can also be worth including in larger ones in addition to a fixed outdoor kitchen.
‘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 (opens in new tab).
This works for pizza ovens, too.
8. Plan simple preparation and serving solutions
An island on wheels is a simple way to boost prep space in an outdoor kitchen. ‘A movable outdoor kitchen island is the ideal food and drink preparation surface for alfresco entertaining,’ says Hege Lundh of Lundhs (opens in new tab). ‘Thanks to its flexibility and design, you’re able to move it from the shade to the sunshine when needed and of course move it under cover if the weather turns.’
9. Pick and mix your appliances
Think about choosing a modular outdoor kitchen system like this one from Frontgate (opens in new tab), that can be added to over time. Starting small will give you a chance to assess whether features such as a pizza oven, sink, drinks refrigerator and so on are worth including alongside the barbecue and counter.
10. Find the perfect place for an outdoor kitchen
Choosing the location for your outdoor kitchen solely based on views 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 in a sheltered spot, to prevent smoke blowing on guests or back into the house,’ says barbecue expert and chef Paul Yates.
Locate the cooking area with your back facing the prevailing winds, and think about how it will affect items nearby. ‘Place your barbecue on fire-resistant blocks to prevent high heat from damaging your garden kitchen furniture,’ advises Paul.
11. Build a pergola for an outdoor kitchen
A pergola is a pretty option for an outdoor kitchen – as well as a practical one. ‘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 (opens in new tab).
12. Create a laid-back look
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 create 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 (opens in new tab). 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.
13. Invest in handy appliances
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 of Gaze Burvill (opens in new tab).
‘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. 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.’
14. Ensure your outdoor kitchen is weatherproof
All-weather outdoor kitchens are best made from robust materials – natural stone and slate are a perfect choice for enduring use.
‘For a really cohesive outdoor kitchen, choose stones in colors and textures that complement your property’s architecture and the garden’s hard landscaping,' says Craig Davies, managing director, Sub-Zero & Wolf (opens in new tab). 'Natural stone also strikes a smart contrast with the sleek stainless-steel surfaces of our outdoor appliances.’
15. Add a garden bar to your outdoor kitchen
If you are investing in an outdoor kitchen, it's likely that you will be cooking for guests, which presents you with two problems: how will you keep them out from under your feet while you cook, and how will you make them feel comfortable, without seating them too far from where you are cooking?
The solution to both is to look at garden bar ideas for inspiration. Laid out like a kitchen island, it will separate the cook zone from the social zone, but still allow the two spaces to work closely together.
16. Make space for fuel storage
Whether you like to fire up a grill or a pizza oven, there's a likelihood that you will need to store fuel. 'This can become an artful part of your outdoor kitchen installation as in the space above,' says Homes & Gardens' Editor in Chief Lucy Searle, 'though if your kitchen is exposed to the elements, you may want to store fuel in sealed, lidded boxes to keep it dry. Either way, you need to allocate space to it.'
17. Create a grow-zone next to an outdoor kitchen
If you want to create a distinct cook zone for your backyard, using garden screening ideas will allow you to design a now-you-see-me-now-you-don't outdoor kitchen. The screening can be as solid as a wall or much softer, with planting, as above. The benefit of using foliage to screen an outdoor kitchen is that you can plan to include kitchen garden ideas into your borders, meaning you can sow, grow, harvest and cook all in one spot.
18. Decorate just like you would indoors
'There's no reason why an outdoor kitchen shouldn't be as beautifully decorated as the one you have inside,' says Lucy Searle. 'Although you will have to choose materials that can withstand temperature fluctuations at the very least, you can still include good looking kitchen countertop ideas and backsplash ideas. Paint can be used, too, to unite the scheme and perhaps even link to the color scheme you have indoors.'
19. Be space-efficient with your design
This small outdoor kitchen really packs a punch: it includes a smoker, pizza oven, sink and below-counter refrigerator, all hidden neatly behind a rendered fascia and countertop that doubles as a bar. Set away from the boundary to the neighbor's garden, it has a neat L-shape that allows for space-efficiency on one side, and a sleek finish on the other, perfect for a small backyard.
20. Go for a galley kitchen in a courtyard
This outdoor kitchen is another space-efficient solution for a courtyard, patio garden or small backyard. Relying on the design techniques used to create a single-run kitchen in apartments with open plan kitchen and living spaces, within a 10ft space, it fits in everything you'd need: from a generous-sized outdoor sink to a sizeable grill.
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 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 a range of outdoor fireplace ideas.
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 of IKEA (opens in new tab).
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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