The Complete Guide to Building an Outdoor Kitchen

Build an Outdoor Kitchen

A fully-equipped outdoor kitchen isn’t just great for backyard barbecues. It’s also convenient for anyone who likes to spend time outside! If you’re interested in making your own grilling station or simply having a place to set out food for guests, check out these incredible ideas for building an outdoor kitchen!

Identify Where Your Outdoor Kitchen Will Go

Before putting together your kitchen, take note of the space you have. Even a small outdoor living space can provide enough room for kitchen essentials! And if you have a pool, patio, or other backyard space, try to incorporate them into your layout. Get inspired with the creative options below!

Transform a Patio into a Kitchen

An already paved area like a patio is a great place to build an outdoor kitchen and dining area in your backyard.

Move Your Kitchen to an Open Deck

An open deck provides not only plenty of room for a kitchen and dining setup, but makes it easy to go back and forth from the house to the outdoor space.

Turn a Covered Deck into an Outdoor Kitchen

A covered deck is the perfect spot for a year-round outdoor kitchen! (Keep in mind that you may need to close it in more depending on where you live.)

Add an Outdoor Kitchen to Your Pool

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Take the concept of the swim-up bar and go bigger! An outdoor kitchen attached to a pool will become your new favorite hangout at home.

Make the Ultimate Backyard Entertaining Space

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No existing patio or deck? No problem! With a little bit of landscaping, you can create places for your kitchen appliances, tables, and chairs.

Set Up a Cooking Station Under a Pergola

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A protected space like a pergola provides just the right amount of cover and shade for your ultimate outdoor kitchen.

Combine the Kitchen & Dining Area

If you’re limited on space on your deck or patio, combine the kitchen and dining area. This makes it easier to move food between the grilling station and the table, too!

Ditch the Dining Area for Bar Seating

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Don’t want a large outdoor dining table crowding your space? Go for a more intimate layout by creating an outdoor kitchen with bar seating instead.

Determine Your Outdoor Kitchen Setup

Outdoor kitchens typically come in three setups: kits, modulars, and built-ins. Take into account your budget and backyard space before deciding on a particular setup.

Outdoor Kitchen Kits

Outdoor kitchen kits are the simplest and most cost-effective of all the setups. These prefabricated kitchens are easy to install, though you still have to connect them to water and gas lines. Kits are a single island with countertop space, a grill, and some storage, but you can upgrade to a higher quality kit that comes with more features like a refrigerator and better granite and stone materials.

Modular Kitchen Setups

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Modular outdoor kitchens are essentially a mix-and-match version of the outdoor kitchen kit. With this setup, you choose your base, countertop materials, and layout (i.e., It could be U-shaped instead of the standard island layout). A grill, a refrigerator, and storage space are typically included, and you can add on any other features you need, such as a sink, dishwasher, or warming drawers.

Built-In Outdoor Kitchens

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Built-in setups are the most advanced option for an outdoor kitchen, as they generally require a contractor for installation. These custom setups include high-quality stone work and other landscaping details. They can also be connected to a fireplace, a wet bar, an indoor-outdoor space, a pool, etc. Even though they’re the most expensive outdoor kitchens, they’re guaranteed to be complete showstoppers.

Make Sure You Have the Necessities

Two of the most important aspects of designing an outdoor kitchen will be the grilling station and the counter space around the station. Regardless of budget and size, all outdoor kitchens need these.

Choose Your Grill

While the similarities between an indoor and outdoor kitchen may be close, the biggest advantage of an outdoor space is the freedom of open-flame cooking. Get serious about your cooking and think carefully about the grill that’s right for your needs!

Natural Gas or Propane

While a gas or propane grill itself may be more expensive than a charcoal grill, they’re the most cost-effective in the long run because the utility costs are cheaper than buying charcoal. Remember with a gas grill, you need to have lines laid beneath the ground, which requires a permit from your city. Propane grills can either be connected to gas or used with refillable canisters.

Charcoal

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There are few things more delicious than the taste of meat grilled over charcoal. These grills do require a bit more setup than gas, but they still deliver on taste and efficiency. You can even have a portable charcoal grill in your outdoor kitchen that can be put away to save space.

The Big Green Egg

The Big Green Egg grill is both unique and space-efficient. This little charcoal grill is perfect for smaller outdoor kitchen setups or as a companion to a larger gas grill.

Electric

Sleek and small, electric grills are perfect for small outdoor kitchens with limited cook space. Electric grills are also good solutions for apartment and condo dwellers who aren’t allowed to have gas grills.

Mix & Match

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Can’t decide how to set up your grilling station? Combine different grills! Many outdoor kitchen setups allow for multiple cook spaces, so you can have the best of all grilling worlds.

Choose Your Countertops

Outdoor countertops must be durable, water-resistant, and strong enough to withstand the elements year-round. Below are a few outdoor kitchen countertop options to consider.

Concrete

Concrete countertops are durable, modern, and cost-effective. Keep in mind that concrete can fade in color over time, so you’ll need to consider whether you have a covered or uncovered outdoor kitchen.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an excellent option for countertops. Because it’s not one giant slab of stone, stainless steel isn’t as easy to measure out, making it a little pricier than concrete. However, its appearance and strength make it worth the investment. Because they resist tarnish and damage from rain, stainless steel is perfect for open outdoor kitchens. Just remember they get very hot in the sun!

Granite

Stone countertops like bluestone may be beautiful, but they can be porous and absorb stains over time. But granite—with its durability, visual appeal, and stain/fade resistance—is a great choice for both covered and uncovered countertops.

Soapstone

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Soapstone is another stone countertop option that’s not only strong, but also bacteria-resistant! Nonporous and incredibly sturdy, soapstone can also withstand fluctuations in temperature, making it perfect for uncovered or covered kitchens throughout the seasons.

Wood

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Wood countertops will definitely make your outdoor kitchen stand out, but they do require more maintenance than other materials. Because they’re porous, wood countertops need protective stains and oils to prevent damage. This option is best for covered outdoor kitchens.

Tile

Glazed ceramic tile countertops offer a variety of patterns and colors. Tile countertops require regular maintenance, as the grout may get dirty over time. Keep in mind that tiled countertops in colder climates may have issues with grout cracking, so make sure they’re in a covered outdoor kitchen.

Go Over the Top to Create Your Dream Kitchen

Once you have the necessities, it’s time to go big or go home! If you have the budget and the space, you can install additional features to turn your new cooking spot into the kitchen you’ve always dreamed of.

Build an Outdoor Kitchen Island

If you know you’ll need lots of space for food prep in your kitchen, why not add an island? A separate island offers extra seating and dining space that frees up counter space near the grill.

Install Overhead Cabinets

Need more storage space in your outdoor kitchen? Set up polymer overhead cabinets to store all of your outdoor dishes, glassware, cooking utensils, placemats, and more!

Opt for Rolling Cabinets

Whether you need to grab utensils quickly or simply need a makeshift island, rolling cabinets can provide the versatile storage and additional cooking space you need in your outdoor kitchen!

Put a Hood Above the Grill

You’ll look like a true chef with an outdoor kitchen that has a sleek hood above the grill or stove.

Keep Your Space Warm with a Fireplace

For the ultimate luxury outdoor kitchen, you need a fireplace! Not only does this setup look gorgeous, but it ensures you stay warm whenever you’re cooking on cooler evenings.

Hang a Flatscreen TV

Setting up a flatscreen TV outside in your kitchen and dining area means you’ll never have to worry about missing a moment of the game!

Install a Pizza Oven

Become the most popular home in the neighborhood! By adding a woodfire pizza oven to your backyard cooking station, you’ll be the ultimate hangout for great food.

Add a Meat Smoker

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In addition to a grill and pizza oven, a meat smoker is an excellent feature for barbecue masters and grill enthusiasts to have in their outdoor kitchens.

Don’t Forget Warming Drawers

Keep meals hot and ready for guests with handy warming drawers built into your grilling station. Some even come with moisture controls so the food inside doesn’t dry out while sitting.

Build a Wet Bar

If you love to entertain, you need an outdoor bar! Stock your favorite beers, liquors, and wines around your cooking station, and be sure to have plenty of seating so you can kick off happy hour right.

Install Beer Taps for Perfect Pours

Don’t stop at the wet bar! Keep the good time flowing by setting up kegs under your counters and installing beer taps for your favorite brews.

Include a Dishwasher in Your Kitchen Setup

Amenities like a dishwasher can cut your cleanup time in half, and it makes it even more convenient since you won’t have to run back and forth between your indoor kitchen and your outdoor kitchen.

Go for a Farmhouse Sink

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Why not dress up your outdoor kitchen sink a bit? A deep farmhouse sink is a beautiful addition to a custom kitchen setup, and it makes cleaning up after food preps much easier.

Make It a Complete Outdoor Living Space

If you really want to go all in on your kitchen, make it a whole outdoor living space complete with a fireplace, dining area, sitting area, and a bar. It will be your backyard oasis!

Decorate Your Outdoor Kitchen

With everything set up and ready to go, all that’s left is to decorate your new outdoor living space. Throw in pops of color, add more storage, and make your kitchen feel more like home!

Use Good Lighting

Especially if you plan to use your kitchen at night, you’ll want good lighting. Brighter, stronger lights are better in areas where you’ll be cooking, but more decorative lights like torches, pendant lights, or string lights are okay around where you’ll be eating.

Add a Colorful Backsplash

A backsplash is a great way to add color and contain messes in your kitchen. Use a patterned tile, a bright-colored stone, or painted pallet wood to create your backsplash.

Lay Down an Outdoor Rug

Add color to your space and protect your deck or patio at the same time with an outdoor rug! Be sure any rug you use is both stain and weather-resistant.

Install Floating Shelves

With floating shelves, you can display vases, photos, succulents, or even a spirits collection. Not to mention, having shelves provides more vertical storage space in your outdoor kitchen.

Utilize Patio Umbrellas

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Building a covered deck or pergola for your outdoor kitchen can be expensive. Cut down on the costs with a few patio umbrellas for shade and protection from the elements.

Get More Privacy with a Screen

Want more privacy in your outdoor kitchen? Add decorative screens that are both functional and visually appealing around your outdoor living area.

Set Up a Planter Wall

A planter wall not only adds a rustic touch to an outdoor kitchen, but it also keeps your space feeling fresh. Pro-Tip: Plant herbs that can be used for grilling or in cocktails.

Add a Bar Cart

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If you don’t have the budget to build a wet bar into your kitchen, but you still want to have a spot for your refreshments, go with a simple rolling bar cart!

Don’t Forget Wine Racks

Save cabinet space by moving your wine collection to a standing wall rack or a floating wall rack.

Dress Up Your Space

A simple way to make your outdoor dining area look better is to set the table! With placemats, chair covers and cushions, and place settings for your guests, it shows you know how to throw a party outside.

Looking for other ideas for your outdoor living space? Check out these ideas for designing an outdoor living room!!