To make this type of dining possible, you could have a simple grill and a picnic table, but if you enjoy the finer things in life, you absolutely must have an outdoor kitchen situated in your yard. Of course, it must be equipped with the right features and appliances so it can serve both you and your guests.
In this article, we will cover the benefits of building an outdoor cooking space and some valuable tips on building one. If you are undecided about whether you should start building, consider this as a sign. After all, I’m here to help you get started.
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What is an Outdoor Kitchen?
An outdoor kitchen is an area outside your house where you can prepare a meal and dine with other people. It is mainly composed of a heating element like a grill, a stove, or an oven, and it offers more room for movement and activities since it is located in an open space.
Most people find it more enjoyable to dine outside, especially when the weather is hot. This is especially true for tropical areas which experience a humid climate all year round. The outdoor kitchen doesn’t always need to be especially grand, but it must be appointed well enough to serve its purpose of making preparing and serving the outdoor meal a pleasurable experience.
Another great reason to build an outdoor kitchen is to alleviate some of the closed-inclosed-in feeling of life during this awful pandemic. Sure, maybe you should stay home, but wouldn’t it be nice to get outside and enjoy a bit of fun with your dinner?
No matter what your reason for getting interested in outdoor kitchens is, the process of building one can be tricky. Prepare your notes or bookmark this page since this guide offers everything you need to know about this essential addition to your landscape.
13 Benefits of Outdoor Kitchens
If you aren’t convinced yet that adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make, take a look at its long list of benefits:
- It can be built to fit your specific needs and wants. A simple Google search will give you an idea of the number of designs available for your kitchen project. Pinterest and Instagram also offer a lot of unique “inspos” you can choose from.
- It can reduce your power consumption. You might be confused— is it possible that adding another feature to your home reduces energy consumption? Well, yes, it is! Outdoor kitchens help you save on utility bills, especially during the summer months. Instead of kicking your AC into overdrive, choosing to cook outside in the open air is more practical. Remember that when you bake or make anything that generates heat, your house temperature elevates, making your AC work twice as hard to cool the space down.
- It’s easy to manage and clean. Of course, I’m not saying that you won’t have to clean at all. But having an outdoor kitchen significantly reduces the time you spend cleaning. If, for instance, a bit of food falls on the ground, you don’t need to worry about it. Heck, it will just be a bit of fertilizer for the lawn.
- Outdoor kitchens can make use of the yard space to accommodate large crowds. It might be a bit uncomfortable moving around in a crowded indoor kitchen filled with guests. Now imagine them all out in your yard with plenty of elbow room. Go ahead, invite the neighborhood!
- You can work on it without rushing. Outdoor kitchens are simply an extension of your living space. That being said, if you want to start your project and build it slowly because you want to do it yourself or you’d rather do it a bit at a time to fit it into the budget, it won’t be a problem. You can work on it anytime you want and still use your indoor kitchen and be completely comfortable in the meantime.
- It keeps an unwanted smell outside. I alluded to this in the first paragraph. Sure, coming home to the smell of dinner being cooked is usually quite pleasing, but there are some dishes that tend to really stink up the kitchen. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the option of cooking them in the great out of doors so that your entire house doesn’t smell like greasy cooked pork bellies? Outside, the scents will simply drift away on the breeze. Although, you may find yourself with some extra guests when the neighbors catch a whiff of what you’re cooking.
- It reduces the trips in and out of the house. My least favorite part of having an outdoor meal is carrying everything out of the house, out to the patio, and then bringing it all back in again. It really gets a bit frustrating. If you build it correctly, you can have most of your supplies on hand in your outdoor kitchen. Cabinets, drawers, and a fridge are common additions to the outdoor kitchen.
- The value of your home will likely increase with the installation of an outdoor kitchen. If you plan to sell your property in the future, adding an outdoor kitchen will surely increase its value. The investment you’ll make in building or remodeling this area of your landscape can benefit you greatly since homes with outdoor kitchens have reportedly sold for almost 30% more than houses without outdoor kitchens. I believe that it is the functionality of the outdoor kitchen and the aesthetic appeal of having the extra structure and intrigue in your yard versus the flat patio with surrounding gardens.
- It helps expand your living space. With the current tiny living trend, more and more houses are built with limited space. Of course, this can get tiring over time, especially since we are all required to stay at home due to the Covid situation. By extending your home through an outdoor kitchen, you have more space to move around and do some activities that cannot be done inside, like grilling or making smores.
- It may help you save money on dining out. I know it’s not the same, but having a great outdoor kitchen with everything you need close at hand may encourage you to use it rather than go out. Dining in restaurants can be extremely pricey, and cooking a meal right outside your house can save you a few bucks, not to mention that it’s an excellent spot for a special meal without needing to brave the crowds or wait for a table.
- Your quality of life will improve. We all need a bit of sunshine and fresh air, and too much time indoors robs us of both. Having a few meals a week outdoors could really increase your time out in nature. Cooking is a form of bonding for many families. Creating meals with our loved ones while enjoying some fresh air and a beautiful landscape puts us in a good mood, and our lives become a little bit less stressful.
- The food you cook becomes tastier and healthier. One of the mainstays of outdoor kitchens is, of course, the grill. If done properly, you may be able to grill more of your food which will lessen the need for oils and frying, not to mention that the fats from your steak will end up on the grill rather than n your belly.
- Cooking can be more diverse. Your indoor kitchen may not allow you to create certain meals that your outdoor kitchen can. Outdoor kitchens can have open flame areas, smokers, pizza ovens, and almost any type of specialty cooking item that you might be lacking in your existing kitchen.
Since these kitchens are constructed outdoors, building them using anything other than the most weather-resistant materials would be foolish. Here are the most common materials chosen.
- Poured concrete is a very versatile material that can be used for patios, seat walls, cabinets, countertops, and even roofs. While most of us consider concrete to be relatively industrial and not particularly aesthetically appealing, in the hands of an experienced artisan, this extremely durable material can be rock solid as well as beautiful.
- Concrete brick and block are used to build the majority of outdoor kitchens that I see. It is attractive, durable, and easy to use. There are many color and size choices, and contractors or skilled do-it-yourselfers can install them.
- Natural stone is again very durable and probably the most visually appealing choice. Stone is most often used for countertops and walls.
- Wood is a very versatile building material that can be used for all aspects of the outdoor kitchen, but it is flammable, can be chewed by animals, and does decay over time when left out in the elements. Wood is usually only used for structures such as pergolas or gazebos.
- Steel can be used to build all aspects of the outdoor kitchen, with stainless steel being the most popular choice for its weather resistance. A custom-designed outdoor kitchen constructed entirely of stainless steel would be pretty pricey, so it is typically used for doors, appliances, and sometimes countertops.
12 Considerations when Building an Outdoor Kitchen
Before you go ahead and contact a masonry expert or a landscape professional, you first have to look at some essential factors that can directly affect how your kitchen will look or what appliances it will contain.
- How you are going to use your outdoor kitchen
- Take some time and reflect upon who you are and how you might use the outdoor kitchen. There is no sense in building a huge area if you aren’t the type that enjoys entertaining, and maybe it just needs to be big enough for the family.
- On the other hand, if you love to have a home full of guests, you will want a much more expansive outdoor kitchen with plenty of room to work.
- It should fit
- You want it to suit the size of your home and your needs. A vast, sprawling outdoor kitchen may look out of place next to a tiny house, but it might be just right for you if you spend all of your time outdoors.
- A large house with a tiny outdoor kitchen may not look balanced and might not sell for as much on the real estate market as it would if it were in fitting with the house size. Scale is important.
- The area where you live
- Let’s face it, some parts of the world just lend themselves to outdoor dining, while others, not so much. You will want to design and build your outdoor kitchen in a way that fits your climate.
- If you are in an area that is warm and comfortable most days of the year, you are in a great position to build your kitchen with all of the amenities and in just about any style that you want. You will likely get plenty of use out of it and your money back, plus some when you go to sell your home.
- Should it be covered?
- If you live in a very dry and hot location, you will almost certainly want to include some sun shade elements and maybe even fans to keep yourself and your guests comfortable. A big fabulous outdoor kitchen doesn’t do much good if you are in the house in the air conditioning.
- If you are in a place where it is raining many days of the year, you might be better off building a roof over your outdoor kitchen and even a covered walkway leading to the kitchen rather than an extensive outdoor kitchen that doesn’t get used due to the weather.
- In the northern regions where the cold wind drives you inside many days of the year, you will want to build your kitchen with some structure to block winds and give you some nice cozy areas where you can install some outdoor heaters to make your new kitchen more user friendly for a better part of the year.
- Appliance and fixture choices
- The climate in your area will also influence some of your appliance choices. Things like refrigerators and wine coolers don’t do as well in freezing temperatures or may need to be moved indoors for the winter months.
- Water lines and sink traps will need to be drained for the winter months if freezing occurs in your area. Tropical climates or places on the sea will undoubtedly require appliances made from marine-grade stainless steel for longevity.
- The frequency of its usage
- When you build an outdoor kitchen, it should not only serve as an aesthetic addition to your backyard but should also be very much functional.
- If you think you will be using the new kitchen for most meals, you will want to buy higher grade, more industrial appliances. If you like the idea of having the outdoor area but don’t like to cook and think it won’t be used often, put your money into the structure and get decent, but maybe not top-of-the-line appliances.
- As previously discussed, your outdoor kitchen will likely include some storage areas. How you use these storage areas will depend significantly on their construction. For a good reason, most outdoor kitchens are built using concrete or stone products and stainless steel. This kitchen will be out in the elements and must be rodent resistant.
- Whether you see them or not, I can guarantee that you have some little sneaky chewing, nibbling, and pooping critters in your area. The last thing that you want is to give them great places to make their homes and then stock them with edibles. Remember, rodents classify edibles very differently than we do. You will be surprised at the wide range of things they’ll chew on.
- While wooden facias and features might soften the look and feel of your outdoor kitchen, they certainly won’t help with rodent-proofing. All storage areas must be built so that mice can’t get in. Remember that these little critters can go anywhere they can fit their heads, so even tiny little holes will be enough to invite the mouse family in for the winter. Make sure that your kitchen is well built and has latching doors so that even the crafty and curious raccoon won’t be able to gain access.
- Access to your house
- No matter how well thought out and appointed your outdoor kitchen is, you will still want it reasonably close to the house because you will surely be running back and for some of the stuff. Make it convenient to encourage your family to use it more.
- Layout is important
- Just because this kitchen is outdoors doesn’t mean that it can be built however you want. Be sure to follow good kitchen layout practices when laying out this outdoor area. Once again, if it is not convenient, you will use it less. If you put all of the money into building it, make sure that it is an excellent place to cook a meal.
- Distance from the outdoor dining or entertainment area
- In every gathering, whether it is for the family or friends and colleagues, It may go without saying, but we’d better say it anyway. The cooking and entertaining areas should be all located centrally, so that everyone, including the cook, can be part of the party and enjoy themselves. Remember, this is all about enjoyment. Make sure it is for everyone.
- Function and the Future
- When laying out and building this outdoor kitchen, be sure that you have thoroughly thought out and planned for all possible conditions. This will likely be a sizable construction project that will require trenching to the house for electrical wires, gas lines, and water pipes. You don’t want to build all of this only to find out that you should have run one additional water pipe or electrical line. Even if you don’t think you will need them at this time, installing an extra electrical circuit and a water supply and drain to accommodate future needs will be a small expense compared to trying to do it later.
- Location and Position
- Be sure to position the kitchen, seating areas, and dining areas to face a great view and also be sure to position them to take advantage of the sun and to help block the prevailing winds.
Outdoor Kitchen Zones
It’s about time we get to the technical side of things. An outdoor kitchen is not just composed of a grill and a countertop for food prep. It is composed of four zones, and each has a purpose. They are discussed in detail below:
Before the meat hits the pan, it is cleaned, cut, and seasoned by the designated cook or chef. There should be a wide counter space to do all of this prep work.
The prep zone, as most people call it, is usually composed of a countertop, a sink, and a fridge. Other items that should be found in this area to make the food preparation hassle-free are cutting boards, knives, food processors, and cooking utensils. Ingredients that are needed for additional flavors are also commonly found here.
The cooking zone is obviously where the magic happens. This is where you’ll usually find the grill, the pizza oven, the smoker, the side burners, etc. Apart from all these appliances, you can also find cooking accessories in this zone, such as tongs, spatulas, and ladles.
The most used feature of the cooking zone is the grill. Therefore, paying attention to its location and its ventilation should be one of your top priorities.
Right after the food is cooked, it is brought to the serving zone or a kitchen island for plating and serving. If the guests are only a few, they may be able to dine here, so adding a few barstools might be a welcome addition.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a separate kitchen island, you can certainly use the dining area as the serving zone.
The fourth outdoor kitchen zone is dedicated to entertainment. This is where the people can lounge and have some drinks without getting in the way of those who are preparing for food.
The primary appliance that should be found in this area is a refrigerator for refreshments, and this is different from the one situated in the prep zone. Some people also choose to add a keg fridge or a wine cooler. You will also want to have a selection of drinkware readily available for your guests.
Depending on your intentions, this area could include lounging areas and even a television or hot tub.
Outdoor Kitchen Layout
Your outdoor kitchen’s configuration or layout will greatly depend on the available space, design, and budget. Below are your common layout options once you start planning:
As the name suggests, this is the simplest and easiest to achieve since it does not take any shape.
For many homeowners, their outdoor kitchen may be connected to the house with countertops flanking the grill. However, freestanding linear kitchens can also be an option if attaching them alongside the owner’s home is impossible.
Similar to indoor galley kitchens, outdoor galleys have a central walkway, and the cabinets and countertops on both sides are facing each other. This forms a narrow rectangular work area, which saves on space but makes it difficult for any more than one person at a time to work in the kitchen.
This layout is much more appealing for some people since it is very ergonomic. All the essential services are clustered in a small space, making everything easily accessible.
L-shaped counters are quite popular for both indoor and outdoor kitchens since they feature more moving space. It is also ergonomic like the galley, so the cooking workflow is efficient.
Since this is a classic configuration, it allows for a lot of flexibility. You can add an island to the open space, or you can place a central dining set, and you can even add both if there is enough room since the L-shaped counters do not take much space.
As you could probably imagine, this kitchen layout is composed of cabinets, counters, and appliances arranged in a U-shape. It has an open space in its center which can offer a lot of movement.
This is ideal even for a small outdoor kitchen because it capitalizes on the counter space. Meanwhile, you can add a dining table or an island for large kitchens to maximize the layout further.
Outdoor Kitchen Cover
There is no doubt that outdoor kitchens can be functional and fun to use; mother nature can certainly have her way with our dinner plans if we don’t build our outdoor kitchens to defend against her sometimes sudden and unexpected onslaughts.
There are countless ways to design your kitchen to protect it from the weather to some extent. A few examples are listed below.
You’ll often hear the words gazebo, pavilion, or pergola used interchangeably, but the two are distinct from each other.
Gazebos and pavilions will typically be round, square, or rectangular and have a weather-tight roof.
Gazebos are traditionally built using lumber, but there are certainly many that have masonry bases. Many pre-built metal or PVC gazebos can be purchased at big box stores and assembled at home.
Pergolas consist of columns that serve as the support for beams and rafters. One distinguishing characteristic of this type of outdoor covering is its Italian feel which can be attributed to the fact that they were first designed during the Italian Renaissance.
Pergolas do not have a weather-tight roof; instead, the beams or rafters offer dappled sun protection and a handy place to grow vines.
They can be almost any shape, although they are often rectangular or square.
These are traditionally wooden structures, but other pre-built options are available at retail locations like gazebos.
Among the three types of outdoor kitchen covers, canopies are the least expensive and the easiest to install. There are different sizes and designs to choose from, which makes them very versatile, but most must be fastened to the house, limiting their use for some people. Some are permanent structures, while others can be rolled up when not used.
Must-Have Outdoor Kitchen Appliances and Accessories
This article would not be complete without the list of appliances and accessories you have to purchase to make your outdoor kitchen functional. These items aren’t exactly cheap so prioritize the ones you will be using more often.
- Grill: Whether your outdoor kitchen is large or tiny, you will definitely need a grill. The choice of whether to install a gas, charcoal, or wood-fired grill could fill an entire article, so let it be said that this topic is very personal for some folks, and you need to decide which you enjoy the most. Or, if cost is no object, maybe install all three.
- Side Burner: This, of course, makes your outdoor kitchen much more versatile and more similar to your indoor kitchen. A side burner or cook space has a multitude of uses.
- Traditional Oven: This might not be a common choice, but it greatly expands the versatility of your outdoor kitchen and can significantly expand your ability to prepare full meals for large groups.
- Refrigerator / Freezer: Your refreshments need to be chilled, and your food needs to be cooled or frozen if you plan to store any in your outdoor kitchen. Many outdoor kitchens will do well, with one fridge in the prep area for the food and another fridge in the entertaining area for drinks.
- Trash Bin: This might seem unnecessary, but if you are truly going to use your outdoor kitchen as a kitchen, you will undoubtedly need a trash bin of some sort to make clean up easy and convenient. Make sure that it is rodent and weatherproof.
- Pizza Oven: Who doesn’t love pizzas, right? Here you can go all out and install a brick pizza oven to create fire-cooked pizza creations, or you can just install an electric drawer style oven to cook the frozen pizzas quickly and easily.
- Flat Top Griddle: This one depends entirely on your needs and wants. Some people may never use a griddle in an outdoor kitchen, and others might use it more than the grill. You know which one you are.
- Power Burner: Again, will you use this or not? It can be gas or electric and makes your outdoor kitchen much more like your indoor kitchen. Some people will love it while others will never use it.
- Sink: I believe a sink is a must-have item for all but the smallest outdoor kitchens. You will have trouble cooking serious meals in your outdoor kitchen without a sink for food prep and cleaning.
- Warming Drawer: This low-heat cooking device ensures that your food stays heated if you will not consume it immediately. Wonderful if preparing large meals for many guests, probably overkill for small gatherings.
- Mixer/Food Processor: A good quality blender can often come in handy for food prep or frosty drinks.
- Television: Many weatherproof choices can give you more reason to stay in the great outdoors.
- Speakers/Music: You can either install an entire sound system or simply a Bluetooth exterior grade speaker so that you can enjoy some music in your entertaining area and kitchen.
- WiFi: Maybe your house WiFi will reach the outdoor kitchen, but if not, you might want to install an extender.
- Lighting: There are many lighting options for your outdoor kitchen, including color-changing and lights that will change with the music if you are so inclined.
- Outlets/Charging Stations: If you want the kids to use the space, you better have extra plugs around so they don’t need to run back in the house to plug in.
- Pool/Hot Tub: Okay, this might be going a bit far, but if you want the ultimate outdoor entertaining space, a hot tub or pool might just be the icing on the cake.
- Bar Stools: If your outdoor kitchen includes a built-in bar or island, then you will need some stools.
- Patio Dining Set: Well, they are all going to need to be able to sit down and eat this fabulous meal that you created for them, aren’t they?
- Seating / Lounging: Aside from the chairs included in the dining set, you should also consider adding some lounge chairs in your kitchen’s entertainment zone so your guests will be more comfortable.
- Fireplace: The addition of a fireplace can really make this an all season entertainment zone and will add more beauty and structure to your site.
- Wine Cooler: This keeps wine bottles chilled to a specific temperature. This also allows self-serving, so that’s less work for you.
- Ice Maker/Ice Storage: If you don’t want to run out of ice during a party, then an ice maker is a worthy purchase.
- Shelves/Cabinets: Tidying up your outdoor kitchen starts with a clean countertop. You might want some shelves or cabinets to help with storage.
- Glassware Storage: A functional storage area or glass rack where your guests can serve themselves will be invaluable at large gatherings.
- Fire Pit: Parties don’t have to end at sundown, so I strongly suggest that you add a fire pit to your entertaining area.
- Patio Heater: A great alternative to fire pits and a must if you are in some of the colder areas of the world and you want to get the most out of your outdoor kitchen.
Final Thoughts: Should You Start Working on Your Outdoor Kitchen?
Adding an outdoor kitchen to your property is a wise investment. As established in this article, there are a lot of benefits that you can enjoy once you decide to build one. But, you need to make sure that it is functional and that it fits your house and your budget.
Don’t rush into an outdoor kitchen project. If you don’t do your planning, whether you choose to do it yourself or to hire it done, you may end up with a less than ideal outdoor kitchen.
Hopefully, this article can help you decide if an outdoor kitchen would be an advantage for you and your family.