7 Tips for Designing the Best Outdoor Kitchen


The best outdoor kitchens are as functional as an indoor kitchen, as welcoming as a living room, and as entertaining as a family room. An outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a grill, table and chairs, or as elaborate as a fully outfitted kitchen complete with built-in appliances and seating. Although a simple and straightforward outdoor kitchen can be set up by a homeowner, designing a generous and powerful outdoor kitchen is best left to a professional. With so many different types of outdoor kitchens, designing the best kitchen for your family takes time to plan and may require permitting from the city. Regardless of whether you hire a pro or not, here are some expert tips to get your outdoor kitchen planning started.

1. Start from the ground up

Establishing the floor layout and material of your outdoor kitchen is key to building the foundation of your space. Be conscious of different weather climates that may occur as well as the overall weight of the appliances you are installing. Flooring such as tile or marble will be slick and slippery when wet and may not hold up to grease or food stains. If your outdoor space is on a deck consider re-staining or painting it to match the new renovations and ensure that the deck is in top condition. Proper flooring will not only complete the overall look, but add durability and value to the end product. Take into consideration the types of entertaining you will be doing in your outdoor kitchen. Will there be small children running around? Older guests who need smooth surfaces? The floor of your outdoor kitchen is not an element to be forgotten.

2. Location, location, location

Where you decide to place your outdoor kitchen depends upon several factors. Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that smoke from the grill doesn’t waft back into the home. So have a good idea of the general wind pattern in your yard and orient the grill appropriately. Secondly, if you frequently entertain, and don’t want to travel a long distance from the indoor kitchen to the outside, consider placing your grill and outdoor kitchen relatively near the entrance to the inside kitchen. Remember that outdoor cooking and entertaining frequently means carrying heavy platters from one place to another. Thirdly, if you want to maintain the view you currently have from inside the house to the outside, you’ll want to place the outdoor kitchen to the side or at an angle so that the view isn’t blocked. Lastly, consider the overall traffic flow of your yard and the safety of your family. A hot, outdoor grill shouldn’t be located right next to the area where the Frisbee is thrown around, or near where you ride bikes or play. Just like an indoor kitchen, the outdoor kitchen is full of hazards so place it accordingly. Good planning will help ensure that your outdoor kitchen is in the right location for your yard.

3. Your appliances will determine the kitchen size

The first question a professional outdoor kitchen designer will ask is what size appliances will you need and how many. A homeowner may want utilize several cooking and refrigeration appliances, and may have specific entertaining needs in mind. Consider how all of these appliances will fit within the design plan, how much room to allow for each, and how they will work with each other. Leave enough space on either side of the grill to accommodate platters and tools, and don’t place appliances too close together. The same working triangle used in the kitchen should be applied to the outdoor kitchen as well, especially if you plan on hiring caterers or have more than one cook. Having various counter heights and work surfaces can allow for different functions within the outdoor kitchen. Traditional 36” high counters are prefect for standing pre work and cooking, 30” high surfaces are ideal for sitting and eating, and 42” high bar tables are great for standing or resting food and beverages. Combining all three heights into your outdoor kitchen design will really allow this space to be both functional and flexible.

4. Have a place to set and store

Just like your indoor kitchen, you will need places to put items on and plenty of storage. The difference is they must all be waterproof and durable to temperature changes. Countertops and cabinets are designed to provide space and keep away clutter. For a customized look, coordinate your flooring, countertops and cabinets, just like you would with your indoor kitchen. One option is to have stone and steel counters and cabinets; this provides a sleek and modern look as seen in the picture above. Keep in mind how much storage you will need for your kitchen. Will you be using this kitchen only in the summer months or year round? Are you planning on hosting dozens of guests in your outdoor entertainment space? Visualizing how your outdoor kitchen will be used once it’s complete will help with your decision-making process.

5. Choose reliable appliances

Many outdoor kitchens include a grill (both gas or charcoal), a sink, and a small refrigerator. Some kitchens even include specialty appliances like a beer tap, smokers, hibachi grills and warming drawers. Purchase appliances that will make it through both rain and sun. Stainless steel or ceramic appliances work great for all weather conditions, are very durable, and require low maintenance. Some sinks offer limited use for quick hand rinses while others may be used for washing large quantities of food. Depending on your projects designed sink use, remember an outdoor sink must be either hooked up to a yard hose or connected to the home’s water supply. Calling a plumber to connect your outdoor sink to a water supply is an easy way to let a pro handle the hard work. Some outdoor kitchens are also fitted with other appliances to make the outdoor kitchen feel custom. Be sure a licensed electrician installs your electrical connections so you can be assured your outdoor kitchen is up to code.

6. Add a touch of ambiance

Your outdoor kitchen serves as a place to enjoy cooking and eating food while entertaining family and guests. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the outdoor weather while having the comforts of your indoor space. Make sure you incorporate features that really make this space the center of your summer. Chairs, tables and decorative objects can complete the look, as will specialty lighting. When it comes to furniture, choose durable pieces with comfortable outdoor cushions. Select the largest table you can for the space so you can use it as a buffet as well as a dining table. Chairs that stack can help save space when it comes time to winterizing the patio. A small fountain or pond can also lend a relaxing ambiance to your outdoor kitchen. Some outdoor kitchens are being fitted with television sets, truly making the outdoor kitchen both the place to cook, eat, relax and entertain. Be sure it’s properly installed out of the elements and away from heat.

7. Bring indoor comfort, and safety, outside

Weather can be a big issue when it comes to outdoor entertainment. Building a tall roof or pergola over your outdoor kitchen will allow you to enjoy cooking outdoors, even in the rain or extreme heat. You can incorporate different forms of shelter such as having a stone roof, or simply supplying patio umbrellas for coverage. Hot locations may want an overhead fan or mist sprays. Colder regions may want heat lamps, a firepit or fireplace to warm up the area. For areas with pesky bugs or mosquitos, consider adding netting around the dining area or a mechanical mosquito device. Outdoor lighting will not only extend your time outside, it offers safety for walkways, staircases and grilling areas. Some outdoor kitchen designers incorporate lighting into the kitchen, either under the countertops or above.

Courtesy of porch.com.