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If you are an avid grill master or just love to entertain in your garden, then an outdoor kitchen can do wonders for any backyard space. The best part is, it doesn’t matter if you are short of space or have an incredible back garden to work with. The outdoor kitchen ideas in this post will help you create the ultimate outdoor kitchen your guests will never want to leave.
Outdoor Kitchen Ideas on a Budget
So you’re probably thinking this is going to cost an absolute fortune. If you want to splash out on all the top gear, of course it will come at a pretty high cost. But there are plenty of ways to create an amazing outdoor kitchen on a budget using cheaper alternatives, DIY. and upcycling to help reduce costs.
This post is going to take you through the entire process of planning an outdoor kitchen that turns your garden into an entertainment paradise.
From mapping out the space you have to how to choose the perfect grill as the centerpiece to your outdoor kitchen, we’ll help you confidently plan out your outdoor kitchen project with ease.
Outdoor Kitchen Designs
When you are planning your outside kitchen you need to start by asking yourself a few vital questions:
While space will dictate where and how things are placed, there are several considerations to take into account when planning your DIY outdoor kitchen:
It makes the most sense to have your garden kitchen close to the house. Even if you’re planning to have storage and refrigeration in the garden, there will often be times that you want to pop back in to get something. Plus, it will make clearing up at the end of the night easier.
Also, think about how guests will enter the house and your outdoor kitchen area. Foot traffic will flow much easier if you have planned your outdoor kitchen design prior to getting started with building.
Do you want to have a water supply and do you want access to hot water?
It’s easy enough to install a sink with cold water supply by using the external hose points of the house. What’s more, you can have hot water by installing an instant heater.
Keep in mind, this will provide enough hot water for washing but will not provide continuous hot water.
Similarly, if you’re planning to have electrical appliances in your outdoor kitchen, you’ll have to plan how you’re going to power them.
External, weatherproof outlets that run from the house mains are easy enough to get. But don’t forget to protect any countertop plug sockets when the kitchen is not being used. A protective cover will do the trick here.
While everyone loves the smell of great food cooking on the grill, no one wants smoke in their eyes or the house. While even the most masterful grill masters can’t control the wind, you can figure out the general wind flow in your area. This will allow you to build your outdoor kitchen and grill area downwind from your house and seating areas.
Garden View and Sightlines
Obviously you’re planning to create a beautiful outdoor kitchen. But do you want to have it block sightlines from your kitchen window? If you’ve got enough space to play with, think about the placement of furniture, particularly coverings to avoid blocking your scenic garden views.
A well-designed outdoor kitchen utilizes natural light and shade to make the most of the space. If you have a south-facing garden that gets tons of sunlight, think about positioning your outdoor kitchen seating area in a part of the garden that gets natural shade.
The last thing you want is guests hot and uncomfortable at your very first grill!
Plan ahead and use the natural shelter your house provides to save yourself the cost of shades and covers farther down the line.
What to Do to Begin Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen
Grab a notepad or use your phone to make a list of the wants and must-haves of your ultimate outdoor kitchen.
Are you going to have refrigeration? Then you will need to think about supplying it with electricity.
Do you want a fire pit? Then you will have to plan seating and safe distances for appliances.
What kind of grill are you going to install? (Keep reading to find out our top recommendations for grills for the ultimate outdoor kitchen).
Once you have all of your wants and must-haves, do a quick sketch to figure out if your plan fits in with the aesthetic and space of your garden as a whole. While you want your outdoor garden to look awesome, you want it to flow well and function superbly over all else.
Creating a Covered Outdoor Kitchen
If you’re going to fill your outdoor kitchen with expensive appliances or cool electrical features (we hope you do) then you’re going to want to protect them from the elements.
The first thing to consider with covering your outdoor kitchen is whether you want a permanent cover or a temporary one that can be brought out and put away as and when needed.
This will depend on how often you intend to use your outdoor kitchen throughout the year. If you plan on having just a couple of epic cook-outs in the summer, it’ll be more cost-effective to have parasols to provide shade or rain shelter on the rare occasions your BBQ gets interrupted by a storm.
However, if you’re quite the grill master and plan on using your new outdoor kitchen as much as humanly possible, it may be more beneficial to invest in a permanent cover.
If you go down the first route, the best parasols cover large areas by bending and swinging on an arm. If you’ve done the planning work and your outdoor kitchen is in the right place, you could also take advantage of a house mounted awning that can be retracted when not in use.
If you want a more permanent fixture, you can go for a fully roofed covering or veranda. This will make your outdoor kitchen shaded and extremely weatherproof. It will also allow you to have more electrical appliances outside without fear of rain damage.
Remember, a veranda style of covering can block out a lot of natural light. Bear this in mind when planning the location.
If your garden is shaded and fairly dark, another option for a more permanent cover without losing the natural light is to build a pergola. This is a wooden structure with wooden slats on top that allows light and breeze through. You could then use a temporary cover over the top of this to provide rain cover when needed as well.
This provides a middle ground cost-wise between a permanent awning and a parasol you have to wheel out every time you want to use it.
Weatherproofing Your Outdoor Kitchen
If your outdoor kitchen is going to sit on decking, there are some important steps you need to take to make sure it’s weatherproof.
There’s nothing worse than creating an awesome outdoor kitchen, only for the decking to rot and give out under it.
If you’ve got wooden decking, make sure it’s structurally sound and treated before installing any kind of kitchen appliances on top.
Even better, replace your wood decking for composite to ensure it lasts well into the future without the risk of rot or damp.
Outdoor kitchen cabinetry gives the entire kitchen a high-end, luxury look. But you can’t just slap a couple of indoor kitchen cabinets outside and call it a day. If you live in an area with regular rainfall, there’s a good chance you’re going to run into problems.
If you like the look and style of wood cabinets, buy cabinetry that is designed for external use.
However, the gold standard of an outdoor kitchen is stainless steel or masonry cabinets. These won’t struggle so much when exposed to the elements. Plus, they look professional and extremely high-end in any outdoor kitchen.
When it comes to countertops, you’re going to want to take the same issues into account as with the cabinets. Although wooden countertops have that rustic appeal, they’re going to be a pain to maintain unless they are extremely well covered.
Our advice is to go with either stainless steel or stone countertops. Both are durable, easy to maintain and won’t get destroyed by rain or shine.
Stone countertops are a good option if you’re going for a rustic style. Whereas stainless steel gives a more modern look. Also, keep in mind that stone is usually more expensive and difficult to install. So if you’re building an outdoor kitchen on a budget, stainless steel may be the better option.
For appliances such as your grill, fridge, and bottle bar, stainless steel is king. They last a lot longer outside and won’t be destroyed by the elements.
For all your electrical appliances, it’s easy enough to pick up weatherproof sockets from any DIY store. These need to be used to make sure moisture doesn’t get into the electrical wiring.
However, if you’re going big and thinking about installing an outdoor TV or speaker system (we like your style), you’ll need to take other precautions into account.
For a TV, always buy one designed for outdoor use. This seems like a no-brainer but we’ve seen plenty of indoor TVs being installed outside that almost immediately go bust with a bit of heat.
Outdoor TVs are designed to reduce glare and deal with increases and decreases in temperature. Even so, outdoor TVs are not waterproof. So make sure you plan to house them under some sort of cover and have a waterproof covering you can put on it when it is not being used.
If you want to have speakers, again, purchase outdoor speakers. These will often be waterproof to a degree. To keep them safe, build a cabinet to house them in or use covers similar to the TV.
Outdoor Kitchen Bar
Once you’ve wowed your guests with your grilling skills, you’ll want to provide them with something to wash it down with. If you’ve got the space, an outdoor kitchen bar is the ultimate addition.
When you’re planning your outdoor bar, first think about if it will be a stand-alone bar or a simple drinking area for your guests. Also, think about what it will be made out of as this will also need weatherproofing (go ahead and re-read the section on weatherproofing above and apply that to your bar).
When it comes to making a DIY outdoor kitchen bar, it can be as simple as a few pallets and a piece of corrugated steel. If you’re going to build your own, remember to make the bar slightly higher than any tables for people to stand at.
If you’re going for a more luxurious look, a wrought iron bar or a masonry stonework bar will elevate the entire outdoor kitchen area. But at an obviously higher cost.
The type of bar you want to install will depend on the rest of your outdoor kitchen. For instance, if you have beautiful stone countertops in the prep area, then having a matching bar top will give a high-end finish.
Outdoor Bar Appliances
Once you’ve figured out the logistics of building your bar, next comes the fun part – stocking it.
First of all, every bar needs a fridge for chilling beer and wine. But what about optics on the wall for spirits or shelving? These are easy to install and look incredibly impressive.
You also have to think about where your glassware will go. This could be hung up or can be hidden away in cabinetry.
You may want to have a bar butler or an icebox built in as well. The butler will allow you to keep fruit slices and other garnishes fresh and hidden (nothing says sophisticated BBQ than a slice with every drink served). Whereas an icebox means you can create some impressive cocktails for your guests.
No matter how much space you have to dedicate to an outdoor bar area, it’s easy to make it look impressive.
Outdoor Grill Ideas
No matter how impressive your outdoor kitchen looks, if you don’t have a good grill, your guests are not going to be happy!
The grill is going to be the centerpiece of your ultimate outdoor kitchen and so it’s important to take a lot of care and thought when choosing the best option for you.
The first thing to consider is the type of grill you’re going to go for. There are several options including gas, electric, charcoal or wood-burning. Each offers something slightly different and you’ll have to choose the type that suits your style of cooking.
If you are doing a lot of grilling, then a Weber Spirit II E-310 grill may be best. It lights quickly as it’s a gas burner and has a large cooking space – perfect for parties.
However, it is a little chunkier so does take up more space. This is something to consider if you’re looking for small outdoor kitchen ideas. Even so, it’s considered the BBQ perfectionist’s choice.
Check out our review of the best gas grills currently on the market (no matter your budget) here
If you’re serious about your grilling, then the medium big green egg might be the grill for you. It’s described as the professional’s choice and has a unique look. While you will pay a premium for it, this grill does it all.
The medium big green egg can smoke, grill, slow-cook, sear, pan-cook, and roast. If you’re going to be cooking a lot, this would be a perfect choice for you.
Finally, the Napoleon is the ultimate party grill. With six gas burners, this one is best for hosting. The stainless-steel construction is great for the outdoors and has separate slow burners on the side and a rotisserie in the back. This is the ideal party grill to wow your guests.
Looking for the best built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen? Check out our latest review today.
Outdoor Kitchen Lighting
If you’re entertaining, lighting really does set the mood. You’ll need good solid light to cook by as well as decent lighting for eating areas. But for any lounge areas and your outdoor bar, you’ll want something that gives a little more ambiance.
While an outdoor kitchen has the same lighting needs as an indoor one, it’s harder to wire outside because it lacks the four walls a regular kitchen has. This means you’re going to need to be smart with the way you light your outdoor kitchen space.
A great way to get ample lighting in prep and cooking areas is to build lighting into backsplashes and cabinetry.
Newer grills often have built-in lights as well to help you see inside when the lid is open to help grill the perfect sear.
Having lighting wired outdoors can also help to bathe required areas in light. If you have a roofed or pergola covering over your outdoor kitchen, lights can be wired into this as well or hung from it.
If you want to make the space truly special, think about installing a dimmer switch for those nights of dancing and partying after dark.
If your tight on funds and your budget won’t allow for outdoor wired lighting, LED light strips are a budget-friendly alternative. Stick these to the back of cabinets, around coverings, and anywhere else they can go to illuminate and also introduce color into the entertainment area.
Similarly, solar lights and fairy lights can be a cheap and easy way to make your outdoor kitchen look beautiful and full of life.
It’s vital that you use lighting designed for damp or wet conditions to avoid blowing fuses if you’ve wired lighting in. If you’re ever unsure, hire a professional electrician to come and install lights for you.
Finally, it’s important to make sure that you get the balance of light right. No one area should overpower another. No one wants to feel like they’re under an interrogation light when they’re at your BBQ!
Taking Your Outdoor Kitchen to the Next Level
So we’ve talked about planning an epic outdoor kitchen along with a dedicated outdoor bar. But what can you do to take your garden kitchen area to the next level?
Create the Ultimate Entertainment Area
The best outdoor kitchens feature an incredible entertainment area where guests can sit and chill out when the food has been served.
If you have outside walls or are building a masonry kitchen, this is a great opportunity to install bench seating. This not only looks great, but it’s also easy to maintain and can easily fit many guests for larger gatherings.
If you have a nice corner in your entertainment space, building or buying a corner sofa is a great way to utilize this space and make it really special.
Rattan furniture can be bought fairly cheaply and is usually weatherproof which is a bonus. Just remember to bring in the sofa cushions overnight!
Alternatively, if you are handy with DIY you can make bespoke seating that can fit any gap you have from recycled wood, pallets, or a timber frame and decking panels. Bespoke seating is an easy way to give your outdoor kitchen that wow factor while making sure your guests are always comfy.
Another easy way to take your outdoor kitchen to the next level is to install LED light nets across all pergolas or awnings. At night, this will give the appearance of thousands of twinkling stars looking down on you.
Or, if you’re keen on wildlife, you can intertwine vines into a pergola to give you a nature-inspired feel in the seating area.
If you want a bit of separation between your cooking and seating areas, an ornate fence or raised planters easily create defined areas. This is an easy way to section off your outdoor kitchen and make it feel larger than it is.
Remember that your seating doesn’t have to cost the earth and can be done using cheap recycled products such as old pallets. This is also a great opportunity to inject some color into your outdoor kitchen. This can be done either through the use of colorful cushions for seating or by choosing flowering plants in dividers.
One way to really impress your guests is to have a wood-burning pizza oven. These are visually stunning and give another food option to compliment your grill.
There are also so many different options to fit any size garden. If you have a lot of space and really want to go all out, then you could build a brick and clay oven as a permanent fixture. These will weather fine and give an authentic look to your outdoor kitchen.
If you’re stuck for space (or cash), there are plenty of countertop alternatives. These pizza ovens are usually stainless-steel which is great in terms of weatherproofing. There are several on the market and some can be wheeled out while others sit on the top of the counter, meaning they don’t have to be a permanent fixture but can be brought out for food and wheeled away to make space for partying.
What do all of those incredible Pinterest outdoor kitchens have in common? A fantastic fire pit as a centerpiece!
This is a great addition because not only will it keep your guests warm but you can get fire pits that can double up as grills. So if you have fussy friends all wanting their steak cooked differently, you can tenderize them, season them, and give them out raw for your friends to cook themselves. This will be a great party starter your guests won’t forget.
Fire pits are a great idea because they come in so many different sizes and styles to find the perfect one for your outdoor kitchen style.
You can build a sunken one into the floor for a more campfire-like effect. Or if an open flame is not what you want then maybe consider a chiminea which will still provide you with heat but not the open concept. This is also a more practical idea if you are short on space.
An Edible Outdoor Kitchen
Finally, it’s impressive and also practical to have a vegetable or herb garden or even both. But using raised planters, hanging baskets, and wall-mounted pots you can have an edible kitchen ready for the grill.
This looks great when guests come over and they are always impressed by being served home-grown veggies and herbs.
Outdoor Kitchen Landscaping
One thing many people usually overlook when planning their outdoor kitchen is the rest of their garden. Your outdoor kitchen and entertainment area are going to have to flow into the other areas of your garden seamlessly.
To section off your garden and create clearly defined areas of your kitchen, use clever dividing techniques such as trellis walls to separate off parts of the garden.
Alternatively, if you want your outdoor kitchen to become part of the rest of the landscape, use paths to show people where to go. Trellis archways can easily inject a bit of color and distinction into separate areas of the garden while keeping them cohesive.
When planning your outdoor kitchen, try to incorporate materials already found in your garden for a seamless look. For example, use the same patio slabs or paint colors to incorporate the kitchen so it doesn’t seem like an after-thought.
Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your Outdoor Kitchen
Not Enough Counter Space
The most common mistake made when planning a garden kitchen is not factoring in enough prep space.
Once you’ve built a stunning outdoor kitchen, it’s a real let down to discover you don’t have enough counter space or storage. You end up having to traipse back and forth to the indoor kitchen, which kills the magic.
This is especially true if you’re planning removable over-counter items such as a pizza oven. Even though they won’t be there constantly, you’ll need ample counter space for them when they are being used.
It’s always better to have too much than too little counter space. So over-do it when you’re in the planning stage. You’ll thank us later!
Not Enough Lighting
The second mistake that many people make when planning and building an outdoor kitchen is failing to factor in enough light.
This can be a delicate balance but if you have a very sheltered garden in terms of sunlight, you don’t want to skimp on task lighting. Squinting in the fading evening light to grill your steak is no fun. And guests won’t be happy when they’re struggling to see what’s on their plate.
A few fairy lights are not going to be enough to grill safely in the evening. So make sure you plan out enough lighting for safe grilling and preparation.
On the other hand, you definitely don’t want a floodlight shining down on your guests like a torture device while they eat. It’s called mood lighting for a reason.
So make sure that the entertainment area is calmingly lit and pathways and task areas are well lit for the best balance of lighting.
Are you Planning an Outdoor Kitchen?
If you’re planning your own outdoor kitchen and have any questions, tips, or something to add, let us know! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole process.