Outdoor Kitchen Ideas to Inspire

Dining al fresco is a soul enriching good weather activity. It’s something many of us midwesterners look forward to all winter long. Planning cookouts becomes a pivotal part of summer entertaining, and perhaps a year round activity for those in warmer climates. There are a few downsides of outdoor dining and entertaining though.

  • Hauling of the food, supplies, and drinks from the kitchen to the patio.
  • Trying to keep things warm, as you bring everything else out to finally serve your meal.
  • Ensuring you have all the condiments and ingredients you need.
  • Protecting everything from pests or blowing away in the wind while you make 3 trips in and out of the house.
  • The grill-master shouting to someone in the house for the spatula or the tray or some integral ingredient they need right now.


Those components seem to take the picturesque al fresco dining idea to a crashing halt!

What if you could prepare, serve, and enjoy the perfect summer meal outside? Outdoor kitchens can make the prep work easier and more fun. Aside from the convenience factor, this key element can drastically improve your backyard or patio space, making it an extension of your home. Let’s explore all of the ways you can create your ideal outdoor kitchen to enjoy this summer. And don’t forget, we’d love an invitation to your next summer dinner party!

Why You May Want to Add an Outdoor Kitchen

If outdoor dining is your dream, we’ve painted the picture above for having a full outdoor kitchen. Let’s explore just how appealing this design feature can be. Seven in ten adults in the United States own a grill or a smoker, according to a recent report from the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association (HPBA) . That is a lot of households doing the grilling shuffle to enjoy a meal outside.

Covered Patio Kitchen
Image by toddpharistx from Pixabay

The Outdoor Kitchen That’s Right For You

When designing an outdoor space, personalization is key. This is especially true for outdoor kitchens. Design with your preferences and lifestyle in mind to get the most out of your space. If you love homemade pizza, maybe a pizza oven is key for you. If you are a grill master and have been known to be out there grilling rain or shine, be sure to have a grilling station in your design. You’ll be much more likely to use your outdoor space if you’ve designed it to suit your lifestyle, and not just what looked great on your Pinterest board.

You can go from a grill with a countertop and maybe a cooler to a full blown kitchen with refrigerator, gas hookup, sink and more. Many factors will come into play to decide the kitchen that is right for you. To begin dreaming of the right solution for your needs, let’s explore all of the different components that can go into an outdoor oasis.

Before we start making our wish list, it’s best to start with a few practical items.

First Things First


We talked about considering your lifestyle as you design your outdoor kitchen. Do you love to cook, love to entertain, or are you looking for a private oasis to enjoy after a long day at the office? Is this a space you’ll be able to use for 3-6 months out of the year, or all year round? Are there any regulations or codes in your city or town that determine how much space you can devote to a patio? What is the balance that will work for your lifestyle and design goals from an outdoor kitchen to traditional yard?


The least fun part of any project of course. Yet, you want to have a good idea of your budget as you get started. Prioritizing the items that would make this project ideal for you, pricing them out, and then determining what works with your budget is a great way to get the ball rolling. The cost of creating an outdoor kitchen varies depending on the size, materials, and appliances you choose, much like an indoor kitchen project. Remember, if you are planning to run a gas line, plumbing, or electricity outdoors you will need to get an estimate from a licensed professional. This cost could add up quickly, so you don’t want to overlook it. It is also important to consider what value this may lead to the real estate price of your home.

Now that we’ve covered the not so fun part, let’s start making our outdoor kitchen wish list.

The Grilling Station

You definitely want to consider your cooking style as you evaluate the right grill for you. Options abound from charcoal, gas, electric, smokers, built-in, or standalone. You can run a gas line from your house and have a hard wired gas hookup rather than a propane tank. If you prefer that smokey, grill flavor you may want a charcoal grill or smoker. Whatever way you go, a tricked out grill station will be the envy of all the neighborhood. There are endless options for grill accessories as well, from side burners, griddles, warming drawers and more.

Warming Drawers

We see these in commercial or well appointed indoor kitchens frequently. Warming Drawers can make the world of difference when you are hosting a big dinner like Thanksgiving. You can even work these into your outdoor kitchen design. Grilled veggies getting a little too crisp but the meat isn’t finished? No problem, stick the veggies in the warming drawer while you finish grilling. Half the chicken is fully cooked and half hasn’t reached the ideal temp? No problem, use your warming drawer to avoid overcooking.

Side Burners

A side burner is a gas powered cooking surface, similar to that on your kitchen stove, attached to the side of a grill. While you are cooking your main entree on the large grill, you can use a side burner for smaller foods, such as sauces or sides. This allows you to cook smaller foods at a lower temperature than your main grill which can reach temperatures of 500 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. You can utilize a side burner with a gas grill or a hybrid charcoal-gas grill.

Griddle Accessory

Could you envision having a family breakfast outdoors on a warm summer Sunday morning and serving the whole family from the outdoor patio? Could this become a fond family memory for when the kids grow up? A griddle accessory for your grill means you can make eggs, pancakes, omelets, basically anything you could make in a frying pan, on your grill. You can turn your grill into a stovetop with a griddle. Of course, if you are grilling and frying at the same time, you want to get the right size for your grill so you can accommodate both. You can get a griddle accessory for both a gas or charcoal grill, you just want to make sure you have the appropriate air flow on a charcoal grill to avoid starving the fire of oxygen.

Pizza Oven

If you love making homemade pizzas, integrating an outdoor pizza oven into your design will give you the freedom to enjoy fresh from the oven pizza without the delivery wait. Pizza ovens now come in all shapes and sizes, and many are great for cooking more than just a pizza. The most popular or traditional choice is a wood burning pizza oven which can reach temps as high as 800 degrees, giving you that crisp crust we all love.

We’ve covered most of the cooking options for our al fresco space, now let’s consider keeping everything chilled.

Outdoor Smoker
Pizza Oven

Refrigerate in Style

You can bring your outdoor cooking to a whole new level with an outdoor rated refrigerator. How convenient would it be to have your meat, veggies, condiments, and beverages all within arm’s reach? There are a variety of options available from beverage centers to solutions with adjustable shelves, lights, locks and more. While many of these options are under counter solutions that would provide enough space for what you need, there are also full size options available. You want to ensure you have an outdoor rated appliance to stand up to any elements in your climate.

Once you’ve enjoyed this amazing meal you’ve cooked up, sadly there is the no fun part, the clean up. Just like we discussed the grilling shuffle of bringing everything outdoors, there is the clean up shuffle. No one wants to lug all of these dirty dishes and tools back inside for washing. If you have enough room and budget you can bring the washing outdoors with a sink and perhaps even the luxury of a dishwasher.

Keeping It Clean


Outdoor-Sink-With-Cement CountertopWhen it comes to your outdoor sink, you are going to want something that not only looks good but it needs to be resilient. You’ll want to consider the elements as well as the investment. Having an outdoor sink will require water lines and proper drainage, so be sure to get an estimate from a licensed plumber to understand the costs associated with this endeavor.

As far as materials, stainless steel is perhaps the most popular material, you want to be sure to look for 304-grade stainless steel which is more durable than other grades. Copper is another option that will stand up nicely to the elements.

If you don’t need a full size sink, you could consider a bar sink. This could double as a cooler to keep drinks chilled and accessible during your summer parties.


Hand washing dishes is no fun, in any kitchen. If you have the space, plumbing, and budget, an outdoor dishwasher would be a luxurious addition to your outdoor kitchen.


We’ve gone to a lot of work to prep, cook, and clean outside. It would make sense to include shelving or a cabinet in your design to house dishes and servingware. Depending on the elements in your area, and if your kitchen area is partially covered may help you determine the best route to go.

Your Workspace

In any kitchen, the workspace is always at a premium and this would be no exception in an outdoor kitchen. You can never have enough counter space. Whether it’s for preparing food, serving, or just space for your guests to sit and visit. Just like we chose appliances that are outdoor rated to stand up to the elements, we want to consider the same when selecting the countertop. Whether you are looking for a simple surround on a built-in barbeque grill or an elaborate outdoor kitchen, you want to choose the countertop that suits your style, your cooking goals, and the outdoor elements in your area.

Depending on your space and layout, you may want to consider an extended countertop area with stools for a bar or dining area. Another option is using a stepped design in your countertop so you can prep at a traditional countertop height of 36” and serve at the bar height level (42”). To accommodate the grill, outdoor countertops tend to be deeper than what you may be used to indoors. Typically, the depth is between 30-36” as opposed to 24” indoors.

Let’s explore the available materials to choose the best option for your design and lifestyle. An outdoor countertop needs to be durable, weather resistant, easy to clean, and look great. There are many material choices including granite, concrete, tile, and more. We would recommend avoiding manufactured countertop materials such as quartz and Corian as they can fade when exposed to UV rays.


Granite is easy to maintain in an outdoor application, it is not affected by rain or snow, you are able to set your hot tools or trays directly on the granite, and it cleans up easily. With Granite you get a luxury look and a durable solution. Made from natural stone, each slab is unique and beautiful, and can help you bring your design dreams to life in your outdoor kitchen.

In order to reduce expenses with granite, fabricators often have remnants available that may meet your countertop needs at a lower cost if the square footage is not too big. We would recommend avoiding darker colors of stone that may absorb heat and could become hot to the touch.

Quartzite would have similar capabilities to granite and would also be a good outdoor choice.


Like Granite, Marble is made of genuine natural stone. Marble comes in a large variety of colors, all with a luxurious look. Marble is more porous in comparison to granite and quartzite and will be more prone to staining. This is especially true when using acidic ingredients such as citrus, oils, and alcohol. Marbles color will fade over time outside particularly the darker marbles. This can be re-polished every few years and restored to new if you are set on getting marble for your outdoor kitchen.

Other types of natural stone such as bluestone or slate can also be used for outdoor countertops. Limestone and Travertine would not be recommended for outdoor kitchen use, they are both print to etching, and too porous for a countertop surface.


We mentioned above that quartz can be affected by UV rays. Too much direct sunlight can elicit a chemical reaction of the polyester resins and synthetic pigments used during the production of quartz. This could cause discoloration of your countertop. As long as the quartz is sheltered, say in a covered area, it can be safely used in outdoor kitchens. The goal is protection from constant exposure to sunlight. You would want to clear this application with the quartz manufacturer prior to using this material in an outdoor application.

Outdoor Kitchen With Flowers


Concrete is another viable option for an outdoor countertop. This durable material is resilient, easy to maintain, and provides limitless design options. If you select this route for your countertop you want to ensure proper pouring or installation to minimize cracking. Also a concrete countertop will require sealing.


Another option for your outdoor countertop is ceramic or porcelain tiles. You want to ensure you are selecting a tile that is rated for outdoor use. Tile comes in many color options, is easy to clean, and affordable. On the downside, grout can discolor outdoors and can easily stain or crack.

Now onto more fun choices, how are you going to pull it all together to create your ideal outdoor kitchen area.

Design Elements For Your Outdoor Space


In addition to the practicality of needing electrical outlets for plugging in your refrigerator and convenience outlets for speakers, phone charging, or tabletop appliances, you are going to want lighting in your outdoor kitchen. Practically speaking you need light to ensure safe grilling when the daylight dwindles. More than that, the right lighting can dramatically enhance your food preparation, cooking, and dining ambiance. You may want to install task lighting over your grilling area with a seperate switch near the grill. Other outdoor lighting options are under countertop lighting, colored LED lighting, seat wall lighting, string hanging lights, or even mounted lights if you have a pergola or other ceiling type structure.


Adding a fire pit or fireplace is a cozy element to any outdoor space, especially if you can transition right from a beautiful meal to a relaxed fire to enjoy your evening, or even roast some s’mores. You can go with a free standing chimney style fireplace which typically has a combination of brick, stacked stone, and marble or granite. Another option is a table fireplace style where your fire “pit” is in the center surrounded by marble or granite and sitting atop a marble or granite base. Or some elaborate outdoor areas have built in fireplaces

Of course you can purchase a freestanding fireplace or fire pit, but if you are designing a kitchen from the ground up, why not have a customized and art worthy heat source? You can design the size and location to compliment your overall design perfectly and tie in the materials such as natural stone to your countertop.


Photo by Greta Caird on Unsplash

Outdoor Bar

If entertaining is your game, you’ll want a space to gather as the grill master does his craft, around the outdoor bar. You can incorporate many different design styles to mix up your craft cocktails, from a freestanding or fold down bar to a full blown pub in your backyard, the choices are endless!

Pool House

If your backyard is already home to a pool, perhaps combining a Pool House and kitchen together is the way to go. No need to trail wet bathing suit clad guests through the house for the bathroom or the kitchen. Head straight from the pool to the dinner table or bar.


No one wants to miss the big game, least of all the grill master. You can install a TV (or multiple) in your outdoor kitchen so you don’t have to miss a moment of the action whether you are cooking, or just enjoying the view.


A pergola can be a design style to finish off your outdoor kitchen, making it a true extension of your home. Tt can be a more functional aspect providing some shading or a place to mount light fixtures and fans.


Photo by Greta Caird on Unsplash

Dining and Entertaining

Of course with all of these outdoor cooking, you are going to need an outdoor dining space to enjoy these meals. You can incorporate your dining table into your kitchen design with an extended countertop with stools, a free-standing table following the same design and materials as the rest of your kitchen, or a standalone dining set. In addition to a dining area, depending on space and budget, you may want a seating area for relaxing as well.

Ready for a Summer Cocktail?

Hopefully you can envision your beautiful outdoor oasis and you are ready to start grilling up some fun this summer. For more summer entertaining inspiration start a Pinterest board of design and decorating ideas, cocktail recipes, and the best summer grilling recipes.