The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Kitchen Design
If you enjoy spending time relaxing outdoors with friends and family, you probably already know that outdoor kitchens have gained significant popularity in recent years. Providing homeowners with the perfect opportunity to embrace the pleasures of outdoor living, the perfect outdoor kitchen design can be a year-round haven for culinary enthusiasts and those who enjoy outdoor entertaining.
But even if your outdoor kitchen is something you only use during the summer months, its design is something you’ll still need to plan carefully. Just like a standard indoor kitchen, for your open-air kitchen to be functional and enjoyable, the design needs to take your unique needs and personal preferences into account.
Sound like more work than you’d hoped? Don’t worry, our team of experts is here to help ensure you get your outdoor kitchen design right the first time.
Just follow our tips and wait for the outdoor kitchen ideas to start flowing!
Let’s get started.
1. Optimize the space in your outdoor kitchen design
Not everyone has the luxury of an expansive backyard to pick and choose where they place their outdoor kitchen. This is why your first step should always be to evaluate the space you’re working with and go from there.
Once you’ve identified an area you think might work, we recommend:
Researching the ‘kitchen work triangle’ layout
Just like with an indoor kitchen layout, the kitchen triangle can be a great starting point when designing your outdoor kitchen space. While in a standard kitchen, people often place their sink, stove, and refrigerator in a layout that resembles a triangle — the same sentiment can be applied to your outdoor kitchen.
The kitchen work triangle is all about ensuring your kitchen’s layout makes sense in terms of workflow. To adapt this layout to meet your outdoor needs, we suggest arranging your sink (or outdoor water source), outdoor cooking appliance/BBQ, and food storage or prep area accordingly.
Prioritizing what’s most important to you
Nobody likes wasted space.. but it’s also important not to let your outdoor kitchen feel crowded. It can be tempting to cram as much as possible into one single space, especially if you live in a residential area with a small backyard.
To avoid this, we recommend prioritizing areas you think will be most relevant to you and ensuring you let those spaces have their moment.
For example, some homeowners might prefer to do their food prep indoors — freeing up space for a larger plating area, outdoor bar, or even an additional grill. On the other hand, some hosts will want to prioritize the outdoor cooking experience for their guests, and as a result, might be willing to sacrifice storage space or lavish features to maximize prep space.
Factoring in safety
Safety is always important when it comes to outdoor kitchens. To make sure your space is safe and enjoyable for everyone, it’s vital to consider fireproof materials and any potential risks for children playing outdoors.
If your outdoor kitchen is covered, it’s also a good idea to consider ventilation and clearance. For this, an outdoor range hood (that can be tailored to your ventilation system of choice) is a great option for clearing odors or smoke from outdoor cooking.
It’s also good to remember that not all zones and surfaces are suitable for an outdoor kitchen, so be sure to evaluate the landscape you’re working with and consider features like trees, walls, and unstable patios.
You’ll also want to ensure that your outdoor kitchen setup is as flat as possible and is free from the risk of branch debris and other loose materials. When the wind picks up, you don’t want to put your guests (or your kitchen!) at risk.
2. Select the right equipment
For most homeowners going ‘all in’ on the idea of cooking outdoors, your cooking preferences are most likely to guide your equipment choices. Whether you’re a hardcore charcoal grill fan or are more of a pizza oven person, focusing on the grills and cooking appliances you like can help shape the rest of your kitchen design.
Just some examples of the cooking equipment you can opt for include:
- Gas grill (often with a side burner)
- Pellet grill
- Charcoal grill
- Electric grill
- Pizza oven
Once you’ve selected your cooking apparatus of choice, you’ll find that the rest of your outdoor kitchen design ideas fall more easily into place. Just make sure to select high-quality appliances built to withstand outdoor elements and that are easy to clean and maintain!
Tip: If opting for electric equipment or a complete outdoor kitchen island with a sink and refrigerator, it’s always best to employ specialists to cater to your plumbing and electric needs.
3. Balance a relaxing aesthetic with an entertaining atmosphere
An outdoor kitchen is not just for cooking; it’s also for relaxing and socializing. This is why it’s important to consider adding a seating area where your guests can relax while you cook.
Whether you’re constantly in ‘grill master mode’ or have a more relaxed hosting style, to make your dining experience more comfortable, we recommend:
- Outdoor sofas/chairs (located close to your cooking area but still a safe distance away to avoid fabrics absorbing smoke or smells)
- A designated eating area with a dining table
- Umbrellas or pergolas — to create shade in your yard
- Outdoor rugs
- Bar stools (if you want company while you cook!)
Adding a fire pit or outdoor fireplace can also create a cozy ambiance for an evening meal or gathering. Just be sure to always select a reputable supplier to avoid any unnecessary risks.
4. Invest in proper lighting solutions
Good lighting is crucial for your outdoor kitchen. In addition to its practical benefits, it’s also a great way to create a more ambient setting.
Some popular examples of lighting for your outdoor kitchen can include:
- Task lighting — strategically placed lights above the cooking and prep areas
- Mood lighting — lights to ‘set the mood’ e.g., string lights or lanterns
- Accent lighting — used for highlighting focal points of your outdoor kitchen e.g., bar area
- Safety lighting — lights to help guests find their way back inside or to identify a change in ground level
Tip: It’s also vital that all outdoor fixtures are designed to withstand the elements before leaving them outside at night or in the rain. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from, so be sure to get your creative juices flowing while also taking functionality into account!
5. Be practical with your outdoor kitchen design
Following on from the previous point, one of the most important things to remember when designing your outdoor kitchen is to be practical. While investing in features such as a boiling water tap or an outdoor refrigerator might be tempting, it’s important to think about the logistics first.
Some questions we recommend you ask yourself include:
- Will certain features I’m installing require additional wiring, plumbing, or even structural expertise?
- What is the main purpose of my outdoor kitchen — is it for casual dining or more elaborate barbeque entertaining?
- Am I considering the essentials first before focusing on luxurious details?
- What is my overall budget and can it be adjusted if I source better-quality materials and equipment?
When designing an outdoor kitchen, it’s also important to be practical about the weather. A wooden outdoor kitchen is not only combustible, it’s also more likely to rot in damp weather — so our advice is to stick to durable, weather-resistant, and fire-safe materials like granite, stainless steel, and concrete for your countertops and cabinets.
Additionally, if you have an integrated barbecue that can’t be stored indoors during winter, we always recommend using a grill cover to protect it. Materials such as stainless steel can still rust if not cared for correctly, so always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best results.
How Stoll Industries can help you find your perfect outdoor kitchen design
With some proper planning and careful attention to detail, your outdoor kitchen has the potential to become the perfect place to create memories with family and loved ones, while also getting some great meals out of it in the process!
To kick-start your design vision and get more from whatever backyard your house is working with, why not take a look at some of the outdoor kitchen options we have for your home?
With customizable pre-designed kitchens to make the entire process easier, our range of outdoor living products balances aesthetics, functionality, and design excellence all in one. Your first steps toward your dream outdoor living space start right here.
To learn more about our outdoor kitchens, explore our outdoor kitchens product page or our custom outdoor kitchen FAQs.
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Stoll outdoor kitchens are fully customizable and are made in the USA, allowing for remarkably quick deliveries! Our nationwide network of expert dealers is ready to help you with your dream outdoor kitchen design.