An outdoor kitchen is a great way to entertain guests and makes the experience of grilling out that much more enjoyable. Building a kitchen outside is quite the undertaking and it can take a while to sift through all of the options of what to put into it. Some things you absolutely need– others are just nice to have.
Outdoor Kitchen Essentials:
- Counter Space
- Waste Bins
- Ventilation and Insulation
Outdoor Kitchen Extras:
- Other Cooking Options
- Other Refrigeration Options
- Ice Maker
- Warming Drawer
- Fire Place
It can be difficult to know where to start when you are trying to build an outdoor kitchen. There are so many examples of different looking kitchens that have such different components in them. So what can you put in your kitchen? What is necessary? What is optional?
Take a look below to find out more about what you absolutely must-have in your outdoor kitchen and what you can add in to give it all the extra flair you’re looking for.
Outdoor Kitchen Essentials
Here you have everything you absolutely should include in your outdoor kitchen to make it functional. If you are serious about putting together a workable kitchen and have the means, these are the essentials you need to invest in.
One of the most important components of any kitchen is workable counter space. You need enough room to prepare food before cooking and space to work. Skimping on the counter space could give you a lot of headaches in the future.
You should have at least 12 inches of counter space on either side of your grill for a total of 2 feet of counter space. That’s at the very minimum. When it comes to counter space you can never really have too much.
One way to give yourself more space to work is to include a separate island in your outdoor kitchen. Additional counter space will come with a greater cost. A counter framework will generally cost from $200 to $600 per square foot.
When it comes to choosing your countertops you have a variety of choices. A ceramic tile is a cost-effective option for anyone on a budget, but a countertop made out of granite or soapstone will look beautiful and hold up to damage better.
Counter Top Options:
- Ceramic Tile – $10-$25 per square foot
- Stainless Steel – $30-$40 per square foot
- Wood – $30-$60 per square foot
- Granite – $60-$80 per square foot
- Concrete – $65-$135 per square foot
- Soapstone – ~$250 per square foot
The higher the price of a counter top, the more likely it is to stand up to the wear and tear that comes along with the elements. If your outdoor kitchen is uncovered it’s best to go with a material that will stand up better to any kind of weather.
Perhaps the most crucial piece of equipment in your outdoor kitchen is the grill. This is the centerpiece of the kitchen and where most or all of the cooking will take place. You don’t want to cut yourself short on this one. If any part of your outdoor kitchen needs the most attention to detail, it’s the grill.
A typical grill is going to cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500 depending on how many features you decide to include. Your grill can be built-in to your kitchen or be a drop-in grill. Both options boast a similar cost range.
The most popular type of grill for outdoor kitchens is a gas grill powered by propane. You also have the option of purchasing an electric or charcoal grill depending on your cooking preference. Whatever you feel most comfortable with should be what you put in your kitchen.
Having a refrigerator in your outdoor kitchen is absolutely necessary. It’s a place to store your drinks and tuck away your meat until it’s ready to be grilled. Most of the time you will have a smaller under the counter refrigerator that fits perfectly into the aesthetic of your kitchen.
A small refrigerator like this will cost you an average of $300 to purchase. You will have to have a power supply for it so that it can keep everything nice and chilled for you. It makes all the difference not to have to go back and forth to your indoor kitchen while you’re busy cooking.
Any fully stocked kitchen has to have a sink included. Having a sink in your countertop will allow you to wash your hands, rinse your utensils, and help with food prep. Access to running water is necessary for a smooth flow in your kitchen that would otherwise be interrupted by having to go back inside whenever you need it.
Installing a sink in your outdoor kitchen can range from $100 to $750 depending on the type of sink you get and how it is mounted. You will also have to consider installing water lines and the labor for whoever is installing it, which will add to the price.
The kind of sink you get is really up to your style preference. You can choose between a single or double basin sink. You can get a regular sink or a farmhouse sink. There are a lot of different options to suit the style of any outdoor kitchen.
You probably already have plenty of ambient lighting outside of your house to serve the atmosphere of your outdoor kitchen. An important part of cooking outside is incorporating task lighting so that you can see what you are doing.
Task lighting can range from small clip-on lights over the grill to built-in lighting that gives you the perfect view of your entire space. Lighting isn’t something that should be neglected, as it can make all the difference to your food. Make sure you have enough light to see clearly.
At the very least you have to have a trash can included in your outdoor kitchen. The best way to go about this is to have the bin in a drawer that keeps it under the counter. You don’t want any pests to catch wind of your trash and come calling.
Other types of waste bins you can incorporate into your outdoor kitchen are a recycling bin and a compost bin. If you’re going to have more than one sort of bin in your kitchen, make sure they are all labeled clearly. You don’t want to have to sort through them later. Especially the compost.
It’s essential to have some form of shelter covering your outdoor kitchen. This will keep your kitchen and your guests safe from strong sunlight and harsh weather. If you’re putting this much effort into building a full outdoor kitchen you want to make sure to keep it as safe as possible.
On one end of the spectrum, you can simply use patio umbrellas to keep the elements away from your kitchen. If you are more ambitious you can build a pergola over your kitchen, which will run you on average of around $3000 to $6000.
Another option for shelter is to build your outdoor kitchen under an already existing structure. You can utilize the space of an outdoor deck or patio or use a natural overhang on your house. Just remember if your grill is fully covered that you add a hood over it for ventilation.
Ventilation and Insulation
An incredibly important part of any outdoor kitchen is the added ventilation and insulation. A lot of people overlook this small detail, but it could be the difference in a working outdoor kitchen or one that ends up burning to the ground.
Your grill should have a vent located in front of it or behind it to let out excess gas to prevent build-up. If your outdoor kitchen is located under a closed roof of some kind then you should absolutely have a ventilation hood over it to take care of the smoke from the flames.
Insulation is just as important, especially if there are flammable components such as wood in your outdoor kitchen. Having an insulated grill jacket will help keep the heat contained and make sure your kitchen stays perfectly intact.
Outdoor Kitchen Extras
Once you have everything you need, then it’s all about what you want. Everything else you can put into your outdoor kitchen is extra but no less useful. Pick out whatever you think you’ll need for your outdoor kitchen depending on what you’ll actually use.
Other Cooking Options
Along with a grill, there are some other useful appliances that will take your outdoor kitchen to the next level and allow you to make just about anything you please for your guests.
- Side Burner
- Pizza Oven
- Flat Top Griddle
- Electric Smoker
A side burner is almost as essential as a grill. You can use it to cook just like you would on your indoor stovetop. It is perfect for cooking side dishes while you’ve got the main course on the grill.
Pizza ovens are the perfect addition to any outdoor kitchen for the avid pizza lover. There are options that range from a simple countertop set up to a full-blown wood-burning oven. Either way, you will be able to make delicious pizza without having to venture back inside.
A flat top griddle is a great tool to have around for cooking things like breakfast foods and hibachi-style meals. There are also ways to cook mouthwatering proteins on the flat top rather than the grill.
Electric smokers are necessary for anyone that loves to smoke their own meat. These under the counter appliances open up like a refrigerator so you can stick your meat in and infuse it with that wonderful smoky taste.
If you have a gas grill but want the added option of charcoal, you should consider adding a kamado to your outdoor kitchen. These handy little cookers are insulated like an oven and use charcoal to cook anything you desire. You can even bake cookies in them!
Other Refrigeration Options
On top of a standard refrigerator, you can opt to add some additional ways to chill your drinks. A wine refrigerator is the perfect add on for anyone that is serving wine with their meals. You won’t have to worry about running out and having to go inside for another bottle when they are right there at your fingertips.
For beer lovers, a kegerator is a must-have. If you have the space to put the keg under the counter you can have nice cold beer on tap for every occasion. Not only is it a handy tool for quick access, but it definitely packs a more sophisticated punch than passing out cans.
A lot of people underestimate the amount of storage they will need for their outdoor kitchen. While it’s not necessary, having extra storage built into your kitchen will make entertaining much easier. No need to run back and forth for things when they’re already there.
Cabinets and drawers are the most common kinds of storage. They are useful for holding all of your cooking utensils and serving dishes. You can have cabinets under the counter or even opt for overhead cabinets if you have the means.
Another form of storage is an enclosed pantry. These handy little cabinets often have shelving and drawers included for all of the food items you need. They are built in a way that keeps curious critters from being able to access them so your ingredients are kept safe and sound.
A bar is a good option for anyone that enjoys serving drinks while entertaining. It offers a place for people to sit as well as all of the ingredients you need for mixing up drinks. It will keep you from having to run inside every time someone needs a refill.
If you don’t have space for a full bar, you can install a small drink station in one part of the countertop. You can also buy a separate bar cart that can hold all of the things you need and move around anywhere it to free up space.
Without an ice maker incorporated into your outdoor kitchen, you have to worry about going out for bags of ice in order to have enough for cold drinks. If you want an all-in-one experience where everything can be done from a single station, an ice maker is a must.
There are different ways to add an ice maker to your outdoor kitchen. If you have the room you can go with a freestanding ice machine that will produce quite a lot of ice. There are ice makers that can be built into your outdoor kitchen. And then there are smaller, portable versions that simply sit on your countertop to do their work.
Keeping food warm is an important part of preparing any meal. Not everything cooks at the same time. Sometimes you have to cook one thing at a time if you don’t have the space for everything. That’s where a warming drawer comes in handy.
A warming drawer is made to keep your food warm until its time to serve. Some of them are even equipped with moisture control so that your food doesn’t dry out while it’s waiting. It’s simple to just pop a side dish in while you finish up your main protein to keep it nice and hot for everyone.
Having a dishwasher in your outdoor kitchen isn’t necessary, but it can be extremely helpful. You don’t have to worry about washing everything by hand or lugging all of those dirty dishes back inside to be done later. It keeps your barbecue nights hassle-free.
There should be some kind of dining area in or near your outdoor kitchen to accommodate all your guests. It could be something as simple as a patio set to a full outdoor dining table. You can even incorporate couches and chairs for people to lounge in while you’re cooking up a storm.
If you have a bar, you should get some tall bar stools so that people have somewhere to sit while having a drink. Comfort is essential to a wonderful experience, which is what having an outdoor kitchen is all about.
If you are going to be outside in the kitchen during cooler times of the year or at night, having a fire source is a good way to keep everyone snug and warm. You can spring for a big hearth that everyone can gather around or simply install a fire pit in the middle of your seating area. On top of keeping everyone warm, it adds a nice ambiance to your outdoor kitchen.
Building an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget
Not everything listed above is an option for everyone when building or renovating their outdoor kitchen. If you are trying to get the most out of your kitchen on a tight budget, you may be wondering what you absolutely need to get things done.
Must-Haves in Your Outdoor Kitchen:
- 2 Feet of Counter Space
- Space to Move
- Task Lighting
A grill is absolutely necessary for having a place to cook your food. Without a way to cook it’s not really a kitchen. Getting a grill cart is a good way to start out your outdoor kitchen.
Counterspace is still necessary, though you don’t need a ton of it. Having at least 12 inches of counter space on either side of your grill is a necessity, but you can cap it at that if you absolutely have to.
You don’t want people to be running into each other, so having enough space is really a must. Make sure you give yourself room to prep and cook everything.
Lighting is non-negotiable. You have to be able to see what you’re doing, and natural lighting isn’t going to be enough. At the very least have a light over the grill.
Shelter from harsh sun and rain is necessary for any outdoor kitchen. You can utilize some simple patio umbrellas for a more cost-effective way to protect your kitchen.
Building an outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to be an elaborate undertaking with all of the bells and whistles included. As long as you have these few bare-bones essentials, you have a perfectly operational outdoor kitchen for all of your entertaining needs.
Outdoor Kitchen Kits
An outdoor kitchen kit is an easy way to put together your outdoor kitchen that is also more budget-friendly. Kits are pre-made outdoor kitchens that are already together so that you just have to install it.
Most of the time, outdoor kitchen kits will come with options so that you can have what fits your needs and styles. You will be able to choose between different finishes and countertops so that the kitchen matches your house as much as possible.
Outdoor kitchen kits are incredibly fast to install. Rather than construction that runs for weeks, you can use your prefabricated outdoor kitchen the same day you get it. It’s that easy to get it up and running.
Make sure to check on your gas, plumbing, and electrical needs before purchasing your outdoor kitchen kit. Getting these things to work with your kitchen may present additional costs. Otherwise you basically only need a flat, stable surface to build on and you’re ready to go!
Make Your Outdoor Kitchen All Your Own
No matter what sort of outdoor kitchen you are going for, there are countless options to build it the way you want. Whether you want all the latest appliances and technology or are trying to be economical you can find all of the essentials to suit your needs.
The most important part of your outdoor kitchen will always be your grill. It wouldn’t be a kitchen without one. You can have anything from an entire outdoor bar for entertaining to a simple set up for those fun family nights grilling out. Just don’t forget to properly ventilate it for everyone’s safety.
Whatever components you choose to include in your outdoor kitchen, the most important thing is that it works for your needs. Don’t go overboard just to impress. Keep to the essentials and add extras if you want or need them. Above all else, enjoy your outdoor kitchen as much as possible.