How to Outfit a Great Cooking Area for Outdoor Living
For many homeowners, summer is all about getting outside and enjoying good weather, good company, and good food—and nothing makes it easier to enjoy all those things at once than an outdoor kitchen. The simple luxury of outdoor living might seem like a far-off dream, but achieving it is actually much easier than you might think.
Whether you’re considering building an outdoor kitchen from the ground up or simply looking for some DIY outdoor kitchen ideas to upgrade your current setup, we’ve got you covered. We’ll show you how to create the best outdoor kitchen plans, as well as our picks for the best outdoor kitchen appliances.
What’s So Great about an Outdoor Kitchen Anyway?
Simply put, an outdoor kitchen allows you to enjoy all of the amenities and benefits of a traditional indoor kitchen while also enjoying the beauty of nature – all from the comfort of your home! Think about the last cookout you went to, particularly the way food preparation and cleanup was handled. Odds are, it wasn’t a simple process: someone was probably running into and out of the house every few minutes, forgetting something half the time, and missing out on all the fun with the other guests. Definitely not an ideal cooking situation.
Outdoor kitchens are one of the rising home design trends across the country, and with good reason. With an outdoor kitchen, you can change all that and transform your backyard into a one-stop party destination where all of your friends and family can gather to enjoy some old-fashioned summer fun. Think of it like an open concept floor plan, but for outdoor living. Everyone will be together in one space, soaking up the sun, sharing in the joy of cooking, and never too far away from the action. All of this is possible because fully equipped outdoor kitchen plans include all the features of a traditional kitchen: cooktop, sink, fridge, and more.
Ideal for entertaining, a compact outdoor kitchen like this one in a 3-bedrom, 3.5-bath European-style luxury home plan has all you need to prepare meals for alfresco dining: sink with running water, grill, warming oven, vent hood, refrigerator, and meal-prep countertops (House Plan #153-1897).
Creating the Best Outdoor Kitchen Plans
Before you rush out to buy a new grill or a stainless-steel sink, you’ve got to take some time to pick the right design for your outdoor kitchen. It’s just as with any other home renovation project: a little bit of planning goes a long way. What does that mean when you’re planning for an outdoor kitchen? Start out by creating a list of all the features you want, and then start dividing them into categories according to your “must haves” and “like to haves.” This will also help you get an idea of the potential cost and begin building a realistic budget.
It’s important to understand the space available to you when planning an outdoor kitchen. Some yards – like this secluded patio and pool area in a 5,555-sq.-ft. luxury home plan – are just better suited to outdoor cooking and entertaining than others (House Plan #107-1015).
It’s also a great idea to really examine your available backyard area in order to get a better understanding of the space you have to work with. This will also allow you to visualize the actual functionality of the outdoor kitchen, and develop a more practical and realistic plan for what you want it to look like in the end. After all, a bar with built-in beer taps or a full roasting pit might sound like a great idea, but if you’re only working with a tiny space or one that’s surrounded by trees and flower beds, it might not be the best route to take.
Is This Really a “MUST Have” Feature?
This is an incredibly important question that you must ask yourself at almost every step of the way, especially if you want to keep your costs (and construction times) low. The hard part is that there’s really no right or wrong answer any time you ask it, because everyone’s needs and preferences are different. The best way to handle it is to really think about the benefit of the item, and if it’s worth any potential downsides, such as extending the finish date by a few weeks or having to sacrifice some space in your yard to fit the item.
Deciding what you can and can’t live without for your outdoor kitchen and living area can be challenging, which is why lists are a huge help. This amazing "outdoor Great Room" in a 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath Contemporary style luxury home plan has been well-thought-out to provide the ultimate in outdoor living (House Plan #107-1015).
That said, there are a few times we think should land on the “must” list almost every time. They include:
Grill (possibly the easiest and most versatile piece of outdoor cooking equipment)
Water or fire fixture (or a similar design element that drays the eye and engages your guests)
Pizza Oven (okay, maybe this one isn’t always a must)
In the end, you know what features are going to best suit your preferences and the needs of your family, but make sure that you cover all of your bases with the essential areas for an outdoor kitchen. That means you need space to prepare food, space to cook it, and space to clean up after everything is done.
Many Beautiful Designs and Ideas, But How to Choose?
After you’ve created your lists of features and prioritized them accordingly, as well as taken the necessary time to really inspect your yard and think about how you want to use it, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty and focus on the actual implementation of the project. Are you going to be creating a DIY outdoor kitchen? Will you be hiring contractors? How much demolition do you need to do in order to clear out your yard? And that’s just the start.
Decide what kind of entertaining you want to do in your outdoor kitchen, such as classy parties or casual cookouts – with some relaxing areas like this “outdoor family room” in a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath Craftsman style home plan – to help you determine the right design (House Plan #153-1781).
The answers to all of these questions will help you finalize your decisions and put you on the right track to make your dream outdoor kitchen a reality. Whether you decide to do it all yourself or bring in some professionals to take on the job, it’s absolutely vital that you draft up clear and precise outdoor kitchen plans in order to guide the entire process forward. Even if you plan on doing it all on your own, you may want to consider hiring a professional surveyor to help you with measurements or at least bring on a contractor to consult on the implementation, in order to make sure you get everything right from the start.
Best Outdoor Kitchen Equipment
Now that you’ve decided what you want your brand new outdoor kitchen to look like, determined the final layout, and figured out how you’re going to be building it, it’s time for the fun part: choosing the appliances.
Depending on the size of your yard, your available budget, and the scope of your outdoor entertaining plans, some of these models might not be the right fit for you. In any case, make sure you spend some time reading customer reviews and feedback on any online retail sites in order to really understand all of the features and caveats of each unit. Some online reviewers will even include photos or videos of the product in action, as well as provide updates to their initial reviews over time. These are an invaluable resource when it comes to picking the best outdoor kitchen appliances and products. Here are some of our favorites.
This impressive grill gives you tons of cooking area and is powerful enough to handle all of your cookout needs. You just position the drop-in-style unit in a hole cut into the countertop of your outdoor kitchen layout and hook up the gas fuel source to get cooking. Plus, the sleek stainless-steel design makes it a versatile choice for any design aesthetic.
If you’re looking for a grill that is built right into a prep station, this is the choice for you. It also allows you more freedom in terms of kitchen layout because you don’t need to worry as much about creating counter space. It's all done for you!
Wolf is a trusted name in kitchen appliances, and the company’s outdoor gas grills (in 30-, 36-, and 42-, and 54-inch-wide models) serves as an amazing slice of luxury to help you create the most refined and relaxing outdoor cooking experience.
If you enjoy pizza (and really, who doesn’t?), this oven would make a fantastic addition to your outdoor kitchen. There’s really nothing quite like enjoying a freshly made wood-fired brick-oven pizza on your patio at dusk.
Having a sink in your outdoor kitchen is essential. It allows you to clean dishes, get some water, and keep the space clean and tidy without having to run into the house all the time.
This 30-in. drop-in stainless-steel sink makes cleanup in the outdoor kitchen easier and doubles as a bar sink with ice bin and juice bottle boots (for keeping juice chilled), bottle opener, front bottle tray, and towel rack so you can have a wet bar for the enjoyment of your guests.
Another choice for the ultimate in cleanup capability and entertainment possibilities, this 30-inch-wide sink is designed to sit on top of a typical 30-inch cabinet and has all of the same features as the unit above, with a slightly larger sink.
Outdoor bars are great for entertaining, and can include simple coolers or more elaborate stations for crafting your own signature cocktails.
This drop-in ice chest is built with double walls to make ice last longer and fits into a space that's 14.25 in. wide, 15.5 in. long, and 20.5 in. deep. Overall width with trim is 17 in., and its 1.5-in. drain makes cleanup easy after the ice has melted.
This 25-in.-wide chiller holds 17 gallons of ice, and its 22-in. depth accommodates large beverage bottles. It has four removable condiment trays withcovers and a 1.5-in. opening at the bottom for convenient draining of melted ice water. A stainless-steel cover keeps it clean when not in use.
For those who do a lot of entertaining and plan large parties, this 28-in.-wide (fitting into a 26-in.-wide opening) cocktail station is extra deep at 25 in. and holds 100 lbs. of ice to cool beverages. Four plastic condiment trays make accessorizing drinks easy, and the front tray holds bottles and bar tools. The domed lid can be closed between drink-making sessions to keep things cool and clean.
Ample storage is the ultimate luxury for any home, and it’s absolutely the case when it comes to outdoor kitchens. Proper storage means you don’t have to make constant trips inside to grab plates or utensils, and can even store your ingredients right next to the grill when you’re cooking.
Storage won't be an issue with this 8-ft.-plus long array of cabinets built for the rigors of the outdoors. The large cabinet at the left can accommodate a drop-in grill and still have lots storage available beneath. And the many drawers and middle cabinet will make sure you always have everything at hand, yet discreetly behind stainless-steel doors and drawer fronts.
No outdoor kitchen would be complete without a refrigerator to keep beverages cold over the long haul and to hold food prior to grilling so it doesn't spoil. This modular unit is 14.5 in. wide and 32.5 in. tall and has a convenient glass door so you can see if what you're after is there without having to open the door.