Outdoor Kitchen

Transform your patio or deck into an outdoor kitchen with tips for planning the design and keeping within your budget.


The backyard barbecue was designed to exude friendliness and informality. But don't let appearances fool you-sophisticated outdoor kitchens like this one offer many of the same conveniences as the indoor variety.

A gas-fired, covered grill on your patio can easily handle spareribs, salmon steaks, shish kebabs, or anything else you fancy, while separate burners allow companion dishes to heat up at the same time. There's a refrigerator to keep foods at ready and a sink for cleanup right there in your backyard.

Pick a location
Consider the distance between the indoor kitchen and the outdoor cooking area. If it's too far for frequent trips, it may be worth upgrading your outdoor kitchen from a simple grill and countertop to a full-fledged prep and cleanup area with an outdoor sink, a small refrigerator, and maybe even an icemaker. (Remember that in cold-weather climates, you'll have to winterize your kitchen each fall.)

Plan your space around the grill.
Counter surfaces and refrigeration units should be within easy reach. A table and chairs should be close enough to tie the area together but at least 36 inches from a wall or deck railing to allow people to walk behind chairs.

Consider a portable kitchen.
It offers effortless outdoor cooking. Look for a portable kitchen that includes a grill and storage built into a rolling cart.

Always be conscious of the direction of the wind.
Position the area so smoke blowing off the barbecue grill goes away from where people are sitting.

Don't block natural pathways and sight lines or crowd the kitchen against the edge of a pool.
It can become not only visually annoying but also dangerous.

Make the space work double duty.
If your patio is small but you're set on having a room for entertaining, use your outdoor kitchen as both an eating area and a lounging spot. Consider using lightweight patio chairs that you can pull away from the table and group around a portable fire pit so you can enjoy the patio on chilly nights, as well as sunny days.

Choose durable materials.
All appliances, whether built-in or freestanding, should be made of durable, weather-resistant materials, as should the counters, sink, and cabinets. Look for products made of heavy-duty plastic, cast aluminum, stainless steel, tile, concrete, or stone for your patio, deck, grill, flooring and counter surfaces.

Build in plenty of storage.
You don't want to have to carry utensils and dishes in and out of your outdoor kitchen all summer.

Add a pergola or awning overhead.
This is especially necessary if you live in an area plagued by hot sun and wind to ensure you can enjoy the space on hot days.

Budget tips

  • Outdoor kitchens that cost $25,000 or more and include elaborate built-in warming drawers and dishwashers are increasingly common, but you don't have to spend big bucks to have a comfortable cooking area outside. Built-in grills with some storage and counter space can be found for around $2,000.
  • Customizations such as an undercounter refrigerator, a sink, or a side burner add to the cost (figure at least $500 - $1,000 for each). More budget-friendly options include portable refrigerators, gas grills with side burners, and roll-away prep carts with countertops and sinks. About $3,000 can buy a quality grill, seating area, and comfortable work space.
  • One place you can probably save some money is on the grill. Many grills on the market today cost less than $300. Remember that frequency of use should dictate how you allocate your budget, but look for at least 350 square inches of cooking area and a minimum of 22,000 Btus on a gas grill.
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