Everything you need to know before buying an outdoor kitchen

Guarantee success with these top tips direct from the experts

buying an outdoor kitchen moveable island in outdoor kitchen area on decked space
(Image credit: Victoria Wade)

To consider buying an outdoor kitchen might seem like an extravagance, but if you do it right you'll find yourself eating most of your meals alfresco throughout the summer months.

As we are promised another hot summer, an outdoor kitchen is quickly becoming the must-have addition to your garden scheme. Not only does it provide a cooler alternative to traditional kitchen ideas but it also presents a great way to spend time with family and friends – hosting has never been so easy. 

Buying an outdoor kitchen: everything you need to know before 

outdoor kitchen with wooden units and pull out drawers for storage

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd)

When the mercury soars the last place you want to be is in the kitchen and with the consistently record-beating temperatures each summer, buying an outdoor kitchen is becoming a worthwhile investment. 

There is an undeniable pleasure about cooking and dining in the garden – simply put, food tastes better outdoors – so turn your home into the place to be by installing an outdoor kitchen. 

‘The secret to buying an outdoor kitchen that you will love is to remove the barriers that are currently stopping you from outdoor living,' says interior architect Yoko Kloeden

'If it’s clearing after cooking, incorporating a sink and storage for cleaning equipment might help. If it’s the weather then a retractable canopy, pergola ideas, or outdoor heating can prove invaluable.'

Yoko Kloeden
Yoko Kloeden

Takes its cue from nature, Japanese corporate investor-turned-designer, Yoko Kloeden who established the Richmond-based practice in 2015. Tailored to the lifestyles of each client, a holistic approach to design covers all stages of design and construction to the procurement of specialist finishes and furnishings, including this large outdoor BBQ kitchen.

What is a must for an outdoor kitchen?

outdoor kitchen on patio with pergola

(Image credit: Humphrey Mason)

According to landscape architect Victoria Wade, an outdoor kitchen must have:

  • Counter space at a comfortable height
  • Method of cooking
  • Dining area
  • Lighting
  • Outdoor sink
  • Plenty of ledges for resting drinks and nibbles
  • Pots of herbs within easy reach – herb garden ideas offer a great starting point
  • Rain protection
Victoria Wade headshot
Victoria Wade

Victoria Wade is an RHS Gold Medal-winning Garden Designer based in Swansea in South Wales. She has been creating fun and beautiful outdoor living spaces across the UK for the past 10 years, including stunning outdoor kitchens. Victoria founded  Victoria Wade Landscape Architect with the ethos is to create beautiful, natural spaces that inspire people to get outdoors in any way that makes them happy.

When looking to add an outdoor kitchen to your garden landscaping – the first thing to establish is the size and position.

The heart of the outdoor kitchen is the appliances. This will define the size and shape of the space and what you need. A simple pizza oven can be partnered with a small unit or even a farmhouse-style table, however, an industrial grill, outdoor ovens or BBQ will require more prep space due to the range of meals you can cook. 

Sinks areas are a great addition and stainless steel with provided a highly durable choice. A small design will be more than enough as it is likely that it will only serve as a hand-washing station rather than for washing pots and pans. A worthwhile addition it removes the need for guests to enter the house to wash their hands before and after dinner.

If you are planning on cooking once the sun has started to set, outdoor lighting is also essential, this can be battery-powered, solar-powered or wired-in. 

Where is the best placement for an outdoor kitchen?

outdoor kitchen with Big Green BBQ, tiled walls, storage, shelves, condiments, glassware, low table, storage for cutlery, compost, logs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘Whatever the size or style of kitchen that is right for your garden I think the objective of any outdoor kitchen first and foremost needs to be to make it as easy to cook outdoors as possible,' advises Victoria Wade. 

'It’s important that the space is not only beautiful and designed to fit in with the rest of the house and reflect your personality, but it needs to be practical too.'

Covered outdoor kitchen ideas are a great way to ensure that your outdoor kitchen integrates seamlessly into your garden.

What is the average cost of an outdoor kitchen?

The average cost of buying an outdoor kitchen ranges from affordable DIY designs crafted from pallets through self-contained units to comprehensive professional set-ups. The most expensive elements will be the appliances. 

‘For a compact prep kitchen, expect to pay around £5,000,' advises Ced Wells, director of outdoor kitchen brand Vlaze. 'While for a complete garden room kitchen with cooking capabilities, prices will be closer to £50,000.'

'However, an outdoor kitchen is an investment so it is important to look at materials that will stand up to the British weather all year round.'

ced wells headshot
Ced Wells

Ced Wells is the creative director at Vlaze and the grandson of the founder of this 50-year-old British family firm. The company design and manufacture all of its outdoor kitchens in its workshops on the Isle of Wight. It also makes much of the signage for the London Underground and the Paris Metro from vitreous enamel – the same durable material used on all Vlaze cabinetry.

blue enamel kitchen on small patio

(Image credit: Vlaze)

What is the cheapest way to do an outdoor kitchen?

The cheapest way to create an outdoor kitchen is by undertaking a DIY project. Fairly straightforward, learning how to build an outdoor kitchen will not only save you money but will also help you to create the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. 

What is the best countertop to use for an outdoor kitchen?

outdoor worktop and sink area with wooden fencing and pergola

(Image credit: Lundhs)

Your outdoor countertop ideas must be durable both in terms of cooking and weather. ‘The features you should look for are a material that has low porosity, low absorption and a resistance to UV,’ says Hege Lundh, business development director for Lundhs Real Stone

‘Take safety into consideration when buying an outdoor kitchen - if you are planning on installing a grill for example, make sure you avoid flammable materials and choose a worktop and surfaces that can withstand high temperatures of up to 300°C.'

'A completely natural stone will be used to the elements and notoriously only require very little maintenance - a simple wipe with a damp cloth will suffice.’ 

Other options include concrete, tiles or 304-grade stainless steel. Be sure that you check whether your materials need sealing before outside use or food preparation.

What is the best flooring for an outdoor kitchen?

outdoor kitchen units with herbs and pizza oven

(Image credit: Victoria Wade)

As with any patio ideas, outdoor kitchens need to be built on a level foundation, this can be achieved by laying a concrete or brick base or by building a decked area. 

Like in a conventional kitchen, flooring must be durable and able to withstand the inevitable stains and spills as well as everything the weather can throw at it. Outdoor tiles, with an R11 slip rating, are a great option. 

Alternatively, try composite cladding and decking. ‘Composite cladding looks very similar to wood and blends in well with its surroundings,' says Nick Whiley, project director at Trekker Global Luxury Decking.

'Plus, aesthetically, it allows for a good flow, from the kitchen cabinets to the floor. It is also very low maintenance in comparison to other materials and will not rot or warp.'

How do I get power and water to my outdoor kitchen?

For a fully functional outdoor kitchen, plumbing and electricity are essential. This takes the space from a BBQ station to a kitchen. 

If you already have an outdoor tap, then it will be easy to connect a cold water tap to your outdoor kitchen. LPG (bottled gas) can also be installed on a DIY basis. However, for mains gas, electricity and hot water you’ll need to consult a professional. 

Do I need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen UK?

moveable island in outdoor kitchen area on decked space

(Image credit: Yoko Kloeden Design Photograph Cathy Pyle)

No, in most cases you do not need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen.

In most cases, outdoor kitchens will fall under permitted development – meaning that you do not need planning permission. If you are building a permanent structure, you will need to follow guidelines regarding the size, height and distance from boundaries in order for it to fall under permitted development.

If you live in a listed building or conservation area, additional permissions may need to be granted so check with your local authority. It is also important that you find out whether you live in a smoke control area as this will limit what appliances you can use. 

Can you have an outdoor kitchen in the winter?

Yes, you can have an outdoor kitchen in winter – all it needs is a little extra planning. 

Outdoor kitchens have the added challenge of facing the weather. While you’re likely to be designing your outdoor kitchen for use in the height of summer, it must also be able to withstand the depths of winter. 

Regardless of style, made-to-measure, heavy-duty covers are vital to protect appliances when not in use. However, the easiest way to protect your outdoor kitchen is to build a solid structure to cover the space. For a more affordable option, select moveable designs that can be moved to a protected site during the winter. 

Holly Reaney
Content Editor

Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster.  Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.