Covered outdoor kitchen ideas – 10 stylish options to protect against the elements

Carry on cooking all-season round with these stylish outdoor kitchen shades and shelters

Cooking and eating outdoors is all part of the fun of summer, but with the British weather being so unpredictable, if you’re planning on upgrading your outside barbecue area then covered outdoor kitchen ideas are well worth thinking about.

Providing some type of coverage for your outdoor kitchen and dining area will prolong the length of time you spend outside, provide shade from hot sun, shelter from rain and wind, plus extra warmth too.

The options are varied when it comes to outdoor shade ideas. Ranging from simple easy-up shelters to cover a barbecue or grill, to wooden pergolas and freestanding structures, add-on canopies and roof extensions. So what you choose will depend on the space available and how simple or elaborate you want your cover to be.

Covered outdoor kitchen ideas

With an outdoor kitchen put out of action when the weather is bad, protecting your cooking space from the elements will allow you to make use of it all year round. So factoring in shade or shelter is worth investing in when you’re setting up an outdoor cooking and dining area, or garden bar idea.

1. Super-size a pergola for extra coverage

garden area with pergola and dining table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Heat from the sun can get quite intense, especially when cooking outdoors, so installing an outdoor pergola to provide shade for an outdoor kitchen is an easy way of preventing the heat from becoming too uncomfortable. 

While an open-style pergola won’t provide full protection from rain, having panels or fencing on two (or three) sides will help shield the area from wind and draughts.

Opting for a self-build construction or DIY outdoor furniture idea like this will allow a timber pergola to be tailored to the exact size and shape of the outside space. Stretching it to span the entire width of a patio or terrace creates continuity outdoors and an overhead structure can be a useful device when it comes to zoning an outside space. 

Hanging greenery and suspending light fittings from overhead beams helps to break up the space visually and create separate cooking, eating and seating zones.

2. Think about ventilation

garden area with pergola and dining table

(Image credit: Timber pergola and fencing, South Hams Fencing & Landscaping)

One of the most important considerations when it comes to covered outdoor kitchen ideas is making sure that the area is adequately ventilated. While not such a problem with open-roofed structures such as pergolas and gazebos (as air and smoke can escape), with covers or roofs that are semi-enclosed, ventilation to prevent smoke, steam and fumes from accumulating under the roof is a must have. 

Providing adequate ventilation for gas, wood or charcoal-burning appliances in sheltered spaces is an essential safety requirement too. For grills and barbecues, opt for an outdoor vent hood, which is more powerful than a standard kitchen hood, but will draw away smoke, heat, grease and food odours and keep the area safely ventilated. 

Key considerations when building an outdoor kitchen. Pizza ovens will require a chimney flue to draw heat and smoke away from the oven. Bear in mind that metal flues get extremely hot, so should always be positioned so that they are not touching wooden structures and away from overhead greenery so that they aren’t a fire hazard.

3. Get tough with work surfaces

garden and kitchen and chimney and wood stack

(Image credit: Royal Real Stone work surfaces, Lundhs)

Whether sheltered or open to the elements, with any outdoor kitchen it’s the worktops that bear the brunt of the weather, from direct sunlight and rain, to frost and even snow. So it’s essential to choose worktops that are weather-resistant, hardwearing and durable.

Natural materials like stone and quartz are tough and impervious to the weather and opting for an integrated outdoor sink and worktop in the same material will ensure a seamless finish that will prevent dirt accumulating in joins. 

Concrete worktops are also notoriously tough so good for outdoors, while stainless steel is robust and won’t rust in wet weather. Easy-clean materials that won’t stain or mark with greasy barbecue food are a must too.

4. Opt for an outdoor cooking hut

outdoor cooking with hut and chimney and wood stacks

(Image credit: Forno oven hut, Morso)

Create a dedicated spot for cooking and entertaining with a purpose-built hut that can be set up as a bolt-hole further away from the house and enjoyed all season round.

A fabulous focal point for a garden, the hut is built around an outdoor oven that incorporates an insulated flue system and chimney which will help keep the hut warm and cosy too. Interior shelves provide prep space for the chef, while exterior side shelves provide extra surface space for guests to sit and get in on the action.

5. Try an easy-up shelter

exposed brick wall with shelter and barbecue grill

(Image credit: BBQ Panasol shelter, Kettler)

For a less-permanent option, try this metal-framed shelter that will provide direct coverage for a best barbecue and grill area so that rain doesn’t stop play. 

With a powder-coated aluminium frame that will stay rust-free when left outside, it has two glass side tables for resting tools and drinks on and has fixing plates that will keep it securely in place in case of high winds.

6. Consider a free-standing pergola

outdoor kitchen dining table with chair and chimney pergola

(Image credit: Royal Real Stone work surfaces, Lundhs)

A stand-alone pergola is a good option for covered outdoor kitchen ideas if your cooking set-up is positioned slightly further away from the house. Also if you have an incorporated garden seating area. In a large garden or multi-functional outdoor space, a free-standing structure will help to define the area better making it instantly visible and more obvious to guests as a gathering point.

While pergolas tend to be open on all four sides, adding timber cladding to one side will help to enclose the area a little and can provide a backdrop for kitchen units, cooking appliances and extra storage.

7. Consider an easy-open retractable cover

outdoor kitchen with retractable cover and dining table and chair

(Image credit: The London Tile Co)

For a semi-permanent outdoor covering for an outdoor kitchen, consider a pergola with a retractable awning. An awning will give protection from hot sun, plus shelter from rain so that wet weather won’t ruin the occasion and can either be manually-operated or motorised for extra ease and speed.

Fixed or freestanding, a pergola can be installed in a spot that suits. Whether directly adjacent to the house on a patio or further along the garden in a purpose-built spot. 

An awning or louvred roof is safe to use above outdoor cooking equipment provided that any flues are positioned a minimum of 0.3m from the underside of the roof and any side screens are kept safely away from heat surfaces.

8. Weather proof your kitchen kit

outdoor kitchen with arm chair and kitchen appliances

(Image credit: Appliances,  Sub Zero Wolf)

Choosing weatherproof materials is key when setting up an outdoor kitchen. Even when positioned undercover or in a sheltered spot, the kitchen might still be partly open to the elements, so appliances and units built to withstand all-weathers are a must.

Stainless steel is known for its hard-wearing characteristics and durability so is a hardy choice for an outdoor kitchen. Resistant to impact, corrosion and extreme temperatures, its antibacterial properties won’t affect or contaminate food, while the easy-clean surface requires little maintenance. 

Dirt can build up in-between joints, corners, compartments and around control buttons, but a regular wipe down with mild soap and water is all that’s required to remedy this.

9. Pick portable pieces

garden area with outdoor kitchen and black kitchen counter

(Image credit: Vlaze outdoor kitchen, Garden House Design)

Easy-to-manoeuvre pieces will make setting up an outdoor kitchen a breeze. Lighter-weight units on castors can be moved in and out of play as needed. Plus they are easily shifted into a garden shed or garage out of season. Stainless steel tops and enamelled-finish doors are heat-proof, weather-resistant and super-easy to keep clean.

10. Extend an outdoor shelter

extended kitchen and glass door and wooden floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Hiscock)

Bi-fold doors create easily accessible indoor-outdoor spaces that are a prime spot for an open air kitchen. A pergola shade makes the perfect patio cover-up, easily attaching to the exterior of a house to extend usability of the outdoor area.

Give a pergola extra shade and coverage by training climbing plants to grow over it. Fast-growing climbers will establish themselves quickly and can provide coverage in as little as two years. Take care that any trailing greenery doesn’t overhang the cooking area too much.

Can I build a covered outdoor kitchen without planning permission?

Provided you follow guidelines for size, height and distance from boundaries, planning permission isn’t generally required for an outdoor kitchen housed in a permanent gazebo or pergola. Check before you build, especially if you’re in a conservation area or your structure will affect neighbouring properties.

How do you weatherproof a covered outdoor kitchen?

Even if an outdoor kitchen has some form of coverage or shelter, if one or more sides of the outdoor space are open to the elements, protecting your kit and furniture is a must. Especially over the winter months.

Choosing hardwearing, weather-resistant materials should be the first step. Worktops will bear the brunt of the weather, from hot sunlight beating down on them, to downpours of rain, frosty mornings and even snow. Choosing hardy materials like stone, granite, concrete and stainless steel that can be left outside all year long is a wise option.

Stainless steel appliances are also fairly weather-proof and won’t rust when left outdoors. However, investing in outdoor covers is a good bet that provides an extra layer of protection over winter months. And opting for moveable pieces that can be shifted into a shed or garage is a sensible option too.

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.