Outdoor countertop ideas to finish your alfresco kitchen to perfection

Give the surfaces in your garden as much consideration as those in your home

Over the warmer months there are few things we enjoy as much as alfresco cooking and dining. One element of the space which you might not have given much consideration to yet are outdoor countertop ideas.

There's a huge trend right now for outdoor kitchen ideas, but the focus tends to be on the layout, cooking equipment or furniture. Surfaces work hard, as somewhere to prep food, rest utensils or hot pans and as the basis for everything you need in the space.

With your garden kitchen there are a few things to bear in mind before you start searching for your worktops. 'Find a nice spot among your garden ideas where you have enough space,' advises Hege Lundh, Marketing & Business Development Director, Lundhs Real Stone. 'The outdoor kitchen should not be fully exposed to sunlight, and if possible find the least windy area. Also make sure you plan accordingly for any water or electricity access, as this will play a big part in planning.'

Once these are all settled, it's time to think about your surfaces.

Outdoor countertop ideas

With outdoor countertop ideas the material, finish and colour will have a huge impact on everything else you're adding in, so make sure you choose wisely...

1. Choose a metallic design

outdoor countertop ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Scott)

Stainless steel is a popular choice for kitchens - and not just those indoors. Give your outdoor kitchen or garden bar ideas a modern twist by using steel on your countertops. It looks great, adds a cool, sleek element, plus it's delightfully low-maintenance.

Also, part of why steel is so often used in kitchens is that it's durable and naturally anti-bacterial, which is just as useful when you take it outside. One thing to bear in mind is that it will get hot in the sun, so it's not the best option if you don't have shade to work with.

2. Opt for natural stone

outdoor kitchen worktop

(Image credit: Lundhs)

'When it comes to material and in particular worktop surface choice for an outdoor kitchen, the most important consideration is the weather and the climate,' says Hege from Lundhs Real Stone. 'Make sure you choose materials that will withstand changes in temperatures, exposure to the sun’s UV rays and also to the moisture of rain and dampness.'

'Aesthetically, opting for a surface that will glisten in the sunlight will always work well. The crystals within natural stone catch the light beautifully and make for the perfect outdoor surface choice. Natural stone is used to the elements and so as a result, is an ideal fit for the outdoors. From colder temperatures and damp to high Heat and UV rays, it can withstand it all, setting it apart from other materials.'

3. Add texture with slate

outdoor food countertop

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Show off natural undulations and pretty imperfections by choosing a rough and rustic piece of slate. The top will stay smooth while the edges will add that extra bit of visual interest. Plus, it's naturally resistant to heat, so great if you're working with hot pans or have a nearby fire.

It's not the nicest - or easiest - material to cut things on, so make sure you work with cutting boards when prepping food. Also make sure you seal your slate as otherwise it can easily scratch and stain. Both of these should be kept in mind when you get stuck into learning how to clean a BBQ by a surface like this.

4. Create an industrial look with concrete

garden with outdoor kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

Concrete is having a moment in all areas of design. The versatile material can be poured into virtually any shape, so you can create whatever layout you need. This is also ideal if you're working with small garden ideas and need to stick to more petite dimensions. As a bonus, remember you can get concrete in just about any colour, so you can go wild if grey isn't your thing.

If you opt for concrete, you have to be sure to seal it correctly when installed, and resealed on a regular basis to prevent cracks and stains.

5. Add interest with bluestone

countertop with tomato

(Image credit: Oxenwood)

'Belgian bluestone can be used indoors and outdoors; its low porosity makes it resistant to frost and pollution,' says Charlie Alexander, Owner, Oxenwood Furniture. 'Bluestone is a natural stone and contains fossils and white/greyish crystals and veins that run through the stone. The quantity and size of the fossils, crystals and veins will vary from piece to piece and are an inherent characteristic of the stone. Superficial micro scratches are normal and over time will contribute to the patina of the stone.'

'In its natural state (so left unsealed), bluestone will temporarily mark if it comes into contact with some foodstuffs and beverages. If the bluestone is located outside, these marks will go over a relatively short period of time due to the cleaning action of the sun and rain. Sealed or unsealed, we recommend that spillages are wiped clean in a timely manner (in particular, vinegar, lemon juice and ketchup). Abrasive or acidic cleaners and washing up liquids should be avoided as cleaning agents.'

6. Look to simple slabs

countertop with champagne bottle

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd-Davies)

Tile slabs are worth considering for outdoor countertop ideas just as they are for your patio paving ideas. This is the best solution if you want to make a statement with your surfaces as tiles, of course, come in all manner of colours, patterns and finishes.

Porcelain is the best material for using tiles outdoors, as it's non-porous and heat-resistant. However, tiles can crack in cold temperature, so you do need to consider if you want to deal with the necessary maintenance.

7. Go traditional with wood

cocktail counter

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

We use wood in our garden furniture ideas for good reason. It's naturally strong, can handle just about every kind of temperature and can be stained to match your style. Additionally, some types of wood are even resistant to insects and mould.

All that said, it's a needy material and requires a good deal of upkeep to stay in tip-top condition. An alternative is choosing a wood effect tile, so you get the look without as much maintenance.

8. Enhance light with a bright white

garden with outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

If you're looking for stone tiles, consider choosing a light colour like a white. This will help bounce light around and make your garden and outdoor kitchen feel brighter than it is, even on the dullest of days. Plus, it's one of the classic tricks for how to make a small garden look bigger.

Make life a little easier for yourself and choose one with natural imperfections in the colour so you won't get annoyed by any stains which may occur.

9. Build in the sink with the same material

countertop with washbasin

(Image credit: Lundhs)

When you're thinking about your outdoor countertop ideas, think outside the box. Or, rather, into it. For a chic and seamless look, cover your outdoor sink ideas in the same material.

Do note that this of course only works with non-porous materials, so stick with natural stones for your basin area!

10. Paint wood to add colour

outdoor party space with cocktail counter

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Inject a splash of colour to your outdoor space with more than just bright flowers. Coat your wooden countertop in a weatherproof exterior paint to make it a standout feature. Budget garden ideas can really be as simple as that! Either go for a bold, contrasting colour or choose a complementary shade for a tonal effect.

What material can be used for outdoor countertops?

A range of materials can be used for outdoor countertop ideas. Some of the most popular are natural stone, tiles and concrete. Wood is another, more traditional option, but does require more maintenance than the heftier choices. Steel can also be considered, but it does tend to get hot in the sun. In terms of which stones work best you can look at granite, soapstone and marble for natural choices.

Manufactured materials, like recycled glass or quartz, can sometimes be used, but they're not all suitable for outdoor use, so be sure to check with your supplier before making the investment.

What is the most durable outdoor countertop?

'The key to a long-lasting outdoor surface is something that will stand the test of time against the elements,' says Hege from Lundhs Real Stone.  'The features you should look for are a material that has low porosity, low absorption and a resistance to UV. Opt for a material that is easy to clean and is maintenance-free.'

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

Thea Babington-Stitt
Assistant Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Assistant Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years. 

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.