26 outdoor kitchen ideas for easy, stylish alfresco dining

Create an open-air kitchen to enhance your outdoor living experience, day and night

Outdoor kitchen area in garden with table and wooden chairs on patio area behind house with blue panels
(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Raeside)

For alfresco lunch parties or cosy evening meals in the garden, turn your attention to outdoor kitchen ideas this summer.

Instead of being stuck in the kitchen preparing food for guests while they bask in the sunshine, an alfresco kitchen transports your entire prep, cooking and serving system into the heart of your garden ideas so you don't miss out on a single moment.

'Outdoor kitchens have become very popular in recent years and are the next level in barbecuing and alfresco dining,' says Charlie Alexander, founder of Oxenwood.

We've asked outdoor accessory and furniture experts for their best outdoor kitchen ideas to transform your garden into an alfresco hotspot.

New title: 26 outdoor kitchen ideas for easy alfresco dining

New strapline: Create an open air kitchen to enhance your outdoor living, day and night

New meta description: Take inspiration from our best outdoor kitchen ideas this summer, with design tips and tricks from the experts

Outdoor kitchen ideas

What you include in your exterior kitchen is very much up to you – you can go as big and mod-conned up as you like, or keep it more ad hoc and relaxed.

'Creating an outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to be an unreachable expense or overwhelming project,' says Beck Rackstraw, Director of Protek. 'A beautiful and simple space for cooking outside can be created in a small area of the garden to provide worktop space and storage.'

There are countless outdoor kitchen ideas to choose from, so we've asked the experts for their best pointers.

1. Tailor lighting to your outdoor kitchen space

Outdoor kitchen with island and two pendant lights

(Image credit: Cullifords)

The list of garden lighting ideas seems endless, so we asked Rachel Morris from home and garden lighting experts 4lite for her top tips.

'Task lighting such as downlights, spotlights and wall lights will illuminate workspaces and cooking areas so you can fully utilise the kitchen as a functional space,' Rachel says.

'However, this alone may look artificial and stark. Combining practical lighting with ambient and decorative lights will soften the space and create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

'Build layers of light to create a space that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. String festoon lights over the top of the kitchen or outline its perimeter to frame the space, add wall lanterns for a soft background glow and use under-counter lighting such as LED strips or ground-recessed up lighters to eradicate dark spots and complete the look.'

Try 4lite's Outdoor LED Weatherproof Festoon String Lighting from Amazon to decorate the perimeter of your outdoor kitchen area.

2. Select your furniture

Find the right garden furniture ideas to work just as well with your interior design as your garden space.

'Quality outdoor furniture is one of the key elements to transform your garden into a true oasis,' says Charlie from Oxenwood. 'Garden furniture goes far beyond a practical level of simply providing somewhere to sit. It can also be a statement piece and an eye-catching design feature, and so requires careful consideration to make it part of the wider garden scheme.'

Oxenwood Hagen outdoor table with alfresco dinner setup as part of outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Oxenwood)

Garden furniture can be used to create different areas in your outdoor kitchen area, depending on the feel you're aiming for.

'For example, a smaller table, like the Oxenwood Aubrey Circular, instantly creates a peaceful pocket tucked away on a patio to enjoy coffee and croissants,' says Charlie.

'In contrast, the larger Hagen provides the perfect setting for entertaining friends, hosting alfresco dinner parties and relaxing long after sundown.

'Time spent gathered around a garden dining table enjoying good food and drink while creating memories with others that can be treasured for years to come requires a centrepiece of a table - something durable and built to last a lifetime, and can even be passed down through families, taking the memories and tales with it.'

Charlie Alexander in garden
Charlie Alexander

Back in 2014, Oxenwood’s founder Charlie Alexander was searching for a well-designed, robust, sensibly priced table for his own garden. He realised the choice of original luxury garden furniture was limited, so bringing his dreams into reality, Oxenwood was born.

3. Build a pergola

Built in garden seating around firepit and under pergola

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

Pergolas are an ever-popular feature in gardens large or small, and adding this structure to your outdoor kitchen area can enhance the atmosphere of the space.

'With gardens increasingly being used as an extension of the living area, a pergola will not only add visual interest to an outdoor kitchen but it can be used to zone the dining section of the garden,' says Jenny Davis, Head of Marketing for Forest Garden.

'It will transform the patio into an inviting and stylish space that beckons for gatherings, parties and family meals.'

Learn how to train wisteria and other climbing plants along the pergola for added interest.

Get the look

4. Use storage wisely

outdoor kitchen with storage and labelled drawers

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young)

The last thing you want to be doing when cooking for a crowd and sorting garden party ideas is faffing around trying to find everything you need.

'You’ll want an outdoor kitchen that is a stylish and flexible entertaining space,' says Kerry Murfin, VP Marketing, Europe at Keter. 'To achieve this, choose storage which can be moved if need be and will blend into your surroundings, becoming an extension of the kitchen space.

'Keter’s Signature High Storage Cabinet, available at B&Q, will look the part with its true-to-life wooden exterior in a rich walnut or ashwood design and has a well-built, ample interior with two shelves that are perfect for storing utensils, pots, pans, plates, and more. It’s easy to clean, weather-resistant and UV-protected so it won’t fade when facing the elements.

'Keep life simple for yourself by rigging up a space to hang your oft-used utensils. Open storage and labelled drawers will also cut down on your time searching for what you need.'

5. Invest in a pizza oven

outdoor kitchen trolley with pizza baking machine and bottles

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Pizza ovens are a luxury addition to the garden, but they don't have to cost the earth. Our list of the best pizza ovens right now includes affordable options for a range of budgets, namely the Ninja Woodfire Electric Outdoor Oven which we're loving at the moment – read more in our Ninja Woodfire Electric Outdoor Oven review.

If you're tight on space, a shelving unit or trolley is ideal for a compact pizza oven on your patio or balcony.

‘An outdoor kitchen is best seen as an extension to your home and living space,' says Duncan Aird, Outdoor Kitchen Expert's founder. 'It's a place to relax, cook, entertain and enjoy precious time with friends and family,’

6. Position it in the perfect spot

outdoor kitchen in garden decking area with plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

As a rule, outdoor kitchens are best situated close to the house and always on level decking or a patio. Look to position yours against a brick wall and try to keep it away from walkways.

Outdoor Kitchen Expert's Duncan agrees. ‘There’s no one ideal spot, although adjacent to your house makes it easy for amenities, electrics, plumbing, etc. Plus you may already have a patio area, which can cut down on hard landscaping.’

When it comes to positioning, landscape gardener Victoria Wade likes an outdoor kitchen to catch the evening sun. ‘Although it’s handy if it’s near to the back door to take what you need outside,' she says.

An outdoor kitchen should ideally be positioned out of the wind and close to water/electricity connections. However, this doesn’t always equal the best spot for alfresco dining. A portable option tends to allow for more flexibility. ‘A barbecue that can be moved around is great for tracking the sun. Pitched close to the table, it allows the cooking to become part of the entertainment,’ says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, managing director at Morsø UK.

7. Carve out a corner

Corner of garden with tabletop BBQ, festoon lighting and potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a large space to fit in an outdoor kitchen – you can make do with the most compact of corners. Take the time to choose pieces which boost what little space you have available.

BBQ tables are a great option, as you have a safe spot for cooking, but also prep space and built-in storage. In these tinier spots, you might want to consider an electric BBQ, like the Weber Lumin Compact Electric BBQ, available at John Lewis, over traditionally larger gas bbq or charcoal options.

8. Go pro and plumb in a sink

outdoor kitchen with grey counter wash basin plant pots and wood

(Image credit: Victoria Wade)

‘An outdoor sink is a great addition,' says Duncan from Outdoor Kitchen Expert. 'The more you add to your kitchen, the more self-sufficient it becomes and the less time you waste as a host running back and forth to the house.’

Installing the plumbing required can be costly. You could look to positioning your sink on an external wall of the house, below an existing outdoor tap to minimise the cost.

9. Keep things cool

Outdoor kitchen with Big Green Egg, drinks fridge and festoon lights

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When you've got guests around on a summer's evening, you've got to keep the drinks flowing. Install an outdoor fridge or wine cooler to keep bottles within arm's reach. Your outdoor kitchen ideas will transform into a garden bar without you having to change a thing.

Just remember, you can't install any fridge in your garden. Look for models designed for outdoor use and consider that you'll need an electrical supply to power it.

10. Integrate with the garden

Outdoor kitchen with BBQ and pizza oven

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jemma Watts)

One concern you may have when it comes to outdoor kitchen ideas is how it will fit in aesthetically to your space. Even when they look cool you may feel like there's too much of a contrast between the cooking area and the rest of the garden.

Link these two together by planting around the kitchen area with potted plants where needed, raised planters alongside and – depending on the style and shape of your kitchen – even beds underneath. Consider colours, too. Choosing the same colour worktop as other elements such as your fence and raised beds will also help.

11. Choose the right material

Outdoor L shaped kitchen with sink

(Image credit: Lundhs)

'When it comes to material and, in particular, worktop surface choice for outdoor kitchen ideas, the most important consideration is the weather and the climate,' explains Hege Lundh, Marketing Director at natural stone company Lundhs.

'For your outdoor countertops ideas, make sure you choose materials that will withstand changes in temperatures, exposure to the sun’s UV rays and moisture from rain and dampness.'

'Aesthetically, opting for a surface that will glisten in the sunlight will always work well. The crystals within natural stone, for example, will catch the light beautifully and make for the perfect outdoor surface choice.'

12. Save space with a narrow design

garden kitchen with white counter and wooden dinning table with chair

(Image credit: WWOO)

Most of us are limited with our outdoor space, so save precious square footage by plumping for a slimline design. Consider what you need to include when working with narrow garden ideas, rather than just adding in all the mod-cons 'just because'. You'll be surprised at what you can do with only a multifunctional barbecue and sink.

Remember most of the items, like condiments and glassware, will be stored indoors most of the time, so you don't need as much worksurface space integrated into your outdoor kitchen ideas as you might think. As long as you have room enough for a chopping board, you're good to go.

13. Include a multifunctional trellis

outdoor kitchen with white counter and flower plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Garden trellis ideas are perhaps a surprising, but definitely welcome, addition to outdoor kitchen ideas. The structure will firstly add a pretty backdrop to your cooking space, meaning you're not just looking at a brick wall or old fence. Paint in a pretty shade or train climbing plants upwards for extra impact.

Secondly, the gaps in a trellis are perfect for hanging utensils, chopping boards and other essentials. You could even hang small pots of herbs so you have them to hand for cooking or adding to cocktails.

14. Invest in a bioclimatic canopy

outdoor kitchen with counter chairs and plants

(Image credit: Outdoor Kitchen Expert)

A canopy is a must if you want to make the most of your outdoor kitchen year-round. But while it may shelter you from the rain, it'll also block out the sunshine. That's where a bioclimatic canopy becomes essential.

‘Outdoor kitchens should be designed and built to withstand the best – and the worst – the British weather can throw at them,' explains Duncan Aird from Outdoor Kitchen Expert. 'So while a roof is not essential, we recommend a structure of some form. Bioclimatic canopies are a popular choice as the rotating and/or retracting roof blades mean that sun, shade, and breeze can all be accommodated.’

15. Carve out a slice of room

outdoor dinning table and chair stone flooring and black counter cabinet

(Image credit: Cane-Line)

Don't have the space for a large outdoor kitchen? A compact set should work just as well. All you need is a space to prepare outdoors, while cupboards can conceal the cooking clutter.

'The best BBQs and outdoor ovens are an amazing way to bring the kitchen outside right into the comfort of your garden,' notes Ash Read, home and property expert and founder of Living Cozy. 'They can be used all year round to cook up a storm no matter what season it is.'

Indeed, alfresco cooking is popular worldwide, with Scandinavians embracing it even in the coldest months.

16. Build in a bar

outdoor kitchen bar and grey counter

(Image credit: Danetti)

‘Plan somewhere to sit – a bar area with a few stools perfect spot for your guests to chill with a drink while you cook up a storm,’ suggests landscape gardener Victoria Wade. ‘It’s nice to incorporate plenty of ledges for resting drinks and nibbles, pots of herbs within easy reach, and perhaps a bar area with a few bar stools for your friends to sit while you cook up a storm,’ she adds.

‘Some of our customers prioritise cooking and want fully functioning outdoor kitchen ideas with multiple grilling, cooking and smoking alternatives, while others prioritise a design which is more focused around a bar and socialising,' agrees Outdoor Kitchen Expert's Duncan. 'Either way, it should be a space designed for your lifestyle.’

17. Carry the inside out

outdoor kitchen with grey cabinet and dinning table with chairs

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

Blur the lines and fake an outdoor kitchen. Design your home with an indoor-outdoor feel with matching or similar flooring running between the two. A wall made up of sliding or bi-folding glass doors will disrupt the distinction between indoors and out, meaning you can get the best of both worlds without adding an entirely new space.

18. Go for an all in one design

outdoor kitchen with cream colour cabinet and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Nicola Stocken)

Some modern designs have everything you could want - and more - in one structure. To make sure you get what you want, go bespoke, or learn how to build your own outdoor kitchen if your DIY skills are up to scratch. That said, unless you're a professional, do bring in someone to rig up any electrics and water that are needed.

Work in a cover for your all-in-one design, too. 'Through summer, good quality outdoor kitchen ideas are permitted to be left uncovered as all the materials should be weatherproof, but throughout winter, we recommend using a cover to help protect them from the particularly harsh elements,' advises Charlie from Oxenwood.

'Every couple of weeks on a sunny day throughout winter, we like to remove the covers and air out the kitchen to prevent mildew from forming.'

19. Go casual with rustic vibes

outdoor counter in garden with flower plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Joanna Henderson)

Think cottagecore for a charming take on outdoor kitchen ideas. Rustic brick pizza ovens or BBQs will add old-worldy appeal. The more rough around the edges, the better, so you can get away with minimal upkeep.

Keep your surrounding planting in tip-top condition to make it look like you're aiming for cottage garden ideas rather than a run-down space.

20. Get creative with old kitchen tiles

outdoor kitchen with grey shelf and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you only have a small garden, you can easily zone out a small garden kitchen with the aid of a few tiles. Whether you have some leftover from your kitchen or picked up some on offer, attach them to a wall or wooden board attached to a fence to create striking outdoor wall decor ideas for your outdoor kitchen area.

21. Build a roof

outdoor kitchen in garden with wooden shed

(Image credit: Morso)

‘While barbecuing has been popular for a long time, we’ve seen demand for covered outdoor kitchens ideas soar in recent years,’ says Declan from Morsø UK. The beauty of a solid structure overhead is that you can plan garden parties without consulting the weather forecast.

‘The best outdoor kitchen ideas provide ample food preparation space and worksurface for pots, crockery and utensils, as well as seating,’ adds Declan.

A long chimney will funnel smoke away from both the structure and your eyes.

22. Entertain at an outdoor cocktail bar

outdoor kitchen in garden decking area with counter and stools

(Image credit: Landform Consultants)

Give your entertaining a cocktail-bar buzz, without leaving home. ‘Build a garden bar to make greater use of outside space,’ says Rhiannon Williams, landscape architect and project manager at Landform Consultants. ‘A bar takes up a lot less space than a dining area.’

Select key fittings, such as an outdoor wine fridge or sink, then build the bar around these. ‘Choose materials that can withstand year-round exposure. I would recommend a well-sealed natural stone top and treated wood cladding,’ Rhiannon adds.

23. Consider your culinary needs

outdoor kitchen with white counter and swing chair

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

Are you more of a barbecue buff or a grilling guru? Whatever your preferred cooking method, there's an outdoor kitchen idea for you.

Make use of garden discount codes to choose from a BBQ, pizza oven, hob, grill, or a combination of them all.

'Your outdoor kitchen should be an extension of your home, so choose appliances that you know you will use regularly,' advises Charlie from Oxenwood. 'For example, if you have a soft spot for pizza and love creating your own, why not add a pizza oven? Or if you enjoy hosting, having warming drawers incorporated into the design adds a thoughtful and luxurious touch.'

24. Put safety first

garden decking area with wooden dinning table and bench plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Hiscock)

When choosing the design and layout of your outdoor kitchen ideas, put safety first. 'Take safety into consideration when planning your kitchen' says Hege from Lundhs. '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.'

Take safety into consideration when planning the layout by making sure there's a safe flow from the cooking area to the dining space.

25. Grow your own herbs nearby

green plant with purple flower

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Alun Callender)

Wherever you site your outdoor kitchen, base your herb garden ideas close to hand. One of the joys of cooking in your garden is that you can pick rosemary for your lamb, or fresh basil to top a pizza. Rosemary is relatively easy to grow, as are mint, sage and chives.

‘I love to style our outdoor kitchen with pots of annual herbs and seasonal flowers,’ says landscape gardener Victoria Wade. ‘Small pots are easy to refresh, but make sure you keep them well-watered in summer as they dry out quickly!’

26. Stay warm with an outdoor fire

garden deck with sofa cushion and fire pit

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young)

When dinner is finished and you're relaxing with full tummies, what better way to keep the evening going strong than by cosying up under blankets and lighting up your fire pit ideas? Store a selection of logs in baskets that you can bring out for your guests when the sun goes down.

Landscape gardener Victoria is a firm believer in cooking outdoor year-round, provided you're warm enough. ‘I love cooking outside in the autumn and winter on dry days. Think lunchtime rather than evening if you plan to host in the winter as it gets dark so early and is often much colder once the sun sets.’


How much does it cost to build an outdoor kitchen?

The cost of building an outdoor kitchen depends on your budget and how ambitious your plans are.

If you’re a keen DIYer, there’s nothing stopping you from building your own cooking area.

You can incorporate a new barbecue (or your existing one) into the design, with cabinets, worktops and shelving made from weatherproof materials such as wood, stainless steel and brick. Heatproof tiles are a good addition if you want to add a decorative edge.

‘We have Moroccan-style encaustic tiles in our outdoor kitchen, which I love,’ says landscape gardener Victoria Wade. ‘A splashback is a great way to add a bit of colour and fun to the space. Try tiling underneath a bar area, too.’

To keep costs down, consider purchasing a pre-made island or bar-style structure. This will save you from buying what could be expensive custom additions, such as concrete worktops and stone bases. Or, why not try building your own as part of a garden upcycling project, using reclaimed wood and bricks?

Do you need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen?

The good news is that you normally don't need planning permission to build an outdoor kitchen, so long as it is within the bounds of your property – but you can read our full guide to buying an outdoor kitchen for all the details.

Now that you have some outdoor kitchen ideas inspiration, you can design the alfresco dining area of your dreams.

Thea Babington-Stitt
Managing Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Managing Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for around 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.

With contributions from