26 outdoor kitchen ideas for alfresco dining in gardens of all sizes

Take your outdoor entertaining to the next level with an open air kitchen

Outdoor kitchen with BBQ and pizza oven
(Image credit: Future PLC/Jemma Watts)

The wish lists for our gardens are constantly in flux but outdoor kitchen ideas consistently takes our top spots. Being able to host just as easily indoors as out simplifies life, saves energy and makes the everyday feel that little bit more special.

Instead of being stuck in the kitchen preparing food for guests while they bask in the sunshine, an al fresco 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. 

We take pride in our long history of knowledge in the world of homes and their gardens, so we've combined this and spoken to other experts in the field to make sure you're bound to find the perfect way to integrate an outdoor kitchen into your space.

What you include in this 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, Protek

'A beautiful and simple space for cooking outside can be created in a small area of the garden to provide worktop space; storage and a simple open fire or integrated BBQ using interior, existing, upcycled and simple wooden structures painted in beautiful outdoor wood paint to create a cohesive colour scheme.'

Outdoor kitchen ideas

Before you can start planning your outdoor kitchen ideas in earnest, you first need to decide on an appropriate location. 'Start by considering where you like to host and spend time in the garden,' advises Charlie Alexander, founder of outdoor funriture company Oxenwood. 

'The outdoor kitchen is likely to become a focal point in your outdoor area, so perhaps there is a particularly beautiful view you wish to highlight or spend more time in. Choose an area that is open and has lots of space for people to gather around.  It’s also important to consider the practical elements of where you will place your outdoor kitchen.'

'If your kitchen needs to be connected to the gas, electric, or water mains, incorporate this into your planning so your kitchen has easy access. As the outdoor kitchens can be quite substantial, heavy pieces of furniture, we recommend placing them on a patio area rather than grass. This helps prevent indents and damage to lawns over time.'

1. 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 in order 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, over traditionally larger gas or charcoal options.

2. 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. ‘Typically, people don’t use a sink outdoors for washing up,’ explains Rebecca Livermore, Brand Development, Grillo Outdoor Kitchens.

'it’s more for a quick wash of the hands or for rinsing off some herbs before using them in your favourite dish. Therefore most people just choose to have cold water in their kitchen, with water plumbed into a nearby drain or running into a flowerbed – providing you aren’t putting any nasty chemicals down the drain.'

3. Keep things cool

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

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When you've got guests round 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 a models designed for outdoor use and consider that you'll need an electrical supply to power it. 

4. Integrate into 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 of worktop as other elements such as your fence and raised beds will also help.

5. 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, 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 for example will catch the light beautifully and make for the perfect outdoor surface choice.'

6. 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. Really consider what you need to include when working within narrow garden ideas, rather than just adding in all the mod-cons 'just because'. You'll be surprised 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 then you're good to go.

7. Keep her lit

Outdoor kitchen with island and two pendant lights

(Image credit: Cullifords)

Garden lighting is a key addition to your outdoor kitchen ideas. After all, without this you're going to be limited for what hours your new space will be useful for. Depending on where your outdoor kitchen is situated and, of course, how much money you're able to spend will affect what lighting id the bets choice for you.

An area with a covered section should be able to hold stylish pendant lighting, whereas if you're against a wall far from mains look into festoon or solar lighting. Whatever you opt for, remember to only use lighting which has been specifically tested and approved for outdoor use.

8. 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.

9. 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 give you shelter 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, founder of 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, breeze can all be accommodated.’

10. 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 can 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 the Scandis embracing it even in the coldest months.

11. Make pizza on a perch

outdoor kitchen trolley with pizza baking machine and bottles

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Can't even stretch to a corner for your outdoor kitchen ideas? The smallest of trolleys - with a shelving unit underneath to keep essentials at hand - is ideal for a compact pizza oven or portable barbecue on your patio or balcony, transforming the space into your own slice of pizza heaven.

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

12. 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 that 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.’

13. Keep storage simple

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. Since we tend to use our outdoor kitchen ideas less than the main indoor kitchen, we're not as familiar with where everything is.

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.

14. Fake it till you make it

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 bifolding glass doors will disrupt the distinction between indoors and out, meaning you can get the best of both worlds without adding a new space.

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

15. 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 leave 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.'

16. 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. A big plus of this is the more rough around the edges the better, so you can get away with minimal upkeep. 

Ensure you keep your surrounding planting in tip-top condition to stay on the rustic cottage garden side rather than run down.

17. 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 own kitchen or picked some up on offer, attach them to a wall or wooden board attached to a fence to create striking outdoor wall decor ideas for your barbecue.

18. Position in the perfect spot

outdoor kitchen in garden decking area with plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

Find the perfect spot on your patio ideas to place the kitchen area, ensuring you have enough space for all your cooking needs.

'The outdoor kitchen should not be fully exposed to sunlight, and if possible find the least windy area,' advises Hege from Lundhs. A secluded spot within the garden, preferably closer to the house should cater well for most garden layouts.

19. Build on 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 soar in recent years,’ says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, MD at 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 ideass 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.

20. 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. ‘I would recommend 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.

21. Build a low cost outdoor kitchen

wooden trolley table wooden wall and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Ikea)

Once you've worked out your budget, shop around to find a range that's right for you. Ikea has a fantastic range of affordable outdoor kitchen products. They also, of course, have matching garden furniture to complete the look.

22. 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 something for you. Four your outdoor kitchen ideas, 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 in a pizza oven? Or if you enjoy hosting, having warming drawers incorporated into the design adds a thoughtful and luxurious touch.

23. Dedicate a place for food prep

outdoor kitchen in garden deck with white counter

(Image credit: WWOO)

Make sure that you have ample space for food preparation. You won't want to have to walk back and forth to the kitchen or garden table with all your food in tow. Be sure to keep cooked and uncooked food separate so as not to contaminate one another.

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 300C.'

Take safety into consideration when planning the layout, make sure there's a safe flow from cooking area to 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. A joy of cooking in your garden is that you can pick rosemary for your lamb, or basil to top a pizza, fresh and instantly. 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 in baskets that you can bring out in one lot 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.’

Where’s the best place to install an outdoor kitchen?

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.

‘Think of an outdoor kitchen as a feature of your garden,’ adds Rebecca from Grillo. ‘Place it wherever you would like to create that wow.’

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 from Morso UK.

How much does it cost to put in an outdoor kitchen?

How much it costs to put in an outdoor kitchen depend on your budget and how ambitious your plans are. If you’re a keen DIYer, here’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 decorating 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 buying what could be expensive custom additions, such as concrete worktops and stone bases. Or why not try building your own as part of garden upcycling projects project, using reclaimed wood and bricks?

Does an outdoor kitchen need a fridge?

Outdoor fridges tend to be quite pricey as they need to be watertight and weatherproof, so they aren’t really an option for those on a budget –plus you’ll need an electrical supply. However, if you have space, a sink or a cooler filled with ice is just as effective for parties.

Make sure the fridge you buy is a fully outdoor rated appliance. ‘You can’t just put any fridge outdoors,’ says Rebecca from Grillo. 'And you should always use a qualified electrician or gas engineer to test and certify where needed.’

If money is no object, there are now quite a few companies that will design and install a whole outdoor kitchen for you. They'll also look after any necessary wiring and plumbing. 

What is the best surface for an outdoor kitchen?

The best surface for outdoor kitchen ideas, if you have the budget, is a durable stone. It withstands the elements all year round. Stone is 100 per cent natural and is one of the most durable and resilient materials in the world.

'We create our outdoor kitchens in solid premium-grade oak with Belgian bluestone, as these are incredibly robust, weatherproof materials,' explains Charlie from Oxenwood. 'Belgian bluestone is great to use for outdoor kitchen ideass as its low porosity makes it resistant to frost and pollution. Solid premium oak is another fantastic material that is hardwearing and develops its character over time.'

 Using stainless steel in the grill element helps to eliminate the risk of rust or water damage. However, while this is a durable material perfect for the grill, we recommend against picking an outdoor kitchen with stainless steel countertops as they can become dangerously hot if sat in direct sun. With summers in the UK getting hotter each year, choosing the correct materials is an important aspect to consider to ensure you can use your outdoor kitchen no matter the heat!'

How do you weatherproof an outdoor kitchen?

Look at investing in good-quality covers to protect your kit from the elements. Wooden surfaces need to be cleaned and treated once a year. If you have the space (and money), consider a well-ventilated gazebo to shelter your kitchen year round.

Like loft conversions and kitchen extensions, we see outdoor kitchens becoming increasingly popular. So why not build one of these outdoor kitchen ideas, and turn your backyard into the hottest eatery in town...

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.