Outdoor kitchen ideas – 30 inspirational styles for gardens of all sizes

Love the idea of cooking al fresco this summer? Transform your outdoor entertaining by installing a new open air kitchen
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  • The problem with having friends and family over in the summer time is that you’re often stuck in the kitchen preparing food for everyone while they bask in the sunshine. Outdoor kitchen ideas transport your entire prep, cooking and serving system al fresco, so you don’t miss out on a single moment, while being surrounded by everything you need to prepare  the perfect feast.

    As garden ideas go, entertaining outdoors has risen dramatically in popularity following the pandemic, as it was – and still is – the safest place to be. A well designed garden can add serious value to your home, so the more your place is set up for hosting, lounging and living, the more you’re adding to your property’s worth. And if you have no plans to sell, simply having a well considered outdoor space will make your garden far more enjoyable year round.

    ‘Burning a few sausages on a stand-alone barbecue that’s tucked away – those days are long gone.’ explains Landscape gardener Victoria Wade. It’s all about wowing guests and making memories. Technically any BBQ area with a bit of prep space could be considered an outdoor kitchen, but for me it needs to be a space that puts cooking and entertaining at the heart of the garden.’

    Outdoor kitchen ideas

    dog standing on hind legs in front of a large patio kitchen complete with fridge, barbecue, sink and prep area

    Image credit: Grillo Outdoor Kitchens

    There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to outdoor kitchen ideas – not only are barbecues available everywhere you look, so are pizza ovens, cabinets, worktops, and sinks.

    ‘In the same way that an indoor kitchen can come in all shapes and sizes,’ explains Victoria, ‘an outdoor kitchen can vary, too – from a simply rustic design to an all-singing-all-dancing covered outdoor space full of gadgets. 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.’

    And you can go as elaborate or modest as you fancy. From building one yourself, to buying an off-the-peg design or paying a professional company to install high-end appliances, an outdoor kitchen can vary wildly in price and finish.

    1. Invest in a bioclimatic canopy

    garden kitchen under a bioclimatic canopy with bar stool and swimming pool

    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, ‘which means 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.’

    2. Carve out a corner

    small patio kitchen area with cabinet and slatted wood shelving and plants and dining table and chairs

    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.

    ‘Barbeques 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.

    3. Make pizza on a perch

    pizza oven on a metal trolley

    Image credit: Dobbies

    Can’t even stretch to a corner? 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,’

    4. Go pro and plumb in a sink

    pizza oven with sink and log store in a garden

    Image credit: Victoria Wade

    ‘A sink is a great addition,’ says Duncan ‘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.’

    Rebecca Livermore, Brand Development at Grillo Outdoor Kitchens agrees. ‘Typically, people don’t use a sink outdoors for washing up,’ explains Rebecca, ‘it’s more for a quick wash of the hands or for rinsing off some herbs before using them in your favourite dish.’

    ‘Therefore,’ adds Rebecca, ‘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.’

    5. Include plenty of storage

    small patio kitchen pre area beside a barbecue with drawers and shelves for storage

    Image credit: Cox & Cox

    When it comes to storage, include as much as possible – especially shelving – but bear in mind it may need a clean out once in a while.

    Landscape gardener Victoria Wade says of her outdoor kitchen: ‘I prefer to keep most of the kitchen stuff I need inside the house as I find if you store things outside, they will need a good wash before use and it creates more work – outdoor kitchen cupboards can get quite spidery!’

    ‘Open shelves give plenty of space to put your BBQ stuff outside for the day while you’re hosting, and then you can take it back inside to store.’

    6. Build in a bar

    freestanding patio kitchen and bar area with plenty of storage

    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.

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

    7. Choose a modular design

    compact patio kitchen area with grill, storage, prep area and log store

    Image credit: Nordpeis

    There are some outdoor kitchens, like this one from Nordpeis, that are modular, This allows you to create your own kitchen to suit both your space and needs.
    Duncan advises to think about how you live inside: ‘Do you like an open-plan space or a separate kitchen? Outdoor kitchens can be configured to suit.

    It doesn’t really matter how big or small your kitchen space is, it will always become the centrpiece of your space. ‘Outdoor kitchens always make a stunning addition to any garden,’ says Rebecca from Grillo, ‘drawing people towards them. They become the hub of the garden – and this works whether the space is contained or integrated within other areas of the garden to create one big outdoor living space.’

    8. Keep everything to hand

    Outdoor kitchen with wooden shelving unit against brick wall

    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.

    9. Save space with a narrow design

    Wooden narrow outdoor kitchen surrounded by hedges

    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, 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 as you might think. As long as you have room enough for a chopping board then you’re good to go.

    10. Include a multifunctional trellis

    White pizza oven in front of yellow trellis with hanging plants and chopping boards

    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 with your garden bar ideas.

    11. Fake it till you make it

    Exterior of house with open sliding glass wall

    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 which work just as well with your interior design as your garden space.

    12. Go for an all in one design

    Freestanding wooden outdoor kitchen

    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 make your own 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.

    13. Go casual with rustic vibes

    Garden with rustic pizza oven

    Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson

    Think cottagecore for a charming take on outdoor kitchen ideas. Rustic brick pizza ovens or the best 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 cottage garden ideas side rather than run down.

    14. Get creative with old kitchen tiles

    Outdoor kitchen with tiles on wall and labelled wooden boxes

    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.

    15. Consider low maintenance materials

    Wooden outdoor kitchen with stone worktop and pergola

    Image credit: Lundhs

    ‘Opt for a material that is easy to clean and is maintenance-free’ advises Hege Lundh, Marketing Director at Lundhs. ‘The key to this is choosing a material that is 100 per cent natural. 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!

    16. Position in the perfect spot

    White outdoor kitchen below climbing plants on fence

    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.

    17. Take the indoors out

    garden kitchen with barbecue, pizza oven and outdoor fridge

    Image credit: Garden House Design

    Take inspiration for the the layout of your existing kitchen. Set the kitchen and cooking elements of the design to one side and keep it contained, only a short distance away from a dining area. this hub of social interaction will feel familiar to the kitchen you know and love indoors. Placing your outdoor kitchen directly outside on the patio is a mirror reflection of the interior.

    18. Consider an overhead covering

    Wooden outdoor kitchen structure over black grill

    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 kitchens 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.

    19. Entertain at an outdoor cocktail bar

    Outdoor kitchen and living area surrounded by lush planting

    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.

    20. Build a budget outdoor kitchen

    Wooden outdoor kitchen on wheels

    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, including this charcoal barbecue with a detachable trolley and storage cabinet. They also, of course, have matching garden furniture to complete the look.

    21. Narrow down your cooking style

    White outdoor island with bar stools and pizza oven

    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. Choose from an outdoor kitchen BBQ, the best pizza oven, hob, grill or a combination of them all.

    22. Dedicate a place for food prep

    White outdoor kitchen with food and open Green Egg

    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.

    23. Choose a weatherproof countertop

    Outdoor kitchen made from cement bricks with black dining table and chairs

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    Your outdoor kitchen is going to be exposed to all weather conditions, so it’s important to choose a suitable material for your work surface. Avoid wood, and go for concrete or stainless steel instead.

    You could use stone tiles, slabs or flagstones, too, but they should  be treated with an acrylic sealer. This will make them more weather resistant and easier to clean.

    24. Include storage for essentials

    Grey outdoor kitchen with bbq and hanging cooking utensils

    Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore

    As with any kitchen space, it’s important to ensure you have enough storage. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple shelves fixed to a fence can work as a place to stack herbs, spices and marinades, and you can hang tools from dowling rods. A fold-out table provides extra workspace when it’s needed, but can live in the shed in the winter months.

    Make sure you’re able to close and lock things away so that they are safe from the outdoor elements.

    25. Install an outdoor sink

    Black outdoor kitchen with sink and Big Green Egg

    image credit: Garden House Design

    For the full al fresco experience, include a sink in your outdoor kitchen so you can do your washing up in the open air, too. However, 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, but you’ll still need to consider a hot water supply.

    Make sure you have a way of covering your sink in winter to protect it from bad weather, and remember it will require more cleaning that a regular indoor sink! Make sure you plan accordingly for any water or electricity access, as this will play a big part in planning.

    26. Take shelter

    Outdoor kitchen idea on paved patio underneath wooden structure with retractable shade

    Image credit: The London Tile Co.

    Given the endearing unreliability of the British weather, it’s a good idea to think about how to create shade in your garden for your outdoor kitchen. Go for a fold-away option to take advantage of the glorious sunshine (when it comes!). Be safe though – for example, a grill will need to be properly ventilated if it’s to be sited under a covered area.

    27. Put safety first

    Garden with wooden dining table and benches underneath pergola with climbing plants

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Hiscock

    When choosing the design and layout of an outdoor kitchen, 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.

    28. Grow your own herbs nearby

    Close up of pot of herbs

    Image credit: Future PLC/Alun Callender

    Wherever you site your outdoor kitchen, plan in a planting space for herbs not too far away. 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!’

    29. Keep it cool

    Outdoor kitchen with drinks cooler and sink

    Image credit: Bradstone Luxury

    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.

    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.

    30. Stay warm with an outdoor fire

    Sofa with cushions and blankets in front of firepit

    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 the fire? 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. Bonfire Night especially is a great time to fire up the barbecue. 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.’

    Liberal numbers of lanterns and other garden lighting ideas will help make you feel extra cosy, too.

    Things to consider before buying an outdoor kitchen

    Whatever your space, start with a barbecue with a work surface/countertop beside it. Choose between a gas or charcoal barbecue, bearing in mind that gas will be easier to keep clean. Gas also gives you the option of using it year round. If your budget allows, look for a design that features a rotisserie for slow-roasting meats – great for summer barbecues or Sunday lunches.

    Storage cabinets are always a handy extra for stashing utensils and cookware, while other optional add-ons can include pizza ovens, outdoor sinks with taps and even fridges.

    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 an upcycling 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. According to Bradshaw Luxury, you should expect to pay around £9,600 for an outdoor kitchen complete with gas grill, fridge and sink.

    What is the best surface for an outdoor kitchen?

    The best surface for an outdoor kitchen, 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.

    ‘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,’ advises Hege at Lundhs. ‘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.’

    ‘The key to a long-lasting outdoor surface,’ continues Hege, ‘is something that will stand the test of time against these elements. The features you should look for are a material that has low porosity, low absorption and a resistance to UV.’

    ‘It is thanks to its exceptional durability and resilience to the elements that stone makes the ideal outdoor kitchen worktop surface. ‘It’s resistant to water, heat, UV rays, stains and scratches.’ says Hege, ‘Real stone can be used outdoors without worry and is guaranteed to be every bit as beautiful as it is practical.’

    Outdoor Kitchen Expert’s Duncan agrees. ‘If you can, use natural stone, such as granite. Honed, with a texture surface lends an outdoor, earthy feel. Granite is easy to keep clean, stain resistant and hardwearing.’

    ‘Choose a stone that blends in with your garden,’ continues Duncan, ‘creating a harmonious look. Make sure to give yourself enough room on your worktop to prep food and leave space for making cocktails, serving fizz and beers for your guests.’

    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 kitchens, and turn your backyard into the hottest eatery in town…

    Additional words by Linda Clayton and Jennifer Morgan

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