How to plan an outdoor kitchen – 10 key points to consider for a perfect set up

Yearning after more than just a BBQ area? Our guide on how to plan your outdoor kitchen will give you expert advice on how to achieve this dreamy space

outdoor kitchen living space with green painted wall with wall lights, patterned rattan chairs, BBQ, plants, set table, tumblers
(Image credit: Gaze Burvill)

We've put together a guide on how to plan your outdoor kitchen that covers all the aspects to consider – from budget and planning to layouts and cooking methods. 

In recent years outdoor kitchen ideas have become a must-have for gardens. Whatever size garden you have, you can fit one in, even if they're only small outdoor kitchen ideas – we promise!

'An outdoor kitchen can be a wonderful addition to any home, providing a perfect space to cook and entertain family and friends whilst making the most of the garden. Whether you have it open to the elements or have one fitted beneath a pergola which will provide shade and protection from the elements, you can really transform your outdoor living space,' says Reilly Gray, co-founder, Suns Lifestyle.

How to plan an outdoor kitchen 

Whether you fancy a small yet perfectly formed outdoor kitchen with the best pizza oven or you're after blowing the budget with a bespoke option that comes complete with a fridge, sink and wine cooler, we've got you covered. 

'Making the most of your outdoor space has become a necessity in recent years, creating an alfresco entertaining and cooking area can be a worthy investment for both your pocket and your mind,' says Jamie Thomas, managing director, The Surface Collection.

Read our expert tips on how to plan your outdoor kitchen to get started and those dreamy summer alfresco days can begin. 

1. Assess your garden space

outdoor kitchen with white base, grey worktop, BBQ, white floor tiles, hanging chair, turquoise side table, rug, bar stools

(Image credit: Future PLC)

First things first – it's time to have a good look at your garden layout to see how big your outdoor kitchen can be and where to place it within your garden. 

Your space may well dictate the above and there might only be one obvious place for your outdoor kitchen to sit. Considerations to think about are whether you want a permanent structure or a more DIY outdoor kitchen with freestanding units and a portable BBQ. 

Even if your garden only offers the space to make a mini outdoor kitchen it can still have all the whistles and bells you desire to make it the ultimate alfresco space for your entertaining needs. 

2. Decide on your budget

outdoor kitchen with storage units, freestanding modular units, BBQ, open shelving, all on decking

(Image credit: Ikea)

Once you've decided on where you'd like it, budget is the next element to consider. You can plan an outdoor kitchen with a small budget, it all depends on what kind of look you want. 

Ikea's Grillskär modular system is ideal for those who don't want to break the bank, and you can add in more units to grow your outdoor kitchen as and when and the range includes worktops, storage and a sink unit. This is also a fabulous option if you rent and might move – take your outdoor kitchen with you! Bespoke options can start from around £7,000. 

3. Storage will be key

bespoke outdoor kitchen with cabinetry, BBQ, sink, kitchen island, stone floor

(Image credit: Gaze Burvill)

Storage will be key when thinking about how to plan your outdoor kitchen as it will make sense to store some key essentials outside during the summer season. Cutlery and crockery can be kept on a shelf or in a crate, charcoal and BBQ tools can be kept somewhere dry too. 

'How will the kitchen function when in use and who will be using it? A well-planned outdoor kitchen should have plenty of storage, functional zones for food preparation, cooking and areas to facilitate socialising with family, friends and guests. Think about what it is you want your space to offer you,' says Simon Burvill, founder, Gaze Burvill

Outdoor kitchen storage ideas can include shelving, crates, baskets, hanging rails and units like potting benches – they make great worktops for prep too. 

Simon Burvill, founder of Gaze Burvill
Simon Burvill

Simon Burvill and Christian Gaze launched Gaze Burvill 30 years ago exactly! Creating timeless pieces for discerning garden lovers, the company has developed a unique expertise in making certified sustainable, comfortable and elegant designs for a long life outdoors, Gaze Burvill works with both garden and landscape professionals and private customers. 

4. Choose a layout that works for you

outdoor kitchen with Big Green Egg BBQ, crate storage, white worktop, view into kitchen

(Image credit: The Surface Collection)

Outdoor kitchens work well placed against a wall, it offers protection from the elements and means there's more floor space left for tables and chairs too. As with interiors, you can adopt an L-shape or galley-style design depending on the space you have available. 

'When planning your outdoor kitchen, it’s important to consider the placement and the proximity to your indoor kitchen, as the chances are you will be back and forth between the two,' says Jamie Thomas, managing director, The Surface Collection.  

'If space and layout allow, a seamless adjoining of the two works particularly well, separated by the external wall only, you will easily be able to pass over food and drinks without the worry of navigating the whole garden. 

'Remember to consider form and function when designing the layout, creating zones is the perfect way to do this. Allow space around the BBQ area and seat guests a sociable yet comfortable distance away, not only for safety but to allow you space to prep and cook.'

5. Consider your utilities

outdoor kitchen with fitted units, BBQ, sink, storage areas and dining area

(Image credit: Grillo)

Before you have your outdoor kitchen installed, if you want to have the essentials like a fridge, gas BBQ and sink you'll need to think about how to facilitate them outside. These could also impact how far away from the actual house you can build your outdoor kitchen.  

A plumber will be needed to extend your water and waste pipe unless you're placing the sink right next to your existing sink – but on the outside wall, and an electrician to run the electrics out to your fridge/wine cooler. 

In terms of a gas BBQ, you can make sure there's a cabinet to hide a gas bottle underneath so you can hide that away. Or you might even consider opting for an electric BBQ like the Weber Lumin.

6. How to you want to cook?

outdoor kitchen units with herbs and pizza oven

(Image credit: Victoria Wade)

This leads us to the question of working out how you want to cook, as that will impact the facilities you need. There are a few options for cooking up a storm – you can start with a pizza oven – they're great for roasting and baking too, either portable or fixed, or opt for an integrated BBQ. 

Other ideas include a Big Green Egg which gives you versatility, you can use it as a rotisserie, grill or slow oven and for pan cooking, as well as the usual BBQ-style methods. 

A teppanyaki grill is becoming a popular choice for outdoor kitchens with its table-top style of cooking, you just need an electric source. However, if you're on a budget one of the best BBQs we recently tested was the kamado joe which makes a statement and cooks like a dream.

7. Under cover or out in the elements?

outdoor kitchen under a pergola, wooden beams, wooden cabinetry, pizza oven, BBQ, storage, table and chairs

(Image credit: Industville)

Due to the UK climate, it can be wise to have some kind of weather protection! We love the idea of having an outdoor kitchen under a pergola idea – it ensures you can still use cook and dine outside without getting wet if the heavens fall. 

'With a covered roof on your pergola, you will have lots of options when it comes to choosing IP65 waterproof lighting, as it will be more protected than an open structure. The lighting will play an important part in enhancing the overall look and feel of your pergola, helping to create the perfect outdoor oasis,' says Mara Rypacek Miller, managing director, Industville.

8. Surfaces matter, so choose well

outdoor kitchen with storage, sink, bench seating, table, stools

(Image credit: Cosentino)

The material you choose for your worktops is really important, whilst you can use  wood inside for example, it's not an option outside as you need a non-porous surface that can cope with the seasons. 

'When designing an outdoor kitchen, the use of durable materials that will not be damaged by the elements is imperative. Surfaces that last whilst maintaining their integrity and beauty is essential,' says Andres Alonso, architectural and design expert, Cosentino UK

'Dekton by Cosentino is the ideal outdoor kitchen foundation thanks to its resilience and design credentials. Dekton has a high resistance to sudden temperature changes due to its low coefficient of thermal expansion – including high UV protection.

'Its non-porous qualities will prevent rainwater and other liquids from being absorbed, ensuring easy maintenance – an essential for outdoor entertaining and spontaneous al fresco dining. Lastly, Dekton surfaces boast high resistance to abrasion and scratches – making it the ideal choice for exterior kitchen worksurfaces and it's carbon neutral. Opt for design cohesion by also including Dekton as a patio alternative.' 

9. Don't forget to pop up some lighting

outdoor living space with green painted wall with wall lights, patterned rattan chairs, BBQ, plants, set table, tumblers

(Image credit: David Hunt Lighting)

Pairing your garden lighting ideas when building an outdoor kitchen is key. You can prettify your alfresco space with festoon lighting, fairy lights and wall lights. 

Make sure you have key areas lit up with task lighting like cooking and prep spaces in the same way as you would plan your kitchen lighting. Candles either wax or LED will help to create an ambience later in the evening and pop a few lanterns about too. 

10. The finishing touches

outdoor kitchen with open shelving, Big Green Egg, wall lights, grey worktop, black table and chairs

(Image credit: Case Furniture/Design Within Reach)

Once you've got your beautiful outdoor kitchen installed, it's time to add those touches to the space that will help it to blend in to your garden. 

Plant up containers in a variety of sizes with a mixture of flowers and plants – these will help to soften the often harsh lines of cabinetry. Add herb garden ideas around your outdoor kitchen is also a clever touch for a living herb rack.

Consider your furniture choices too as Duncan Bull, design director, Case Furniture explains: 'When designing your outdoor kitchen, think about how your space flows from interior to exterior to create a streamlined look from one room to the next. For example, choose similar tones in your outdoor furniture and worktops to those inside your home, and include as much integrated storage as possible to keep it feeling spacious, allowing enough room for entertaining friends and family throughout the warmer months.'


What is the best structure for an outdoor kitchen?

The best structure is one that can withstand the climate and temperate changes, as Simon Burvill, founder, Gaze Burvill explains: 

'Anything structural needs a good foundation, even a bicycle shed – so a stable, even, hard base with a small fall is essential. All our kitchen units have adjustable feet for small adjustments, as stone paving can have its own uneven texture. Ideally have your services - plumbing, electrics etc mapped and installed beforehand, so everything can hook up in the correct place. It is all in the planning.'

Do you need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen?

You don't need planning permission if your outdoor kitchen falls within the permitted 2.4 development height restriction and doesn't have a fixed canopy. It's not considered to be a permanent structure, though, it is worth checking if your house is listed or you live in a conservation area. 

What is the cheapest way to build an outdoor kitchen?

The cheapest option is to DIY your outdoor kitchen, and to look at alternatives like a small BBQ area with some worktop space – potting benches are ideal for this, or pop up a trestle table and put a portable BBQ on it. The next option is to look at modular systems and mobile BBQ units that have a small worktop space as part of the design. 

These ideas are a great way to test whether you really want an outdoor kitchen and if you'll use it often. If you do, then it might be worth investing in a more permanent outdoor kitchen for the following summer. 

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events.