So, I’ve been thinking about outdoor kitchens a lot lately. I currently rent my space, so I’m dreaming of that day when I finally have my house built, complete with an amazing outdoor kitchen and living space.
My Pinterest is loaded with ideas, and I’ve compiled a pretty good list of all the things I need and want.
And those things are what will bring my dreams to reality in a couple of years when I’m ready to start building.
In the meantime, I thought my list might be helpful to others who are trying to narrow down the list and figure out exactly what they need for the best outdoor kitchen ever.
Outdoor Kitchen Must-Haves: Your Best and Your Basics
When it comes to an outdoor kitchen, there are two categories of “must haves” – the basics, meaning the things you need in order for the kitchen to function properly, and the best, those items that will take your generic kitchen to the next level.
Your Must-Have Basics: All You Need to Make an Outdoor Kitchen Functional
Let’s start with the basics – the bare minimums – that will turn that backyard space into an outdoor kitchen.
Kitchen Island or Structure
First off, you’ve got to determine what you’re planning for the kitchen island or counter space.
There are literally hundreds of ideas out there, ranging from fully prefab tiny kitchens to massive outdoor gourmet eateries.
Consider the space you’ve got to work with and think through how much of that space you’re happy to give to the kitchen and how much you’ll want for the dining area.
If you’re tight on space, you can create a portable kitchen island that can be pushed under cover against a wall when not in use, or you can custom-build a unique island just for your unique setup.
If you’ve got loads of room, you can consider building a sheltering place for your kitchen and dining area, or you can spread out along the back wall of the house or build a new patio with the right proportions.
There are several types of cooking surfaces you can have in your outdoor kitchen.
Many folks love the Big Green Egg instead of a standard grill, while others are into basic gas grills that can be built in or just positioned into a nook in your counter space.
If you cook for larger groups, consider installing two grills of choice.
Enough Counter Space
While you can find many ideas for outdoor kitchens with varying counter space sizes, I highly recommend you have at least twice as much length of counter as your cooking surface.
The reason is that whatever goes on the grill has to rest nearby before and after cooking, and you’re bound to have other supplies around, too, like basting sauces, additional pans, etc.
Ideally, have at least three times the counter space as cooking space so you don’t get crowded, and more than one person can work in the kitchen at a time.
A Minimum of Storage
Even if the minimum is simply a rack to hang your potholders and utensils on, every outdoor kitchen needs at least a little bit of storage space.
And the more you expect to use the kitchen, the more space you’ll need.
That is, if you’re going to be out there several times a week all summer long, you’re going to want someplace to keep your supplies all season long instead of having to haul them in and out.
I recommend some kind of drawer for smaller utensils and tools and at least one shelf.
Equipment covers are a literal must-have if you want to help your kitchen last for decades. The covers on your grill, countertops, fridge, and more, can prevent years of damage.
Your Must-Have Bests: The Accessories and Extras That Will Take Your Kitchen to the Next Level
Now, let’s discuss the next-level investments that will turn your kitchen from ordinary to extraordinary.
Again, these aren’t necessarily technically items that every outdoor kitchen needs for functionality.
But they may well be things that make the space more usable for you personally and, therefore, more worth the investment.
Your outdoor kitchen won’t need all of these appliances, but they’re good to consider, depending on your intended use of the space.
All right, so this one isn’t technically a “must have” for all people, but it sure is for anyone with a hubby who loves pizza as much as mine does!
Conveniently, there are many types of pizza ovens you can install, including easy DIY ovens, solar pizza ovens, and fancy custom builds.
There are two main reasons I recommend keeping a fridge in your outdoor kitchen.
- An outdoor fridge will help you keep the indoor fridge less full. If you put your intended BBQ supplies like meat and veggies outdoors, your inside fridge is easier to navigate.
- Keeping your consistent grilling condiments outdoors means far fewer trips, fewer messes, and less forgetting.
Cook Top Burner
If you do a lot of sides that aren’t going on the grill, a cooktop burner on your kitchen island is a great idea.
You won’t have to run indoors as much, you’ll be able to grill and cook at the same time more easily, and you’re less likely to burn sides or the main because the burner is close by.
If you expect to be serving drinks at your pool parties or summer soirees, installing a beverage cooler is a great idea for everyone.
Depending on the setup of your kitchen (against a wall, for example), you may need to install a vent hood. This is for safety reasons – so consider it carefully.
For folks who spend a lot of time in their outdoor kitchen and dining spaces, a dishwasher would make your life a lot easier.
You can simply put the dishes in the dishwasher while you relax after the meal. No lugging things indoors required!
If you plan to install a bar or plan to serve lots of beverages from your outdoor kitchen, an outdoor ice maker is probably a great idea for you.
Warming drawers are a lifesaver if you have multiple dishes you’re preparing or know that your guests (or kids!) tend to run late.
Dining Accessories and Seating
These accessories and seating options will really up the value of that outdoor space.
All right, so this may be my mild obsession with china talking here, but I highly recommend having a set of dishes just for use out of doors.
The reason is that these can be a less expensive set of dishes that can live in your storage area outdoors. No need to bring them after each venture outside, nor any reason to baby them.
You might want to have a set of outdoor cutlery and glasses as well if you’ve got the storage space for them.
Also, make sure the dishes are all dishwasher safe to make clean-up a breeze!
If you live someplace like Florida, where it rains every day during the summer, or Illinois, where the snows start as early as October, an uncovered kitchen and dining area won’t get much use.
So, I highly recommend building or installing a cover over both the kitchen and the dining area.
You’ll be able to extend the cooking season longer and be able to handle eating outside in the heat easier with the built-in shade the cover provides.
Table and Chairs
Obviously, you need a table and chairs for your premium dining space. But just buying a cheap set will wind up costing you more and more over time.
If you’re on a tighter budget when you first create that outdoor kitchen, consider finding a used set on OfferUp or Craigslist.
Then save up for a quality set with plenty of seating for your family, plus several guests.
Fireplace or Fire Pit in Your Garden
All right, so this one is a luxury, but when I look at the kitchens with these elements included, I know it’s a must-have for me in my future dining space!
A fireplace or firepit in your beautiful garden will help to extend the time you are able to enjoy in your garden, and will help to turn your outdoor dining area into a living area, allowing the space to pull double duty.
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the flickering fire.
Many of these items fall under the absolute must-haves, only one step away from the basics of having a functional outdoor kitchen.
For both cleaning up and cooking, you’re going to want a sink in your outdoor kitchen, especially if you opt out of a dishwasher.
I recommend a stainless-steel sink for durability, easy clean-up, and less noticeable damage than a ceramic sink could sustain outdoors.
Pull Out Recycling and Trash Bins
This is another luxury item that you may or may not need, but I’m definitely planning on installing them in my kitchen at some point!
Roll-out or pull-out rubbish bins are a great way to make clean-up super easy and fast while also keeping animals out of the trash if you forget to deal with it the same night as your party.
Finally, if you’re into dinner parties and like to serve some nice cocktails, a bartender suite is a must-have.
You can find prefab options that “drop-in” easily or build up a custom space to suit your precise needs.