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How To Design And Build An Outdoor Kitchen

Start finding answers in our Resource Center full of videos, buying guides, and checklists

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You can now have just about any appliance for an outdoor kitchen. Perhaps even more. The options are limitless from power burners to pizza ovens to everything in between.

So before you invest in your outdoor living and entertaining space, let's talk about what you truly need.

In this article, you will learn about the basic questions to ask before you start building your outdoor kitchen. We'll also cover what must-have components you need to power your new outdoor kitchen.

Then you will see some pictures of finished outdoor kitchens. This article will walk you through the beginning of your research to the planning phases to help you transform your space into a more functional room.

Let's get started.

How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen

urban-bonfire-outdoor-kitchen-at-yale-appliance-in-boston

Urban Bonfire Outdoor Kitchen Set Up at Yale Appliance in Hanover

I have spent some time online looking at videos for outdoor kitchens. They either talk about products to buy or the building process (some of them are in fast motion - it's pretty cool).

However, you need to ask yourself three important questions.

Ask Yourself The Right Questions

First, what is your entertainment strategy?

How are you going to use this space? Is it just a place to make burgers, so all you need is a grill and some space to lay your prep? Or, do you want a fully operational kitchen?

If it's a central place like your kitchen, you may need to think about more countertop space for entertaining or for your kids doing homework outdoor.

Outdoor cooking tools and platters are also usually larger than indoor ones, so having more counter space is key. It's often an overlooked component to success when cooking and serving guests.

Second, what is the proximity of your outdoor kitchen to your indoor kitchen?

If it's just next to the screen door, then you do not need as many appliances and kitchen options outdoor. Think about where you'll prepare that corn on the cob. Is it inside or outdoor?

If your outdoor space is away from your main kitchen, then you may need more storage as well as appliances. Think about trying to avoid the classic "back and forth" when preparing or cooking.

Short on time? Get our free BBQ Buying GuideLearn More

Shelves, storage for dishes and glasses, places for garbage, and the need for ice/refrigeration are all important factors to consider. The further your outdoor kitchen is from your indoor, then the more "self sufficient" your outdoor cooking space should be.

Third, how do you like to cook, and what will you use the most?

You will learn about products later in the article. But how many products dictate your final space?

Pro Tip: Once you pick everything, chalk the diagram on your current space to see if it looks right to you.

With numerous design options (straight, L, galley), try to mimic how you use your indoor space to maximize investment, usage, and enjoyment needs.

Fuel Considerations

DCS Series 9 Built-In Grill

DCS Grill at Yale Appliance in Framingham

Your builder should know this along with proper irrigation. However, natural gas grills need gas plumbed to the locations.

You will need electrical work done for your appliances and ignition as well as outlets for accessories like your blenders, rotisserie motors, or even charging your phone.

If you choose an icemaker or dishwasher, you also need water lines.

urban-bonfire-outdoor-kitchen-with-a-dishwasher

Urban Bonfire Outdoor Kitchen Set Up with Dishwasher at Yale Appliance in Hanover

Remember, in climates where winters have freezing temperatures like New England, any appliance with water will need to be "winterized."

Lighting Considerations

Lighting should be part of the plan, especially for grilling at night. You should also consider under-cabinet and accent lighting around some of the other appliances and counter space to see more clearly.

Ventilation Considerations

As long-time readers of this blog know, I am specific about venting an outdoor grill.

It is not easy to capture the vast amount of smoke from a BBQ. For adequate exhaust, you do need an extra deep hood and a powerful blower to evacuate the smoke and grease.

Plan your ventilation carefully, especially if your BBQ grill is inside or on a three-season porch.

Check out our free BBQ Buying Guide for all your BBQ grill needs, including the differences between grill types, and feature comparisons of every major brand. 

Materials

You want your kitchen weather-resistant, especially in New England. For counters, you want a non-porous material like granite, Dekton, concrete, stainless, and tile. They all have their attributes and issues.

Tile can crack, and granite should be treated occasionally. Dekton and other modern materials offer a "no maintenance" alternative and are growing in popularity.

Do not use quartz and limestone because they weather poorly and are not UV stable (fading over time).

Choosing Materials For Your Cabinets

Professional BBQ Grills - Yale Appliance in Framingham

Outdoor BBQ Grills With Wooden Cabinetry at Yale Appliance in Framingham

Marine-Grade Aluminum, Stainless, marine-grade polymers, and stone are preferred. If you want a wood finish, teak wood weather the best.

Outdoor Kitchen Layout Options

1. Island

island-urban-bonfire-outdoor-kitchen-with-hestan-grill

Island is the most popular with the grill in the center and serving appliances on either side. You will have to serve and eat elsewhere, but an island is the most space-efficient.

2. L Shape

l-shaped-urban-bonfire-outdoor-kitchen-with-lynx-grill

You can serve food in an L shape. Many designers raise the counter a bit for this reason.

3. U Shape

Your grill becomes the center. It's easier to vent and provides the most room for entertaining as well as more space for other appliances.

4. Galley

urban-bonfire-galley-shaped-outdoor-kitchen

Similar to many indoor setups, this separates the "cooking" side with the serving and eating side and is growing in popularity for outdoor entertainment.

Best Outdoor Kitchen Products

Grills

Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Outdoor BBQ Grill and Outdoor Kitchen at Yale Appliance in Framingham

There is an endless array of grills from Hestan, Kalamazoo, DCS, and Lynx. The Grill is the cornerstone of your outdoor kitchen. You want to arrange everything else around it.

Choosing Side or Power Burners For Your Grill

Burners can be double, or you can get one high output burner for boiling lobster or corn on the cob.

For all of our best grills, their features, and how they perform, click here. 

Storage

You will need some storage or cabinets for your outdoor kitchen. You can buy them from a manufacturer like Lynx or DCS. You can also find them in many prefabricated solutions (we will cover that later).

Appliances

For appliances, they should be UL rated to be placed outdoor. Their composition is more metal and resistant to rusting.

Refrigeration

outdoor-kitchen-with-refrigerator-drawers

Urban Bonfire Outdoor Kitchen Set Up with Refrigerator Drawers at Yale Appliance in Hanover

There are all types of refrigerators. You have refrigerators, wine coolers, and ice makers.

With icemakers, you need a cold water line. Maintenance is always key with icemakers. They should be cleaned periodically.

Cooking Appliances

  • Pizza Ovens: They can be pricey, but all of them cook pizza well quickly.
  • Warming Drawers: Place near or under your grill. It keeps foods warm for up to an hour.
  • Asado Cooktops: Asado cooktops are large griddles. If you go to a ballgame, the hot dogs and sausages and peppers were cooked on a griddle. You can cook anything on a griddle, BTW.
  • Smokers/Ceramics: Smoking or low-temperature indirect cooking is all the rage. Traeger and Lynx have smokers as do many other brands. It's great for cooking over a long period. The Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe are ceramic and offer a different type of cooking.

Sinks And Faucets

the-galley-workstation-at-yale-appliance-in-hanover

The Galley Workstation at Yale Appliance in Hanover

You should consider a sink and faucet if your outdoor kitchen is not close to your main kitchen

The Galley is an interesting sink to consider. It is marine grade, available from 2-7 feet, and can double as a workspace. It won our Best New Product for 2020.

What Are Your Best Options For Building An Outdoor Kitchen?

Many people will have an architect, designer, cabinet shop, and builder plan your outdoor kitchen. This is a great option if you have plenty of time, space, and a larger budget.

DIY Islands

You can buy various kits from box stores and different manufacturers. Lynx has a cabinet line, as does Kalamazoo and DCS, amongst others.

You have to make sure they are weather-resistant in all parts, including the drawers.

Urban Bonfire

urban-bonfire-grill-set-up-and-kitchen-accessories-in-hanover

Urban Bonfire Customizable Outdoor Kitchen at Yale Appliance in Hanover

Urban Bonfire is a manufacturer based in Montreal. Their cabinets are made of thick gauge, marine-grade aluminum. It's fully powder coated to protect in sun, snow, and saltwater with all non-combustible materials.

They include the structure, storage, and design all in one and work with all major grills brands and sizes on the market.

You can customize your finishes without waiting 6-8 months for delivery. It's the best out of the box solution plus the prices are reasonable.

How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen: Key Takeaways 

It all starts with you and your space.

Start with your entertainment strategy of what you will use or want. Then chalk it off or draw it out.

Remember, the plumbing and electrical feeds need to be materials designed to be outdoor.

Look at alternatives. In this case, out of the box solutions are good to eliminate delays and blowing up your budget.

You can now have any appliances for your outdoor kitchen. Just plan well, so you can enjoy it fully later.

Additional Resources

Get the Yale BBQ Grill Buying Guide with features, specs, and tips to all the brands. Over 620,000 people have already found answers in a Yale Guide.

view our bbq buying guide

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However, we don’t love every product. Quite frankly, it costs us way too much money in repair costs to support less reliable brands.

In fact, we sell fewer brands than most appliance stores. Here is why:

We feel it is our responsibility to repair your appliances after you buy them.

We now have 30 service technicians, each averaging 8-10 calls a day Monday through Friday, plus another 110 on Saturday. That's over 30,000 service calls logged in one year.

The labor rates of fixing an appliance do not come close to the true cost in any product’s warranty period.

That is why no major retailer has a service department. It costs too much labor, money and time.

Our Blog is a bit different than most others you will read. We cannot write glowing reviews of unreliable products.

Hopefully, the bloggers and organizations who write such glowing product reviews for every brand consider servicing these products first. Only then they will understand the consequences of their marketing.

Steve Sheinkopf

My goal has always been simple: I want Yale to be the best retail experience anywhere. I have tried to create a compelling environment for customers and employees alike.

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