Skip to main content

12 Steps to Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

April 8th, 2024 | 12 min. read

By Steve Sheinkopf

Learn how to find the perfect grilling products with our BBQ Buying Guide
Start Here
12 Steps to Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

Designing an outdoor kitchen is not that difficult.

In this article, you will receive a blueprint of how to design the perfect space for you.

I obviously can't talk to you directly, but I will provide details of the right process.

In this guide, some of our best tips for designing an outdoor kitchen are from several of the industry's most notable experts:

  • Ashley Smith, Director of Design and Account Management at Urban Bonfire
  • Basil Larkin, Vice President of Sales at Hestan Commercial Corporation
  • Russ Faulk, Chief Designer and Head of Product at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
  • Scott Grugel, Middleby Residential Sales, Former President of Lynx Grills

There are links to various resources to help you along the way.

Don't worry. You can do this.

Let's get inspired! (I know I am. I loved writing this article).

Looking for answers about BBQ Grills?

Short on time? Download our free BBQ Buying Guide.

Start Here

Indoor vs. Outdoor Kitchen Planning


You decided to plan an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area.

Your contractor or architect hands you a blank sheet of paper.

Now what?

In the last few webinars on kitchen design, you learned that the sink is your central point and is designed accordingly.

You are at your sink the most, so it makes sense.

However, for an outdoor kitchen, the grill is your central point. Design your outdoor kitchen around your grill.

10 Steps to Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

Step 1: Find Inspiration 


When I started at Yale in 1986, you bought a grill. That was your “kitchen.”

You can have about any appliance in your outdoor kitchen.

The options are limitless, including power burners, grills, pizza ovens, sinks, and refrigeration.

Before you invest in your outdoor living space, it's important to discuss your specific needs.

Each space is unique, and the way you consider grills and outdoor entertainment should be tailored to your individual setting.

ashley-smith-urban-bonfireStep one is inspiration. Look at plans, sketches, inspirational images, and/or create a Pinterest board, and do not limit yourself by only looking at other outdoor kitchens! Find inspiration from indoor kitchens and create a wish list as well as a list of "must-have" items you would like to include."

 - Ashley Smith, Urban Bonfire

Remember that some kitchen layouts may not be the best or safest for your home.

I would look at plans and different pictures but use them as references only.

Step 2: Ask Yourself the Right Questions

Now, you need to ask yourself three important questions:

  • What is your entertainment strategy?
  • What is the proximity of your outdoor kitchen to your indoor kitchen?
  • How do you like to cook, and what appliances will you use the most?

What Is Your Entertainment Strategy?


How are you going to use this space? Is it 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, you may need to think about more countertop space for entertaining or for your kids to do homework outside.

Outdoor cooking tools and platters are usually larger than indoor ones, so having more counter space is key.

It's often an overlooked component when cooking and serving guests.

In your indoor kitchen, you use plates. You will most likely serve on platters in an outdoor kitchen.

scott-grugel-middleby-residential-sales"Will you have one entertainment area or an area for hot and one for seating?"  

- Scott Grugel, Middleby Residential Sales

What Is the Proximity of Your Outdoor Kitchen to Your Indoor Kitchen?


You do not need as many appliances and kitchen options outside if it's just next to the screen door.

Consider where you'll prepare that corn on the cob, for example.

Is it inside or outdoors?

If your outdoor space is away from your main kitchen, you may need more storage and appliances.

Aim to reduce the need to go back and forth when preparing or cooking your meals

If they are close together, an outdoor kitchen can rely on the indoor kitchen for prep and cleanup.

Shelves, storage for dishes and glasses, places for garbage, and the need for ice and refrigeration are all crucial factors to consider.

russ-faulk-kalamazoo-outdoor-gourmet"Plan space for the basic tasks, including prep, cooking, serving, and cleanup. Each station needs its own countertop space so that entertaining does not turn into an exercise in frustration."

- Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

The most important principles for indoor kitchens are also applied outdoors.

When mapping out the space for your kitchen outdoors, be sure to consider:

  • Countertop space for preparation
  • The placement of appliances for the best flow
  • Storage for additional cooking equipment

Write out what you will want to store outdoors so you can choose applicable storage inserts.

ashley-smith-urban-bonfire"Assessing how you will use your kitchen, and its main functions are important to consider when designing this space."

- Ashley Smith, Urban Bonfire

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


You will learn about the best outdoor kitchen products later in the article, but how many products dictate your final space?

The possibilities for creating your dream outdoor kitchen are endless, so what's your vision?

Try to mimic how you use your indoor space to maximize investment, usage, and enjoyment needs.

You want to plan around the right counter space, especially if you serve large parties.

Step 3: Who Plans and Builds Your Outdoor Kitchen?


Let's start with who you should hire to design your outdoor kitchen. Is it the architect, landscaper, contractor, builder, or mason?

How involved are your cabinet shop and appliance store?

The answer can be any of the above. Many problems in building your outdoor kitchen start with knowing who will take responsibility.

Research the best contractors and suppliers. Vet them by checking portfolios and reviews, and then delegate responsibility.

Don't assume any builder can design an outdoor cooking space. In Miami, FL, outdoor kitchens are part of the house.

In Boston, it's a new phenomenon.

Step 4: Factoring in Wind and Sun When Planning an Outdoor Kitchen


During my interviews, the grill experts discussed the sun and wind. When planning your grill, you should consider wind, sun, and rain exposure.

For example, you don't want the wind blowing smoke into your house.

scott-grugel-middleby-residential-sales"Understand prevailing winds. You don't want the smoke from your grill or smoker blowing into your house." Scott Grugel, Middleby Residential Sales

basil-larkin-hestan-commercial-corporation"Location of the kitchen is usually the next best step. You'll want to pay attention to things like direct sunlight (do you need coverage) and wind direction (location of the grill)." Basil Larkin, Hestan Commercial Corporation

Step 5: Fuel, Electricity, and Plumbing Considerations for an Outdoor Kitchen


Natural gas grills and side burners need gas plumbed to the locations. If this is a problem, you can buy a grill powered by propane.

You may need electrical work for your outdoor appliances, grill ignition, blenders, rotisserie motors, or even phone charging.

Electricity is also needed for refrigerators, warming drawers, and wine coolers. You also need water lines if you choose an icemaker, sink, faucet, or dishwasher.

Remember, in areas where winters have freezing temperatures, any appliance with water will need to be "winterized."

Step 6: Lighting Considerations


Lighting should be part of the plan, especially for grilling at night. Maybe because I sold lighting, I think lighting is important.

Most people think their outside lights will handle it. But they're usually too bright and not focused on the grill.

It can be a 30-second difference between medium and rare on a powerful grill.

One great idea is to light your railings. You should consider task lighting near your grill.

I am a huge fan of "lighting tape." It's just LEDs on flat translucent tape.

You can stick them anywhere for decent lighting. We just need to wire it to a transformer.

Sign Up for the 10 Steps to Build Your Outside Kitchen

How are you? You are about halfway through the article, maybe a bit less.

I am hosting a webinar on April 18th where you will be shown this information in greater detail.

You will also be able to ask questions and after wards hear from the best people in the grill business from Lynx, Hestan, Kalamazoo.

You can sign up here. I want to answer everyone's questions, so we limit the audience to just 250 people.

Step 7: Ventilation Considerations


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

It is difficult to capture the vast amount of smoke from a BBQ grill.

You should leave the grill exposed to the elements and not worry about the smoke. However, ventilation is important in three-season porches and other enclosed areas.

Many pictures of vented outdoor kitchens on Houzz show problems with smoke, like the photo below.

Gas grills give off a lot of smoke, grease, and fumes, including formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide.

You need an extra deep hood and a powerful blower.

Not like this:


Smoke is channeled into the hood and then removed, so you need both, so this hood will not be able to handle the volume from that grill.

I would advise leaving the grill completely outside and not worrying about venting.

If that is not in your design, spend time planning ventilation. If you like to cook, you may even want to try a commercial vent.

I would recommend 27 inches deep and at least 18 inches high.

Your hood's CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) should be at least 1500 CFM or more, depending on how you cook.

Read More: How to Vent an Outdoor Grill

Step 8: Choosing the Best BBQ Grill


There is an endless array of grills from Hestan, DCS, Kalamazoo, Weber, and Lynx.

The grill is the cornerstone of your outdoor kitchen and the middle of your flow. You want to arrange everything else around it.

In your kitchen, the sink should be central, as you use it the most often, followed by the stovetop and then the dishwasher.

For outside, the grill should be central for the same reason.

russ-faulk-kalamazoo-outdoor-gourmet"Configuring your outdoor kitchen appliances starts with the grill. Your grill is the centerpiece of the outdoor kitchen."

Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Now pause here for a bit and answer the following questions:

  • How do you like to grill?
  • Do you like speed? Or lower and slower?
  • Do you want added flavor and texture?
  • What's your go-to method?

You may find yourself inquiring about several types of grills based on your answers.

Types of Grills

Here is a breakdown of the different types of grills and what they can and can't do:

Gas Grills

LiveAbode-Features-Hestan-Outdoor-Built-In-Grills (1)

Incredibly fast, sear the best, especially with an infrared sear zone.

Gas grills are also simple to use. Kalamazoo is different from a regular gas grill with its hybrid drawer, which allows you to use wood and charcoal to infuse flavor.

They start at about $10,000, so it's not for everyone.

Drawbacks: Gas grills do not add flavor or texture.

Pellet Smokers


There are several types of smokers. The most popular is the pellet type.

Smokers do an excellent job of adding flavor and texture with tons of different-flavored pellets. Many have Wi-Fi interfaces and clocks so you can program your cooking.

Drawbacks: Smokers are low and slow. You cannot quickly throw a few burgers on the grill. At a max temperature of 400-450, a smoker cannot also sear.

Do not buy just a pellet type if you want to grill. Many people make that mistake.



Charcoal has the speed of gas with the texture of pellets. Pro grillers will use some type of combination of wood and charcoal in competitions.

You have the speed and the flavor in a grill.

Drawbacks: You have to add charcoal after each use and empty the ash—the temperature isn't as constant as gas. You don't have the flavor combinations of the pellet.



A ceramic-like the Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe can do a bit of everything.

Drawbacks: You must learn how to use a ceramic grill and consistently mind the grill like charcoal.

Best BBQ Grill Brands for Your Outdoor Kitchen

When you look at Hestan, DCS, and Lynx, they are all powerful grills with similar output. The features are similar, with some differences.

1. Kalamazoo


Kalamazoo is a hybrid grill that operates with pro burners. It uses charcoal and/or wood for speed, texture, and flavor.

They have the deepest surface for thorough "natural convection" cooking.

Their grills, pizza ovens, and accessories are the most expensive but are considered the best in the world.

2. DCS


DCS was the first professional grill to have two series. They now offer a charcoal accessory and 25,000 BTU (British Thermal Unit) per burner output.

DCS uses ceramic rods to increase the heat and become a sear burner without incorporating a sear

3. Hestan

Hestan Residential is an offshoot of the giant commercial manufacturer Meyer. They have distinguished their grills with laser-cut grates to maintain a sear throughout

Unlike any other manufacturer, Hestan has several colors as well.

4. Lynx


The Lynx grill is a professional-grade grill with high output.

Its ceramic burner is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, ensuring consistent operation.

The Lynx grill is available in various configurations, including models with all burners or an infrared sear burner.

In addition, you can purchase a Lynx grill with an all-sear configuration of just infrared burners.

Read More: Best Professional Outdoor BBQ Grills

5. Weber


If DCS was the first professional grill, Weber was the first to build a reliable grill for less money.

They may not have the other three output burners, but they offer a much lower price, especially for their Genesis and Spirit series grills.

Their smart grills work as well.

6. Kamado Joe


Kamado Joe has the best temperature control of any ceramic grill. Kamados can cook any style, but there is a learning curve.

7. Traeger Pellet Smokers


People have a love/hate relationship with Traeger. It's great for smoking but not for grilling. You can flavor your food with tons of flavored pellets.

8. Traeger Flatrock Griddle


Their flattop griddle is an improvement on the Blackstone griddle design. It is enclosed, so the wind will not blow out the burner and is easier to clean.

Read More: The Best BBQ Grills, Griddles, and Smokers

Step 9: Choose Your Outdoor Kitchen Appliances


Think of your outdoor kitchen as an extension of your home.

Although it is often one of the last items added to a home, you can start thinking about this while planning your indoor kitchen.

All appliances for your outdoor kitchen should be UL-rated for outdoor use. Their composition should be more metal and resistant to rusting.

Consider the appliances you want indoors compared to outdoors, and make sure they complement one another.

ashley-smith-urban-bonfire"This might include incorporating a pizza-making station or adding in a power burner to cook lobster. You do not need to limit yourself to a "traditional" kitchen. Make it suit your needs and your space." Ashley Smith, Urban Bonfire

Secondary Appliances and Cooking Accessories


  • 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 3 hours.
  • Asado Cooktops: Asado cooktops are large griddles. The hot dogs and sausages and peppers were cooked on a griddle if you go to a ballgame. You can cook anything on a griddle.
  • Side Burners: Great for boiling lobsters or corn on the cob. You can cook foods as well as grill with side burners.



There is a wide range of refrigeration options available for your outdoor kitchen.

From standard refrigerators to wine coolers and ice makers, you have a variety of choices.

With icemakers and dishwashers, you need a cold-water line.

Maintenance is always key, especially with ice makers. You should clean them periodically.



You will need some storage or cabinets for your outdoor Kitchen. You can buy them from a manufacturer like Lynx, Kalamazoo, or Urban Bonfire.

You can also find them in many prefabricated solutions (we will cover that later).

Sinks and Faucets


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.

Step 10: Choosing the Best Outdoor Kitchen Layout

As I have said, the grill should be your centerpiece.

However, you also want to apply the same logic as we discussed when planning the inside.

Burners and other cooking appliances should be close together. Refrigeration is not critical to cooking, and it does not need to be close to your plan.

Your other consideration is your sink. You use the sink more than any other appliance for washing and cleaning.

If you have a sink in your plan, centralize it.

You have four types of outside kitchen layouts: Island, L Shape, U Shape, and Galley

1. Island Outdoor Kitchen Layout


The most popular island has a grill in the center and serving appliances on either side. Although you must serve and eat elsewhere, an island is the most space-efficient.

Look at the faucet next to the burner.

You won't have to carry a big pot of water inside; you can just fill that pot right there.

Like what you are reading? Click here to be the first to be notified about appliance reviews, how-tos, and reliability reviews. Over 100,000 people read the Yale Blog.

2. L-Shape Outdoor Kitchen Layout


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

Note the distance between the grill and the seating.

It's easy to serve.

ashley-smith-urban-bonfire"If you like to entertain, consider adding an island as a place for people to sit and gather around so that the cook can interact with guests, or creating an L shape to incorporate seating." Ashley Smith, Urban Bonfire

3. U-Shape Outdoor Kitchen Layout


The U is a bigger L, allowing for more entertaining and serving. You can also incorporate more appliances on the other side.

4. Galley Outdoor Kitchen Layout


Like many indoor setups, this separates the "cooking" and serving and eating sides. Galley layouts are growing in popularity for outdoor entertainment.

Step 11: Chalk It Off

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

That's right; walk around the space as if you are grilling and entertaining.

Step 12: Choose the Best Materials for Your Outdoor Kitchen


You want your kitchen weather-resistant, especially in New England.

You want non-porous materials like granite, Dekton, concrete, and stainless steel for counters. Tile can crack, and granite should be treated occasionally.

Dekton and other modern materials offer a "no maintenance" alternative and are growing in popularity.

Urban Bonfire, an outside cabinet and design company, recommends Dekton.

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

Marine-grade aluminum, stainless steel, marine-grade polymers, and stone are the best materials for outdoor cabinets.

If you want wooden cabinets, teak wood weather is the best. Marine-grade aluminum is the best.

However, there is no clear definition of "marine grade." It's typically 304 or 316 stainless steel with a high molybdenum content or treated with taurine to resist corrosion.

You still must wipe it down.

What Are Your Best Options for Building an Outdoor Kitchen?


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

However, you can buy various kits from box stores and different manufacturers.

Most brands have a line of cabinets, like Lynx, Kalamazoo, DCS, and Hestan.

You must ensure they are weather-resistant in all parts, including the drawers.

Urban Bonfire is a manufacturer based in Montreal. Their cabinets are made of thick gauge, marine-grade aluminum.

It's full 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 grill brands and sizes on the market.

You can customize your finishes without waiting 6-8 months for delivery. They have models with only a 2–4-week lead time.

Urban Bonfire provides the best out-of-the-box solution, plus the prices are reasonable, usually starting at $7,000.

How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen: Key Takeaways

It all starts with who will be helping you. Make sure they are qualified.

Then it's about you and your space. Start with your entertainment strategy and what you will use or want.

Centralize your grill, select your appliances, cocoon, store, and refrigerate, and then walk it off or draw it out.

If you are considering building an outdoor kitchen, start planning your electrical and plumbing early.

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

You can now have any type of grill, accessory, and appliance for your outdoor kitchen. Just plan well so that you can enjoy it fully later.

Additional Resources

Hey, what separates the amateurs from the pros in the grilling world? Knowledge. And our BBQ Grills Buying Guide is packed with it.

We're talking insider insights on brands like Lynx, Hestan, DCS, and Kalamazoo.

Plus, we break down grill types - gas, pro-gas, ceramic, pellet, charcoal - and show you how to design an entertainment area that wows.

Over 1 million readers have already leaped. Ready to join them? Download the guide now and see the difference it makes.

Related Articles:

Looking for answers about BBQ Grills?

Choosing a new grill can be a confusing and time-consuming experience. We've taken the pain out of the decision process with our BBQ Buying Guide.

Start Here

Why Should You Trust Us?

It seems that every appliance review has nothing but glowing comments about almost every product, yet you read customer reviews and they are almost universally bad.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll give you the best features, and the drawbacks as well, including reliability based on over 37,000 calls performed by our service team just last year. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

Please consider subscribing or adding to the conversation in the comments below. We appreciate you stopping by.

Steve Sheinkopf

Steve Sheinkopf is the third-generation CEO of Yale Appliance and a lifelong Bostonian. He has over 38 years of experience in the appliance industry, and he is a trusted source of information for consumers on how to buy and repair appliances.

Steve has also been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.

Steve is passionate about helping consumers find the best appliances for their needs, and he is always happy to answer questions and provide advice. He is a valuable resource for consumers who are looking for information on appliance buying, repair, and maintenance.

Despite being the worst goalie in history, Steve is a fan of the Bruins and college hockey, loves to read, and is a Peloton biker. The love of his life is his daughter, Sophie.

A Note About Pricing

Pricing on this blog is for reference only and may include time sensitive rebates. We make every attempt to provide accurate pricing at time of publishing. Please call the stores for most accurate price.