How to Build the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen: The Outdoor Kitchen Planning Guide

How to Build the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen: The Outdoor Kitchen Planning Guide

Nothing extends your backyard entertaining space quite like an outdoor kitchen equipped with a high-performance grill, prep areas, appliances, and storage solutions. Whether you’re looking for small outdoor kitchen ideas or a full-service setup with a built-in grill, a well-designed outdoor kitchen helps keep all your outdoor cooking and entertaining in one place (no more running back and forth between the indoor kitchen and the grill). Additionally, a well-designed outdoor kitchen becomes a permanent part of your home and increases the value of your property.

Before you get started, consult our expert-approved guide for how to build an outdoor kitchen. 

TYPES OF OUTDOOR KITCHENS

For starters, when planning for your dream outdoor kitchen, consider which type you (and your outdoor space) need. We have two main types to consider: 

PREFABRICATED OUTDOOR KITCHENS

PREFABRICATED OUTDOOR KITCHENS

Prefabricated (or pre-configured) outdoor kitchens are a great, easy-to-install “turnkey” option. Trusted brands such as Urban Bonfire and Outdoor Solutions—both of which are made in North America—offer modular, pre-assembled configurations that are all-in-one units and fairly customizable. Urban Bonfire’s Classics Collection, for instance, offers an array of kitchen configurations to suit any need (whether you’re looking for a simple food prep area of a fully functioning island with appliances and a built-in grill) that can be customized by cabinet color, countertop, appliances, and optional add-ons. “We have done our very best and continue to try and position this as a kitchen outdoors—versus an outdoor kitchen,” says Urban Bonfire Co-Founder and President Ryan Bloom. “People do not have to sacrifice, compromise, or settle on quality, aesthetic, functionality, durability, movability on any of those things, just because it's an outdoor product.”

Likewise, Outdoor Solutions prefab kitchens can be customized with two different finishes and with appliances by Alfresco and Coyote. Both Urban Bonfire and Outdoor Solutions are also specifically designed to be (relatively speaking) quick and easy to install. 

Shop all prefabricated kitchen islands

SEE ALSO: OUTDOOR KITCHEN IDEAS WITH URBAN BONFIRE CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT RYAN BLOOM

SEE ALSO: OUTDOOR KITCHEN IDEAS WITH URBAN BONFIRE CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT RYAN BLOOM

CUSTOM OUTDOOR KITCHENS

CUSTOM OUTDOOR KITCHENS

If you’re working with a uniquely shaped space or you have a specific vision, custom outdoor kitchens offer more flexibility and personalized details. Danver—a kitchen-industry leader for more than 20 years—offers expertly engineered outdoor kitchens that customers can completely customize by size shape, configuration, door style, cabinet color, hardware, and more. Urban Bonfire kitchens can also be fully customized to fit any appliance brand (thanks to a laser-cut trim) and feature the configuration, colors, hardware, and finishes that speak to you. NatureKast also offers custom options. Their weatherproof cabinetry is backed by a lifetime warranty is expertly crafted in North America with natural-looking wood finishes made of 100% waterproof PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) materials. To build a custom outdoor kitchen, it’s best to work with design professionals who specialize in outdoor kitchens, like the team at AuthenTEAK.

Schedule free consultation for a custom kitchen

QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU BEGIN AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN BUILD

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Do you need a permit for an outdoor kitchen?

The answer is that it depends. Some locations don’t require a permit for prefabricated grill islands. Generally speaking, anytime there is sewer, water, electric, or gas, a simple permit and inspection are required. It’s always a good idea to double-check with your local officials for permit requirements before you start your build.

What are the power requirements?

Depending on what outdoor kitchen equipment you select, electric, water, and natural gas lines may need to be brought to the kitchen area from your house. You’ll need power and electrical outlets for outdoor lighting or appliances. The National Electrical Code requires all outdoor outlets to be GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupter outlets). 

Do I need a professional to install my kitchen?

When installing plumbing and gas or electrical appliances, we recommend that planning and installation are performed by a reputable, licensed professional. This will ensure that your kitchen is safely and effectively installed.

How should you safely plan an outdoor kitchen?

In addition to enlisting the help of a licensed professional, it’s important to consider basic safety measures. Always check your natural gas line for leaks. Your gas grill should also ideally be at least 10 feet from combustible materials (think wood siding, deck rails, and tree branches). Consider adding a fire extinguisher just in case. If you plan on adding things like extension cords, fans, or lights, make sure they have Underwriters Laboratories (UL) outdoor ratings, which means they can withstand extreme temperatures and UV exposure.

SEE ALSO: THE PATIO HEATER BUYING GUIDE

SEE ALSO: THE PATIO HEATER BUYING GUIDE

How do you plan to use your outdoor kitchen?

While outdoor kitchens are certainly a beautiful addition to your outdoor space and add value to your home, it’s also important that they’re functional. When planning your outdoor kitchen, ask yourself how—and when—you plan to use the space. Do you love to entertain guests? In that case, you might want to consider adding a built-in BBQ island, as well as an outdoor dining area or lounging space. Do you only plan to use your space for food prep and storage? In that case, you might want to prioritize a functional layout with plenty of counter space and practical storage

SEE ALSO: HOW TO TAILOR YOUR OUTDOOR KITCHEN TO YOU, ACCORDING TO AUTHENTEAK'S DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

SEE ALSO: HOW TO TAILOR YOUR OUTDOOR KITCHEN TO YOU, ACCORDING TO AUTHENTEAK'S DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

How much does an outdoor kitchen cost?

Before you design your dream outdoor kitchen, consider your budget. There are outdoor kitchens (and outdoor kitchen design professionals) to suit every space, style, and budget. According to Home Advisor, the average cost of an outdoor kitchen in 2022 was $13,200, with a typical range between $5,400 and $22,000. The cost of an outdoor kitchen will depend on size, materials, appliances, and features, so when planning your kitchen, consider what’s important to you and how you want to tailor your kitchen design to fit your budget, needs, and style preferences.

BUILDING A MODULAR OUTDOOR KITCHEN: HOW TO GET STARTED

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Choose a location and measure your space

Choose a location and measure your space

A good rule of thumb is to keep your outdoor kitchen relatively close to the side of the house (just not closer than 10 feet; otherwise, you could have a fire hazard on your hands), as this will be easier (and less expensive) to run utilities from the house. Once you’ve decided where you’d like your kitchen, take measurements of your space so you can determine what kind of outdoor kitchen island will fit best. 

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Choose your outdoor kitchen island size

Choose your outdoor kitchen island size

The size of your outdoor kitchen island will depend on the size and shape of your space, as well as how you intend to use your kitchen. A good rule of thumb is to allow about 12 inches of countertop space on each side of every sink and grill. It’s also ideal to have at least 24 inches of uninterrupted countertop space somewhere on your island to allow for food prep. 

Remember that a BBQ island is just one component of your outdoor kitchen. Made-to-order islands are a great way to get started with your project, but a true outdoor kitchen is an additional room that you’re adding to your home, so it’s important to think about functionality as well as aesthetics. Below are some common made-to-order island sizes:

Browse outdoor kitchens 6 ft. or less

Browse outdoor kitchens 6.25 ft.–8 ft.

Browse outdoor kitchens 8.25 ft–10 ft.

Browse outdoor kitchens 10.25 ft. or more

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Consider cabinetry materials and finishes

Both Urban Bonfire and Outdoor Solutions utilize premium aluminum materials for their cabinetry—although the aluminum is treated differently for each brand, yielding different looks and benefits for each.

Aluminum Body With NACRAĒ™ Finish

Urban Bonfire utilizes non-combustible, thick-gauge marine-grade aluminum in the construction of all its cabinets, planters, accessories, and backsplash systems. This aluminum is twice as thick as most stainless-steel cabinetry on the market, yet lighter in weight. Aluminum is also relatively easy to transport and cooperates well during installations. It is the ideal material for extreme outdoor climates (snow, ice, salt water, humidity) and long-term quality.

Each Urban Bonfire outdoor kitchen island features a proprietary NACRAĒ™ powder-coated finish. NACRAĒ™ is FDA-approved and crafted with a micro-textured formulation that maintains a stable depth of color throughout any weather conditions. Its four-season formula is resistant to scratches, fading, and stains while offering integrated, all-natural antimicrobial properties for maximum safety and freshness. NACRAĒ™ is available in a variety of specialty colors that have been developed in collaboration with noteworthy designers. All Urban Bonfire kitchens come with premium Dekton countertops available in two finishes (see the countertop materials section below for more information).

Shop Urban Bonfire NACRAĒ™ outdoor kitchens

Aluminum Body 

Outdoor Solutions outfits its modular outdoor kitchen solutions in 100% weather-resistant aluminum, available in two brushed finishes (antique bronze or antique black). Crafted using only the highest-grade materials and a robust production process consisting of multiple support points and a triple-coated powder coating, these aluminum outdoor kitchen islands are backed by a three-year warranty. Aluminum is also relatively lightweight, allowing Outdoor Solutions’ modular designs to be easily movable and quickly assembled (Outdoor Solutions promises that its kitchens can be installed in less than an hour). The Urban Bonfire Classics Collection comes with durable concrete countertops (see the countertop materials section below for more information).

Shop Outdoor Solutions aluminum outdoor kitchens

NatureKast Cabinetry

Backed by a lifetime warranty and made in North America, NatureKast’s 100% weatherproof cabinetry is expertly crafted with natural-looking wood finishes made of 100% waterproof PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) materials. NatureKast replicates the textures and nuances of wood in molded high-density polyurethane doors and panels. These parts are hand-finished by artisans, so the finished product is near impossible to differentiate from the wooden originals used create to make the molds. NatureKast offers cypress or teak wood grains in a variety of styles and in a wide range of pleasing colors. Sign up for a free design consultation to learn more.

Stainless Steel

Danver’s stainless steel cabinetry is made in the United States and offers unparalleled functionality and a timeless look. This cabinetry is available in a variety of powder-coated finishes, including realistic wood grain finishes. Each component of these powder-coated doors is painted prior to assembly, eliminating direct exposure of the stainless steel to the environment. Powder coating hinders the chance for rust over time and provides a nearly maintenance-free powder coat finish. Danver has also partnered with Brown Jordan to create the Brown Jordan® Outdoor Kitchen collection, which also features stainless steel cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Visit AuthenTEAK’s Atlanta showroom or inquire with our team to learn more.

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Consider countertop material

The entire Urban Bonfire Classics Collection of outdoor kitchen islands comes with premium Dekton® countertops available in two finishes: Keon and Danae. Dekton is an ultra-compact surface by Cosentino that offers extreme performance and a sophisticated blend of raw materials. It boasts superior technical properties, such as resistance to UV rays, scratches, stains, and thermal shock—and very low water absorption, making it the perfect material for outdoor applications. For custom projects, countertops are not provided by Urban Bonfire and must be sourced locally.

Browse outdoor kitchens with Dekton countertops

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How to choose a built-in grill

Invest in high-quality outdoor grills from trusted brands that specialize in outdoor appliances (such as Lynx Professional Grills, Hestan, or Alfresco, to name a few). When choosing the right built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen design, don’t forget the following:

Select Cooking Fuel

Liquid propane grills are fueled by propane tanks, which will need to be refilled.

Natural gas grills must be connected to a natural gas line by a professional and never run out of gas.

Pellet-fueled grills utilize ignited wood pellets and a system of fans to heat food to a specific temperature, almost like an outdoor convection oven. Pellet grills can be used to smoke, grill, bake, and even braise food.

If You Have A Gas Grill, Select BTU Range

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measure of how much heat a grill can produce. The BTU of your built-in grill is a reflection of the total heat output of all burners per hour. When choosing BTUs, consider how often you’ll be cooking on your grill and how much food you’ll be cooking (cooking for a large crowd is very different than cooking for a small gathering). More compact grills will have lower BTUs and likely longer cook times, while larger grills will have higher BTUs and might be more suitable for cooking at a high volume more often.

Shop all BBQ grill islands

SEE ALSO: HOW TO CLEAN AN OUTDOOR GRILL LIKE A PRO

SEE ALSO: HOW TO CLEAN AN OUTDOOR GRILL LIKE A PRO

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Consider appliances

When adding appliances, think about how you plan to use your outdoor kitchen. When building a modular prefab kitchen, you’ll have a variety of built-in grills and appliances to choose from. Urban Bonfire’s Classics collection offers appliance add-ons from a variety of leading brands. Outdoor Solutions modular kitchens are compatible with Coyote and Artisan appliances. Below are some common outdoor kitchen equipment additions you may want to consider:

Built-in grill: A built-in grill is the centerpiece of a well-equipped outdoor kitchen. Choose from natural gas, liquid propane, or pellet-fueled built-in grills to suit your desired cooking experience. 

Built-in refrigerator: An under-counter refrigerator unit is a perfect solution for keeping drinks, food, or ingredients cold and within reach. 

Built-in trash drawer: Ensure easy cleanup after an outdoor meal with a built-in trash drawer with a slide-out bin.

Built-in storage: Drawers, cabinets, and/or shelves help keep clutter at bay—and store everything you might need within easy reach.

Built-in sink: Save yourself many trips inside by washing your hands or rinsing vegetables at a convenient outdoor sink. 

Pizza oven: Outdoor pizza ovens from trusted brands offer a convenient way to achieve quality, wood-fired flavor. 

Side burner: Add additional cooking space with a side burner. 

Ice makerEliminate the need to traipse back to your indoor kitchen by stocking your outdoor kitchen with a convenient icemaker.

SEE ALSO: EASY (AND DELICIOUS) GAME DAY RECIPES ON THE GRILL

SEE ALSO: EASY (AND DELICIOUS) GAME DAY RECIPES ON THE GRILL

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Incorporating existing appliances into outdoor kitchens

Incorporating existing appliances into outdoor kitchens

If you already have an outdoor appliance you’d like to build into your outdoor kitchen, Urban Bonfire kitchens are available without built-in appliances (with just an appliance hookup), giving you the option to add in your own appliance so long as it’s one of The Urban Bonfire Classics Collection’s compatible brands. If you shop through AuthenTEAK, our team will work with you to confirm your appliance is compatible with Urban Bonfire. 

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Create a dining setup

Create a dining setup

Even the most well-appointed outdoor kitchen isn’t complete without an outdoor dining area. Just like your kitchen, your dining area should suit your space and needs.

Dining sets are an easy, all-in-one option for a cohesive dining and entertaining space.

Mix and match outdoor dining tables with dining chairs to create a look that’s custom to you. 

Bistro sets offer space-saving seating for smaller spaces.

Create an outdoor bar with weather-resistant bar stools and bar and counter tables

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Add coverage from the elements

Add coverage from the elements

If you’d like to add extra coverage to your outdoor kitchen to shield from the elements, consider adding a pergola (which can help protect from the sun or wind) or a patio umbrella. Outdoor cantilever umbrellas—also known as offset umbrellas—feature an arched or jointed pole positioned off to the side, allowing the canopy to hang freely, making them a great option for larger dining tables or deep-seating lounge areas. Market umbrellas—or center-pole umbrellas—offer a more traditional look.

SEE ALSO: THE PATIO UMBRELLA BUYING GUIDE

SEE ALSO: THE PATIO UMBRELLA BUYING GUIDE

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How to winterize an outdoor kitchen

How to winterize an outdoor kitchen

When it comes time to winterize your house, you may need to prepare your outdoor kitchen for winter as well. First, give your grill a good cleaning and clean your countertops and any appliances. Next, cover your grill with a high-quality, weather-resistant cover. Turn off and unplug any other appliances and shut off the water supply, making sure to flush any remaining water from the pipes (unless you have a gravity-based winterization system, you’ll need to pump the water out). These steps will protect your outdoor kitchen when it’s not in use and keep it in tip-top shape come grilling season. 

SEE ALSO: OUR GUIDE FOR PATIO FURNITURE THAT CAN BE LEFT OUTSIDE DURING WINTER

SEE ALSO: OUR GUIDE FOR PATIO FURNITURE THAT CAN BE LEFT OUTSIDE DURING WINTER

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