25 Important Tips and Ideas For Designing Outdoor Kitchens

It takes a bit more than just setting out a grill.

Outdoor kitchens
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Plan ahead so you can enjoy your outdoor cooking space all summer long.

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Budget Beforehand

Deborah Krasner, author of advices budgeting for your outdoor space according to what's most important to you. It may be best to invest in the setting (things like patio, or decking) if you're planning to stay in your house for the long haul, and start with modest cooking equipment and appliances that can be upgraded over time. If you think you may move, buy the equipment of your dreams in portable form so you can take it with you.

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Map It Out

Every kitchen needs a place to cook and set food down, a place to eat and socialize. Krasner recommends setting up five zones: hot, cold, wet (for washing and rinsing), dry (for food prep), and a spot for friends to hang out.

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Opt for Accessories

$60, Amazon

A pair of burners beside the grill helps you heat up side dishes or whip up sauces. An induction version gets hot fast and tucks away in a cabinet when you're done so you can maximize counterspace and switch up your kitchen layout.

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Design An "L" Shape

Outdoor kitchens (like most indoor ones) are as much about socializing as food prep, so you'll need to allow for both activities. L-shaped configurations are a common choice, with the chef at one end and the guests at the other.

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Plan Ahead For Weatherproof Items

For just about every indoor kitchen appliance, there's a weatherproof counterpart—and it's absolutely worth investing in them, even for relatively covered outdoor kitchens. Bear in mind, though, that you may need to pay to run additional gas, electric, and water lines outside before installing such items.

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Shine Some Light

$25, Williams Sonoma

Task lighting is critical for outdoor cooking; some grills have built-in fixtures, or you can get clip-on types like this one.

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Heat Up Your Kitchen With A Fire

A built-in stone hearth lends to the ambience and keeps guests comfortable on cool nights. For extra cooking power, look for versions with insertable roasting racks or that can double as pizza ovens.

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Kristofer Johnsson
Designate A Trash Area

Nature is unpredictable, and it's important to be prepared for everything from pollen on counters to spider webs in burners and wildlife visits, says Krasner. Beyond sponging down pre-cooking and scrupulous clean-ups post-meal, don't forget to designate an easy-to-reach spot in the outdoor kitchen for a trash can.

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Classy Not Trashy

$100, Crate & Barrel

If there isn't a handy nook for a trash can, mount one inside a cabinet door or opt for a non-traditional receptacle that won't distract from your design scheme, like an extra-large plant pot.

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Björn Wallander
Scope Out A Subtle Spot

The best spot for your outdoor kitchen may not be the most obvious, says Krasner. Consider choosing a location that's neglected: a side yard, for example. Areas that need a lot of attention frequently turn out to be the best location for privacy and give you an opportunity to add some atmosphere to an underutilized space.

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And the Kitchen Sink

Outdoor kitchens greatly benefit from a sink, which is good for washing up as well as for rinsing fruits and veggies before tossing them onto the grill.

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Make the Most of Your Storage

$30, Best Buy

Undermount storage, like this wine rack/stemware holder combo, attaches to the bottom of cabinets to make sure you're getting the most out of every square inch.

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Do a Trial Run

Use a portable grill, table, and chairs to create a temporary set-up that lets you see what it's like to cook and eat in your space, Krasner says. Mark your path to the site, noting how it feels to carry things there. Assess the site for its ease and enjoyment, and repeat until you find the best arrangement.

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Create a Scent-scape

$20 for four plants, Amazon

Surround your cooking space with something that will get mouths watering and look beautiful while doing it with live herbs. Rosemary is particularly easy to grow and goes perfectly with summery grilled meats, fish and veggies.

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Pick The Right Material

Cabinetry, countertops, and floors should be weatherproof and coordinate with their surroundings. Stainless steel storage resists rust — , it's likely to match the appliances. Stone countertop options, such as granite, wear well and play up the natural setting.

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Easy Clean

$25 per sq ft, AllModern

Stone, brick, and concrete are good choices for flooring because they can be washed down quickly and stand up to the weather. Concrete tiles, like these, are hearty without skipping on beauty.

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Mariela Rivas
Knock on Wood

Decking in tropical hardwoods, like mahogany, won't rot and offers a warmer look than stone or tile if you're looking to add a rustic touch.

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Stay Sturdy

$27 for 12 ft, Lowe's

The evolving category of composites, which is made up of wood fiber and recycled plastic, stand up to wear and tear and can complement many architectural styles.

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Light The Entire Space

Think beyond the perimeters of the kitchen: An up-light in a tree extends the entertaining area, but keep the wattage low so as not to detract from the night sky.

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Lighten Up

$13, Home Depot

Low-voltage halogen up-lights in nearby foliage and beneath boulders can tastefully supplement an outdoor kitchen's atmosphere.

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Check On Insurance

Krasner recommends checking with your insurer to see if your kitchen will be covered. Typically, if it's connected to the back or side of a house on a deck or patio, you're more likely to be covered than if the kitchen is off a deck (even it it's only five feet away from the house).

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Incorporate Lanterns For Ambiance

$48, Terrain

Lanterns and torches evoke atmosphere after the sun sets. If you don't feel like dealing with real candles, filling them with battery powered faux-candles or fairy lights are mess- and flame-free options.

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Keep The Table Covered

Incorporating both sunny and shady areas is handy for when the temperature swings. Be sure to shelter the dining area completely (umbrellas and retractable awnings are two possibilities).

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Made in the Shade

$146, Amazon

To keep dining shady, place multiple umbrellas that can shift with the sun, or choose a super-sized version like this double-sided one.

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William Waldron
Get Natural

For a rustic look, a vine-covered pergola will emit dappled light, and its openings can be fitted with plastic sheets to block the rain.

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