14 Types of Outdoor Kitchens
Adding an outdoor kitchen to your patio significantly expands its function and allows you to get more enjoyment from your outdoor living areas. It allows you to cook full meals in your backyard and to grill favorites for family gatherings.
The best outdoor kitchens are thoughtfully designed and customized to fit the needs of the homeowner. This might mean keeping it simple with a grill and a smoker, or it might mean a luxury kitchen with an ice maker, wine refrigerator, and warming drawers.
The design stage is your opportunity to consider all of the possible features in order to determine which are must-haves and which you would include only if you have some extra space. This is your chance to design the kitchen of your dreams and to set it up for convenient cooking, as well as maximizing your entertaining space.
Because the design phase is so important, it is essential that you research types of outdoor kitchens and the many possibilities for configurations, styles, and features to include. To get you started, here are some of the most popular configurations to consider, as well as some different syles of outdoor kitchens and popular features.
1. Barbecue Grill Island
Perhaps the simplest of all outdoor kitchens is the barbecue grill island. This can be a stand-alone feature with a small footprint or it can be a larger component with counter space for food prep and room for an under-counter refrigerator.
A built-in grill can be placed on the perimeter of your outdoor living area to keep it close to the action but out of the way.
2. Basic Patio Kitchen
A basic patio kitchen usually features a grill, a sink, and an under-counter refrigerator. These are the three most common components in the best outdoor kitchens and usually where most folks start with their kitchen design. Ideally, this kitchen will be under the roof of your patio for protection from the elements and close to your indoor kitchen so that you can easily access any utensils or appliances you might need.
3. U-Shape Kitchens
Choosing a u-shape configuration for your kitchen is often the best way to maximize the space while not cutting the kitchen off from the rest of your outdoor living area. This will allow for more counter space, as well as more space for features, such as both a grill and a griddle, a wine refrigerator and a dishwasher, or a pizza oven and warming drawer.
Design your kitchen so that the U shape defines the space and takes advantage of the perimeter of your outdoor entertaining area but is situated so that the open end is towards the rest of the patio to ensure that the kitchen is not cut off from where your guests or family will gather.
4. Island Kitchens
If your patio has enough space to add an island to your kitchen, this is a great way to increase counter space and seating options. Making one side of the island a bar allows your guests to hang out or eat at the island while you are cooking. The other side can be used for food prep or food service. An island is also a good option if you do not have space for a separate dining table, since this can provide a spot for your family to enjoy the meals you cook on the grill. It is also a great spot for your kids to do homework outside or for a family craft night.
Whether or not you make one side of the island a bar, you can also use the island for food and drink service during social gatherings.
5. Eat-In Patio Kitchen
This kitchen’s beautiful design and outdoor fireplace make it a spot where you and your family are going to want to spend a lot of time. The table in the center is the perfect place to work from home, do homework, have family game nights or craft nights, or just hang out and enjoy a meal from the grill. An eat-in kitchen is a good use of space and allows you to stay close to the action while prepping meals. It also creates a cozy atmosphere for you, your family, and your guests to enjoy.
6. Curved Bar
A curved bar works for a u-shaped kitchen, an island, or just a basic kitchen that is not against a wall. In some cases, a curved bar may better fit the available space. In almost all cases, it increases the visual interest of your kitchen and provides a great spot for friends to relax on barstools while you grill.
7. Backyard Bar Kitchen
Most people think of built-in grills, griddles, or cooktops when they think of patio kitchens, but if you are more of a party host than a cook, this might not be the right kind of kitchen for you. If you entertain often and that entertaining usually involves beverages, a backyard bar kitchen is probably more your style. You might still include a small grill just in case you do feel like grilling, but focus more on ample bar space for barstools, a sink, and a refrigerator. To customize this space even more, consider a built-in blender, kegerator, wine refrigerator, and ice maker to take your patio bar to the next level.
8. Backyard Sports Bar Kitchen
Take the above-mentioned backyard bar and add a television and some personalized décor to take it from a basic patio bar to a sports bar where your friends will clamor for invitations to watch the big game at your house.
9. Swim-Up Bar Kitchen
This sunken kitchen provides everything you need in an outdoor kitchen along with a double-sided bar for you and your guests to enjoy. On the dry side of the bar, you can catch up on work while watching your kids in the pool, or your kids can do homework outside while you cook dinner on the grill. On the wet side, guests who are taking a dip in the pool can sidle up to the bar for a drink or to chat with guests on the other side.
A swim-up bar is a unique feature that takes your patio kitchen to the next level and is sure to impress your guests.
10. Stand-Alone Kitchen
Most folks do not want to get too far away from the action while they are grilling, which is one reason why patio kitchens are often incorporated into the main outdoor living area. Another reason for this is that many homeowners are working with limited space, and designing the kitchen as part of the main patio area allows them to best utilize the space they have.
However, if you have the space, you might consider installing a separate, covered patio just for your kitchen. Serious grillers may prefer the ability to focus on their task or to not worry about kids getting too close to the grill while they are cooking. A stand-alone kitchen also allows some guests to congregate around the grill while others gather on a nearby patio for separate conversations. This is also a good way to keep the heat of the grill away from your guests on hot days.
11. Tuscan Kitchen
Belgard pavers give this kitchen an old-world Mediterranean appeal, while the wood-burning oven allows you to enjoy your own backyard pizzeria. The firewood storage adds to the rustic look and, along with the pavers and overall design, it balances traditional Italian charm with modern conveniences, such as the kegerator and propane grill.
You may not be able to escape to Italy quite as often as you would like, but you can create your own Tuscan retreat right in your backyard with this Tuscan-style outdoor kitchen.
12. Contemporary Kitchen
It is more common to see patio kitchens with a rustic or traditional look, but it is easy to achieve a contemporary look if that better fits with your home’s architecture or your entertaining style. The kitchen shown here gets its contemporary look from using the same tile on the floor and the kitchen structure, complemented by the matching gray countertop, the metal patio cover, and the sleek look of stainless steel appliances and fixtures.
13. Convertible Kitchen
What if your outdoor kitchen could transform into an indoor kitchen if the wind is blowing or it is a bit too cold outside? You can enjoy your kitchen regardless of the weather if you design it with retractable doors. One option is to install disappearing walls that allow you to enjoy the views both when they are open and when they are closed. Another option is to install garage-style doors similar to the ones in the above photo. Either way, you can retract them for an open-air kitchen that flows into the rest of your outdoor living area or close them to create a cozier, more intimate setting for entertaining or to protect guests from inclement weather.
14. Fire Feature-Focused Kitchen
Adding a patio fireplace or fire pit to your kitchen creates a cozy space for cooking and entertaining. Fire features are always good for ambiance but when they are included in outdoor kitchen design, they can also be set up for cooking. For example, either a fireplace or fire pit provides opportunities for roasting hotdogs or marshmallows for s’mores. You can expand these options by choosing a fire pit design that allows you to add a grate to grill meats and vegetables right on the fire pit.
Outdoor Kitchen Features to Consider
The best outdoor kitchens are both attractive and functional. This includes customizing your kitchen with features that fit your lifestyle and entertaining style.
Here are some of the most popular features for you to consider:
- Pizza oven
- Wine refrigerator
- Ice maker
- Built-in blender
- Fire pit
- Warming drawers
- Garbage disposal
In need of some more ideas? Check out our outdoor kitchen projects for more inspiration.