Outdoor kitchens are taking over social media—spurring plenty of outdoor kitchen ideas so you can create the look at home.
New research from a study by Atlas Ceramics has crowned outdoor kitchens the most in-demand kitchen trend of 2022, with over 2 million annual Google searches, 71 million views on TikTok, and more than 475,000 Instagram hashtags.
Outdoor kitchens are also on the top of the American Institute of Architects’ project trends list.
From outdoor enhancements like weather-resistant outdoor TVs and Wi-Fi-enabled smokers to having your basic grill and eating around it too, kitchens can run the gamut in price and extravagance.
To get the lowdown on the best outdoor kitchen ideas, we went straight to home design experts.
“Your setup doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, as long as it provides easy cooking, fresh air and fun. From large stone pizza ovens to Solo stoves, outdoor cooking spaces need only provide a place to enjoy the combination of cooking and nature,” says Annie Elliott, product/design manager of New Again Houses, a company that transforms old houses into modern homes.
Here are eight outdoor kitchen ideas to keep in mind.
1. Plan for enough prep space
Even if it’s simply for s’mores or hotdogs, outdoor kitchens need a sturdy prep space and plenty of air flow, according to Elliott.
“Having a clean space to set down items and food is essential to making your space not feel chaotic or like rough camping,” she says. “Fresh air helps your cook stay cool and the space feels like the outdoors rather than your dining room.”
Try a portable storage cabinet, like this one from Keter, for keeping all your utensils and supplies clean and organized.
2. Select the right outdoor appliances
While you don’t need any actual appliances to enjoy your DIY kitchen, adding some (think an ice maker, blender, mini fridge, or pizza oven) will make the experience far more enjoyable.
If your appliances are to be permanent within your kitchen space, such as a dishwasher or wine refrigerator, be sure to choose those rated for outdoor use like this outdoor mini fridge or an outdoor pizza oven.
When inclement weather takes hold or when you just want a clean surface area, store away smaller plug-ins in a nearby shed or your garage to protect it from the elements and make them within reach to pull out for party time.
3. Make sure you’ve got power to plug in
While outfitting your kitchen with its own electrical source would be, that can become a pricy endeavor based on your outdoor kitchen’s layout and location from the home. Enter the portable solar power station, like this one from Yeti.
Easily brought from place to place, these panels can chase the sun during the day and give you an excellent way to power appliances big and small, based on the size of the charge.
4. Add plenty of seating options
Good seating like outdoor patio furniture is one way to make sure both chef and guests relax and enjoy the kitchen space.
“We all know that crowds tend to gather around indoor kitchens, and the same can be true if you’re cooking outside. Add seating to draw the crowd outside,” says Audrey Scheck, founder of Audrey Scheck Design in Austin, Texas.
If the area allows, have a place for people to lounge or dine near the outdoor kitchen, like this set of two outdoor wicker bar stools by Christopher Knight.
“Outdoor dining tends to be more casual, and we often find that lounge furniture can double as a dining area on a patio,” she continues. “Keep it simple and focus on making the space comfortable for anyone to enjoy regardless of whether or not they’re eating.”
For optimal durability, choose metal or teak furniture which offer the most all-weather capabilities.
Or for an intimate and casual open kitchen vibe, place outdoor counter stools along your cooking space to keep the chef in the spotlight of conversation.
5. Don’t forget about an outdoor kitchen sink
If you’re able to run plumbing to your outdoor kitchen, Scheck definitely recommends including a sink, like this one from Ruvati.
“Having a sink nearby always comes in handy when cooking outdoors during the summer months, and it will be just as useful during the winter when you need a place to clean snow and rain gear,” she adds.
6. Use outdoor lighting to create focal points
While the sun dips below the horizon, avoid keeping your cook in the dark with great outdoor lighting to spruce up your landscaping.
According to Caroline Danielson, director of showrooms, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery, when it comes to outdoor kitchen lighting, Dark Sky is the perfect choice. This light rating reduces glare and visual discomfort by using warmer lights, allowing guests to gather and converse while enjoying watching a meal being cooked al fresco.
Homeowners can also draw attention to their favorite outdoor appliance by creatively illuminating it with a Dark Sky-rated light like this one from Lowe’s. Dark Sky lighting reduces light pollution by using bulbs that point downward, creating visual interest.
“The homeowner who loves grilling can make the grill the focal point of the outdoor kitchen,” says Danielson. “Or for those who love a bit of flair, they can highlight their electric pizza oven.”
For a little extra special touch around dark corners, turn to the ever-useful twinkles or outdoor smart string lights like these from Hampton Bay.
“You can’t go wrong with still string lights,” adds Elliott. “They easily create a magical outdoor oasis that’s both relaxed and classy. They provide enough soft light to cool as well as relax.”
7. Stay cool with an outdoor fan
Being outside doesn’t guarantee a constant cool breeze, as much as it’s welcome while cooking during hot and humid days.
Scheck suggests installing a fan to keep the air flowing. Not only do they keep guests and the chef comfortable in the heat, they also tend to keep insects away, like this option from iLiving.
“When purchasing outdoor fans for patio ceilings, make sure you order a down rod length that’s long enough to position the fan at least 96 inches above the floor,” she explains. “We also like to order fans with the largest possible blade diameter. To do this, give yourself at least 24 inches from the blade tip to the nearest wall on all sides.”
If you don’t have space for a ceiling fan, consider a wall-mounted or freestanding fan that can sit on the countertop.
To add an extra element, choose a ceiling fan without a lighting fixture, then install a few thoughtfully placed Dark Sky-rated lights to illuminate the cooking area.
A dimmer is also a nice touch adjusting the amount of light in your outdoor kitchen when you finish cooking for that extra ambiance.
8. Go for a simple layout
When it comes to your outdoor kitchen, don’t overthink it. Often the simplest and most instinctive layout makes the most sense. A design-your-own set like this outdoor kitchen collection from West Elm is a great way to build out a custom space.
“Making sure the chef isn’t isolated from their relaxing guests and that there’s plenty of seating with good lighting should be the focus and the rest will all fall into place,” says Elliott.
Lauren Lerner, founder and principal designer of Arizona-based Living with Lolo, agrees that outdoor kitchen layouts don’t need to be elaborate to be functional, noting that “one kitchen does not fit all.”
“It [can be] a great space to cook and to entertain and provide a space similar to an island in a kitchen where guests can gather around,” she said. Lerner recommends starting with a simple plan to determine the best way to design your outdoor kitchen.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.