10 outdoor kitchen ideas – and how to plan your garden set up | Real Homes

10 outdoor kitchen ideas – and how to plan your garden set up

These outdoor kitchen ideas will have you dining under the stars all summer long. Complete with expert advice on planning an outdoor kitchen – make this a summer to remember!

Outdoor kitchen
(Image credit: Ikea)

Outdoor kitchens are all the rage, now more than ever. Because, having a cooking station outdoors means that al fresco dining needs little preparation, and this will be mighty useful this summer when many of us will be setting up for a staycation or two. So, if you love cooking, eating and above all, entertaining outside, planning an outdoor kitchen for your own garden, courtyard, patio or even balcony is a must.

We've put together our favourite outdoor kitchen ideas this season, as well as everything you need to know about adding an outside kitchen to your garden. Ensure that you make the most of your outdoor space this summer with our advice, and for more garden ideas be sure to check out our feature.

  • When you want more indoor kitchen ideas and inspiration you can take a look at our feature.

Outdoor kitchen ideas

Try these outdoor kitchens out, there's inspiration for gardens of all shapes and sizes, and for all budgets too...

1. Go for a simple outdoor kitchen design

outdoor kitchen set up with wooden floor and steel top surfaces by garden house design


(Image credit: Garden House Design)

While this is an elegant and spacious outdoor kitchen set up, it's also really clean-cut and simple in design. Well thought out under counter storage space means that everything you need – wood, utensils, etc. – is well within reach, and a fuss-free extended counter space means that you'll never be fighting for a space to prep food, drinks and more.

If your outdoor kitchen is part of a new garden design then we can help with that too.

2. Keep the dining table close by your outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen dining set from john lewis with barbecue


(Image credit: John Lewis)

This pine outdoor dining set isn't far from the outdoor kitchen prep station, or the BBQ itself to make for seamless service when entertaining the family. Be sure to think carefully about the positioning of the BBQ if it's a breezy day to avoid unhappy diners!

For the best garden furniture we have a buying guide ready to help you out too.

3. Make your outdoor kitchen fittings match its surroundings

wooden, decked outdoor kitchen and dining area by ikea


(Image credit: Ikea)

For your outdoor cooking space to blend seamlessly into your surroundings, it's a great idea to match the materials and finish of caddy cupboard doors and any additional compartments of your kitchen area, to the surrounding decor on your patio. Plus, wooden tones will always look beautiful in an outdoor space, bringing it back to nature.

4. Keep entertainment in mind

Ikea garden furniture and tropical accessories


(Image credit: Ikea)

A seating area close by, means that cooking al fresco can be done, while you'll still feel part of the party. Bring a touch of the tropics (perfect for summer) to your space with bright, pastel accessories , while festoon lighting and elaborate potted plants will help elevate your outdoor kitchen space as a whole. All you need now is a piña colada...

5. Get creative with outdoor kitchen storage

outdoor kitchen idea featuring 6 Burner Gas BBQ


(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Using your surroundings to their full potential will mean that you'll unveil easy and likely decorative storage options, that will help keep your outdoor kitchen space tidy. The addition of a simple shelf to line the outside of a nearby garden shed, means that small but necessary items like salt and pepper mills, cutlery and herbs can be on display and ready for use when needed, without cluttering the outdoor cooking or dining space.

For garden storage ideas we have a few tricks (that aren't all sheds).

6. Make a feature of the outdoor sink

an outdoor kitchen sink

(Image credit: Little Greene)

You will be so thankful to have an sink as part of your outdoor kitchen setup. And, why not make it more of a feature? Tiling can help define the area and is another element of an indoor kitchen which works so well outdoors. Go plain or for a pattern like this one which looks so good against the Little Greene lime wash garden wall, and with a water station this good, you'll be (happily) cleaning dishes until the sun comes up.

7. Create shelter for your outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen with concrete floor and monochrome kitchen units by hub kitchens


(Image credit: Hub Kitchens)

Including walls around and a roof over your outdoor kitchen design will create a more formal and refined finish, that will also protect you against the elements. A complex design like this will cost more than other outdoor kitchens might, but if you plan on spending a lot of valuable time in this space then it's worth the investment. And of course, you can create a cheaper structure than this with the help of a good carpenter.

8. Don't forget the outdoor kitchen mini bar

granite covered outdoor kitchen

As part of a garden makeover for an Essex home, Cube 1994 created a bespoke granite covered kitchen incorporating a Monolith kamado grill – available to buy online –, outdoor fridge and double barbecue, with shelving for logs and cooking utensils. Large sofas face a Rivelin gas fire table

(Image credit: Gap Photos)

A vital component of all outdoor kitchens in our eyes, after all, would summer be summer without chilled drinks all round? This is why we highly recommend including a mini fridge in your design. It's a little bit more fancy, but the perfect way to bring the bar home.

9. Put your outdoor kitchen on wheels

Outdoor kitchen idea: Ikea KLASEN Charcoal barbecue with trolley


(Image credit: Ikea)

When style meets functionality it's a clear win, especially in an outdoor kitchen. Sticking to cooking decks and outside storage that has wheels is a great way to keep your setup as versatile as you need it to be. Particularly useful if you're short on space, but also the perfect outdoor kitchen solution for renters who won't want to lose their perfected set up, the day they come to move. We love the nifty Ikea Klassen BBQ trolley, it makes a stylish and useful addition to every outdoor kitchen design.

10. Keep it green with a herb garden

outdoor kitchen idea with herb garden, Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

Having a herb garden within reach of your outdoor kitchen is a brilliant idea to achieve culinary success. How better will you marinade and cook delicious food, or adorn a G&T? Mix pots of mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender and the likes with wild grasses for even more texture, and we love the idea of actually lining the wall with your herbs in the form of a mini vertical garden as it makes the perfect space saver too. 

How do you design an outdoor kitchen?

There is lots to consider when designing and building an outdoor kitchen, and this will change depending on the size and structure of your outdoor space. 

First point to note is that an outdoor kitchen will require a level, smooth and strong base. As spills are a possibility, avoid porous paving and opt for a version that can be easily washed down. So when choosing where to put your outdoor kitchen, make sure the floor surface won’t be perilously slippery when it’s wet, too. Steer clear of decking, which leaves space for food to fall between the boards.

Then it's simply a case of deciding what kind of outdoor kitchen you'd like. Think about whether you want to include walls in the outdoor kitchen design or not. Walls will mean you can position storage and shelving easily in addition to your chosen cooking equipment and they may also be helpful in providing shelter from the wind. Going without makes for a real al fresco experience, and there are plenty of clever ways to still include good storage too.

Other design considerations include whether you want a roof on an outdoor kitchen for maximum utility, or overhead features such as beams or a canopy to provide shade.

To create a permanent outdoor kitchen, the first thing to consider is how you'll want to cook. These are your options:

Outdoor kitchen BBQ

Think about building in a barbecue, remembering that you’ll need to locate it at a safe distance from a shed or fences for safety. Bear in mind the way the wind tends to blow, too, to avoid creating a nuisance with smoke – think about the neighbours as well as your own comfort. For our pick of the best BBQs take a look at our guide.

Outdoor oven

You might also think about an outdoor oven, which is suitable for cooking pizza, baking bread or roasting meat. They can be fuelled with wood, or use options such as charcoal or gas. Check out our pick of the best pizza ovens in our buying guide.

Smoker

A smoker will allow you to cook food slowly and these are good for dishes such as pulled pork.

Kamado grill

For the latest in outdoor cooking options, how about a kamado? Looking like a giant egg, one of these makes an interesting feature and it can be used for grilling, smoking, roasting, or to make pizza or undertake other baking.

Other possibilities

Think also about including burners that’ll let you boil and heat, and/or a teppanyaki.

And if you like the idea of extending evenings in the garden and the months during which you can enjoy your outdoor space, it could be worth investing in an outdoor fireplace or chimenea.

What do you need in an outdoor kitchen?

This largely depends on what kind of outdoor kitchen you want, and on how much of your indoor kitchen you want to replicate in the garden. Do you like the idea of building in storage outside with suitable cabinetry? This could avoid the need to go back to the house for the equipment that’s required. Don’t go over the top, though. You won’t need nearly as much storage space outside as you do in your kitchen.

Outdoor kitchen cabinets and surfaces

Fitting outdoor cabinetry also creates the opportunity to provide adequate worktop space above it for the preparation of meals. Work surfaces need to be weatherproof, so you may want to opt for suitable stone or micro-cement, for example.

Outdoor fridges

Think, too, about whether you’d like the luxury of outside refrigeration to keep both ingredients and drinks cool. You will need to invest in a cooling model that’s designed to go outdoors, of course – designs made for indoors won’t be suitable.

Keeping food warm can also be an issue, so decide whether you’d prefer to include warming drawers in your design.

Sinks and water

A fully equipped outdoor kitchen would also include a sink and tap, providing water for washing ingredients as needed as well as for boiling.

Heating

Outdoor heating may also be useful to make the kitchen and dining area comfortable when the weather isn’t doing its best.

Lighting

Adequate (and gorgeous) garden lighting is a must with an outdoor kitchen should you want to use it after sunset. Be sure to keep cooking areas well lit, while dining and seating areas can benefit from more atmospheric lighting. 

Planning your outdoor kitchen design and layout

Weigh up different layouts early in the design process. An outdoor kitchen could be linear or L-shaped, for instance, to suit working preferences and the space available. An L-shape can create a useful partition to keep the cooking area apart for safety and convenience, as could a layout that includes an island.

If you’re running electricity and water to an outdoor kitchen, this may affect where you can position it, and this could be a factor to consider when allocating the budget. Remember to plan services in from the beginning so that they work with paving and partitions in your patio area.

Think about how the dining area will relate to the cooking space. It’s best to avoid a long walk to take food to the table. Consider, too, the orientation of preparation and barbecue areas – do you want to be able to talk to seated guests while you’re working, or will you have your back to them? 

Consider planting areas for both herbs and vegetables in the design so you can take advantage of fresh ingredients in your recipes.

Find out more about how to create a kitchen garden

Is planning permission needed for an outdoor kitchen?

Generally, a permit or planning permission isn’t a necessity for an outdoor kitchen's construction, but you might need to bear in mind the rules on placing a structure near a boundary, and its height. If you live in a conservation area or a listed home, there may be other restrictions. And if any electrical or plumbing work is required to install a tap for example, then you may need a permit. Contact your local planning department for guidance.

Kitchens with walls and roof may need to adhere to the building regulations and don’t forget that competent professionals will need to undertake the installation of services to it, including the connection to gas if that’s how your barbecue is fuelled.

Where can you buy an outdoor kitchen?

If you want to do the work yourself you can shop for units in DIY stores. Make sure you site a barbecue in a fireproof compartment within your set up.

Alternatively, specialist manufacturers sell outdoor kitchens with everything you need from storage to cooking options, including as complete sets.

Some companies offer all the elements you might want, and will also plan and fit your outdoor room. Alternatively, employ a garden designer or landscape architect to work on a version that complements your home’s architecture and the rest of the hard and soft landscaping of your plot.

Inspired by the idea of an outdoor kitchen?