3 Grand Rules of an Outdoor Kitchen Layout (Ideas & Photos)

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outdoor kitchen layout rules

Designing an outdoor kitchen layout that will fit all your needs and be extremely convenient may be an overwhelming task. Most of the outdoor kitchen remodels are a result of a poor designing process. Thankfully several rules are a huge pain reliever.

What are the rules that help in planning an outdoor kitchen layout? To plan an outdoor kitchen layout well, it is crucial to follow steps as below in order:

  1. Choose the location, shape, and size of an outdoor kitchen.
  2. Figure the number of appliances and their size.
  3. Place appliances according to outdoor kitchen zones.

It sounds like a big job to be done? Well, it is. There are rules, though, that makes the whole process more manageable. I’m going to start with choosing the shape, size, and location of an outdoor kitchen. If you’re looking for outdoor kitchen layout rules, go to the end of the post.

Choose the placement, shape, and size of an outdoor kitchen

The first step of the process is making a decision about outdoor kitchen placement, shape, and size.

Outdoor kitchen placement

Outdoor kitchen layout rules: placement
Outdoor kitchen layout rules: placement

There are two ways to place an outdoor kitchen: close to the house or in some distance. Perimeter outdoor kitchens tend to have lower budgets, faster construction, and on average, require fewer permits. Satellite outdoor kitchens are separate zones, which work great on big properties.

Before putting an addition to the backyard, the smart move is to look into it. The most wanted area for outdoor kitchen location is on the average patio. It is close to the house, so guests and hosts can easily reach the toilet or kitchen. Such an outdoor kitchen can transform the patio into an outdoor living area and create the much wanted indoor-outdoor experience.

Sometimes though, a patio is not a proper space for an outdoor kitchen; it can be too small or formal space. A movable outdoor kitchen often solves the first case, stored in the garage while unused. The other solution is creating an outdoor kitchen space at some distance from the house.

There are advantages of satellite outdoor kitchens. First of all, smells and noise are not going to interfere with people inside the house. A fire hazard is less disturbing afar from the house. A new spot can be constructed up to your needs and include as much space as you need. It is also a wise move if you have a grand look from some part of your backyard, and it is not a patio.

Let’s look a bit closer at the advantages of a close and more distant location.

Close placementDistant placement
Time of construction****
Sizesmall/ medium/ bigmedium/ big
Table with differences between

The main difference between the two locations is cost. Distant outdoor kitchens are more expensive because they are separate zones and need building a deck, lines, lighting, pathways, and more. On the contrary outdoor kitchen located close to the house most often require a line connection and few additional light fixtures. And that is not it.

As distant outdoor kitchens are placed afar from an indoor kitchen, they need every single appliance, so savings are not an option. If you decide on covering, it is going to take extra from your budget too. If your area of choice is a patio, some appliances, like the refrigerator or sink, can be removed from the design.

As distant outdoor kitchens require more work, it also lasts longer to construct one. A simple outdoor kitchen construction on a patio may take a week. A grand addition in the distance may take up to a few months.

Permits are needed when one wants to work with lines or place the construction close to the lot’s border. On the patio, lines are very often in place, waiting for a connection. This is not a case for more distant locations.

What differs close and distant outdoor kitchens is also size. On the patio people put small, medium, and big outdoor kitchens. Satellite outdoor kitchens are usually big, or at least medium.

Outdoor kitchen shape

Outdoor kitchen layout rules: shape
Outdoor kitchen layout rules: shape

Outdoor kitchens come in various shapes, the most common of which are: an L-shape, an island, a galley, and a U-shape. Factors that influence the shape are the size of an outdoor kitchen, the backyard style, and an outdoor kitchen placement.

Outdoor kitchen shapeSmallMedium & Big
A galley
An island
L-shaped with an island

As you can see in the table above, the shape depends on the size. The best shapes for small outdoor kitchens are L-shaped, and an island, whilst medium and big outdoor kitchens can have basically any shape, including L-shape, G-shape, U-shape, a galley, an island, or combinations.

Size is not the only factor affecting shape. Style is important here too. Modern outdoor kitchens are currently a hit. It is important to work with simple lines to get a modern look, so a galley or an island will add to the concept. For traditional outdoor kitchens G-shape, U-shape, or L-shape are going to work well.

Some of the shapes shown in the table are closing the space, like G-shape or U-shape, and some leave it open, like an island or L-shaped. It’s worth knowing. Open spaces look bigger, so if you want to enlarge your patio, it’s a good idea to choose a shape that will work to the advantage. If your area is grand closing, some space is not an issue.

Single counter outdoor kitchens (so stand-alone and L-shaped) usually are 10′, 16′ or 20′ long and 30″ wide. Double counter outdoor kitchens have the same counter length but are differently situated. So for a U-shaped kitchen, it can be 3,5′ x 3,5′, and more. Separate cook space and serving stations should be at least 3,6′ away, so the minimal space would be 5′ x 4,5′.

The last but often the most important factor is the area setting. Gas/ water/ electricity connection are factors in choosing a perfect shape. Sometimes the connection cannot be made at the desired spot, so all plans have to be changed.

Outdoor kitchen layout advice

It’s worth remembering that the best location for your outdoor kitchen is always going to be in the West, so you can view sunsets while dining.

Outdoor kitchen size

An outdoor kitchen can be created in 3 sizes: small, medium, and large. A small outdoor kitchen (10′) fits a grill, a cooktop, a sink, and storage. A medium outdoor kitchen (16′) fits all above and a refrigerator. A large outdoor kitchen (20’+) fits even more appliances and multiple cooks.

SizeCounter lengthAppliances
Small10′grill, cooktop, sink, storage
Medium16′grill, cooktop, sink, storage, refrigerator
Large20’+grill, cooktop, sink, storage, refrigerator +
A table with outdoor kitchen sizes and appliances

There is a knowledge that can come from the table above. You may ask why so much space is needed for so few appliances. The answer is landing spaces. Each appliance needs free space on the sides for your convenience. You can check the exact numbers in my Complete Outdoor Kitchen Dimensions Guide.

The lack of landing spaces (either none or not big enough) is the main reason for an outdoor kitchen remodel, so it is important to work it well. Another piece of knowledge comes from the table above – you know what size you need to fit the appliances you desire.

Place appliances according to outdoor kitchen zones

Outdoor kitchen layout: 5 zone rules
Outdoor kitchen layout: 5 zone rules

Planning an outdoor kitchen layout well is not possible without knowing the 5 design rules, which are:

  1. Start from the hot zone
  2. The dry zone needs a countertop and a storage
  3. The wet zone has to have access to the water
  4. Cold zone and hot zone distance
  5. Put a serving zone at a perfect distance

It all sounds unclear now? Fortunately, it is easy as pie. There are 5 outdoor kitchen zones: hot, cold, wet, dry, and serving. The rules above show how to put appliances at a perfect distance from each other to bring convenience to the highest possible level (and safety too).

Start from the hot zone

Outdoor kitchen layout hot zone
Outdoor kitchen layout hot zone

The hot zone is the essence of an outdoor kitchen. If there were only one zone in an outdoor kitchen, it would be this one.

What to consider for this area? Grill, burners, smoker, pizza oven, and whatever appliance using heat you need to prepare your specials. It’s worth knowing that making changes in the future in this area might be pricey, so buying a grill for a little more experienced chef might be an actually good idea.

Outdoor kitchen layout advice

Do not plan your grill at the very end of the countertop. There needs to be at least 12″ countertop length left to the end.

It is crucial to take care of safety. Did you know that 49% of home fires are caused by cooking? Read your grills’ instructions carefully, as it may require a range hood installation. It may look like a waste of money outside, but it is really not, especially if your outdoor kitchen is located next to the house.

The dry zone needs a countertop and a storage

Outdoor kitchen layout: dry zone
Outdoor kitchen layout: dry zone

This zone is a second important zone of an outdoor kitchen. A hot zone combined with a dry zone (without any other!) makes a small outdoor kitchen. So how to plan a dry zone? First of all – close to a hot one. It also helps a lot to have a wet zone next to the dry one.

A dry zone can be fully accessorized. If you have the money, you can exchange it for a long countertop, warming drawer, marinating drawers, storage drawer, towel dispenser, pans & pots cabinets, and even more.

Outdoor kitchen layout advice

If you cannot fit enough countertop space in the dry zone, consider adding a 36″ table to your outdoor kitchen.

The wet zone has to have access to the water

Outdoor kitchen layout: wet zone
Outdoor kitchen layout: wet zone

Wet zones location often determines where an outdoor kitchen is going to be placed. Access to water makes cooking outside easier. Connecting the outdoor kitchen to hot water makes another big difference, as it allows washing dishes outside (aka less outdoor-indoor traveling experience).

Usually, a wet zone is equipped with a sink, trashcan (trash drawer), and a cabinet for cleaning supplies.

Outdoor kitchen layout advice

The sink shouldn’t be placed on the rear end of the countertop. It needs at least 18″ countertop length on both sides.

Cold zone and hot zone distance

Outdoor kitchen layout: distance between hot zone and cold zone

The cold zone is the one with a refrigerator, ice maker, or freezer. It is important to put it afar from the hot zone, as the appliances in one and the other have different goals. To have a great flow, a cold zone is the one you start cooking from then; you can wash it in the wet zone. From the wet zone, food travels to the dry zone, and after that, it reaches the grill.

Put a serving zone at a perfect distance

Outdoor kitchen layout: serving zone
Outdoor kitchen layout: serving zone

The serving zone is an area where you can entertain your family and friends. It can be an alfresco dining set, or a bar counter at your kitchen, or a combination of both. It’s worth knowing that the serving countertop can have multiple hights. I prepared a post with outdoor kitchen dimensions here.

What this zone has to have are some counter and chairs. You can also get a bartending center, kegerator, storage for plates, and cutlery.

It’s worth putting in a perfect spot – not too far from other zones, but also not too close to them. It would be great if the chef could speak with guests while cooking, but also far enough, so the cooking sounds are not annoying, and no splashes can reach.

Outdoor kitchen layout advice

It is a common practice to set a hot zone where a cook can entertain guests while grilling.

I hope these rules are going to make the designing process easier on you. Would you mind sharing in comments section advice that you find most helpful?


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