There are multiple simple outdoor kitchen ideas that can be used in any household. They can cut costs, but also speed-up construction and add a lot of style. Check our selection and figure which advice works best for you.
What are the simple outdoor kitchen ideas? Simple outdoor kitchen ideas are tips&tricks on creating a new outdoor kitchen or upgrading an existing one, like:
- An outdoor kitchen has to contain two zones: hot and dry.
- The best fixture for most outdoor kitchen & dining areas is… a fan with a light source.
- Usually. the best shapes for an outdoor kitchen in small space are L-shaped and an island.
More tips are listed below.
These are just 5 from 14 tips I prepared for you in this blog post. Each of them is from one of these categories: lighting, using small space, appliances, cold climate, sink, and roof.
Simple outdoor kitchen ideas: lighting
Light can do magic with outdoor space. It can enhance it, enlarge it, make it whimsical. The same time light makes an outdoor kitchen safe, convenient, and useful. To create a much-wanted indoor-outdoor experience this space needs multiple lighting types.
Ambient lights’ goal is to brighten up space. There are multiple fixtures that can be used – from recessed lights to chandeliers. And while we are at it: chandeliers can actually add a lot of style to the area, especially when the space is limited. An over-the-scale fixture can help to full the eye to think that space is bigger than it is.
While chandeliers are a great choice for people who are looking for a lot of styles, there is a fixture that not only provides an ambient light but also gives a breeze and keeps insects away.
You can amplify the cooling effect of a fan by installing one that spreads mist. Fans are, on average, more expensive than light fixtures, but they bring a function. In my opinion, the additional function is worth spending a bit more.
Even though ambient light is important it is crucial to the dining area, task lights are what makes cooking safe. If you’re planning on cooking after dawn this is a must, as you do not want to serve uncooked meat or food with insects (like ants).
Task lights come with a variety of styles. From wall lights to led grill lighting. Choice has to be made up to your budget, but it’s important not to omit this one. If there is no space for something you like, go for an on-grill led solution for few bucks.
And while we’re at it accent lights are used to stress an important point, like architectural detail. On the picture above wall lights do both, accentuate the wall and give task light.
If you want to get to know more about lighting I wrote an entire post on it – from style to specific fixtures. It is available here.
Simple outdoor kitchen ideas: small spaces
Limited space is not a huge issue if you’re not looking for an over-the-top solution. A simple outdoor kitchen can fit even a small space, like a patio corner. Size limits the number of appliances and functions. An outdoor kitchen can include up to 5 zones: hot, cold, wet, dry, and serve.
What are other zones? Cold is where the fridge is placed and should be located afar the hot zone. Wet is the area for sink and garbage, usually placed between cold and dry zones. Serve zone is basically a bar counter, table counter, or simply a table with chairs. You can read more on zones for small outdoor kitchen spaces here.
If you wonder what your kitchen should include it’s worth taking into consideration three subjects. The first one is the proximity to your indoor kitchen. Is it close enough so you can prepare stuff inside and only cook it outside? The second one is the way you like to cook. Do you like to grill, smoke, make pizza? The last one is buyers looking for a house usually look in an outdoor kitchen for a sink with cold water, fridge, cooking surface, storage, and work surface.
So to sum up: if your kitchen is close enough you can work with cooking appliances and working space only. But if you’re willing to sell the house in the future and treat an outdoor kitchen as an investment, it’s worth considering additional functions. If the space is limited enough you’ll not have a lot to think of. Isn’t it great?
Another common question that can be asked regarding small spaces is what shape is going to work best? In my opinion the simpler the better.
There are 4 basic options for limited spaces: L-shape, an island, against the wall, and U-shape. For tiny tiny spaces, an island and L-shaped are working best, as they visually are open. Each time you close of something where space is limited it gets even smaller.
And while we’re at it – designing an outdoor kitchen requires a bit of knowledge. The first thing to figure is how much free space is needed on appliances sides. An outdoor kitchen created without these rules is going to be uncomfortable to use.
To give an example grill needs 24″ of free space on one side, and 12″ on another. This is a space you’re going to use while cooking. There are multiple rules worth following you can read about here.
Simple outdoor kitchen ideas appliances
Picking appliances for an outdoor kitchen is a process. To figure what you can and what you’re rather unable to fit in a simple outdoor kitchen it’s worth taking its length into consideration. Most simple outdoor kitchens are below 10′. In such size, it is possible to fit a burner, grill, sink, and storage, but it may be complicated to incorporate a fridge.
The more limited space is the fewer appliances can be used. Therefore it is important to pick ones that can do more than one thing.
Fewer appliances can really work well for the area, as more countertop ft is going to function as a workspace. And more countertop usually means space is more convenient to use.
And the size of appliances matters as well. If the area is moderate over-the-top appliances might make it visually even smaller.
Fewer appliances are going to work well for an outdoor kitchen budget too.
Simple outdoor kitchen ideas for cold climate
Cold climate is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration. There are three subjects to think about.
- Which design works best for cold weather?
- Which finishes to choose?
- How to protect the area?
Basically what works great for states with colder winters is covering the area with roofing. Sail shades are not an option here, pergola might also not do the trick. To protect the kitchen from the snow a gazebo or roof over patio should be used. I wrote an entire post on which states the outdoor kitchen should be covered. It is available here.
A tarp is another big thing for cold climates. Stainless steel appliances need protection and so plenty of countertops. There is a fix for that – brick grills. They can look amazing!
And while the brick works well in cold climates not all finishes do. Concrete countertops and floors in winter can crack. Even though they look great with just about anything for cold climates they might not be the best choice.
A cracking countertop is not taking from the beauty of the area, but broken plumbing is just a huge issue. It is important to think twice if an outdoor kitchen in a cold climate should be connected to plumbing, as there are many other solutions that can be used. Some ideas regarding this subject can be found in this post.
If you’re afraid to build an outdoor kitchen in a cold climate a movable outdoor kitchen can be a thing for you. It’s less expensive, doesn’t require permits, and can be stored in a garage while unused (therefore it doesn’t take from your lot size).
There are plenty of movable outdoor kitchens to choose from. Even Ikea created a movable bbq collection, unfortunately, it is available only in the UK).
Simple outdoor kitchen ideas: sink
The sink is one of the essentials. Most of the owners want to have in their outdoor kitchen. It can be an incredibly easy project or the opposite, depending on where utilities are and where an outdoor kitchen is located.
There are multiple ways an outdoor kitchen sink can be made:
- under-sink bucket,
- french drain (dry well),
- lift station,
- drain line.
The under-sink bucket is a cheap and fast way to create a functioning sink in the backyard. It does not require construction or permits, as water can be delivered to the sink via a garden hose. The advantages of this solution are low budget, no permits, and the possibility to use anything you want in the sink (soap for example).
The lift station is another relatively inexpensive solution, that you can use however you want (so food chunks and chemicals can go into the outflow. The way it works is pretty easy. Two containers are placed under the sink – one for freshwater and one for greywater. A lift station needs to be connected plugged into the socket to start pumping fresh water into the faucet. Greywater needs to be poured to sewage after use.
Third option in a dry well, so basically creating a way for the water to go into the ground. If you don’t want to polite your lot you cannot use chemicals in such a sink. Food chunks are going to create a smell. This one is mainly for rinsing. This one requires a permit.
The last and most comfortable is attaching a drain hooked into sewage/septic system. This job requires a contractor, a permit, and a hefty budget.
To get to know more about sinks in an outdoor kitchen go to my blog post.
Simple outdoor kitchen ideas: Roof
Building a roof over an outdoor kitchen has multiple advantages. First of all, it is easier to use a covered space. Depending on the structure type it can protect mostly from the sun (sail shades, pergola), or from rain and snow too (gazebo, roofing over patio). Enclosures can elongate the time appliances can be used, as they’re going to be protected. If you want to figure if you should cover your kitchen check this post.
The main issue with roofing is the price. Pergola price can vary from $300 – $15,000, gazebos are $300 – $20,000, roofing costs on average $7,000 – $11,000. It is always cheaper to build these constructions from kits. To get to know more about prices go to this post. But is there a way to save on time and budget and create some sort of coverage?
A sail shade can be installed basically anywhere – all it needs is support. While installation a sail shade has to be hooked to walls or poles. It can cover up to 170 sq ft for less than $200. Installing a sail shade is a project nearly anybody can do, as it doesn’t require advanced construction skills. This one is going to work miracles in spaces that need to be protected from the sun.
I wonder if you have advice you can share on creating a simple outdoor kitchen. What was crucial in your process? Please share your ideas in the comment section to help others who’re struggling with the simple outdoor kitchen designing process.