Summertime entertaining is not without its frustrations. Besides the humidity and unwanted insects, one big issue that regularly puts a damper on warm weather parties is the host’s constant need to retreat to the kitchen for supplies. The solution to enjoying your own get-togethers more? An outdoor kitchen that’s every bit as well stocked as the one in your home.
Building an outdoor kitchen sounds like a monumental task best left for the off season so summer entertaining can go on uninterrupted, but the truth is there is more than one way to install an outdoor kitchen. Some outdoor kitchen designs, e.g., any with a full custom build, will indeed put your patio in traction for quite a while, but others (like movable kitchens and outdoor kitchen plans built with building blocks) can be set up in just days.
What follows is a short introduction to five of the ways you can construct an outdoor kitchen and the pros and cons of each.
1. Prefab Kits
Outdoor kitchen kits can include everything from cabinets and countertops to compact refrigerators and full dining areas. In many cases, the look of the end result can be altered to harmonize with existing landscaping features so your outdoor kitchen may look like it was built just for your space.
Pros: less expensive than custom kitchen design; easier to install; downtime is minimal; everything is included
Cons: limited design options; few or no opportunities for customization
2. Single Island Kitchens
This is the simplest outdoor kitchen plan and the one best suited for small spaces. A single island can have zones for cooking, cleaning, storage, and even seating if you utilize all four sides. Keep in mind that single island outdoor kitchen plans aren’t just for small spaces, however. They’re also perfect for longer, narrower spaces where L- or U-shaped kitchens just won’t work.
Pros: high utility in a small build; potentially moveable; less expensive that custom options
Cons: no separation between cooking, prep, cleanup, serving, and seating spaces
3. Modular Outdoor Kitchens
Outdoor kitchens created with building blocks (modular components crafted from glass-fiber reinforced concrete) can be installed in a near endless variety of configurations. You can build straight, L-shaped, or U-shaped outdoor kitchens of any size without concrete footings or rebar, and the end result is essentially a custom kitchen.
Pros: less expensive than custom kitchens; numerous options for customization; installs quickly without additional construction; cabinets can be cut for almost any appliance
Cons: fixtures and appliances are not included
4. Portable Outdoor Kitchens
In the smallest spaces, portable outdoor kitchens are a low commitment option that can give you most of the functionality of a built-in kitchen but be moved out of the way when not in use. You can create your own simple outdoor kitchen setup with a propane grill that includes plenty of prep space, a serving cart, and a bar height island on wheels with enough chairs to go around.
Pros: can be stored away when not in use; inexpensive; can help you decide what you really want in a built-in outdoor kitchen design
Cons: less attractive than built-in options; fewer options for appliances
5. Full Custom Build
When you have your heart set on an outdoor kitchen that is unlike any you’ve ever seen before, a fully custom build lets you get exactly what you want because every single detail is driven by your desires. Assuming your budget allows, the sky is the limit.
Pros: you can create a truly one-of-a-kind space
Cons: installation time is measured in weeks; most expensive option; usually requires prep work before installation; extended design period
What kind of outdoor kitchen plan is right for you? That very much depends on what you want to achieve. These days outdoor kitchens can include everything from warming drawers and dishwashers to wine refrigerators and brick ovens. And amenities may even go beyond kitchen fixtures - some outdoor kitchens have heaters and retractable screens, wi-fi, televisions, and top rated outdoor audio setups.
What do you see in the outdoor kitchen of your dreams? If you’re unsure what you really need or what your budget will allow, start by writing a list of necessities and another list of extras. (You can edit these lists as you move forward so you never lose sight of your entertaining goals.) Then have a look at our free guide and our one-of-a-kind online design tool. Once you’ve created your first three-dimensional model of your ultimate open-air kitchen, you’ll have everything you need to start making your dreams a reality.