Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

on 18th September 2020

When the great British summer gets into its swing, there is nothing better than heading outdoors and making the most of long days and warm evenings.

For many this finer weather also signals the start of BBQ season. At the first sign of Sun, many a dusty grill is rescued from the back of the shed and given a quick dust off before slapping on the obligatory sausages and burgers.

But if you are a BBQ aficionado who loves to entertain alfresco, perhaps it is time to take your culinary prowess to the next level and give your garden the Michelin star treatment by adding a dedicated outdoor kitchen area.

We are seeing this trend for open air cooking take off in garden revamps across the Thames Valley, with homes of all sizes including a fully equipped kitchen area to prep, cook and serve food taking centre stage in their garden designs. 

These stylish outdoor entertaining areas provide an informal holiday feeling to gatherings with family and friends, encouraging everyone to relax, have fun and and enjoy the great food being served straight from the grill.

So if you’re looking for inspiration to give your open air entertaining that extra sizzle, take a look through some of our ideas for creating the perfect outdoor kitchen that will allow you to grill, smoke and char all summer long.

Location, location, location

First up is where to locate your outdoor kitchen. When it comes to choosing the perfect spot, there are a few things to consider.

  • Cooking with fire is an important element of any kitchen, so it is important not to site the location close to anything that might pose a fire risk, such as fencing or overhanging trees.
  • Placing it close to the house is also convenient as it is likely that you and guests may need to nip in from time to time to replenish drinks, fetch more food or use the loo.
  • The base the kitchen is to stand on needs to be level to avoid annoying wobbles or trips and slips when carrying food and drink. Levelling the ground and laying a patio is a good way of achieving this nice firm base.
  • How much space is required? Are you an intimate entertainer looking for a cosy space with just enough area for a BBQ and a couple of seats?  Or do you regularly have large gatherings that will need to accommodate a kitchen, a cocktail bar, a lounging area, a dining area?
  • Do you also want to incorporate a particular view of the garden, surrounding countryside or the river?  This is also likely to dictate where things need to go.

Once you have identified your site, and know the space you have available, the fun can start with planning the design of your dream kitchen space.

1.  Open air or under cover?

Dining al-fresco is a real treat if the weather is fine. But sometimes it can get a little too hot if your site is in full sun, or a bit soggy if you catch a summer shower.

For fair weather barbecuers, an open-air cooking and entertaining area, equipped with some parasols or a gazebo for shade, will more than satisfy your needs.  But if you want to be outside whatever the weather, then a covered cooking and seating area will ensure that rain does not stop play.

Something such as this lapa we built for a home in Marlow fits the bill nicely. Inspired by the South African thatched timber buildings with open sides, this covered entertaining area provides a warm and welcoming retreat from the open air riverside deck should the weather turn foul. 

2. Grill, smoke, char, roast

The BBQ market has exploded with new ways to cook, allowing for some really exciting combinations of ovens and grills.  When planning your outdoor kitchen, think about what you want in yours that will suit your style of cooking. Once you know what you want the work spaces around it can be built to suit.

Consider if you want the roasting and baking potential of a traditional pizza ovens, to get cheffy with a salamander, to go low and slow with a smoker, or the direct heat of gas burners and charcoal grills for searing meat, fish and veg.

For example, this outdoor block built K rend kitchen with stainless steel cupboards in Wokingham wanted to combine the ever-popular Big Green Egg for traditional barbecuing over charcoal, alongside the convenience of a Napoleon Prestige PRO™ 825 RSBI gas grill.

patios paving and decking

Whereas in Goring, we created this bespoke outdoor kitchen with hardwood cupboard doors that combined the versatility of a pizza oven with a gas Beefeater BBQ.

bespoke outdoor kitchen with Beafeater BBQ and pizza oven

3. The practicalities

Next up is thinking about the workspace around your grills so that you have everything you need to hand, and enough space for prepping and serving food.

a) Worktops

Worktop counters are not only a practical element of your kitchen, but their colour and texture bring a beautiful aesthetic to your space. The rustic look of wood or tiles will suit casual kitchens. Whereas granite and porcelain tiles give a polished high-end vibe. Concrete, copper or stainless steel provide a modern, industrial feel. And there’s no reason why you can’t mix and match different counter materials across different kitchen zones. The only thing to bear in mind is that some counter tops are more hard wearing and weatherproof than others, so if your kitchen is not covered this may affect your final choice.   

b) Storage

In our opinion a kitchen can never have enough storage. And when it comes to an outdoor kitchen it is no different. Using baskets and vegetable crates as under counter storage for pots, pans, serving plates looks great. Whereas enclosed under counter storage is perfect for protecting contents from the elements. Whilst firewood stacked under the grill or oven looks fabulously rustic and is handy for when the fire needs feeding.  If you’ve got wall space behind your counter, use this to hang cooking utensils so they’re within easy reach, without cluttering up your worktops.

External Wood oven with burning fire and firewood

c) Sink

Not everyone has the space or plumbing to fit a sink, but they are incredibly useful if you can. You can choose from ultra-modern stainless steel to reclaimed finds complete with matching taps to give your kitchen a touch of individuality.

rustic reclaimed sink in outdoor kitchen

d) Fridge

If your kitchen is close to the house this a fridge might not be an absolute necessity, but they can be useful for keeping a good supply of chilled drinks or pre-prepared salads and puds. 

4. The entertaining area

Equally important to the kitchen area itself, is providing space for where you and guests can relax and dine.  Ideally this is placed close to the cooking area (you don’t want to be making endless trips up and down the garden), and might include separate lounging and dining areas.

Adding lighting, heating, music and planting can further enhance this area to provide a feeling of seclusion, intimacy or a fun party vibe.

outdoor seating

Another trend we’ve seen taking off this year, thanks to lock down restrictions, is for these areas to include a back garden bar.  Creating a space where you can pour your own pints, or mix the perfect mojito, is becoming just as essential as the cooking and eating area.

5. Extend your outdoor entertaining season

As we head into Autumn and with the weather turning cooler, we are all looking for ways to spend more time outside so we can still socialise safely with friends.  For this there are two essentials for any outdoor entertaining area – lighting and heating. 

a) Lighting

Lighting can be as simple as adding candles. But if you want something more permanent (and with a bit more power) then there are a variety of ways to illuminate your space. From festooning garlands of fairy lights to hanging solar lanterns, or installing LED uplighters, wall lights and spotlights. 

garden fencing

b) Heating

Aside from wrapping chilly legs in blankets, some carefully placed heating can keep you and your guests warm and cosy once evenings get nippy. Combining an outdoor fireplace, fire pit, chimera, gas heater or patio heater with a sheltered seating area, there is no reason why you couldn’t be eating Christmas dinner outside this year.

Your outdoor kitchen dreams made real

If we’ve fired your imagination and you’re interested in incorporating an outdoor entertaining and cooking area into your garden space, feel free to get in touch. We’d be happy to talk through ideas and provide you with a quote. Simply send us an enquiry, or drop us a line on 01628 629720 and we’ll get back to you straight away.

Photo credit:  Mark Lord Photography for our feature image

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