Ideas for your Outdoor Kitchen

15 Minute Read

Outdoor kitchens have been something that we’ve not really embraced in the UK – and the changeable weather, and the colder months are probably to blame for that. But now we’re into meteorological spring, the days are getting longer and the sun is beginning to show again, and we’re all thinking of getting outside and enjoying ourselves. With socialisation firmly back on the agenda this year, if you’re thinking about getting friends over for long lunches and dinners that are followed by drinks well into the evening, you might be thinking about creating an outdoor kitchen.

There’s a lot to consider, especially if you’ve only ever had a barbecue on the patio, and an outdoor dining area before. But the opportunities an outdoor kitchen presents for fun with friends and family means that many people are now investing in them, and making the most of them throughout the summer months.

Although an outdoor kitchen will almost certainly get less use than the kitchen in your home, planning should be given the same amount of attention as you would a room in your home. Properly planning your outdoor kitchen means you won’t rush into buying something you won’t use (that fear of missing out is real!), or you end up regretting not having something when the project is finished. Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll want to consider in your outdoor cooking area. 

An Overhead Cover

Let’s face it, even the finest of British summers aren’t known for the weather being dependable – but that’s part of what we love about it! If you’re going to make use of your outdoor kitchen all summer, you don’t want the odd rain shower to stop you. An overhead covering will mean you can keep cooking, without getting drenched or spoiling the food.

A temporary, canvas gazebo covering can work if you’re not ready to invest in a wooden one yet, but if you’re serious about your wood fired pizza oven, or your barbecuing, then a permanent overhead covering will protect your outdoor cooking area. We all know that eating al fresco in the summer is amazing, but on the hottest days shade is definitely welcome. When you’re considering how big the overhead covering for your kitchen is, think about if you want a table in there, or maybe a bar with barstools around the outer edge of the shade.

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Lighting

If you’re going to make the most of your outdoor kitchen in the spring and autumn months, then you’re going to need lighting. Cooking in the dark isn’t the most fun unless you’re camping, and even then, it is tricky. Outdoor lighting has come a long way in recent years, and even if you don’t have access to mains power where your outdoor kitchen is going to be, you can still have great lighting. Solar powered festoon lights, or wall lights are ideal for lighting up your evening cooking – and all you need to do is make sure the solar panel is in the daylight for long enough to power up the battery.

An Outdoor Sink

A sink with running water is going to make your outdoor kitchen much more practical and convenient. When you’re cooking with fire – whether it is in a pizza oven, or on a barbecue – having water nearby is always a good idea. But there are so many other reasons to have a sink outdoors.

  • Handwashing – both before and after cooking or eating
  • Cleaning fruit and vegetables – particularly if you’re growing your own
  • Washing up – especially preventing cross-contamination of raw, and cooked meats
  • Making drinks and rinsing barware

Decide how you’re going to use your outdoor sink though. If you’re planning to wash up properly outdoors, then you’ll need to ensure your outdoor sink is close to the house, so you can hook into the plumbing from the house for hot water, and drain the waste water properly. This is really important if you’re going to be washing greasy items, or meat waste, because otherwise you’ll risk attracting vermin to your garden. If you’re going to be using the sink minimally, then you may be able to utilise a garden hose, and simply collect the grey water (from cleaning fruit and vegetables) to put back onto your garden.

Barbecue

What type of barbecue is the right one definitely sparks debate. Whether you insist on proper flames on your barbecue only, or you’re happy with the convenience of a gas barbecue doesn’t matter – you decide which setup is right for you. Maybe it is as simple as you have a gas barbecue that you love already, and you’re modelling your outdoor kitchen around it, or you’re planning to build a brick barbecue area that meets your needs.

 However your barbecue is fired, make sure you plan to have ample workspace to the side of the barbecue, to make it easy for whoever’s cooking to dish up when everything is ready. 

Wood Fired Pizza Oven

If your family loves a fresh pizza – and let’s face it, there are few that don’t – then dinner from a wood fired pizza oven on summer nights is definitely on the cards! You can build a wood fired pizza oven with bricks, or you can buy a pre-made metal one. There are pros and cons to each, so be certain to do your research. Metal ones are definitely an investment, and it is likely to be cheaper to make your own, but you’ll need to follow instructions carefully.

👉 There’s a great guide on how to build a wood fired pizza oven here, but there are loads of other projects of different shapes and sizes that you can find online.

Don’t forget though, pizza isn’t the only thing you can cook in a wood fired pizza oven – fish, meats, roasted vegetables, jacket potatoes, and different types of breads can all be cooked in them, so you can enjoy a delicious, and varied menu right through the summer. 

Bar Area

Entertaining in the garden in the summer demands drinks. Whether alcohol is on the menu or not, cold drinks are essential – so decide whether you want to add a bar area or not. You might go all-out and add an outdoor fridge, or a wine cooler, with a cupboard for glassware, or you might decide to keep it simple and designate a space for an ice bucket or a cool box on those warmer days.

Storage

If you’re planning a full outdoor kitchen, you’re probably going to need quite a bit of storage. Pizza stones, barbecue equipment, dishes, and condiments need to be in the right place for use next time, even if they’ve been brought indoors to go through the dishwasher. While the weather is good (assuming that your garden is secure!) all you might need is some shelves with a few boxes or baskets, especially if your outdoor kitchen is under an overhead covering.

Fresh Herbs And Veggies To Hand

Is there any better addition to a dish than fresh herbs? That’s a matter of opinion of course, but having your herbs on hand means that you can get creative in your outdoor kitchen, whether you’re adding sprigs of rosemary to a steak, a few leaves on your burger, or throwing an additional garnish on your salad.

Whether you add pots for your herbs to the side of your cooking area, or your kitchen garden is nearby, make sure your herbs are able to get plenty of sunshine, and are watered regularly through the summer, so you can really enjoy those al fresco meals. 

Where To Situate Your Outdoor Kitchen?

When you’re planning an outdoor kitchen, you need to think carefully about the right place for it. If it is too far away from the house, or you need to walk over grass to get to it, you might find you don’t end up using it as much as you might as if it were close to the house, or on the patio area.

Safety comes first when it comes to your outdoor kitchen, so make sure there are no trip hazards, and that children aren’t likely to be running past either side of where the barbecue or pizza oven are. If you have an outdoor dining area that is away from the outdoor kitchen, make sure the route through is clear, and lit up at night.

If you’re creating an outdoor dining area as well as your outdoor kitchen in the same project – and let’s face it, the two go hand in hand – then you’ll need to think about the flow of the space, and if you’re going to incorporate elements like a fire pit for post-dining lounging.

Final Thoughts

Outdoor kitchens might seem like quite an extravagance – and of course, they can be, but it isn’t always necessary. In fact, there are some incredible outdoor kitchen ideas that require only very tiny budgets, and make use of recycled, or upcycled materials. Set your budget, look at the space you have available, and prioritise your must-haves (including your shelving) and go from there. When your outdoor kitchen is complete, don’t forget to take plenty of photos, and share them with us on Instagram @bensimpsonfurniture.

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