kitchen appliances

5 Tips for Designing a Modern Outdoor Kitchen

modern outdoor kitchens in backyard of home with bbq and dining area

If the pandemic taught us one thing, it’s how to appreciate the great outdoors. If you’re on a mission to transform your backyard or outdoor space into a stylish and functional outdoor haven for entertaining, we have some tips and tricks to keep in mind throughout the design process.

Designing a modern outdoor kitchen is a little more involved than simply setting up a grill and throwing your hands up. To execute a proper outdoor kitchen, you’ll want to include aspects of your indoor kitchen to bring the comfort and ease of putting together your favorite dishes outside. That means your equipment will have to withstand harsh elements and be durable enough to stand the test of time.

In this article, we’ll explore 5 tips for designing a modern outdoor kitchen that will serve as your own personal oasis to enjoy your home to its full capacity. Creating an outdoor zone to entertain, cook, and enjoy life with friends and family will bring a new level of appreciation, and value, to your home.

There are a few important factors to consider before running wild with these tips. Depending on the type of kitchen you’re designing, you will have to consider the plumbing and gas availability of the space you desire to set up camp.

Make sure to examine your hookups to determine if you can use gas appliances or if you should stick with the electric variety. It would be a travesty to invest in a brand-new outdoor gas range only to discover later that you don’t have the proper access. Avoid the headache ahead of time by thoroughly examining your space and surveying your available options.


Tip 1: Determine the location of your outdoor kitchen and non-negotiable appliances

Outdoor kitchens can make a gorgeous addition to any home, especially when you pull your personality from the inside to match your outdoor area. Sometimes families opt for their outdoor kitchens to hug their home so they have fast access to the inside and to have a more seamless indoor-to-outdoor experience. Some homeowners have limited options and must set up their outdoor kitchen as close to the house as possible since it makes the most sense with their plumbing and electric setups.

Every family has different needs and cooking styles, so before you get too far into the process, really sit down and think about the kinds of meals you typically prepare. Are you more of a grill master with an occasional sauté session, or are you a pizza aficionado that whips up a pie at least once a week?

A grill is a pretty common staple to include in your plans since they are quite versatile, and let’s be honest, there’s something about dogs or burgers straight from the grill that just hits differently!

But if your family does a regular pizza night, you may want to consider a pizza oven. If you typically pan-fry your dishes, you’ll want to invest in an outdoor range.

PRO TIP: If one of your family members intends to be the primary cook, position the dining area off to the left or right of the grill or range at 90 degrees. This will help keep your cook engaged with guests while they tend to the food.


Tip 2: Figure out the layout and space

There are two types of modern outdoor kitchens to consider for your home: a satellite kitchen and a fully independent kitchen. The satellite kitchen is usually reliant on the indoor kitchen. You’ll want all the basic cooking appliances, enough countertop space for prep, and a sink. You’ll be able to use indoor refrigeration for this configuration. But for the fully independent kitchen, you’ll need more space to handle all the prep, dry storage needs, and refrigeration.

The fully independent kitchen will be set up further away from your indoor kitchen, which means you will have to keep in mind that it might be exposed to more elements and will typically require storage and refrigeration for convenience.

Here are the main factors to consider when assessing your site:

  • Relationship and access to your indoor kitchen

  • Relationship to other outdoor spaces and furniture

  • Privacy

  • Local codes around the placement and size of appliances

  • Utilities

  • Draining patterns

  • Sun and shade spots

  • Wind exposure

You’ll also want to define your functional zones, which will vary depending on the key activities for which you intend on using your space. Ask yourself how you will primarily use the area, whether it be for family functions, daily use, holidays, or other cooking events that may require special planning.

If you’ll be doing most of the cooking, you’ll want to have a predetermined hot zone where things like your grill, cooktop, or pizza oven will live. Your dry zones will be your countertops used for prepping food, cabinets for food or spice storage, and utensils. The wet zone will be your sink and surrounding countertops and anything that relates to washing or the sink area. The cold zones include refrigerators, freezers, and the like.

PRO TIP: Make sure you factor in enough countertop space. This is the biggest mistake we tend to see homeowners make during the design process. Whoever is cooking will need space to lay down their equipment or place food once it’s ready to come off the heat. It is a major factor you will want to consider while you design your layout.


Tip 3: Round up durable supplies

Since your outdoor kitchen is exposed to all the elements, it’s very important to use low-maintenance materials such as stainless steel to withstand harsh environmental factors. Stainless steel is a popular choice since it not only provides that sleek, modern look, but it also provides a sanitary surface for grills, cabinets, and appliances.

Natural stone countertops look beautiful and can give your space a rustic-modern vibe when paired with stainless steel, but you have to apply a sealant regularly to maintain its integrity. Granite is the densest stone, but it may not give the look you’re going for in a modern outdoor kitchen. The best stone choices usually include textured or tinted concrete, flamed and antiqued granite, or soapstone, which is softer to the touch.

PRO TIP: Steer clear of countertops that can easily stain. Countertops and decking near your hot zone should be highly resistant to grease stains.


Tip 4: Consider your guests’ comfort with modern furniture

Part of the fun of an outdoor kitchen is entertaining your guests. If you have the space, keep the comfort of your guests in mind by offering ample seating options and places to set their food and drinks.

A modern patio sofa and seating set that complements your outdoor kitchen setup is a nice touch, especially if the furniture has a pop of color and maintains sleek lines that mesh well with your modern aesthetic. Depending on the season, you can also use contemporary heaters or shade to provide a little extra comfort to everyone who’s hanging out.

Speaking of shade, during the hot summer months, shade is essential to keep things cool. Shade from pergolas offers a fun and attractive way to offer some relief from the heat, as do awnings. Awnings offer a bit more protection and are good to use for both the cooking and dining spaces. They help protect your guests and equipment from the rain, as well.

PRO TIP: If you really want to spice up the entertainment factor, be sure to include some music and other forms of entertainment. The options for high-end outdoor speaker systems are growing, so you should definitely consider installing a good system during the design process so it’s not an afterthought. TVs can be another nice addition if you have the proper protection and space to handle one. Your sports fans will be impressed with that touch!


Tip 5: Don’t forget about lighting

Your modern outdoor kitchen wouldn’t be complete without the finishing touch of proper lighting. Your space will consist of different areas for cooking, lounging, eating, and sometimes even swimming. Consider traffic patterns as you plan your layout, and be sure to include functional and ambient lighting to help navigate various tasks and simply move about safely.

Having efficient task lighting is required for chefs working the hot zone so they are able to cook meals properly. You don’t want a bunch of salt added to a dish that requires sugar just because they couldn’t quite see what they were doing! That cheesecake would not taste very good.

Plus, you don’t want grandma or grandpa wandering back to the house in the dark and falling off the path! Adequate ambient lighting is vital to your outdoor living space to keep things looking great and to provide a safe space for everyone to enjoy.

PRO TIP: Speaking of safety, always have a fire extinguisher nearby. This is a small detail that could save you BIG. Also, make sure the flooring around your outdoor kitchen is slip resistant to avoid any falls while in the cooking zone.

Designing a modern outdoor kitchen is an exciting endeavor that can transform your outdoor space into a welcoming culinary heaven. By following the tips and ideas shared here, you can create a contemporary space that reflects your personality while maximizing both aesthetics and functionality.

If you’re ready to start the process of designing your dream outdoor space, it helps to have a reliable and knowledgeable team by your side. The dream team at Atherton Appliance & Kitchens lives and breathes kitchen design and is dedicated to helping bring your vision to life. Reach out to our experts today, and we’ll be happy to guide you through this exciting journey of building a stunning outdoor kitchen that will bring on fun times for years to come.