14 outdoor kitchen ideas for year-round al fresco feasts 

Everything you need for garden gastronomy, including the kitchen sink.

Even if you enjoy spending time in your garden, you might not think of it as a cooking space, beyond the odd barbecue perhaps. But despite our unpredictable weather’s best efforts, outdoor kitchens have been growing in popularity. 

For those who feel they have mastered the art of barbecuing and want to take things up a notch, we’re here with 14 outdoor kitchen ideas to help you realise your Mediterranean outdoor dining fantasy. (Only with a backdrop that might look suspiciously more like Hampshire.)

outdoor kitchen in a garden covered with canopyCredit: KönigOutdoor

Our expert tips will guide your transformation, from picking the best spot in your garden to knowing which features to choose for an outdoor kitchen that can withstand the elements.  

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1. Choose a U shape

Surround yourself with units

Outdoor kitchen with wooden panelling in a gardenCredit: Blakes London

Choosing a U-shaped outdoor kitchen can emulate the design of an interior room. And as this design by Blakes London shows, you don’t have to construct this shape under a purpose-built shelter or structure. This free-range U-shape creates space for a bar (with stools hiding just behind the shrub on the left) and provides plenty of opportunities for storage.  

The units’ clever façade conceals a drinks fridge, and a variety of drawer and cupboard configurations, behind uniform panelling. The seamless effect is smart and means you can have a separate set of outdoor utensils safely stored away. Ideal if you’re avoiding clutter.  

Did you know? 

Outdoor kitchens are becoming more popular in the UK 

Over recent years, we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of outdoor kitchens, with Google searches for related terms up almost 300% in the last five years,” says Cara Yates, kitchen manager at Toolstation. “As well as adding value to your home and removing the need to traipse to and from the house, they’re a great way to increase the amount of time you spend in the garden.” 

A fully functioning outdoor kitchen does require proper planning. Yates notes that if you want your outdoor kitchen to be fully functioning with a sink and fridge, for example, you’ll need to arrange a plumber and electrician to install a water feed, waste pipe, and outdoor switches and sockets. “Of course, this will put up the cost of the project,” she explains. 

2. Make your worktop work hard

Your units should stand up to the elements

Grey outdoor kitchen in a gardenCredit: DesignSpace London

Any outdoor kitchen idea must include hardwearing materials. These spaces will take a battering from heat, utensils, water (from a sink and the sky), smoke and messy hands. 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice style for utility. This design from DesignSpace London shows just how sleek an outdoor kitchen can be, with a minimal approach that integrates appliances and features like the sink without interrupting the units’ clean lines.  

“Many of our kitchens are made with porcelain doors and worktops, which is a great solution for outdoor kitchens as this material is unaffected by wet, hot, cold conditions,” says Richard Atkins, managing director of DesignSpace London. “Porcelain is incredibly flexible in that it can be made to look like marble, concrete, metal or flat colours. This enables the units that we use outside to look as good as the units we would use inside.” 

3. Invite guests to the chef’s table

Dine in style

Red and navy outdoor kitchen design covered with wooden roof and central island surrounded with seatsCredit: KönigOutdoor

Why not recreate a top restaurant in your garden by reimagining a traditional kitchen island as a chef’s table? If you have a flair for cooking and hosting in front of an audience, then this design from KönigOutdoor should inspire you.  

It’s hard to take your eyes off the vibrant red of the barbecue egg and wood-fired pizza oven. This outdoor kitchen is completely covered, meaning there’s no danger of wet weather dampening the mood (or your canapés). 

“If your main focus is on entertaining, make sure you specify plenty of suitable refrigeration and consider integrating seating areas for your guests,” says Joanne Bull, marketing manager for KönigOutdoor. “If you really want to express your culinary skills outdoors, and have the budget, think about more than one type of cooking appliance. Pairing a traditional grill with a charcoal/wood fuelled Kamado or pizza oven will give you more variety and keep you motivated to experiment with new dishes.” 

4. Save space with a multifunctional cooker

Barbecue, fry, steam and bake

Upright silver oven in outdoor kitchen with view out to seaCredit: Harrison Ovens

Not everyone has access to a large patch of garden that can be transformed. This doesn’t mean you can’t turn out a diverse range of dishes, though. Garden designer Marlene Lento says that people with limited space should opt for multifunctional appliances.  

There are dual-fuel barbecues that let you use charcoal or gas,” she explains. “And there are inserts for your barbecue, such as BakerStone, that allow you to make great pizzas using your gas barbecue – no bulky pizza oven required.” 

This outdoor kitchen idea from Harrison Ovens is multifunctional on a small footprint (the appliance combines a charcoal oven, plancha, hotplate and hob) and doesn’t let the aesthetics of the workspace distract from that incredible view out to sea. Though Lento suggests that if you want a ‘designed’ outdoor kitchen look, go for a built-in barbecue model instead. 

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Buy the Atom from Harrison Ovens

Safe storage

Remember to hide your gas bottle for a sleek look,” advises Lento. Follow instructions on where you can place it. For built-in barbecues, gas bottles need to go next to it, away from the heat. 

Calor Gas recommends that its bottles be stored outside “in an upright position, and in a well-ventilated place away from sources of heat and ignition“. It also recommends that you keep them “away from building entry/exit points and drains”. 

5. Create a continuation of your indoor kitchen

Let the inside spill out

indoor kitchen with retractable door leading to outdoor kitchenCredit: The London Tile Co.

Perhaps you have a patio that can be the setting of your new outdoor kitchen? This seamless design from The London Tile Co. links its interiors and al fresco living, and it’s so smooth you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. The design conversation between both areas is maintained by using the same indoor-outdoor floor tiles, as well as the same units and worktops.  

Continuing the kitchen units along the same wall is also an option for people who don’t want to interrupt their current garden landscaping. 

“Consider the view while you’re barbecuing and what the view is as you look out from the house,” says Lento. “You don’t want your kitchen to block your view of the garden or see a covered barbecue for most of the year. At the same time, consider positioning the kitchen so that it’s a ‘social’ setup, where you can interact with people as you cook.” 

Buy the Valverdi Fossil Coke Outdoor Tiles from London Tile Co.

Location, location, location 

“Where do you want people to stand and congregate, kids to run and play and where are the thoroughfares?” asks Magnus Nillsen, lead designer at Blakes London. “Things can get a little hectic when you are creating your masterpiece and there is a lot of heat. Get clever with where you position the table. A raised bar with stools between you ‘the barbecue master’ and your guests gives you the space you need and a clear line for people not to cross. 

“Also consider your distance from the house. The further you are from the house the better stocked your outdoor kitchen needs to be in terms of a fridge, spice rack, etc. If your outdoor kitchen is on a patio a few steps from your main kitchen this won’t be so vital.”   

6. Weatherproof your design

Don’t let anything rain on your parade

Outdoor kitchen with dining table and chairs with retractable canopy overheadCredit: Grillo

As well as choosing weatherproof materials for your outdoor kitchen units and worktops, you might wish to physically protect some or all of the area from the elements.  

This design from Grillo has a retractable roof, meaning guests can soak up the sun or shield from the rain as needed. Having a low-rise backsplash running the length of the cooking units and prep area also protects the food while not obscuring the view of the garden beyond.

Cover up

“Although appliances will come with appropriate covers, it’s best to shelter your outdoor kitchen with a pergola of some kind,” says Joanne Bull of KönigOutdoor. “If you have the budget, consider a pergola with lighting and heat. This will open up your outdoor kitchen for near year-round use. We have clients who hold a ‘pizza and prosecco party’ every New Year’s Eve in their outdoor kitchen.” 

7. Ensure there’s room for firewood

Mediterranean-style storage

White painted outdoor kitchen with pizza ovens and firewood stored in shelves underneathCredit: AOS Outdoor Kitchens

Bring the whitewashed stonework of the Med to your back garden. Cladding concrete, and then painting it white, is an affordable option for constructing an outdoor kitchen – and we love how much it reminds us of being on a sun-bleached Greek island.  

Garden designer Marlene Lento says that outdoor kitchen ideas should consider the storage of firewood, which will need to be kept dry to be effective. 

This particular setup from AOS Outdoor Kitchens has so much room for firewood in its units, with an open-front, rustic style that lets the logs become part of the design itself. If you’re planning for a pizza oven, this is the perfect look. 

8. Dare to go dark

If white isn’t your thing…

black outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and dining tableCredit: Satara Australia

We have a soft spot for black kitchens at Exceptional. Black even made our list of favourite kitchen colour ideas, because of its elegance and ability to be paired with any colour (just like a black outfit). 

As long as you have a spot in your garden that’s bathed in sunlight for a good portion of the day, a black design will look chic and elevated. 

A black outdoor kitchen idea will work even better if it’s contrasted with neutral and natural elements. This design from Satara Australia places the natural shades and textures of potted plants, wood-panelled wall and wooden dining tops in the frame, so the black feels earthy, rather than lifeless.  

5 easy-to-grow plants for your outdoor kitchen area

Rocket is an essential peppery staple in any summer salad. Wild rocket is a perennial, with flowers you can also eat, and salad rocket is an annual that you’ll need to replant. It’s an ideal option for a slightly shadier patch of soil near your outdoor kitchen.  

Wild rocket can withstand poor soil and will last a few years if you pick its leaves regularly. If it’s protected in winter, it can keep growing. You can sow wild rocket outside from spring to late summer and harvest from early summer through to the end of the year.  

Perfect for summer salads, these plants have a high fruit yield and can be providing fresh fruit in just a couple of months from sowing seeds. They can be sown outdoors in spring, or the final days of winter (late February onwards) if you’re doing it inside.  

Though perennial by nature, we tend to grow these crops annually for cultivation. It is possible to overwinter cuttings indoors, but it depends on the cultivar. Here’s a helpful guide if you’re curious. 

If you have a pizza oven as part of your outdoor kitchen setup, then you absolutely have to grow some basil for garnishes.  

Basil is best grown in a well-drained container away from direct sunlight. It’s the perfect herb to accompany your tomato plants and, as Monty Don says in a video for Gardeners’ World, they thrive in the same growing conditions – so they make great companions. Start your seedlings on a warm (not too sunny) windowsill, sowing anywhere between February and July. Wait until early summer to move the plant outside to avoid any threat of frost – and aim for around four weeks after you sow. 

Mint is ideal as a drinks garnish (think mojitos and caipirinhas) and to add freshness to side salads. It can be planted in spring or autumn. Mint is best grown in a pot as it can get a bit rowdy and take over a patch in the ground, to the detriment of its neighbours.  

If you’re keen to attract lots of wonderful insects to your garden, it’s one of the best herbs for the job. You can harvest the leaves until November, so use the last of your crop to make a batch of mint sauce for your roast lamb. Cut it back late autumn and, as it’s a perennial, it’ll return next spring. It will just need an annual mulch with some compost.  

This root vegetable will happily grow in a pot as well as the ground and you can eat all parts of the plant. Once the seeds have been sown, as long as its compost isn’t kept too wet, it will grow with minimal fuss.  

Use the stems and leaves in salads and roast or barbecue the beetroot. Sow beetroot outdoors from late March right through to July. Any earlier and it’ll need to be sown indoors, or under horticultural fleece (or another suitable cover, so it survives freezing soil temperatures). 

9. Make yours modular and movable

A non-committal design

Silver modular outdoor barCredit: Danetti

Choosing a series of modular units on castors means that you never have to commit to one location for your outdoor kitchen. This is a great example of how three units can be set up to create a corner space for entertaining and you could easily slot an ample-sized barbecue in at any point. 

If you simply can’t decide where to construct an outdoor kitchen, or don’t want to have one as a focal point all year, modular units are a godsend.  

These units from Danetti can be easily picked up (or wheeled) to wherever you decide to host on the day.  

The Palm Outdoor Garden Bar Set is available for £1,467

10. Match your materials

Look to your house for inspiration

Silver outdoor kitchen on a rooftopCredit: Scavolini

Just as you’d choose interior kitchen units that are in keeping with your home’s decorating style, it’s a good an idea to match your outdoor kitchen to your house exterior. 

This steel Formalia Outdoor kitchen idea from Scavolini complements the slick, modern industrial aesthetic of the building’s exterior walls and canopy. 

Garden designer Marlene Lento says you can take this idea even further by choosing units in the same colour as the brick or render of your house with. Or she suggests using the same paving slabs for the countertops and patio floor. 

11. Upcycle materials to create a cooking area

Work with what you have

Pizza oven and egg barbecue in corrugated steel structureCredit: Grillo

If you’re working with a modest budget, but still want your outdoor kitchen to make a big impression, why not upcycle heat-resistant materials you may already have? 

Though slick, custom-built outdoor kitchens are a majestic addition to any garden, we have a soft spot for this DIY, rough-around-the-edges style of al fresco living. 

This idea from Grillo has transformed a rustic corrugated iron shed with a compact pizza oven, bar and egg-style barbecue. The pairing of pizza oven and sizeable barbecue will mean that your outdoor kitchen may be smaller, but your family-style feasts can remain the envy of your neighbours.  

12. Pair traditional with modern

Be contemporary and cosy

Modern outdoor kitchen units next to brick built open fire in a gardenCredit: Grillo

Though many outdoor kitchen ideas include smart, modern unit designs, cooking outside in the elements will always have a traditional, almost ancient feel about it. 

If you have the space available, then pair your new outdoor kitchen with some traditional fireside cooking. This glorious wood fire doesn’t look out of place next to these Grillo units, leaving chefs to cook different elements of their feast using the various methods close to hand. This is a great option for people keen to cook outdoors all year long. You can enjoy a warming negroni cocktail from the bar in the coldest months, keeping warm by the fire while dinner cooks on the barbecue.  

Visit Grillo for more information about its Vantage range

The outdoor kitchen essentials

If you’re planning your outdoor kitchen to function year-round, then you want it to be as comfortable and practical as possible.  

Magnus Nillsen, lead designer at Blakes London, shares his expert tips on getting your lighting and heating right, so that you can use your outdoor kitchen after dark…

Lighting

The space must be properly lit, so that when you want to barbecue at night you can do so without donning a head torch. It’s also a good idea to add ambient lighting to create the right mood during those long lazy summer evenings.  

Also, consider the sun’s path through the day. Think about when you will want to barbecue most and plan the location of the kitchen accordingly. There’s nothing worse than standing beside a scorching barbecue while being exposed to the full heat of the midday sun, while your dining table is left in the shadows.

Heating

Temperatures are creeping up year-on-year, meaning we can now spend close to eight months of a year outside if the space is designed to do so.  

Consider heating the seating areas and installing retractable covers for those cooler, wetter months. Personally, Nillsen likes to create a permanent overhead cover for the barbecue to keep off direct rain and weather on the units themselves.  

This will offer better longevity for the cabinetry and barbecue kit and, as boring as it sounds, rain covers for when the hardware isn’t in use also increases the lifespan of your outdoor kitchen considerably.   

13. Try vertical cooking

A statement oven

orange upright oven in a garden with a family dining around a tableCredit: Charlie Ovens

Who says outdoor kitchen ovens have to be boring? Whack a pop of colour into your al fresco feast with a vertical cooking unit. 

This Charlie Oven is a charcoal oven, pizza oven and smoker all in one. It’s on wheels, so the party can move to wherever you want to base yourself around the garden. It’s a useful option if you don’t want to install a full kitchen setup. Perhaps you want to pair this type of oven with a small outdoor sink and worktop that can also come in handy for general gardening jobs throughout the year when you’re not hosting.  

Buy the Charlie Charcoal Oven here

14. Install on an even surface

Keep your balance

Outdoor barbecue and sink setup in a garden on large flat tilesCredit: B&Q

Nature isn’t known for its straight lines. And though you may think your garden is fairly level, any lumps, bumps and slopes will become immediately obvious when trying to design an outdoor kitchen. 

“The level of the floor can be a challenge,” says Joanne Bull of KönigOutdoor. “Fitting paving with minimal falls [or the most even gradient] is the best way to go if you are installing an outdoor kitchen.” 

Opting for larger floor tiles or paving slabs will make this job easier, as this design shows. But if you’re planning on modular units, or units on wheels, it’s essential that you properly level the ground before laying any paving. Otherwise, you might find your dinner rolling away from you.

The BillyOh Indiana 4 Burner Gas BBQ Kitchen with Sink is £1,120 at B&Q
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Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

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Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures.

Rosanna loves nothing better than getting under the skin of a topic and is led by an unwavering curiosity to share information and stories that inform and inspire her readers – a mission that has taken her around the world. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

She turned her attention to the Homes sector as a result of an ongoing renovation and improvement project, which takes up a fair amount of her time outside of work. When she’s not comparing carpet samples or debating the pros and cons of induction hobs, you’ll find Rosanna exploring Bristol’s food and drink scene, obsessively watching horror films, or donning some walking boots and heading for the hills.

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