grill island under pergola

Where to Put an Outdoor Kitchen?

Locating an Outdoor Kitchen

Picking a location for your outdoor kitchen is not as simple as just finding the space for it on your patio or deck.

So how do you know  where to put an outdoor kitchen?  Where you put an outdoor kitchen is the optimum balance of proximity to your indoor kitchen, maximized views of your property, where you can direct smoke away from guests and neighbors, the location of utilities, how much privacy you need and the availability of a shade source.

Once you’ve considered these six factors in your outdoor kitchen design, you will be know the exact spot that perfectly complements your outdoor cooking style and backyard landscape.

All outdoor kitchens differ in some way. As the chief architect of your outdoor kitchen, your kitchen design will need to address these location factors.

Proximity Considerations

How close to the house does an outdoor kitchen need to be?

Do you need to have handy access to your indoor kitchen because you will be transporting a lot of trays for large groups of guests?  Or do you prefer kitchen layouts with plenty of drawer cabinets to hold the supplies you need outdoors? If this is your style of entertaining, then the closer you are to your indoor kitchen, the less time and effort will go into prepping and cooking in your outdoor kitchen because you are constantly going back and forth from the inside.

If you are planning a small outdoor kitchen with just the basics, then you will be making several trips indoors to get the items you need. The less distance you have to travel the better.

If, on the other hand, you have a large outdoor patio and you intend on outfitting your outdoor kitchen with everything you need to store, chill, prep and cook for a crowd, then proximity to your indoor kitchen is not crucial. Your outdoor kitchen layout will not be affected by trips inside.

Make a determination of the size crowds you will be cooking for and the size of outdoor kitchen, counter space and outdoor living space you need to entertain well as a first step in picking a location.

Maximizing Views

Views are an important consideration when selecting where the kitchen located.  You don’t want to block the views from inside the home and you don’t want to block your guests’ views of landscape features such as a swimming pool, mountains, or water features.  Your landscape designer placed your landscaping materials in such a way as to maximize their impact, you don’t want to hide all their work.

If your outdoor entertaining style includes a big screen TV, remember to take viewing angles into account. Accommodating a large crowd with good sight lines should figure into your calculations of where to place the TV.  Minimizing glare and maximize viewing area are important factors when locating the TV near your outdoor kitchen.

Directing Cooking Smoke

Grills, smokers or pizza ovens can produce a lot of smoke.  You want to make sure this smoke does not end up in your guests’ faces nor in your neighbors’ outdoor space. And you don’t want it blowing into your house when the door is open when you build an outdoor kitchen.

A venting hood will redirect cooking smoke. In covered outdoor kitchens, or in uncovered spots where there is no wind, a powerful hood will keep smoke away from guests and the prep area. And fortunately, vent hoods can be designed to coordinate with your grill cabinets.

In more open locations in the yard, take note of where the prevailing winds blow.  Locate your outdoor kitchen grill station where the cooking smoke from the openair kitchen will not blow at your guests or drift into your neighbors’ yards.

Access to Utilities

Outdoor kitchens need electrical power for task lighting and appliances. An outdoor sink may need access to the plumbing system. A grill might need a natural gas hookup.  All of these utilities are most likely available inside the house.

If you need to plug into any of these systems, the closer your outdoor kitchen is to the house, the easier it will be to tap into existing electrical, plumbing and fuel lines.  A stand alone bbq island fueled by propane tanks used only during daylight (or with solar lights) can be placed almost anywhere that doesn’t block views or where cooking smoke doesn’t post a problem.

But if you want to outfit your kitchen with a fully functioning kitchen sink, a natural gas smoker, a hood vent and a refrigerator, you’ll need direct connections from inside your home.  Locating your outdoor kitchen on an exterior wall will keep hook up costs down if the utilities are nearby inside.  Trenching and burying utilities in the backyard for kitchen placement away from the house is a more costly process not only for labor, permits and materials, but also replacing disturbed landscaping.

Privacy Considerations

Locating an outdoor kitchen on a lanai provides a modicum of privacy that you may want if your backyard is visible from  neighboring houses.

If you still need privacy but the ideal location for your outdoor kitchen is out in the open where the entire neighborhood can see what you are doing, then a structure might be the answer you are looking for.  Retaining walls, privacy walls, shrubbery or a walled pavilion might just solve the problem.  These landscape elements can make a less than ideal location perfect from a privacy standpoint.  They can even help you design an outdoor kitchen that exceeds your original vision.

Made for the Shade

Having shelter from the sun for your outdoor kitchen is a necessity for the chef and guests. No outdoor entertaining space should be without shade – either permanent or movable.

You can locate your outdoor kitchen where mature trees shade the space most of the day.  That way, stainless steel appliances and dark countertops won’t be too hot to touch when you start cooking.  Your backyard kitchen can always take advantage of the shade Mother Nature already offers.

Use patio umbrellas, shade sails or retractable awnings to deliver shade where you need it and when you need it.  A pergola or pavilion will also provide a sense of enclosure and shade.

A covered lanai is a popular choice for shade in tropical climates. Locating an outdoor kitchen inside a lanai provides both shade and proximity to where the indoor kitchen is located.

These six decision points will help you locate your outdoor kitchen in the optimal spot for functionality and backyard enjoyment.

photo: Calflame