How to plan an outdoor kitchen perfect for al fresco cooking

Planning to build an outdoor kitchen but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered – turn cooking al fresco into a reality with our guide…

Want to take your barbecuing to the next level? Then grab your apron and tongs and join us as we reveal all you need to know before planning an outdoor kitchen. From layout, workflow and lighting to drainage, storage, ventilation and electricity, there’s lots you’ll need to contemplate.

Open-plan space with a large dining table in the foreground and a kitchen space at the back.
Himalaya Crystal in The New Classtone on the worksurface and splashback, price on application, Neolith.

Cooking considerations

But first, start with how – and what – you want to cook. “Consider lifestyle preferences and favourite cooking methods – be it gas, charcoal or induction heat, and corresponding accessories such as pizza ovens, woks or smokers,” says Grant Davison, projects director at Alfresco Kitchens, the UK supplier of Flammkraft grills.

To make it a real outdoor kitchen, think about adding other kitchen essentials too, from fridges to sinks, plus plenty of storage and ample preparation space.

L-shaped outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and a large BBQ in a beautiful sunny garden.
Royal natural stone, from £680 per sq m, Lundhs Real Stone.

The location

Next, where you place it is key; the most popular locations being just off your main interior kitchen, as part of your patio set up, or right at the end of the garden. Both have their pros and cons, as Steve Esdaile, founder of EO Kitchens, explains: “An outdoor kitchen close to the house simplifies transferring food, utensils and other essentials, which is beneficial if you often entertain or dine outdoors. However, some prefer their outdoor kitchen at the garden’s far end, creating a separate, peaceful zone.”

Consider good old-fashioned English weather when you make your decision. So, avoid wind traps, think about the sun’s movement, and ensure you have some type of cover to protect those sausages from any spontaneous storms.

White luxurious kitchen with hints of gold under a pergola.
Officine Gullo Bohemian Retreat design in Surrey, England. Price on application.

Outdoor kitchen practicalities

Wherever you choose, an outdoor kitchen will require major works to your grounds. For instance, “Setting up a gas-operated barbecue may require a gas line extension from the house to the garden, a sink will need linking to a water supply, while lights or a fridge will require a line to hook them to the mains,” explains Oliver Webb, director at Cullifords.

Expect parts of the garden to be dug up for the pipes, as they must be laid deep underground. Electricity at around 60cm deep, gas over 37.5cm deep, and water over 750cm deep. Ensure you hire a Gas Safe Register engineer or an NICEIC electrician for any necessary works.

Al fresco cooking area with a pizza oven, egg BBQ and grill with a drinks fridge.
EO Kitchens’ project with pizza oven, grill egg BBQ and drinks fridge; whole kitchens start from £25,000.

The outdoor kitchen layout

Once you know where it’s going and what you’re including, you can start thinking about layout and finishing touches. While a common shape for an outdoor kitchen is a single run along a garden wall, Lucy Hinde, marketing manager of Grillo, notes a trend towards larger designs: “We are seeing people opt for bigger outdoor kitchens at the moment, to create large U-shapes and L-shapes, ready for entertaining in the sunshine.” These are perfect for letting the conversation flow while cooking, another important factor when designing the space.

Large outdoor kitchen under a pergola with an island in an open-plan garden.
Brown Granite waterfall island, from £300 per sq m, Cullifords.

When selecting materials, prioritise durability against rain and UV rays. Sintered stone countertops and natural wood cabinets offer timeless appeal. Or opt for stainless steel for longevity, ensuring your kitchen remains a joy to use for countless summers (and winters).

The final flourishes

Once you have completed the kitchen design, you can focus on the area around it. Electric heaters will enable you to enjoy the kitchen all year round, and layering your lighting will mean you can have both mood and task lights – just ensure they are IP-rated (and thus waterproof) for outdoor use. 

Finally, what good would an outdoor kitchen be without a beautiful dining area to enjoy the delicious food, so don’t forget to leave enough space for this. Add a comfy sofa for the after-party, and you’ve got yourself the perfect place for cooking, dining and entertaining in your garden.

Garden design from the Chelsea Flower Show showing the ‘Plot to Plate’ garden.
This handleless KönigOutdoor kitchen was displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show 2023 in the ‘Plot to Plate’ garden. Price on application.

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