Family using outdoor kitchen

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Imagine prepping, cooking and eating your meals at home, alfresco-style. The ability to cook and dine in your backyard is just one of the benefits of outdoor kitchens, capturing the luxury of open-air dining in an obtainable way.

Outdoor kitchens emerged with the trend of indoor-outdoor living, a movement that inspired homeowners to emulate the living spaces found inside the home in outdoor backyard and patio spaces. Outdoor bedrooms and living rooms are a few other examples.

Because of its growing popularity, outdoor kitchens have become a trend in homeownership, with new styles and designs emerging every year. However, when it comes to building or adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard, there are a few things you must consider.

First, we’ll go through a few questions to consider before building an outdoor kitchen and then move on to insights from interior designs on how you can style your outdoor kitchen.

Questions to Consider Before You Build an Outdoor Kitchen

You might have already made up your mind on building an outdoor kitchen, but before we move forward, here’s a few questions to consider; some you may have never thought about!

Can You Afford to Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

According to Home Advisor, the national average cost of building an outdoor kitchen is $10,670, with the high-end reaching $50,000. This is mostly due to installation costs of electric, gas and water lines, but also includes:

  • Building materials (typically weather-safe wood or stainless steel)
  • Gas or charcoal grill
  • Storage
  • Outdoor refrigerator

Some homeowners consider the return on investment (ROI) as a determining factor in whether or not they choose to build an outdoor kitchen. Depending on what sources you look at, you’ll either find an ROI of outdoor kitchens as 100% – 200% or 55%.

What you need to understand is that the ROI will vary based on where you live, the materials you use, the appliances you purchase and its overall presentation. We’ll talk about these exceptions next.

Does Your State’s Climate Make Sense for an Outdoor Kitchen?

You can talk to most real estate agents and contractors to learn that outdoor kitchens built in warmer climates, like the south or southwest, have a higher ROI compared to unstable climates found in most Midwest and East Coast states.

“In some areas, especially in the higher-end or luxury market of the southern United States, outdoor kitchens are almost necessary for your home to be competitive in the marketplace,” said Jen Nelson, a real estate agent, real estate investor and developer in Phoenix. “Because of the climates, homeowners value the indoor-outdoor living spaces and use them much of the year.”

However, even in warmer climates, the ROI of an outdoor kitchen will be dependent on comparable neighborhoods and the building materials and finishes you use. Let’s discuss materials next.

What Kind of Materials Will You Use to Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

Because the kitchen is located outdoors and facing exposure to heat, sun, moisture and, in some cases, the cold, it’s almost a requirement to use weather-safe materials to build out your outdoor kitchen.

Much like an indoor kitchen, the ROI will be dependent on the components and materials you use, meaning, you’ll find a higher ROI on sturdy, expensive materials like outdoor tiles or stainless steel compared to less-sturdy materials like wood or plastic.

“If your home is in the luxury market, then an outdoor kitchen should have nice finishes and be comparable to make your home competitive,” advised Nelson.

Nelson suggested to reach out to your local neighborhood expert or real estate agent in order to determine if your neighborhood would yield a decent ROI on an outdoor kitchen.

What Features Are You Looking to Use in an Outdoor Kitchen?

Features in an outdoor kitchen can be functional, like water supply, a direct gas line for grilling and a refrigerator for meats, produce and drinks. They can also be lavish, like granite countertops, sinks, built-in grills and seating areas.

It all depends on your budget, the amount of outdoor space you have and the type of outdoor cooking equipment you’ll need, according to Ryan Hughes, creative director and founder of Ryan Hughes Design Build located in Tampa, Florida.

“Besides a high-quality grill, outdoor kitchens can include a pizza over or a ceramic cooker or smoker and many times, anything in between,” explained Hughes. “Granite countertops are a must for kitchens, indoors or out. Comfortable seating is encouraged and sized to be positioned within the kitchen area, allowing guests to converse with the cook.”

You can save the most money by implementing less expensive amenities, like cheaper appliances and less luxury features, but keep in mind that your ROI will reflect the quality of materials and amenities your outdoor kitchen features.

Trending Outdoor Kitchen Designs

Considering the concepts we discussed above, let’s discuss how you can design your outdoor kitchen considering both aesthetic, function and ROI.

Outdoor Kitchen Cooking

Outdoor kitchen cooking

Image: Nevada Basque

The kitchen is the heart of the home and the heart of your outdoor kitchen is the grill. Since cooking outdoors will rely heavily on the grill’s features and capabilities, make sure you do your research and find the right grill for your cooking needs.

Depending on what grill you purchase, prices can range from as little as $150 for small, urban-style grills to over $10,000 for a free-standing, do-everything-and-more-style grill. Or if you’re looking for a little bit of everything, you can invest in outdoor kitchen modules, complete units that typically feature a grill, sink, counter and refrigerator space, depending on what you purchase.

“With the popularity of outdoor living, creating outdoor kitchens on any budget is possible,” suggested Hughes. “For smaller contractors or do it yourself homeowners creating kitchens, utilizing modular cooking, refrigeration and added entities is possible.”

No matter what grill you choose, the idea of an outdoor kitchen means the ability to prep, cook and eat your meal all while enjoying the open-air capabilities of the outdoors. Make sure when you’re setting up your cooking area, you allot room for a prep area, whether that’s a build-in kitchen countertop or a roll-up surface you can move around.

Outdoor Refrigerator

Outdoor kitchen refrigerator

Image: Cathoward Design

Baby, it’s anything but cold outside during the summer months, so make sure your outdoor kitchen has a refrigerator or a chilled space to store your vegetables, fruits, meats and beverages.

While you could lead toward the cost-effective choice and purchase a cooler or sorts, investing in an outdoor mini refrigerator means space for your beverages as well as raw or unpreserved food.

The idea of having a functional outdoor kitchen, as opposed to a single grill and patio set, means you have the ability to prep and cook your food without having to walk back and forth from in and out of your home.

Outdoor Kitchen Organization

Outdoor kitchen organization

Image: Apartment Therapy

By adding an organizational element to your outdoor kitchen, you open up space to move more freely around your kitchen and maybe even have a place to store cooking equipment and flatware.

Think about it: Your outdoor kitchen, on top of having the proper cooking equipment like a grill or sink, needs to readily have pots, pans and cooking utensils. Not to mention, the dining area needs flatware, napkins and other elements to prep, cook and present food.

Choose shelving or cabinetry that’s outdoor-safe and provides adequate amount of space for any additional items you may need to store for your outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor Bar Cart

Outdoor kitchen bar

Image: Pottery Barn

Bar carts are a helpful amenity to have in your outdoor kitchen. Not only do they provide extra storage for your beverages and drinkware, they also provide an extra work surface to your outdoor kitchen area.

You can even use your bar cart as a decorative element for backyard entertainment, hosting games or smores supplies instead of beverages.

Outdoor Dining Area

Outdoor kitchen dining

Image: House

Gather friends, family or have an intimate dining for two around an outdoor dining area. It’s the last piece in the outdoor kitchen puzzle that connects the elements of cooking and dining in the outdoors.

Use a simple table design that’s weather-resistant but still holds the charm of dining al fresco. Depending on the needs or desires of your outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to decide if you want seating for just family dining or large party entertaining.

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas on a Budget

If you don’t have the budget to invest in large-scale outdoor kitchen construction or additions, there are still ways you can capture the fun of cooking and eating outdoors without spending your 401(k).

Trending Outdoor Kitchen Designs - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

  1. Weber 4-Burner Liquid Propane Gas Grill $900
  2. Outdoor Kitchen Refrigerators $1,350
  3. Storage Rack $350
  4. Patio Dining Set $480
  5. Bar Cart $250

At the end of the day, your outdoor kitchen design should reflect your needs. While ROI is important when you’re potentially investing $10,000, it’s equally as important to have a functional space that you will enjoy for the years you’re living there.

Do you have any tips for building an outdoor kitchen? Share your experience in the comments below!

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. We are about to build an outdoor covered kitchen and dining area.
    Can I use restaurant equiment: Like under counter fridge, flat grill sink??? If no can you explain why please.
    Thank you

    1. I think the biggest problem you’ll face, and this is true whether it’s restaurant equipment or not is just making sure you can properly protect it from the elements. If you can do that I can’t see why not.

  2. Great article, I would agree, Outdoor Kitchens are a fantastic addition to any home. We design and build high end outdoor kitchens everyday. I love my outdoor kitchen with wood fired pizza oven, grill, sink, tons of counterspace and a bar! Nothing like entertaining our friends and family in an outdoor kitchen.

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