How to design and build an outdoor kitchen

How to design and build an outdoor kitchen

Cooking and eating al-fresco is becoming more and more popular. Here’s how to design and build an outdoor kitchen where you can cook up a storm.

For serious aficionados of outdoor cooking, an outdoor kitchen is a must. Here’s my list of essentials

  • Shelter/shade
  • Washable floor surface
  • A reliable source of heat
  • Food preparation area
  • Storage for spare fuel, woodchips, cooking equipment, seasoning etc
  • Hygiene station – Ideally a sink but at the very least some antibacterial wipes and a bin.
  • Dining area


As a big fan of barbecuing I can confirm that if you want to cook out of doors in the UK, you need some sort of shelter for your outdoor kitchen area. Even in high summer you are likely to find yourself battling the elements at some stage. Blustery winds, hot sun and sudden downpours; I’ve tried cooking in all of these with varying degrees of success.

garden pergola with simple outdoor kitchen

A simple outdoor kitchen with shelter, flooring, lighting, seating and BBQ

In my own garden I have a pergola to keep the sun and rain off my head. It’s screened on three sides by a trellis with climbing plants.  There are a myriad of design choices. You could use an existing wall as one side of your outdoor kitchen. Or perhaps opt for a modern garden building with retractable roof vents and retractable sides. That way you can easily tailor it to the weather conditions AND you can adapt it for different activities.

Don’t forget to make sure that your cooking area won’t be affected by footballs, water fights, toddlers or pets – remember – safety first!


Stone flooring is a must. Grass gets slippery when wet and could be dangerous. Timber decking is one to consider, but consider the risk of scorching if hot coals get dropped. Stone can be sealed to reduce the risk of staining and of course it’s easy to wash away any spillages.

Heat Sources

Personally, one of the biggest joys of cooking outdoors is experimenting with different heat sources. I love my charcoal barbecue, adore my new smoker and am perfectly happy to use a gas barbecue when time is short (or I’ve run out of charcoal). Having installed a couple of pizza ovens for customers, I also have a hankering for an outdoor oven. That’s on the wish list for next year.

How adventurous do you want to be in your outdoor kitchen? I find with most landscaping projects it’s wise to futureproof your design. So maybe right now your gas BBQ does the trick, but picture yourself with friends making memories around your wood fired pizza oven.  How great would that be?

Preparation areas

Oh my goodness, how many times have I got fed up with preparing food indoors and then carrying it into the garden to cook? It really does disrupt the whole experience. Especially if you forget the salt/oil/tongs and have to go back to fetch them.

Far easier to have a work surface close to where you are – well –working. I can think of at least one occasion when that would have saved my sausages (dropped them en route from house to barbecue. Dog had a field day!)


3D garden design for outdoor kitchen

A 3D visualisation of an outdoor kitchen designed by Tapestry Design Studios.
The work surface will support a pizza oven

Storage space

I accumulated lots of standard food prep items that I use all the time – chopping boards, knifes, seasonings, meat thermometer. These all live in my kitchen and I just load them all into a basket and carry them to my outdoor kitchen when I’m ready to cook.

I will admit though, with no storage room outside, it can be a pain to either use them from the basket (like living out of a suitcase) or to spread them all over my table and have no room to work. I would love to have a shelf, a drawer, a cupboard – anything to put them out of the way.

Then there’s the side effect of my outdoor cooking hobby. The more I look at outdoor cooking equipment online, the more specialist gadgets I seem to accumulate. Pizza stone, rotisserie, smoker box, wood chips – oh dear – there are quite a few of them. These all need to be stored somewhere and Kirsty says they don’t belong in the house so I really do need some sort of storage where they can be safe and hygienic.

Hygiene station

In a perfect world, every outdoor kitchen would have running water and drainage. I remember friends telling me that when camping with the Girlguides they would use canes to create “gadgets.” Gadgets for the outdoor kitchen included a stand for a washing up bowl and a draining board.

I’m not suggesting you start fiddling about with sticks and string for your own cooking area. However, poor kitchen hygiene is responsible for some nasty tummy upsets. Therefore, it’s vital that you have a convenient way to wash hands, surfaces and utensils while you are cooking. What will you design into your outdoor kitchen?

Outdoor dining area

outdoor dining area on lansdcaped terrace

You simply can’t beat eating outdoors with the smell of the barbecue wafting in your nostrils. Even on a chilly afternoon, those aromas will make you feel warm (and hungry!). So it makes sense to have an outdoor eating area close to where you will be cooking.

If you have built your shelter so that it’s out of the wind and you won’t blow that eyewatering smoke all over the diners, you could extend it into an al fresco eating station. Add a parasol for hot days, some lighting for after dark and a heater for cool days and you will have built a little piece of heaven.

Designing your outdoor kitchen

Now that you have a wish list, it’s time to convert them into a design. I strongly urge you to invest in the services of a good garden designer. That way your outdoor kitchen will blend seamlessly with the rest of your garden. Plus you’ll be getting professional advice on the best position for your kitchen (avoiding blustery winds, scorching heat and long trips to and from the house).

A garden designer knows just how to factor in things like the slope in your garden; the view from inside the house; the journey from house to kitchen and possibly most important of all, privacy.

At Holland Landscapes we work closely with Tapestry Design Studios and can wholeheartedly recommend their work.

Building your outdoor kitchen

For a truly stylish outdoor kitchen, always call in the professionals. Good landscapers have the magic touch. There’ll be no wonky patio stones, wobbly lines or flimsy screens. If your work surface needs to support a heavy pizza oven, it needs to be built by a skilled craftsman using robust materials. Outdoor cooking needs to be about safety otherwise you’ll not get to enjoy the flavours!

outdoor kitchen being built by professional landscapers

This is the partly built outdoor kitchen from the garden design at the beginning of the blog.
You can see where it will have storage areas and where the structure will be reinforced to carry the weight of the cooking equipment.

outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and smoker

The completed kitchen with pizza oven, inbuilt smoker, worktops and storage cupboards


This article explains the advantages of having your garden built by a professional landscaper  

More articles about outdoor cooking

Cooking outdoors (includes recipes) 

Outdoor dining – the essentials 

Turning your outdoor space into a garden fit for a millionaire (without spending a million!)

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