The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen Design Guide

Welcome to the tell-all outdoor kitchen guide!

There has definitely been a valuable shift in how people are choosing to spend their time and money. The trend used to be a constant flow of on-the-go, and FOMO became more than just a catchy phrase. But life has slowed down the past few years, allowing people to catch a breath and rethink all the things that matter most in this world, like spaces where they spend the most time. The recent trend of transforming outdoor spaces has increased by nearly 60% since 2020––enter: the following outdoor kitchen guide from Elevate Outdoor.

People aren’t just transforming outdoor spaces, they are bringing the indoors to the outdoors with outdoor kitchens! Our landscape design expert, Mark Gawriluk has outlined this ultimate outdoor kitchen guide so that you can be the expert when it comes to designing your outdoor kitchen!

This ultimate outdoor kitchen guide is broken down into chapters; we’ve provided a glimpse so that you know what to expect:

Introduction: Meet Our Outdoor Kitchen Guide & Design Expert

Mark Gawriluk, the Elevate Outdoor Kitchen Guide
Mark Gawriluk

My name is Mark Gawriluk, and I was born to create. From woodworking to model railroads, I have been creating worlds since I was young and able. I started in the landscape industry as a teenager where I developed a passion for gardening. With a strong foundation in planting and landscape knowledge, I expanded to landscape design where I have grown in skill and mindset, creating award winning designs by transforming our customers’ backyards into natural oases. I absolutely love that this is my job.

One of my most favorite projects is designing an outdoor kitchen.

Let’s face it, the kitchen has been a staple for social gatherings for as long as there have been social gatherings. Food is a universal uniter – we all have to eat so why not make it an enjoyable experience?

There is something primal about cooking over an open flame, and yet, it is something not achievable in most residential kitchens. An outdoor kitchen is not only a unique way to prepare meals, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and far easier than most people think. Outdoor kitchens are not too dissimilar to an indoor kitchen – in fact, most any appliance you can put in an indoor kitchen you can install in an outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchens can be built in a myriad of configurations consisting of a range of appliances such as grills, griddles, fridges, side burners, and even warming drawers and dishwashers. With the number of available options, materials, and customizations, things can get a little overwhelming and down-right confusing. So where should you begin? Well let’s start with the basics. I’m going to take you through the same process I take all of my clients through so that we can design the perfect outdoor kitchen personalized to your wants and needs.

Chapter 1: Chef’s Choice

What Kind Of Cook Are You?

chef flipping steaks on a fiery grill

The first question I’ll ask a client is what do you like to cook? The answer to this will help me determine how to best tailor their needs to their skills. If your idea of a standard BBQ consists of steaks, burgers, and hot dogs then a Blaze Premium LTE 32” 4 Burner natural gas or propane grill is probably your best option.

Perhaps you are like me and have loftier goals of making sauces and grilled vegetables. Side burners such as the Blaze Premium LTE Built-In Double Side Burner are a great addition that will allow you to cook with sauce pans and skillets without taking up space on your grill.

Griddles have become extremely popular recently and are great for vegetables, omelets, sausages, and steaks. Blackstone has become a name synonymous with griddles, but there are also built-in options such as the Blaze Premium LTE 30” Built-In Griddle. Do you crave that irresistible flavor of charcoal or wood flame? Then perhaps the addition of a Kamado style grill is necessary. The Kamado Joe Classic 18” Ceramic Grill can grill, smoke, and even roast meats while providing that delicious smoky flavor that only charcoal can produce.

Speaking of smoky flavor – how about about a smoker? Most smokers are stand alone units and come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and fuel types. The most common smoker is an electric pellet grill/smoker combo such as the Traeger Pro Series 34” Wood Pellet Grill. Not only can you grill up delicious burgers or steaks, but you can also slow smoke a pork butt or beef brisket with professional results. Today’s electric pellet smokers take a lot of the guesswork out of smoking meats. Many are WiFi enabled so you can monitor the cooking process anywhere.

Chapter 2: Chef’s Audience

Who Are You Cooking For?

family eating in an outdoor setting

Now that we’ve established WHAT you’re cooking, let’s talk about WHO you’re cooking for. Are you mostly interested in the weekend family BBQ, or do you have plans to host a neighborhood block party with 30 to 50 (or more) people? As a design team, this helps us determine the size and type of grill to best suit your entertainment needs.

a grill full of meat

The Blaze Premium LTE 32” 4 Burner Built-In Grill has a cooking area of 715 square inches – which is ample space for small gatherings or a larger family. If your intention is to feed 10 or more people at a time, then it would be wise to upgrade to the Blaze Premium LTE 40” 5 Burner Grill with a cooking area of 897 square inches. That equals about 36 burgers. If your guest list includes the whole block, then you’ll want to check out the Napoleon Prestige PRO 825 Built-In Grill with a whopping 1,245 square inches of total grilling area. 

One thing you will need to determine is the number of cooking appliances in your outdoor kitchen configuration. If you have multiple cooking surfaces – grill, side burner, and griddle – then you may not need as large of a grill. You can cook some vegetables on the griddle, baked beans on the side burner, and steaks on the grill – all with room to spare.

Chapter 3: Appliances & Add-ons

What appliances and storage options will you need?

stone peninsula outdoor kitchen

Progress! Now we know what we’re cooking and how we’re cooking it! Next up for discussion – the appliances and add-ons. The next most requested appliance for an outdoor kitchen is a refrigerator. Outdoor refrigeration shouldn’t be something taken for granted. Outdoor refrigerators have been purposefully designed to weather the elements as well as endure extreme temperatures.

The stylish Blaze 24” 5.5 Cu. Ft. Outdoor Rated Compact Refrigerator not only boasts ample room for storing beverages, but also has been purposefully designed to spend its time outside. This allows you to be completely worry free about the survivability of your appliance. An added bonus is that it will fit snugly right underneath the counter top.

l-shaped outdoor kitchen with stone accents

The next most important element of an outdoor kitchen is storage. Oftentimes overlooked, the storage capacity in your outdoor kitchen can make or break the whole experience. Nothing can ruin a family BBQ like having to run inside every few minutes for utensils, hot pads, or simple things like matches or a flashlight. The most basic storage systems would need to be the access door. At a minimum, I strongly recommend having an access door underneath the main grill. This door allows for access to the gas/propane shut off, as well as convenient storage for bulky items.

gorgeous outdoor kitchen built within stone

Another great add-on that might end up being your most appreciated feature is a roll-out trash/recycling bin. The BBQ Guys Signature 20” Stainless Steel Roll-Out Trash and Recycling bin combo offers a convenient solution for disposal. You’ll never need to trek back inside your home to throw things away!

Something else to consider is storage drawers. The Blaze 39” Stainless Steel Access Door & Triple Drawer Combo offers easy drawer storage for smaller items like grilling utensils, matches/lighters, flashlights, or even cleaning supplies. The large storage door lends itself to storing bulky items like bagged charcoal, smoking wood chunks, grilling baskets, or even basics like paper towel rolls – in fact, there are several storage door options with built-in paper towel holders!

natural stone outdoor kitchen design

Chapter 4: Outdoor Kitchen Layouts

Which configuration suits your outdoor living space best?

Once we have established your list of necessary appliances and add-ons, the next big question is how will it all fit? Outdoor kitchen layout ideas often follow the same layout configurations that indoor kitchens follow. Any interior designer will tell you the importance of the kitchen work triangle. Kitchens should be designed for efficiency in order to minimize movement. The more walking you have to do while preparing a meal is not only exhausting, but it also takes a lot of the fun away from cooking. 

There are several factors to consider when designing your outdoor kitchen. We’ll start with discussing the shape of your layout. But just as important as the layout are the potential add-ons that have a lasting impact on the efficiency of your design.

What Layout Suits You?

Typically, our outdoor kitchen layout designs follow the same as interior kitchen layouts – galley, L-shaped, peninsula, island, or U-shaped. However, unlike an indoor kitchen that is constrained by walls, windows, and doors, an outdoor kitchen has far greater freedom to grow. An outdoor kitchen may be confined to an existing patio space or even a covered deck. But, if we are approaching the design with the sense of a “blank slate,” then the only constraints are those of the imagination and budget.

Will You Need a Bartop?

If you answered yes to this question, then we need to design the space with your guests in mind. How much do you want to incorporate them into the experience of cooking? Great conversations happen in the kitchen, so would you like the design to cater to having guests surround the chef? If you choose an L-shaped layout, would you like guests to sit to the side of the prep-area so you can serve them food away from all the hot grills?

If you answered no to this question, then the kitchen design becomes fairly standard in layout. It’s sole purpose is to provide a space to prepare incredible food, and you’ll be serving it around your fire pit, seatwalls, or outdoor fireplace.

Will a Television Unify the Space?

Almost as important as the delicious food you are serving is the outdoor television component. Will you or won’t you? Is the space being utilized to combine great company, fantastic food, and an exciting baseball game (or insert any other incredibly exciting sport here)? The reason this question is essential to your design layout consists of many factors – will you need to attach the TV to your house? Do you have electric outlets near it? Can your guests get a good view of the game if they are watching from the bartop? We want to best utilize the space and create a working layout if a television is going to be included!

Will You Need a Rooftop Covering?

Lastly, you have options for how your outdoor kitchen will be covered. Pavilion, pool house, or pergola are the most common options. If you choose to have your outdoor kitchen under a roof, then how about your guests? Is it important to you that guests have seating at a bar top, under cover and protected from the elements? 

Our design team doesn’t necessarily approach every outdoor kitchen design the same way – every backyard is different as is every client. I design for the client, first and foremost. An outdoor kitchen can be a major expense, and a lot of thought and care goes into the design, both in functionality and aesthetics. Speaking of aesthetics – let’s discuss the finishing touches of your outdoor kitchen.

Chapter 5: Outdoor Kitchen Finishes

How do you want to make your outdoor kitchen stand above all the rest?

Let your personality take over in the final stage of designing your ultimate outdoor kitchen. With a variety of options available to you, we can make this outdoor kitchen worthy of the gatherings you’ll host!

Stone and stainless steel tend to be the two most common trends in an outdoor kitchen. Stainless steel has been prized for its corrosion resistance for over 200 years so it makes perfect sense that the vast majority of premium outdoor kitchen appliances are made from this durable iron alloy. Stainless steel resists rust and corrosion while also being able to withstand freezing temperatures and extreme heat.

One of the most common finishes for the kitchen structure is natural stone veneer. The majority of outdoor kitchens we build at Elevate Outdoor are constructed with a steel stud interior frame which is then clad in cement board (such as USG Durock Brand), then veneered with a thin cut natural stone. This is a timeless look! With the multitude of available stone veneers out there, we can match the existing finishes of your home for a fully integrated installation.

natural stone outdoor kitchen island

Another – and equally satisfying – finish material we enjoy working with is Ashlar Tandem Wall system by Belgard. This manufactured material mimics the beauty of natural stone but in a modular system that is quick to install, thus, less expensive than natural stone. 

Granite countertops are not just prized for their beauty, but also for their unmatched durability. More often than not, we are installing granite countertops in our outdoor kitchens. Granite is capable of withstanding Missouri’s extreme weather while also keeping a timeless beauty for years of worry free use in your outdoor kitchen. Soft stone, such as marble, is not recommended for outdoor kitchens due to its porous nature which can result in staining or even breakage.

Conclusion: Let’s Build an Outdoor Kitchen Together

Bottom line, our outdoor kitchen guide recommends that yours should be designed in a way that is tailor-made to your entertainment needs. We absolutely love partnering with homeowners in order to provide them with an epic design & build hardscape. We’d be honored to design and build your ultimate outdoor kitchen so contact us for a free consultation and quote!

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