The ABCs of Outdoor Kitchens

by Kacey Larsen

Lighting (A)

Make sure you have ample task lighting, especially for the key workstations. Ambient lighting is an important part of the design as well. Task lighting and ambient lighting should be on separate controls.

Seating (B)

There are three main types of seating to consider: dining, bar and lounge. All three in combination can be ideal for entertaining. When laying out the space, try to include the cook in the party. Be sure primary cooking areas are not isolated from the seating areas.

Functional Zones (C)

The grill is the heart of the outdoor kitchen and is typically the center of the “hot zone.” Kitchens must be planned so hot zones, cold zones, wet zones and dry zones all work together. Hot zones include all cooking areas, such as the grill, pizza oven and cooktops. Cold zones comprise refrigeration. Wet zones include sinks and adjacent work space. Dry zones include prep counters and storage. A smooth functioning kitchen offers zones that work well during primary cooking and entertaining activities: preparation, cooking, serving and cleanup.

Ventilation (D)

A roof can be a great addition to the outdoor kitchen, creating a rain-or-shine outdoor living space. If you do have a roof, proper ventilation is a must. Make sure the size of the hood and the capacity of the fan are properly matched to the cooking equipment.

Countertop Space (E)

Include as much countertop space as possible. Outdoor kitchens are typically smaller than their inside counterparts. Insufficient countertop space is a common design mistake.

Landing Areas (F)

Free-and-clear countertop space is important to include on both sides of a grill, sink and cooktop. This space is for ingredients, cutting boards, platters, colanders and other items needed nearby while using a station.


The Appliance Roster

1) Grill     2) Pizza oven     3) Refrigeration     4) Freezer     5) Dishwasher     6) Warming cabinetry     7) Ventilation – required if grill is under a roof     8) Cooktops (with cooktop cabinets below)     9) Sink (with sink base cabinet below)     10) Weathertight storage cabinetry     11) Waste and recycling cabinet

There are a few more products in the kitchen that are not easily visible, including an outdoor ice maker and a glass door beverage center.


Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet’s Outdoor Kitchen Design Course

Kalamazoo offers an introductory course: Winning Outdoor Kitchen Design. It is designed to expand expertise and help professionals generate new business by learning the details of outdoor kitchen design. Available in person and online, the course is approved for continuing education units (CEU) or professional development hours (PDH) by the following national design associations: American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Visit to learn more.


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