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  • A Dawn Whyte designed kitchen loaded with high end features that make this satellite kitchen as thoroughly outfitted as the one inside the house itself.
  • A special food and beverage prep space adds a pull out drawer and elevated shelf to increase surface area without demanding more square footage.
  • This unusual linear design shows just how many separate units can be incorporated into an outdoor kitchen that lacks an overhead, weatherproof roof. Only large patios and landscapes can accommodate this layout which is simple, open and provides widespread accessibility.
  • Sheltered within its own freestanding structure, this outdoor kitchen features a full sized refrigerator, grills, and warming drawer as well as a vent hood to keep the interior free of smoke and grease.

No outdoor kitchen is complete without appliances and cooking equipment. From stainless steel grills and outdoor refrigerators, to beverage stations and warming drawers—your kitchen can be simple and streamlined, or fully loaded.

Outdoor appliances have come a long way in recent years, making it so that every convenience of the indoor kitchen is now available outdoors. Cooking a gourmet meal in your backyard for friends and family can be a reality if you select the right cooking equipment and accessories.Tour a large outdoor kitchen & get tips for designing a work triangle that incorporates food preparation, cooking and serving zones.

Each season it seems another outdoor kitchen feature hits the market. There is no end to the existing options and new ones are appearing all the time. This can be mind boggling to a homeowner who has not spent enough time considering all the options. Of course, if the budget is tight there may be few decisions, but to create a world class dining and entertainment space, it's important to use a professional who knows the ins and outs of the industry.

Basic Choices

Low end: grill, refrigerator

Midsize: grill, refrigerator, side burner, warming drawer, garbage disposal

High end: Grill, refrigerator, side burner, warming drawer, garbage disposal, trash compacter, smoker, pizza oven, deep fryer, recycling bins

A SUNSTONE grill from Sunstone Metal Products in Pflugerville, TX.

Built-In Grills

The most important appliance in an outdoor kitchen is the grill. Spend some time comparing your options before making a decision. Drop-in grills come in many different sizes, so think about how much food you will want to cook at a time. If you need more help determining what grill to buy check out this article: Choosing the Right BBQ.

A custom pizza oven from Forno Bravo in Castroville, CA.

Pizza Ovens

Pizza ovens have become a popular option for cooking outdoors. A pizza oven is wood-fired, making it a very authentic style of cooking.

Stainless steel fridge from Cal Flame in Pomona, CA.

Outdoor Refrigerators

If you want to cook entire meals outdoors then consider adding refrigeration. An outdoor refrigerator will make running back and forth between the house and grill a thing of the past.

Freestanding Gravity Feed™ Charcoal Smoker from Viking in Greenwood, MS.


A smoker is used to cook food at low temperatures over long periods of time. Food cooked in a smoker is tender and has that all-American smoky barbecue flavor. Smokers can run on charcoal, wood, or gas, there are even some electric models. A smoker is great for people who want to do the cooking ahead of time. You can throw some ribs in the smoker the morning of your party, let them slow cook all day, and when your guests arrive, simply pull the ribs out and enjoy. Because of the forethought and time that cooking in a smoker takes, it is not possible to come home from work and decide to have an impromptu barbecue. Due to this limitation, most homeowners decide to have a traditional grill installed in their outdoor kitchen as well as a smoker.

Sun Slide-In Double Burner from SUNSTONE in Austin, TX.

Side Burners

If you plan to cook entire meals in your outdoor kitchen, including side dishes and sauces, then a side burner is a necessity. A side burner equips you to cook alongside your grill using pots and pans. Side burners are available in single-burner and double-burner varieties. You can also get wok burners.

  • Pro Tip: Some people like to do a lot of side burners, refrigerators and storage drawers. I find that keeping it simple is often best.
    - Joseph Huettl, Huettl Landscape Architecture

Sear Zone Pod from Alfresco.

Sear Zone

A sear zone cooks at a very high heat, around 1,400 degrees. This allows cooks to lock in flavorful juices by flash-carmelizing food. You can cook food completely on a sear zone, or sear each side momentarily to lock in flavor and finish cooking on a traditional grill. Steaks, burgers and even vegetables taste amazing when cooked using a sear zone. You will find a sear zone especially useful if you cook steaks or fish, such as Ahi tuna, frequently.

Commercial Griddle from Alfresco.

Outdoor Griddle

A griddle attachment that fits onto your side burner or sets on your grill can be used to make pancakes, fajitas and even teppan-style food. Select a stainless steel griddle for the best cooking results and easiest clean up. Check with the manufacturer of the grill you have selected to see if they offer a griddle designed specifically for use with your grill or side burner.

Deep/Fryer accessory from Alfresco.

Deep Fryer/Steamer

A deep fryer and steamer combo will be useful in an outdoor kitchen if you plan to fry chicken strips and French fries, or steam crab. You will also be able to boil pasta and lobster. There are two types of outdoor fryers, the first is built-in like the Cal Flame Deep Fryer, the second drops into your grill in place of a grilling grate like the Alfresco Steamer/Fryer. If you plan to use the fryer often, then built-in is the way to go because of the convenience.

Premium Warming Drawer (starting at $687) from FireMagic.

Warming Drawers

Warming drawers are only necessary if you foresee part of a meal being done, while waiting for the rest of the meal to cook. A warming drawer will come in handy if you have prepared side dishes in advance and want them to stay warm, or if you are cooking for a large group and all the meat won't fit on the grill. With a warming drawer, you will be able to cook in shifts, just make sure that whatever you put in the warming draw does not get dried out, because it was in there too long or uncovered.

Outdoor Wall-Mount Canopy Hood, starting at $1,499, from KitchenAid.

Ventilation Hood

Most outdoor kitchens will not need a ventilation hood since they are open-air, allowing smoke to dissipate quickly. However, if your outdoor kitchen is going to be located under the eaves of your home or a closed patio cover, a ventilation hood is definitely something to consider. A ventilation hood will make your outdoor kitchen safer and more comfortable for guests by whisking away smoke and odors.

Stainless Steel Refreshment Center from KitchenAid.

Beverage Centers & Outdoor Bars

If you plan to use your outdoor kitchen frequently for entertaining, you should consider a beverage center. A beverage center will be like having a bar outside and will ensure that you always have cold drinks on hand for guests. Plus, it will look a lot classier than an ice chest with the lid propped open. Beverage centers range from a simple drop-in cooler with condiment trays to elaborate outdoor bars that can support a professional bartender. Consider opting for a beverage center with a sink, this way you won't have to purchase and have one installed separately. Often a beverage center makes more sense than an outdoor refrigerator because you can fill it with ice when needed and won't have to pay for electricity.

Sun 17" Premium Triple Access Drawer from SUNSTONE in Austin, TX.

Outdoor Storage Doors & Drawers

Stainless steel cabinets and drawers are available for adding storage space to your outdoor kitchen. Store your grilling tools, outdoor dishes and more in built-in cabinets or drawers that match the finish of your grill and accessories. You can also get paper towel holders, trash can holders and propane tank cabinets.

Clip on grill light from Sur La Table

Outdoor Kitchen Lighting Ideas

If you plan to use your outdoor kitchen in the evening or at night, you'll need to make sure you have ample lighting. Many grills come with lights built-in, but check before purchasing. If your grill does not have lights, you can purchase grill lights that clip on where you need them. But the grill isn't all that needs to be lit up. You'll need task lighting for prep areas and ambient lighting for bar and dining areas. Overhead or wall mounted lights work well for lighting up the entire area. Talk to your landscape designer or contractor about what lighting options will be best for your space.

Dawn Whyte of Lake Street Design Studio in Michigan works on the cutting edge of the newest amenities for outdoor kitchens. Her clients are both local and long distance because her understanding of what you need and what you don't can save her entire fee with just one mistake avoided. "The latest new appliance is a dish washer, which allows a kitchen to become just as well furnished as the house kitchen. There are only a couple of brands avaliable right now because this is so new, but for those with satellite kitchens, this means you're not carrying dirty dishes back to the house to run through the indoor dishwasher. The more self sufficient a satellite kitchen is, the easier it is to use."

Whyte understands a shorter northern season and uses innovative heating and lighting systems to expand al fresco opportunities into cooler times of year. "We like to use a lighting control system for the cooking and dining areas. It creates the mood of the site and is most important to satellite kitchens that can't borrow lighting from the house. Lighting paths and steps from house to kitchen is vital to safety because people are carrying trays of food or dishes. We also use infrared patio heaters which wrap the perimeter of a roof structure. This system senses where people are applies heat to lengthen the outdoor living season deep into spring and fall."

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