Intro: How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen
An outdoor kitchen is an excellent way to entertain your family and guests, as well as throw amazing parties under open sky. The outdoor kitchen will typically have all the "fun" cooking gadgets which most people do not have indoor: gas grill, rotisserie, smoker etc.
In this guide we will try to explain in detail how an outdoor kitchen is built incl. the traditional "stud and board" construction as well as the newer attempts at lightweight concrete panels construction. You can also make it from cinder blocks as shown in the video here but this isn't a typical build. Additionally we want to cover some cool things you can add to your outdoor kitchen: tandoor, wood fired pizza oven, teppeniyaki, insulated drawers, and more!
Up next: buying a ready to go outdoor kitchen.
Step 1: Maybe I Should Just Buy It Instead of Building It?
We can confidently say that even though there are some attempts at ready to go modular outdoor kitchens these days, they still don't offer the flexibility and variety that you would have if you build your own. In our research the best modular outdoor kitchen in US is Fuego.
It's definitely very nice. Price is high but you can take it with you if you move (unlike a custom-built one) and you can also easily redesign your your backyard being that this kitchen can be moved. However... As with anything pre-built many things are pre-determined: cooking area sizes, cooking gadgets, the looks. By far most people choose to build their own or have a specialized company build a custom one. It will follow the shape they need (U-Shape, L-Shape, etc), have the finish to match the house or other things in the backyard and cooking-wise be custom-fitted to your particular wants.
Up next: The Building Plan.
Step 2: The Plan & Hardware
A good outdoor kitchen starts with a good plan. You will need to take pen and paper or us CAD or PowerPoint and draw exactly what you want and where. See the sample file on this page.
In order to draw the plan you will need exact hardware dimensions of everything you plan to use in your kitchen: doors, grills, drawers, fridge, sink, etc. This means you have to decide on the hardware (and usually even buy it) before the building starts! Any hardware suppliers (there are tons of them, from lower range Chinese made to high end Vikings and Lynx) should have a catalogue on their website which lists a few sets of dimensions for each piece of hardware they sell. What you need is "cut-out dimensions". These tell you exactly how big of an opening you need to create for your hardware and they go into your plan.
As a rule all plans usually go through the second and third reading - kind of like bills in the Senate. It's almost a must to have someone else take a look at your plan before you start implementing it: a fresh look will always find a door set too high or a grill too close to the wall. This is especially true if you are using a contractor to build your kitchen - show them the blueprint first and expect valuable suggestions.
Up next: The Traditional Way - Frame and Board.
Step 3: Steel Frame and Cement Board Construction
This is the most traditional way to build an outdoor kitchen. In a nutshell: first a frame is welded from 304 stainless steel or aluminium studs. You can also join them by screws. Afterwards cement board with matching cutouts is applied onto the frame. The top is covered with counters (usually granite, though i did see another instructable here on the cement ones - they must be very heavy though...). All hardware is installed - grills, doors etc. And afterwards the cement board is covered with the veneer of your choice - stucco, stones, tiles, or a combination of all.
Of course of all this you will need a 4" cement footing or an otherwise solid non-sinking surface. Do not build on soft ground or even pavers - the kitchen will sink overtime and most likely break.
The board used is basically any decent cement board - Hardibacker or Durock or similar. It will be easy to cut and will readily accept any veneer.
This is a great and undisputed way to build a kitchen. However... As stainless as the studs are they are still vulnerable to rust if you are near seashore. And in general stainless steel does rust in the open air. One other problem is that a structure like this often cannot support a very high weight (unless built with extra vertical studs). Another way is to use concrete panels and build the hole thing from them.
Up next: Concrete Panels.
Step 4: Concrete Panels
In recent years efforts have been made to build outdoor kitchen from modular concrete panels, we have found at least 3 companies producing them. They try to make their panels as lightweight as possible without sacrificing durability and solidness. The entire kitchen is assembled from these panels. Normally if you go this route the companies will offer to do all the cutting for you and ship to you the panels with all cut-outs, ready for assembly. They are assembled with the help of special glue, not cement.
The benefits: Cost. This is usually WAY cheaper than traditional constructions. Durability. These panels are usually made to withstand anything and everything incl. fire, elements, and decay. Weight support - these will support a lot more weight than a stainless steel frame.
However, other points to consider are: Heavy lifting. These are usually 50 lb each, you will have to lift them up to assemble your kitchen. Cutting. Cutting these is definitely harder than a cement board. Even though you can order them pre-cut (but of course this will cost extra), you may need to change some cut-outs as you assemble your kitchen. You have to rely on the manufacture to make perfect precise cuts, if they make a mistake you will need to wait until they ship the replacement to you which will halt your project.
Overall though, these are great and very cost efficient. You can cover them with veneer directly and they will accept anything: natural stone etc. They will support the counter of pretty much any weight (especially if you are considering making one by pouring concrete on top).
Up next: another little-considered way to make an outdoor kitchen.
Step 5: Lumber & Plywood
Yes, lumber. We are only suggesting this option if you are on a budget but the truth is: it will last a very long time. This is by far the cheapest and easiest DIY way. You can apply the same cement board to your timber frame and cover it with the same beautiful veneer.
Up next: cool things you can add to your outdoor kitchen.
Step 6: Wood Fired Pizza Ovens.
This will require a cinder block base unless you are using the concrete panels.
Step 7: A Sink & Prepping Station
Step 8: A Tandoor.
Now, this is cool. I personally have one. You can buy an insert from a few companies in US (Homdoor is made in USA, i think all others are from India), cover it with insulation and integrate on the side of your kitchen. You can bake amazing laffas right on the clay wall of the tandoor and also tandoori chicken using the steel spits which STAND inside.
Step 9: Outdoor Fireplace
A pleasure to sit by and watch on a chilly day.
Step 10: A Smoker.
Step 11: A Charcoal Rotisserie & Grill
You can buy some DIY kits but better build your own from bricks, this is a project on its own.
Step 12: ....and Your Caring & Helping Friends!
Of course don't forget all your friends who helped you make your dream a reality!
Thanks for reading!