Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

DIY Small Outdoor Kitchen for Your Next Barbecue

Gabriela Connell
4 minute read

Outdoor kitchens are becoming increasingly popular enhancements for backyards and outdoor living areas. Homeowners love being able to cook, dine, and entertain outdoors. But a full outdoor kitchen requires considerable time, effort, and investment to design and build. For those seeking a more compact yet functional outdoor cooking space, a small outdoor kitchen is the perfect solution.

Small outdoor kitchens maximize your outdoor living and entertaining capabilities without requiring as much square footage, labor, or financial commitment as a larger outdoor kitchen. You can incorporate just the essential elements – like a grill, sink, and compact fridge – into a cozy outdoor nook tucked away on your patio or deck. Add extras like charming bistro lighting and a small bar area when space allows. Building your own small outdoor kitchen is also a very DIY-friendly project that can save substantially on installation costs.

Plan the Perfect Layout for a Tiny Outdoor Cooking Space

Careful planning is crucial when designing any outdoor kitchen, but especially when working within a smaller footprint. Consider the ideal placement based on your home’s architecture, yard space, and landscaping. Look for a flat spot that gets shade for at least part of the day, and locate it near to your home’s back door for ease of transporting food and supplies outside.

At minimum, you will need roughly 150 square feet of patio or deck space for your compact outdoor kitchen. If you plan to include seating, dining areas, pathways, or other features nearby, allow for more room. Incorporate existing covered areas like pergolas to provide shelter from sun and rain.

small outdoor kitchen with bar

Focus on the Essential Elements of an Efficient Outdoor Cooking Zone

Like indoor kitchens, smart spacing and purposeful organization are key in small outdoor cooking areas. Position your grill, sink, fridge and prep surfaces in a convenient triangular workflow. This allows you to easily move between tasks, from handling raw ingredients at the sink and fridge, to grilling, plating and serving.

The grill is naturally the heart of any outdoor kitchen. Opt for a smaller built-in or freestanding gas or charcoal model. Portable kettle grills are very space-saving options. Include a stainless steel sink for cleanup, with hot and cold plumbing fed from your home’s water supply. A mini fridge keeps beverages and perishables chilled. Cabinets, shelving and folding tables offer essential prep space and storage.

Consider Fun Add-Ons Like Pizza Ovens, Beverage Coolers and Bar Counters

Once you have the grill, sink and fridge necessities in place, adding additional features is an easy way to expand your outdoor cooking functionality. Compact pizza ovens are great for turning out homemade pies. Under-counter ice makers always come in handy for drinks and seafood platters. For wine lovers, a small wine refrigerator helps keep bottles properly chilled.

Adding a bar area with some countertop space, cabinetry and barstools provides space to mix and serve beverages. Hang utensil racks, glass holders and shelves for optimal use of wall space. Finishes like tile backsplashes and accent lighting give your petite outdoor kitchen a polished, built-in look.

Outdoor Kitchen Components Can Cost $2,000-$15,000 or More

One of the biggest benefits of building a small outdoor kitchen is the lower price tag, with most coming in between $2,000-$5,000. Higher-end models with more cabinetry, upscale appliances and finishes can run up to $15,000. Prioritize your most-used grilling, prep and storage needs.

Opting for DIY construction using stock cabinets and appliances at home improvement stores saves on labor. Building on an existing patio or deck also avoids excavation and foundation costs. Focus your budget on functional essentials and durable finishes over expensive bells and whistles.

Design a Stylish Yet Durable Outdoor Cooking Oasis

Just because it’s small doesn’t mean your outdoor kitchen can’t deliver on style. Choose materials and finishes that align with your home’s architecture and exterior design aesthetics. Weather-resistant paints and stains allow wood cabinetry to better withstand outdoor exposure.

Countertops need to stand up to heavy use and outdoor elements. Tile, concrete, natural stone, stainless steel and composite materials are great options. Incorporate ambient lighting like string lights and lanterns to create an inviting atmosphere for evening use.

Creative Storage Solutions Keep Your Outdoor Cooking Area Clutter-Free

With limited space, smart storage ideas keep your petite outdoor kitchen tidy. Opt for cabinets large enough to stow grilling utensils and pantry items out of sight. Install pull-out trash and recycling bins hidden under counters. Use wheeled carts for flexibility to move prep space where needed.

Mix Drinks and Add Seating with a Compact Bar Section

Take your outdoor entertaining to the next level by incorporating a small bar area. Repurpose a corner of countertop to accommodate barware. Undercounter beverage refrigerators free up fridge space for food. Add barstools for seating guests around your sleek outdoor bar.

Open shelving offers handy access to bottles, glasses and other bar necessities. Use wall space for mounted wine glass racks, utensil hooks and racks. Proper lighting over drink prep areas also helps create a lively bar vibe outdoors.

After planning and designing your compact cooking zone, it’s time to start firing up the grill and breaking in your new space. Entertain guests in style with easy outdoor appetizer preparation and grilling. Use your cozy outdoor bar to concoct and serve up flavorful summer cocktails and mocktails.

An outdoor kitchen allows you to get the most out of backyard living. Relax by yourself or gather family and friends around your extended outdoor living space. Cook, dine and drink al fresco. A small outdoor kitchen delivers convenience, fun and flexibility at a fraction of the investment required for a full-on outdoor cooking oasis.