Outdoor Kitchen Counter Ideas to Inspire Your Next Renovation
Outdoor kitchens have become incredibly popular spaces for grilling, dining, and entertaining. By taking your cooking and gathering areas outside, you can expand your living space and enjoy the fresh air. Designing an outdoor kitchen requires thoughtful planning to choose the right materials, appliances, and features that can withstand the elements. The counters and surfaces you select are one of the most important decisions, as they must be durable, low-maintenance, and on-trend. Read on for our top tips on choosing the perfect outdoor kitchen countertops to suit your style, budget and needs.
When designing your dream outdoor cooking space, the counters and surfaces you choose need to check off a few key boxes. They need to hold up to ultraviolet rays, temperature extremes, dampness, staining and abrasion. Surfaces need to be non-porous and non-absorbent, so spills don’t seep in and stain. You’ll also want a material that is low-maintenance and won’t need yearly sealing. Of course, outdoor kitchen counters should also fit your personal taste and design aesthetic. Luckily, there are lots of options available today that check all these boxes.
Types of Outdoor Kitchen Countertops
Granite remains one of the most popular choices for outdoor kitchens. This natural stone has an elegantly bold, textured appearance that instantly elevates the look of any space. Granite is nearly indestructible, resisting scratches, stains, heat damage and more. It comes in a rainbow of colors from dramatic black granite to light grey, brown, and blue-green tones. Matte finishes have an earthier look, while polished granite has a glossy shine.
There are a few downsides to granite. It is porous and needs yearly sealing to prevent staining. It’s one of the pricier options, and certain dark varieties can get quite hot in direct sunlight. Overall, granite is a classic choice that offers striking beauty, endless customization and extreme durability for outdoor spaces.
If you love the look of stone but want more design flexibility, tile is an excellent option for outdoor kitchens. From natural stone like marble and travertine, to handmade ceramic, concrete and porcelain, tile comes in every imaginable shape, color, pattern and texture. Arrange subway tiles in a herringbone pattern or create a mosaic backsplash — the options are endless. Tile stands up to weather and wear and tear, and is easy to clean.
On the downside, the grout between tiles can be prone to staining and may need yearly sealing. Large format tiles with thin grout lines are ideal for outdoors. Make sure tile and grout have a water absorption rate of less than 0.5 percent. Laying tile on an uneven surface like concrete can also lead to cracking.
Concrete makes a wonderful rustic-chic countertop. Refinished concrete can be buffed to a satiny sheen or treated to mimic other materials like limestone. New concrete can be customized with aggregate mixes, embedded materials like glass shards or seashells, stamped patterns and stains in earthy hues. Concrete is extremely durable, heatproof and less prone to cracking and chipping compared to natural stone.
Raw concrete is porous and needs regular sealing, especially in outdoor settings. Sweeping citric juices like lemon can “etch” the surface. Concrete is also susceptible to surface stains from spills. But with proper prep and sealing, it’s an economical, stylish and sturdy choice for outdoor kitchens.
Soapstone, marble, stainless steel and laminates like Richlite are other options gaining popularity outdoors. Soapstone has a soft, matte appearance that develops a patina over time. Stainless steel provides a sleek, contemporary look and is naturally waterproof. Laminates stand up to weather and wear beautifully. Each material has pros and cons to weigh.
Designing Outdoor Kitchen Islands
A kitchen island is the ideal surface for food prep, serving and casual dining. Islands seamlessly expand your workspace and storage. When planning your outdoor island, first assess your entertaining needs and overall space. Islands should be large enough to accommodate your grilling, chopping, serving and seating needs without cramping the area. But don’t oversize your island and hinder traffic flow.
A minimum of 25-square-feet is recommended, but 36 to 50-square-feet will provide ample room for most needs. Allow at least 42 inches of clearance around all sides of the island for movement. Popular island widths range from 4 to 7 feet wide. The length depends on your space, but 8 to 12 feet is common.
Site your island close to the house for easy access to plumbing and power. Face the open side of the island away from prevailing winds. Place it diagonally in the corner of an L-shaped outdoor kitchen for visibility from multiple angles. Islands can also act as room dividers when placed thoughtfully within the space.
Granite, stone, tile and concrete suit islands well. Stainless steel is another sleek option. Opt for materials that complement your main kitchen counters. Durability is key since islands take a lot of wear and tear. Waterproof, weather-resistant woods like teak can offer warmth.
One bonus of islands is they offer ample storage for outdoor dining supplies, grilling tools and more. Incorporate roomy drawers, cabinets and open shelving. Durable stainless steel cabinets withstand moisture and don’t corrode. Ventilated wood storage keeps items dry. Storage near the base keeps heavy platters and dishes easily accessible.
Sinks and Faucets
Finding a sink and faucet that stands up to outdoor use is crucial. Restaurant-grade stainless steel sinks are ideal for durability and easy cleaning. Undermount sinks have a polished built-in look. Drop-in styles rest on top of the counter. Choose a deep basin sink for washing larger pots and pans.
Look for faucets designed specifically for outdoor use. Commercial styles often work well. Solid brass provides durability and stainless steel resists rust. Finishes like PVD, titanium nickel and oil-rubbed bronze add warmth. Look for a high-grade ceramic disk valve and at least a 15-year drip-free warranty.
Hire a professional to hook up plumbing. Insulate all supply lines and add heat tape to prevent freezing. Install a backflow prevention device and shut-off valves. Place drains near grease traps to contain food waste. A leaky outdoor faucet can cost hundreds in wasted water, so invest in quality plumbing.
Essential Outdoor Kitchen Appliances
Every outdoor cook’s dream is a fully-loaded kitchen complete with top appliances designed for open-air use. Start by selecting an awesome grill suited to your cooking needs. Add a beverage cooler, specialty appliances like a pizza oven or smoker, and ample prep space and storage. Soon your outdoor kitchen will be the most popular room in the house!
A built-in gas or charcoal grill is the centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen. Look for a commercial-grade stainless steel model with enough BTUs and square footage to handle your typical grilling load. Sear burners, side burners and quality construction are key. Many also come with handy features like interior halogen lighting, rotisserie kits and temperature gauges.
An outdoor fridge keeps beverages icy cold and perishable foods fresh. Stainless steel units with compressor cooling or thermoelectric systems designed for outdoor use work best. They should be seamlessly integrated into your cabinetry or island for a sleek look.
Take your culinary options up a notch by adding a brick oven or outdoor gas/electric model to whip up homemade pizzas and more. Built-in ovens designed for outdoor use have proper venting and typically max out around 600-700°F. Wood-fired brick ovens can reach 900°F for authentic pizza. They bring fun, theatrical flair to your space.
Dedicated beverage coolers, ice makers and wine fridges are great for entertaining. Storage drawers offer space to stow outdoor dining supplies and grilling tools. Look for weatherproof, stainless steel trash and recycling bins. More specialty appliances continue coming to market each year as the outdoor cooking trend grows.
Creating an Outdoor Dining Space
No outdoor kitchen is complete without a fabulous spot to dine and entertain. Complement your counters and appliances with comfortable, durable furnishings and architectural accents that provide shade and ambiance. Create an alfresco room that encourages you to linger long after the meal has ended.
Choose a table suited to your climate that can handle year-round exposure. Teak and synthetic wicker withstand moisture. Cast aluminum and powder-coated steel resist rust. Seek extendable tables to accommodate larger groups. Tables with built-in ice buckets and refrigerated drawers keep drinks chilled.
Look for all-weather wicker, aluminum and sturdy plastic chairs made for outdoor use. Stainless steel frames won’t corrode or warp. Drainage holes prevent pooling water. Sophisticated designs offer comfort and support. Folding chairs maximize storage space.
Provide shade and ambiance with umbrellas, retractable awnings, pergolas or pavilions. Waterproof cantilever umbrellas easily adjust to follow the sun. Aluminum umbrellas and telescoping models are built to last. Permanent structures like pergolas allow the addition of drapes, fans and lighting.
Outdoor Kitchen Lighting
Proper lighting transforms any outdoor area from day to night. Illuminate prep areas, highlight surfaces and accent architectural details. Use a combination of general ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting to create the perfect mood.
String lights instantly create ambiance and are endlessly customizable. Lanterns, sconces, spotlights and pathways lights provide brightness. Try hurricane lamps, Tiki torches or yards lights. Up-lights placed in trees or aimed at other surfaces from below create dramatic effects.
LED strip lighting under cabinets provide essential visibility for food prep and clean-up. Adjustable recessed lights, hanging pendants or track fixtures give focused light right where you need it. Place lights above areas like islands, sinks, and counters.
Landscape lighting strategically placed in flowerbeds, pathways and planters adds aesthetic appeal. Silhouette plants and architectural features with backlighting. Under cabinet lights add colorful glows beneath counters and islands. Downlights in overhead structures focus attention on surfaces below.
The thoughtful details make all the difference in creating a refined, welcoming outdoor space. Comfy flooring, chic backsplashes, decorative accents and storage finishes complete the look. Add personal touches that reflect your style.
Natural stone, concrete pavers, porcelain tile, and Class A composite decking are perfect for underfoot. Opt for textured, slip-resistant materials in outdoor-rated construction. Proper slope and drainage prevent pooling water and keep feet happy.
Backsplashes protect walls from splattering grease, food and water. Choose materials that complement counters like metal, glass, stone and outdoor-grade tile. Easy-to-clean glass sheet backsplashes add modern flair. Unique metal backsplashes make a statement.
Weather-resistant pillows, rugs, planters and ceramics lend style. Woven accent chairs infuse texture. Sculptural lighting doubles as art. Greenery and flowers add fresh pops of color. The right details create an inviting, polished yet casual outdoor retreat.
Creating your dream outdoor kitchen oasis is an exciting project that adds beauty, functionality and expanded living space to your home. With so many design elements to consider, thoughtful planning is key. Choose surfaces and materials made to withstand sun, rain, heat and cold. Select high-performing appliances tailored to outdoor use. Include plumbing, wiring and lighting suited for open-air exposure. By incorporating our tips on durable, low-maintenance counters and surfaces, you will gain an outdoor cooking and entertaining space that provides lasting enjoyment for years to come.