10 Questions to Ask When Planning an Outdoor Kitchen

Whether you are building an outdoor kitchen for yourself or for a client, we find that there are 10 questions to ask when planning an outdoor kitchen. Getting the conversation rolling with the following questions can ensure that any outdoor kitchen is truly functional and makes your client happy.

Get the checklist to read from while you read: 


Sleek Modern Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets pizza oven kit in an outdoor kitchen

1. Do you want a stone kitchen or do you want to use metal outdoor kitchen cabinets?

This is our very first question we ask anyone who calls in asking about an outdoor kitchen. Either one can be beautiful and functional, but they offer significantly different vibes. A stone kitchen will probably require a larger budget because a concrete pad/footing to be poured to support the weight of the kitchen. Conversely, metal outdoor kitchen cabinets are light enough that they can be installed on many different surfaces with almost no prep. You can install a metal outdoor kitchen on a deck or rooftop. Even though stainless steel cabinets are a popular option, aluminum cabinets can be significantly cheaper. 

2. Where will the kitchen sit and are there space constraints that will limit size or placement?

Once you’ve decided what style of outdoor kitchen you would like, the next question is placement. Will you be placing your kitchen near a pool? On a patio? On a deck or rooftop? Wherever the site for your kitchen, take a look and figure out if there are space constraints that limit the size of your kitchen. If you are building on a deck or porch, are there pillars or posts that need to be worked around? Are you building your kitchen against a wall? If so, are there any obstructions on the wall such as dryer vents, doors or windows that need to be worked around? Is there plumbing, electricity or a fuel source (such as where your natural gas hook-up is) to be taking into consideration? If you are on a patio, are there any walls or garden beds that limit the location of your kitchen?

Measure these spaces and draw a sketch to help plan your kitchen. Or if you’ve decided on metal outdoor kitchen cabinets and you’ve downloaded our Sample Kitchens Book, you can choose one of the popular layouts included in the book either as your final design or as a starting point for your kitchen planning. 

3. What components or appliances do you want in your kitchen?

saber stainless 4-burner grill outdoor refrigerator drop in sink

Refer to our handy checklist to plan out what components or appliances you would like to include in your outdoor kitchen. Most people want a grill in their kitchen but knowing the make/model/size of that grill is important too! After a grill, what other appliances would you like to include? Read our blog about why you might consider a side burner in addition to your grill for extra cooking options. A refrigerator is also handy for storing ingredients, or keeping beverages handy and cold. If you are really a party planner, you might consider a whole beverage center to sit in your counter and make cans and bottles accessible to your guests. Keep your beverage center stocked with an ice maker. Go the other direction with a kegerator to keep a fresh local craft brew on tap.

If you have access to plumbing, you could include a sink, whether it’s a drop-in, undermount or farmhouse sink this will determine what size or type of cabinet you will need and any cutouts. Think about how you want to use your kitchen, and plan to include appliances that will make it as functional as you can. 

4. Are your appliances high-end?

When considering budget, one of the most important questions to ask when planning your outdoor kitchen is: how much do plan on spending on appliances? Once you’ve determined which components and appliances you would like to include, the make of them can significantly affect your overall budget. Many people choose to include high-end grills and outdoor-rated appliances, which can add thousands to your bottom line. It makes sense to install quality when you are building a project like an outdoor kitchen, but be aware of the differences and consider how much you want to spend. In the case of metal outdoor kitchen cabinets, if you include more appliances, your cabinet cost may decrease, but you will be replacing that with the cost of appliances. 

5. Do you have adequate trash and recycling bins?

When we list “component cabinets” for our Challenger aluminum outdoor cabinet line, we include waste and recycling bins in this category. We find that most people end up including pull out waste bins in their kitchen plan. The larger, 24″ version of our stocked waste bin cabinets includes room for two waste baskets, so you can have one for trash and one for recycling. Many people find this extremely handy. Giving people a space to drop their trash or recycle their bottles and cans can make cleaning up after a backyard gathering much quicker. 

6. Did you leave enough counter space on either side of your grill for cooking?

Conventional wisdom suggests that you leave 12″ of space on either side of your grill for plates and utensils. It’s tempting to squish all those coveted appliances into a kitchen, but consider functionality before you go overboard. If you’re adding a sink or beverage center, make sure to add some storage cabinets between the grill and the sink to allow for appropriate spacing. A side burner, on the other hand, might go right next to a grill, just make sure to leave space on the other side of the burner to leave room for plates and platters as your cook. 

7. Just like your indoor kitchen, does your outdoor kitchen have appropriate “working zones”? Tip: they may be different than what’s inside!

Just like when you are planning an indoor kitchen, working zones are important considerations for outdoor kitchens as well. If your focus is cooking, do you have appropriate space for meal prep around the grill? If you have a countertop pizza oven, is it spaced correctly with the grill? Where have you located your sink? Is it a comfortable distance from your cooking space? On the other hand, perhaps you are more focused on entertaining, in which case, can your guests easily access your refrigerator or beverage center, as well as the trash or recycling bins?

If you like to combine cooking and entertaining, consider a galley kitchen or an island—just like indoors—so that guests can sit comfortably and chat while you’re cooking. Any way you plan it, make sure that you have clear walking paths so that someone grabbing a drink from the fridge doesn’t interfere with the chef at the grill station. 

Storage: questions to ask when planning an outdoor kitchen Storage Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets

8. What kind of storage do you like in your kitchen?

Another of the questions people ask when planning an outdoor kitchen is “how many drawers can I get?” People have many individual preferences when considering what types of storage they prefer in their kitchens. Some people like drawers, while others prefer cabinets with doors. Open shelves make a convenient option for storing plates or glassware. When it comes to our metal outdoor kitchen cabinets, cabinets with drawers generally cost more than cabinets with just doors. A door/drawer combo makes a great compromise. If you want counter space at a bargain, consider using filler panels to extend your counter square footage at a significantly lower cost. Just make sure to space your filler panels appropriately between cabinets and aren’t on the end of your kitchens. 

9. What kind of countertop will you install on your kitchen?

When people think of metal kitchen cabinets, they often default to stainless steel countertops, but the truth is, your options are as varied as they are for masonry kitchens. The Challenger aluminum outdoor kitchen cabinets we stock also have a variety of aluminum countertops that can be installed for a cost effective option when compared to the industrial chic look of stainless steel. The aluminum has a similar sleek and easy to maintain appearance but at around half the cost of stainless steel. On the other hand, granite or other stone can be installed on the metal outdoor kitchen cabinets just as easily for an elegant, customized look that comes in around the same prices as aluminum. So use your imagination and don’t feel limited by countertop options. You also might consider adding backsplashes or bartops to your kitchen when thinking of an island for seating or serving drinks. 

10. What is the finish/color you like for your outdoor kitchen?

Whether you are installing a masonry outdoor kitchen, or using metal outdoor kitchen cabinets, the finish is the part you will see the most. Although choosing one style or the other has important factors when it comes to price and/or installation, ultimately you or your customer will focus on the finish. With our Stone Age panel & bracket system, the panels work to quickly and easily construct a sturdy base, but you can veneer them the same day in any finish you imagine from tile to stone to porcelain. Challenger cabinets come in a variety of powder-coated colors to match any design scheme. White makes an attractive option when paired with dark countertops, cappuccino and grey glimmer are light-colored neutrals that mix well with stone, while anthracite or black cabinets make a darker base to contrast with lighter backgrounds. 

Our “Questions to Ask When Planning an Outdoor Kitchen” in checklist form!

Outdoor Kitchen Planning Checklist

We’ve put together a handy checklist to help you identify the factors that will affect your kitchen planning decisions. We created this checklist with our stocked metal outdoor kitchen cabinets in mind, because the final question people ask us is usually “when can I get my kitchen installed?” If your customers are in a hurry, use our In-Stock Cabinet Program to help you narrow down choices so your client can get their kitchen as quickly as possible. Choose from cabinets we stock, or even use our Sample Kitchens Book as a starting point, and after sign-off, see your cabinets delivered in as little as two weeks. This means your clients get cooking in their outdoor kitchen sooner.  

Questions to ask when planning an outdoor kitchen - example kitchen Challenger Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets - countertop options - stone White tiled outdoor kitchen and bar made with Stone Age modular panels

Learn more about our metal outdoor kitchen cabinets and our In-Stock Cabinet Program here. Or if you’ve thought things through and you’re ready, click “get a quote” to fill out a form and get the ball rolling!