ARTICLE Sharon Stephenson 

Make no mistake, an outdoor kitchen can take just as much planning as an interior kitchen. Our Q&A with Zones landscape designer Nichola Vague should help get you started.

How much does it cost to create an outdoor kitchen?

Costs can range from $15,000 for a basic outdoor kitchen, with a built-in barbeque, some seating and a sun shade. “Adding features such as a pergola, fridge and dishwasher, can raise that price significantly,” says Nichola.

Where’s the best place for an outdoor kitchen?

If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen that’s self-sufficient (i.e. with running water, gas and refrigeration), then you can build it almost anywhere. Otherwise, try to locate it as close to your indoor kitchen as possible, so that you can easily access the fridge and sink. Either way, pick a spot that offers privacy and provides a good flow of traffic through the space. 

“Consider prevailing winds, sun protection, overhead power lines and trees. You should also consider how the kitchen space links to other activities, such as outdoor dining, lounging and entertainment areas, such as pools and spas,” advises Nichola.

Modern outdoor kitchen next to a pool and garden

Do I need permits?

If you’re including plumbing (running water), drainage, electricity or an enclosed roof area, you may require Building and/or Resource Consent. Check with a local landscaping specialist before you start.

What kind of shelter should I consider?

“Rain, wind and even burning sun can impact on your ability – and enjoyment – of your outdoor kitchen,” warns Nichola. “An overhead covering can ensure you can use the space year-round. Options include a full or partial roof, pergola or sailcloth. A very popular option for outdoor shelter is the use of louvres, which can be opened or closed depending on weather conditions. Consider also the inclusion of vertical screens for additional rain protection and privacy. These structures can also help to define the space. Incorporate heating to enable use of your outdoor space in cooler weather.”

Should an outdoor kitchen mirror the classic indoor kitchen ‘triangle’?

Good spatial planning will ensure your outdoor kitchen functions as well as your indoor kitchen. 

“If you think of the outdoor kitchen as having distinct functional zones – prep, cook, plate and serve – then you can plan around this. First, decide if the bulk of the prep work is to be done inside or out, if it’s the former, then you’ll need less bench space. Also, if you’re having an outdoor fridge, ensure that it works with the ‘triangle’ formation of the cooking space and sink. It’s essential that no major traffic patterns intersect the primary work area. If possible, plan enough bench space for several people to work in the kitchen at once. And don’t forget to allow lots of storage for utensils, food and cleaning supplies, as well as space for a rubbish bin.”

Outoor kitchen with a barbeque and oven next to a lake

What kind of kitchen surfaces should I install?

Outdoor kitchen surfaces must be able to withstand whatever the weather throws at it. “Durable materials, such as stainless steel, stone, slate, tile, polished concrete or stucco are your best bets, but ensure they are recommended for outdoor use, as well as being able to handle hot pots and resist stains and grease,” says Nichola. “And don’t forget the golden rule, the easier the kitchen is to clean and maintain, the more the owner will use and enjoy their investment.”

What kind of appliances work best?

Depending on your budget and how often you use your outdoor dining area, consider including a BBQ (built-in or recessed), induction hob, fridge, sink, pizza oven and dishwasher. There are a range of appliances to suit various budgets. Just remember that appliances should be purpose designed for outdoor use and purchase the best quality you can afford.

“As part of your plan, consider the types of cooking surfaces that will work for you, such as a stand-alone barbeque and a dedicated smoker,” says Nichola. “A rangehood is a good option under a covered deck where good air circulation can be an issue. Most outdoor kitchen doesn’t need to hold enough food and beverages to feed a crowd for a week, so you can go smaller on appliances, such as fridges and dishwashers which are more affordable, use less energy and take up a fraction of the floor space.”

What kind of lighting works best in an outdoor kitchen?

To maximise the hours you can spend using and enjoying your outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to plan for varying levels of light, such as task lighting for prep and cooking areas and ambient lighting for entertaining.

“Overhead lights, including recessed lights and pendants, are the key to making the most of your cooking and eating spaces,” suggests Nichola. “Make sure they are able to withstand the elements and are purpose-designed outdoor light fittings installed by an approved installer. An outdoor ceiling fan can also help to keep air moving and increase your comfort level in a semi-enclosed outdoor kitchen.”

Outdoor kitchen with hanging lights above

When it comes to flooring, what’s the best option?

Low-maintenance and durable tiles or concrete floors generally work best in an outdoor kitchen. So do natural stone pavers with a lower porosity, such as granite. Consider applying sealant to areas where grease and cooking oils can spill. Choose a paving material with some texture and colour variation that will hide staining. Also look to incorporating a splash back with a tile for ease of cleaning.

What kind of décor works well in an outdoor kitchen?

“You can have fun with stylish but inexpensive décor, including chairs, fairy lights strung and colour variation and candles in hurricane cases,” says Nichola. “Also, don’t underestimate a good sound system and gas patio heaters for when the sun dips.”

Interested in creating an outdoor kitchen? Find out more information on outdoor kitchen options and costs in our Basic, Mid-Range and High-End project estimates.

 

Get in touch with Zones to discuss your landscaping project

If you would like to discuss options and ideas for your outdoor kitchen or landscaping project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.

*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.