Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

3 Types of Outdoor Kitchens: Which One Should You Choose?

Backyard grilling is an American tradition that beckons us outside with the promise of unwinding from the hustle and bustle of life. To add to the enjoyment of your outdoor living space you may want to upgrade beyond a simple grill to a full-fledged outdoor kitchen with all the amenities of an indoor kitchen. In fact, the demand for outdoor kitchens has continued to grow exponentially throughout Southern California.

Outdoor Kitchen Options

Outdoor kitchens can range from a simple pre-fabricated grilling island with a countertop, to a large full-service kitchen with a refrigerator, sink, cabinets and storage, grills with side burners and griddles, a pizza oven, or even a cocktail station.

Additionally there are multiple methods of construction for these outdoor living spaces: outdoor kitchen kits, modular outdoor kitchens, and custom built-in outdoor kitchens. A brief comparison of these different types of outdoor kitchens can help you make an informed decision regarding the type that best completes your backyard oasis.

Three Types of Outdoor Kitchens: Kits, Modular, and Built In

Outdoor Kitchen Kits

outdoor kitchens

Kitchen kits are prefabricated kitchen islands that normally have a grill and some counter space, but can also include add-ons like storage or a freezer that make an outdoor kitchen kit a significant upgrade over a basic outdoor grill.  These kits are the most economical outdoor kitchen option, and can typically range from around $3,000 to over $10,000.

Many manufacturers allow you to choose from a few grill options, tile colors for the countertop as well as the materials for the base of the island itself. Most companies will have additional charges for higher quality granite countertops and stone or brick veneer on the base of the kitchen island rather than the more typical tile and stucco finishes that often come standard.

Remember, that any utilities like gas or water hookups need to be installed for each type of outdoor kitchen, including these kitchen kits.

Modular Outdoor Kitchens

outdoor kitchens

Modular outdoor kitchens are generally a “mix-and-match” kitchen approach similar to pre-made kitchen cabinets in a home, albeit with materials capable of withstanding outdoor environments. Each different piece of a typical outdoor kitchen has a pre-made ‘modular’ form that can be assembled together to make a complete kitchen. Modular kitchens usually cost closer to $5,000-$15,000, depending on the number of kitchen elements being combined together.

Some modular outdoor kitchens are essentially individual “kits” that are merely placed beside each other to form the total kitchen area. One module might have the grill, another the sink or bar area, and the last one a refrigerator. More advanced modular kitchens are joined all together on site, adding the base material of stone or brick to the outside of the modular units to join them together into a cohesive whole.

Custom Built-In Outdoor Kitchens

outdoor kitchens

Built-in outdoor kitchens are the most advanced form of outdoor kitchens and are built on site by a professional landscape company. Built-in outdoor kitchens can use materials that match existing patios or can be incorporated into a larger landscape design involving your whole landscape better than a kit or modular kitchen often can.

While built-in outdoor kitchens may use some “modular” forms, they are not nearly as limited in size as modular outdoor kitchens and can add more custom features such as a wet bar beside a pool, nighttime lighting, or built-in pergolas and other forms of shade structure that don’t typically come with pre-fabricated kitchens.

Full-sized, custom outdoor kitchens has a wide variability in cost, typically ranging anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000+ depending on the size and materials used.

Questions in Choosing Each Outdoor Kitchen Type


How often will you use your outdoor kitchen?

Are you planning cooking outside several times a week? Are you only interested in grilling a couple times a month or less? If you are planning to cook outside often, it makes more sense to invest in a modular or build-in outdoor kitchen that can accommodate your needs.

How many different types of cooking activities to you plan to pursue?

Most outdoor kitchens involve grilling and if that’s the only real need in an outdoor kitchen, a basic outdoor kitchen kit will serve your needs well. The more types of cooking and grilling you pursue the more likely you will want to invest in a modular or built-in outdoor kitchen.

Where will your family & friends be eating the food?

If you plan on regularly having family and guests dine at your outdoor kitchen, a larger counter with bar stools may be necessary. Most kits and modular outdoor kitchen islands have limited seating around the kitchen itself. If you have additional seating in a patio nearby, maybe that’s all you need. But if you want your guests to gather around the kitchen to socialize, a built-in kitchen with a large bar counter will be a must.

What investment makes sense for your current home?

Consider the total cost of a outdoor kitchen compared to your home value before beginning your project. The value of your home will increase with a great landscaping and outdoor kitchen, but you might not get a great return on your investment if you decide to spring for a $60,000+ built-in kitchen for a relatively modest home.

How long do you plan to own your home?

If you are intending to move within a few years, a kitchen kit will probably be adequate for your needs short-term. However if you’ve found your dream home and intend to settle in for the long haul, a larger investment is justified, after all you want to enjoy your backyard for many years to come, and what better way than with a great built-in outoor kitchen!

If you are looking to be inspired by the possibilities for a great outdoor kitchen for your Southern California home, please check out pictures of outdoor kitchens on our website. Our experienced designers can help you create a great outdoor kitchen that matches both your needs and your budget.

You are welcome to contact us to learn more about the costs, design process, or the latest and greatest outdoor kitchen features for your home.