Outdoor Entertaining Areas

Everything you need to know when planning an outdoor kitchen

A sunny, breezy outdoor kitchen where you can cook, gather and relax is the dream. Here's what you should include in it.
The outdoor living area with a white raised ceiling and sofas.Photography: Louise Roche / Styling: Kylie Jackes

Adding an outdoor kitchen to your home is a worthwhile investment for many reasons. It’s a smart way to increase your living space and make your alfresco area more usable throughout the year.

The addition of an outdoor kitchen means you’ll likely spend more time outdoors with loved ones, which can only be good for you!

If you’re wondering if it’s worth the effort if you’re going to move one day anyway, the answer is yes. Outdoor kitchens are known to increase the value of a property and give you a worthwhile return on investment if you ever decide to sell.

Before you get started with your planning, we answer a few key questions about outdoor kitchens.

How much does a full outdoor kitchen cost?

The price range for outdoor kitchens is wide, depending on how you approach it. The Bunnings outdoor kitchen is on the more affordable end of the spectrum, especially if you’re handy enough to install it yourself.

Otherwise, an experienced landscaper would be able to create an outdoor kitchen for you, including building outdoor kitchen cabinets and installing a barbecue, sink and fridge with the help of an electrician and other trades.

Keep in mind that a roof or pergola can increase costs, at up to $20k+, depending on the materials used. The same goes for a deck, which can be a surprisingly significant cost. It might be helpful to ask for a breakdown in the quote and keep in mind that certain aspects may require council approval which can add time and fees, too.

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget?

There are definitely lower-budget options when it comes to an outdoor kitchen. You can buy outdoor barbecue kitchens for under $600, not including joinery. Try the AlfrescoPlus range from Bunnings if you fancy having a go at outdoor cabinetry yourself. The more minimal you go, the more affordable it will be – you might want to just install a simple bench and barbecue on a deck alongside a dining table.

Decide on your budget first, then look at what materials you’re interested in using and whether they’ll fit in with it. For example, the popular choice of a poured concrete benchtop might be on your wish list but not necessarily in your price range. You’ll also need to factor in the costs of a licensed plumber and electrician.

This outdoor area is perfect for entertaining in the sunshine. (Photography: Sue Stubbs)

Do you need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen?

Depending on what you’d like to include in your outdoor kitchen, you may need council approval. If there are retaining walls above a certain height or you’re including built structures like a roof or a deck of a certain size, this would need to get the tick of approval before building commences.

Check with your local council to find out what can be done without approval and what would need to be submitted via landscape architect plans. For the latter, you may need to undergo a series of tests (at your own expense) to confirm things like whether you’re in a bushfire prone zone and therefore would need to use non-combustible materials to be compliant.

Keep in mind that if you go through the process of getting council approval, you will need to comply to the proposed plan and any specifications they make, such as particular trees not being removed if requested or driveway position requirements. The occupation certificate will only be issued if these requirements are met.

In short, it’s a lengthier and more costly process and easier if you (or your landscape architect) are able to develop a design that doesn’t require council approval. This often can’t be avoided though, and will be a smoother process if you go in informed.

These outdoor kitchen ideas will help you get started.

1. Choosing a barbecue

A barbecue is the obvious choice for an outdoor kitchen, but there are many different types. A built-in barbecue offers a seamless look as it’s integrated into the joinery. A barbecue with a hood helps keep heat inside and cook food through while grilling.

Some barbecues have a rotisserie, which allows you to cook large pieces of meat for a crowd. Think about the number of people you’ll be cooking for, what your go-to entertaining meals are and how often you’ll use it to help you make the best decision.

If the space is enclosed without much ventilation you may need a rangehood. “An electric barbecue requires minimal ventilation, while a charcoal or solid fuel unit will need vented extraction,” explains Russell Crosdale from Winning Appliances.

“To create an intimate feel here, the walls and ceiling were painted black, which also provides crisp contrast to white cabinetry housing a full outdoor kitchen and Beef Eater barbecue. “It took us a long time to find the perfect black, the paint we tested either had a blue tinge, or just wasn’t black enough,” explains homeowner Justine, who finally chose Resene Black. Cane chairs teamed with Coca Mojo cushions are the perfect place to kick back after lunch and relax. (Photography: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Rachel Honner)

2. Should you get a pizza oven?

A pizza oven is great for entertaining, thanks to the showmanship of prepping pizza dough, getting the wood-fired oven roaring and watching the bubbles form as the cheese melts. While there are many electric pizza ovens designed for indoor use, they’re not suitable for outdoors. Generally, you want to go for a gas option for outdoor use, like one of these Ooni pizza ovens.

Alternatively, you could invest in a wood-fired pizza oven. These can be built from scratch by someone with expertise in the craft or bought and installed in your outdoor kitchen. Talk to your landscaper about what would best suit your space and the expertise available.

The outdoor living area with a white raised ceiling and sofas.
This wood-fired pizza oven from Pizza Ovens R Us and the Barbeques Galore cooker get a workout when people visit this family’s Byron Bay home. (Photography: Louise Roche / Styling: Kylie Jackes )

3. Have you thought of these?

Kitchen servery window: It’s helpful to have your outdoor kitchen situated near your indoor kitchen so it’s easier to transport items in and out easily. A kitchen servery window makes this even easier. This one has bi-fold windows that can be slid across to close them when not in use and opened up to invite conversation or to pass plates, condiments, salads and utensils through.

Lighting: When planning lighting for your outdoor kitchen, be sure to combine both task and ambient lighting. The functional task lights might include downlights that point at the barbecue so you can see what you’re doing, as well as lights along a path to get to the outdoor kitchen safely at night. Ambient lights help for when you want to enjoy the outdoor area at night without turning on a glaring bright light above. Softer lighting choices are beneficial for these instances.

Fan: Sitting outside on a dry, hot day is much more pleasant with a fan’s light breeze to cool you down. It’s an inclusion that’s surprisingly often overlooked but makes a big difference.

Consider lighting and fans as part of your outdoor entertaining area design. (Photography: Kristina Soljo)

4. The benefits of privacy screens

Most of us want privacy in our backyards and decorative screens are a great way to achieve this. They’re also a good way to create zones or outdoor rooms for a more intimate feeling without building solid walls.

A popular place for a screen is behind the barbecue in an outdoor kitchen. Simple coloured slats create a sleek look that finishes the space and provides an added layer of privacy.

A simple white screen elevates this outdoor space. (Photography: Marcel Aucar)

5. Can you use a regular fridge outside?

It’s so convenient to have a fridge in your outdoor space. You can stock it full of beverages for when people come over, reducing the need to have an Esky filled with ice. It’s not a good idea to use a regular fridge outdoors due to exposure to the elements. Look for fridges designed specifically for outdoor use as they will be more weatherproof.

This outdoor area is equipped for entertaining with a Cosh Living dining table, Globe West dining chairs and a Grandfire barbecue. (Photography: Louise Roche / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

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