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Planning An Outdoor Kitchen - Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid

Planning An Outdoor Kitchen - Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid

By Jayme Muller, RTA Outdoor Living
Photographs courtesy of RTA

Imagine how glorious it will be to have an outdoor kitchen in your backyard. There are few things better than breaking bread with loved ones, with gorgeous weather in the backdrop. And hosting in your backyard with your own outdoor kitchen? It’s the crowning jewel on top of a perfect day. The memories made will be yours to keep forever.

Embarking on planning an outdoor kitchen project is exciting! This is where you are going to be living, entertaining, and hosting for years to come . You want to think about all aspects of your design before taking the leap. That’s why we created this guide. These are the top 5 things you’ll want to consider before investing in your outdoor kitchen project.

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1. Countertop Space

It’s likely one of the main reasons you’re interested in an outdoor kitchen is the convenience factor. An integral part of this is having adequate counter space. Why?

You want to have space for everything you need outside. If you don’t, you’ll be running in and out of the house every few minutes to get and replace items. That’s annoying! When planning your outdoor kitchen design, consider how much countertop space you’ll need. Make sure that’s incorporated into the layout.

We know it can be tempting to get a lot of countertop appliances. However, we’d ask you to proceed with caution. If you have room for these appliances, that’s excellent! If not, you may end up regretting it when you have no space to prep your food. Many people want to stack appliances that sit on your countertops. Sinks, side burners, drop-in coolers, etc. By the time you’ve accounted for all these, there’s no counterspace left. Don’t make the mistake of leaving yourself a design that is not functional. 

2. Choosing The Grill

The grill is the centerpiece of your outdoor kitchen. It’s not really an outdoor kitchen without it! Therefore, choosing your grill is crucial to planning your project.

You want to make sure the grill you select fits your needs. Unlike stand alone and cart models, built-in grills are a permanent solution. Once your grill is placed in the island, they aren’t easy to swap… So be sure you are happy with your decision before installation. You’re probably wondering… Where do I begin? There’s so many decisions to make. Fuel source, size, etc. Let’s break it down.

Fuel Source

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Gas grills are a crowd favorite due to their convenience. They’re easy to start up, with hardly any maintenance. What’s not to love?

As with anything, there are downsides. First and foremost, flavor. While gas grills will make delicious food, they won’t match the depth of flavor a pellet or charcoal grill can achieve. Another consideration is setting up gas lines. If you’re not using a tank for fuel, you’ll have to consider the added cost of running fuel lines.

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Charcoal is often considered the gold standard in terms of grilling flavor. This is an excellent option for grilling enthusiasts who want to optimize the flavor of their food. On the other hand, charcoal grills are a bit more work. They take some time to get started.

So the pros and cons of a charcoal grill are the inverse of a gas grill. If you’re willing to sacrifice convenience for flavor, a charcoal grill may be the right choice for you.

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Pellet grills are fairly new. They’re the best of both worlds when compared to a gas or charcoal grill. They’re convenient to use. In terms of starting the grill, it’s similar to gas. The flavor is excellent as well. Unlike gas, you’ll get a nice smoky flavor from the wood pellets.

Pellet grills are also versatile. You can bake, sear, slow cook, and roast foods. It’s an excellent option for those who like to experiment with various cooking styles.

The downside with a pellet grill is maintenance. Pellet grills often have digital components (more convenient) but will inevitably have to be maintained. So keep this in mind when considering a pellet grill.


How large of a grill do you require? It all depends on how many people you plan on entertaining. Of course, the more people, the larger the grill needed. Remember that the grill you choose is a permanent fixture in your outdoor kitchen. So while you may have a family of four… if you entertain for 8-10 people regularly, you’ll want the larger size.

Our rule of thumb is if you’re not sure, get the larger grill. It never hurts to have too much space.

3. Planning Storage Space

Just like countertop space, storage space is often overlooked. Arguably, it’s the most overlooked aspect of planning an outdoor kitchen.

A grill and counterspace aren’t the only things involved when cooking outdoors. You need cooking utensils, cleaning equipment, plate ware, etc. You can store these things in the house or a nearby shed. But that’s not nearly as convenient as having everything stored with your kitchen. You want to avoid the trips in and out of the house when hosting.

There’s multiple options when it comes to storage. You can use basic storage options for grill utensils, silverware, etc. If you want to store items that must remain 100% dry, dry storage areas are sealed with gaskets to ensure the contents remain free of moisture.

4. Cutting Corners

Your budget will dictate the scope of your project and what is realistic for your situation. No matter your budget, we would urge you not to cut corners. Just as with the type of appliances you choose, cost is important as well.

With all the options available, it can be tough to narrow down what is most important and cost-effective. We recommend creating a list. Create a “must have” and “nice to have” list for appliances. When sticking to your budget, you can cut the “nice to have” items that would put you in the red.

We recommend not cutting corners when it comes to the fundamental pieces of your project. The quality and structure of materials used directly correlate to the lifespan of your outdoor kitchen. Poor quality and structure can also pose a safety hazard.

An outdoor kitchen is a long term investment. It should provide you decades of enjoyment. By trying to save money on the foundation of your kitchen, you’ll not only lose years on the lifespan, you’ll end up spending more money later on for repairs and maintenance.

Create a list of your needs, so you can create a realistic budget and expectations. You may have to reduce the scale of your project so as not to compromise on quality. For example, you may consider building an L-shape rather than a U-shape. The removal of one island will free up more of your budget to invest in quality materials.

5. Going DIY

TV shows and YouTube videos for DIY outdoor kitchens are everywhere. It’s not as easy as it looks. We often forget the people in the videos are professionals, and that we’re likely inexperienced in construction. A complete DIY outdoor kitchen project certainly has its benefits. You can save money, and who doesn’t want that?

Once you factor in the value of your time, it’s often the cost of paying someone to do it for you… Minus the headaches, stress, and frustration. Imagine spending all your time, money, and resources to end up with an outdoor kitchen you aren’t happy with. Or having to hire a professional to fix your mistakes. If you’re planning on a complete DIY project, make sure you know what you are in for. Is the risk of a long, arduous, and unsatisfying project worth it to save some money in the short-term?

There’s something to be said for paying a bit extra to have it done right the first time. In fact, there are some outstanding partial DIY outdoor kitchen solutions. They allow you to control the installation of your project, without having to build from scratch. These options are typically 80-90% completed. That way, you can still assemble with no extra labor necessary. Consider an option like RTA.

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For those looking for a partially DIY option, look no further than RTA. Our outdoor kitchen solution makes it easy to avoid the top five planning mistakes discussed above. Our kitchens are shipped to your door and come with high-quality appliances from Coyote Outdoor Living. The panels are simply drilled together, the appliances placed, and you’re done. You only need a friend to help!

You have control over every step of the process, too. We even have custom options available for those who want a completely unique design. You can plan an outdoor kitchen for ample counter and storage space. No need to worry about cutting costs, either. We at RTA pride ourselves on using the highest quality materials possible. Your investment will truly last for decades to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about our product, peruse through our Pre-Designed and Custom outdoor kitchen layouts. If you see anything that catches your eye, email us to set up a call with a design expert.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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