An outdoor kitchen can be the perfect addition to your yard, whether you host family dinners weekly or like to entertain friends with drinks and barbecue on weekends. Before starting your new project, though, be sure to plan carefully.

Space

As with any cooking space, an outdoor kitchen needs plenty of prep area. The best BBQ islands have a generous amount of countertop space to accommodate the food prep that comes with chopping, slicing, and dicing.

A grill island can also incorporate seating, creating a great place for guests to hang out while you prepare dinner. If you prefer a less traditional kitchen island, consider an open pergola with a built-in grill and cabinetry that lets the natural surroundings take center stage.

If you love to entertain, an outdoor kitchen can include a refrigerator to keep drinks cold. Other appliance options include a warming drawer, pizza oven or rotisserie, and kegerators for your favorite craft beer. Depending on your property and the size of your kitchen, you may need a sink to rinse and sanitize dishes and tools. If you don’t want to install plumbing, a portable sink that plugs into a garden hose will work just fine.

Appliances

An outdoor kitchen can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like, but it’s a great feature for avid grillers and those who enjoy entertaining. Beyond the basic grill, consider a wood-fired oven for pizza and other grilled dishes with unique smoky flavor or a specialized fridge to keep drinks chilled.

You might also want to add a sink, perfect for prepping food or washing hands after grilling. Other cooking appliances to consider include a side burner (perfect for simmering sauces or boiling corn on the cob), rotisserie, and infrared burners that are ideal for searing steaks.

Many appliance brands make outdoor versions that are practically decor in their own right, from boldly colored refrigerators to sleek clay pizza ovens. Add extra casual seating to allow guests to mingle with the designated cook or to sit and relax after dinner with a cocktail.

Seating

Having lots of seating options makes an outdoor kitchen a true party zone. Keep people close without being in the way by having counter-height bar stools near the cooking area, lounge chairs for relaxing, and dining tables to seat guests at. This makes it easy for cooks to serve up drinks and appetizers while keeping conversation going.

An outdoor pizza oven or beverage center is a fun addition that gives families and friends a chance to experience the joy of eating in a different location. This kind of upgrade can also increase the resale value of your home, since potential buyers like to see well-used spaces and appliances in homes they’re considering purchasing.

A contemporary exterior kitchen can blend right in with the rest of a sleek building, thanks to finishes that complement rather than compete with natural materials. Here, a stucco base in sandy color and honed granite countertops underscores the clean lines of this pavilion space.

Lighting

The lighting of an outdoor kitchen can greatly influence the look of a space, especially as daylight fades. Bright, task-oriented lights are recommended over or next to cooking and prep areas. Consider a ceiling fan with a light fixture to deter pesky mosquitoes and provide an extra source of illumination.

Pendant lights are popular choices for outdoor kitchens. These versatile fixtures blend functionality and style to add a beautiful ambiance to any space. Popular styles range from Edison-style glass to boho-inspired wicker cage lights.

Consider adding dimmers to your lighting system to control the brightness. This allows you to adjust the lighting to suit different times of day or different events. Small details like napkin holders, kitchen utensil storage jars and table settings are quick ways to add personality to an outdoor kitchen and dining area. Select a color or material that matches your overall design scheme.

Umbrellas

Umbrellas aren’t just for keeping rain off patio furniture–they can add style and ambiance to a kitchen setup. Look for a shade material that will hold up well in the sun, like solution-dyed acrylic. It resists fading and holds heat well, making it a good choice for restaurant areas.

You can also find umbrellas crafted from a variety of materials and styles to suit a range of decor tastes. For example, this colorful striped umbrella from Pier 1 enhances a sleek countertop and island set.

For areas that don’t have a hole in the center of a table or to shade lounge chairs around a pool, look for side mount cantilever umbrellas that swivel and tilt to adjust with the sun. Some come with a base, but make sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions. Also available are logo umbrellas, which help brand a space and advertise a sports team or favorite beer.

Animals

Cooking outside can be a great way to enjoy the Central Florida weather. However, cooking outside can also bring unwanted guests such as ants and mosquitoes. Fortunately, there are several ways to pest-proof your outdoor kitchen.

One easy step is to keep the area clean. Be sure to wipe down surfaces frequently and use environmentally safe cleaners. This will help to remove any lingering food smells and deter critters from smelling the food and coming seeking it.

It is also important to remember to take out the trash regularly, especially after large meals. Keeping the area free of garbage will also discourage animals from hanging around.

Finally, be sure to drain and air out any locations in the yard that may create stagnant water throughout the year such as unused bird baths and rain gutters. This will help to reduce mosquito populations as well.