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Outdoor Kitchen Components: 6 Must-Haves For A Perfect Island

By Daniel Cdebaca

August 25, 2023

Are you ready to start planning an outdoor kitchen?

How exciting! Your backyard will soon become the envy of the neighborhood.

But while fresh-grilled food and unforgettable summer cookouts are in your future… Right now, you’re just getting started.

And to begin your project in earnest… You’ll first need to familiarize yourself with the essential outdoor kitchen components.

Namely, what features does every great outdoor kitchen island need?

Outdoor Kitchen Components Featured image

From the ground up, this article will detail each and every item required to shape the perfect summer kitchen.

So, let’s get started!

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What Are Outdoor Kitchen Components?

mike pyles u shaped outdoor kitchen with pizza oven refrigerator and two grills

Confused about what an “outdoor kitchen component” actually is? Well, allow us to shed some light on the topic.

Many use the term when referring to outdoor kitchen appliances and accessories.

Though this usage isn’t incorrect, per se, it doesn’t paint the full picture.

The dictionary definition of “component” is as follows:

“A part or element of a larger whole.”

According to this rationale, appliances and accessories would be a type of outdoor kitchen component… But they’re certainly not the only “part or element” that goes into forming a full grill station.

There’s much more to it!

In addition to appliances and accessories… An outdoor kitchen is composed of a base structure, countertops, storage, and other necessary components including access doors and vent openings. 

Let’s go over each category in more detail. 

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What Components Does Every Outdoor Kitchen Need?

There are many different pieces in the outdoor kitchen puzzle… And before you can start planning your design, you’ll want to be familiar with each and every one.

So, let’s talk through the BBQ island basics.

Outdoor Kitchen Structure

An outdoor kitchen’s structure will give your island its shape… Determine its layout… And most importantly, dictate its overall look and durability

It’s the most fundamental component of any outdoor kitchen!

There are many different ways to form an outdoor kitchen’s structure… Here are a few common methods.

Outdoor Kitchen Frames

a metal frame outdoor kitchen falling apart after a few winters

Internal frames are used primarily in the structure of off-the-shelf prefabricated and ready to finish outdoor kitchens. 

Additionally, many custom outdoor kitchen contractors make use of frames for scratch-built islands.

In any case, the frame method entails an internal “skeleton,” typically made of metal or wood.

Attached to the frame is a cement board… And the entire island is then covered with an exterior finish. Common finishing options include stone or brick veneer, tile, or stucco.

This type of outdoor kitchen structure has been around for quite some time, and still remains popular to this day.

But despite its lasting renown, outdoor kitchen framing often proves to be a poor choice.

Especially in colder or oceanic climates… Cement boards can expand, contract, and cause pieces of the exterior finish to fall off.

Faulty cement boards and missing finishes will then expose the inner workings of a kitchen island… Leaving metal and wood frames alike prone to environmental damages.

While metal frames may rust and corrode… Wooden frames will rot, swell, and warp. (Environmental damage aside, outdoor kitchens with wooden frames also pose a fire hazard when paired with piping hot appliances.)

And if the frame of your kitchen becomes compromised… The rest of your island isn’t long for the world. Talk about frustrating.

“Building Block” Outdoor Kitchens

concrete blocks require a structural footing
pavers outdoor kitchen half completed

Many scratch-built kitchens are constructed with “blocky” materials, like concrete masonry units, bricks, or pavers.

These types of kitchens don’t require an internal wood or metal frame. Rather, each individual building block will piece together to form the structure of your island.

For aesthetic purposes, you can opt to apply an exterior finish to a cinder block, brick, or paver kitchen. Though unlike with the frame method, this isn’t required to conceal the inner structure.

“Building block” kitchen islands will generally be more durable than those constructed via the frame method, and environmental stressors shouldn’t be cause for major concern.

However, there are still downsides with this method.

For starters, weight. Kitchens built with brick, cinder block, or paver blocks will be exceptionally heavy… Which means a structural footing will be required to keep your deck or patio from sinking into the ground.

For pavers and cinder block kitchens in particular, interior island space will also be greatly reduced.

Limited cavity space is problematic for a few reasons. Firstly, airflow will be inhibited, which can pose safety hazards… And secondly, you may struggle to fit certain built-in appliances into your design. (Not to mention, it would make servicing appliances an absolute nightmare.)

Lastly, there’s no point in sugar-coating it… Building a kitchen block by block is extremely labor intensive. It’s far from an easy DIY project… And finding a builder with the right skillset could prove to be quite challenging.

Let’s move onto a final method.

Panelized Outdoor Kitchens

rustic stacked stone grilling station

Panelized outdoor kitchens are another “frameless” option.

Here at RTA, this is the method we use. All of our kitchens are constructed with durable, customizable, high performance concrete panels.

These panels are monolithic… Meaning there’s no need to apply an exterior finish. It’s already been seamlessly integrated into the concrete.

Not only does this allow for easy aesthetic customization (we offer a variety of finishes!)… It also allows our kitchens to have better durability in all climates. 

Since our panels are one solid piece… You won’t need to worry about pieces of the exterior finish falling off over time, regardless of where you live. 

Now, let’s briefly return to the topic of customization. Not only will you have options for the exterior finish… But our panelized kitchens can be customized to create different kitchen layouts (U-shaped, linear, or L-shaped), as well as built in a wide range of dimensions, for spaces small or large. 

To form the structure of a panelized kitchen island… The individual panels are simply slid into place and bolted together, leaving the inside of your grill station completely open and unobstructed.

Hiring a professional contractor isn’t required to pull off a panelized kitchen structure… And the entire process is ultra-efficient. We’re talking only a few hours!

Plus, this method is exceptionally durable. The reinforced concrete panels won’t falter, even in extreme weather. (That’s why our kitchen structure is covered under a lifetime warranty!)

But, that covers the different types of outdoor kitchen structures at your disposal.

As you can see… Each method takes quite a different approach.

And ultimately, it’ll be up to you to decide which makes the most sense for your needs.

That said, we’d advise caution with prefab and scratch-built islands.

Be sure to conduct thorough research on kitchen kit brands and local contractors before committing to either method… Or the structure of your kitchen may not be up to your standards.

Now, let’s move on to another integral outdoor kitchen component.

Outdoor Kitchen Countertops

galley style rta outdoor kitchen with venetian gold granite countertop lifestyle

Countertops are another non-negotiable outdoor kitchen component… They’re crucial for food prep, serving, and so much more.

Tile, limestone, bluestone, soapstone, concrete, granite, quartz, and stainless steel are all popular options for outdoor kitchen countertops… Each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

The type you ultimately choose depends on a few factors… Namely, how much you’re willing to spend, your preferred aesthetic, how much maintenance is required, and the location of your outdoor kitchen (will it be exposed to direct sunlight?).

Generally speaking, we’d suggest picking between concrete or granite countertops… Both of which are durable, long-lasting, and aesthetically pleasing. (These are what we use for our own RTA islands!)

concrete countertop material on outdoor kitchen

Granite in particular is available in a huge variety of colors, making it a great match for almost any backyard design. 

Furthermore, it is extremely dent-, scratch- and stain-resistant, and won’t require frequent resealing.

On the flip side, granite countertops can be a pain to use in peak summer heat. Without a roof covering shielding your island from UV rays… Granite countertops can quickly get super hot (this is especially true for darker shades of granite)

Concrete, on the other hand, does require regular re-sealing to prevent scratching or staining. 

Plus, as a normal part of the process, concrete will naturally form hairline cracks over time as it cures. 

The good news is, if you opt for reinforced concrete countertops… No structural issues will occur from this. 

Looking at the pros of concrete…  It won’t absorb heat from the scorching hot sun, which is a feature that many homeowners prefer. 

And as far as aesthetics… The natural style of concrete looks absolutely stunning atop any outdoor kitchen. 

But at the end of the day… The type of counter you choose is up to you! Just be sure to thoroughly research the pros and cons of each material before you commit.

Outdoor Kitchen Appliances And Accessories

Of course, you can’t have an outdoor kitchen without built-in appliances!

These will be the lifeblood of your grill station… So it’s important to know which are best suited to your needs, as well as how to identify quality brands.

Let’s run through your options.

Built-In Grills And Other Cooking Appliances

For a basic setup… You’ll want to factor in at least one cooking appliance. Otherwise, what’s the point of having an outdoor kitchen?

Built-in grills are certainly the most popular choice… With propane or natural gas grill inserts in particular often reigning supreme.

But while certainly convenient… A simple built-in gas grill isn’t your only option. Far from it!

You could instead opt for a built-in pellet grill, kamado grill, or charcoal grill, for amping up flavors.

man cooking meat on flat top grill
dual side burner in reclaimed brick outdoor kitchen

Include a flat top griddle, power burner, or side burner… To bring more versatility to your outdoor grill island.

Or, turn your outdoor living space into an authentic Italian eatery with a pizza oven!

To best select appliances for your outdoor kitchen… You should strongly account for your personal cooking style.

For instance, if you’re all for quick and easy weeknight meals… There’s a good chance a no-frills gas grill and side burner setup will give you what you want.

But if you’re keen on tapping into your culinary creativity, the ever-versatile kamado or pellet grill would be a better choice.

The great part is, if you’re planning a custom outdoor kitchen, you won’t be limited to just a few appliances… You can choose whatever speaks to you!

But once you’ve decided which cooking appliances will be the star of the show… You should next consider any other types of accessories worth including in your outdoor kitchen design.

Non-Cooking Outdoor Appliances & Accessories

Though your kitchen will function without any additional accessories… Adding other non-cooking conveniences will certainly make your life easier.

In this regard, common offerings include outdoor refrigerators and outdoor kitchen sinks

And for a more specialized experience… You may also consider kegerators, ice makers, warming drawers, or drop-in coolers.

Vent hoods are another great component. Especially when your outdoor kitchen is under cover… These can make grilling much safer.

As you can see… You’ll have plenty of options at your disposal. It’s more than possible to design a grill island that’s just as functional as your indoor kitchen!

How To Identify Quality Outdoor Accessories & Appliances

There are plenty of great built-in outdoor kitchen components for sale… But there are just as many that don’t quite hit the mark.

So before you settle for just any old appliance or accessory brand… You’ll want to keep a sharp eye out for quality. This should be a long term investment, after all!

How can you do this?

First, identify brands offering 304 stainless steel appliances and accessories.

This particular grade of stainless steel has superb weather resistance. Unlike lower grades (430 or 201, for example)… 304 stainless steel won’t be readily prone to rust and corrosion.

Additionally, look into a product’s warranty before you buy. High quality appliances and accessories should ideally be covered under a lifetime warranty.

If they’re not, you may find yourself replacing or servicing elements of your outdoor kitchen more often than you’d like. Not only is this a pain to deal with, but maintenance expenses can quickly add up!

Now, these considerations should apply to any and all add-ons you include in your kitchen island.

Speaking of which… What other add-ons are there?

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Storage Drawers And Cabinetry

l shaped outdoor kitchen with storage drawers and two kamado cookers

Though technically considered to be a type of outdoor kitchen accessory… We thought it best to give outdoor storage its own unique category as an essential outdoor kitchen component. 

It’s that important!

Generally, outdoor storage comes in the form of pull-out drawers and cabinetry.

It exists in a range of shapes and sizes… And can serve a variety of purposes.

For stowing away dry goods or grill accessories, there are standard single drawers, double drawers, and even triple drawers… As well as single or double storage cabinets, and even cabinet and drawer combos.

Additionally, there are larger pull-out drawers for trash and recycling… Spice rack drawers, and drawers specially designed to store paper towels,

These outdoor kitchen cabinets and drawers will be seamlessly built into the structure of your kitchen, for easy access while cooking al fresco.

Unsure what type of outdoor storage you need? Consider what (and how much) you’ll be keeping at your grill station, the size of what you’ll be storing, and how much under-counter space you’re willing to spare.

And when accounting for storage… Don’t forget to leave room on your island for access doors!

Access Doors

man opening double access doors in rta outdoor kitchen

Moving onto another key outdoor kitchen component… Access doors! 

To get to the inner workings of your grill station, you’ll want to factor access doors into your design.

This will make it easier to service appliances if required down the road… Diagnose potential issues within your kitchen… And give you a space to set propane tanks (if applicable).

Access doors are especially pertinent if you have appliances which require utility lines. Sinks, refrigerators, pellet grills, gas grills, and anything else that utilizes plumbing, electric, or natural gas.

Plumbing, gas, and electric lines alike may eventually need to be serviced… And having designated access into your grill island will make this process much easier to deal with.

Outdoor Kitchen Vents

outdoor kitchen vents

Though it can often be overlooked… This outdoor kitchen component is absolutely essential.

Without outdoor kitchen vents, using an outdoor kitchen could be an extremely dangerous practice.

If the proper ventilation isn’t built into your kitchen’s structure… Heat, propane, and natural gas can all build up within your island, ultimately leading to a fiery explosion.

The last thing you’d want is to put your family, your guests, or yourself at risk… So don’t overlook this critical outdoor kitchen component!

Our RTA kitchens are a great example of going above and beyond standard safety regulations. Each and every one of our islands has several unimpeded vent openings… And the open interior cavity of our panelized structure allows for sufficient airflow within.

But unfortunately, this isn’t the norm for many prefab or contractor built kitchens.

Though not always the case, certain contractors may neglect to factor in vent openings altogether…

And though prefabricated outdoor kitchens usually feature vent openings… Oftentimes, they don’t actually allow for adequate ventilation.

For peace of mind, you’ll definitely want to confirm that the island solution you opt for has properly accounted for this component.

Other Outdoor Kitchen Components To Consider

Alright, we’ve covered all of the must-have outdoor kitchen components.

We’ll admit, the below features aren’t absolutely necessary for a functional kitchen island… Yet, there’s no doubt that they’ll add to your overall experience.

Let’s check them out.

Outdoor Kitchen Bar

l shaped outdoor kitchen with sink and bar seating

Many homeowners opt to include an outdoor bar in their kitchen design… And for good reason!

Of course, a bar island will be bar height… Meaning it will be raised slightly above the remainder of your countertops.

This makes for a perfect seating or dining area for guests… Right beside your summer kitchen.

On top of making your cooking area more interactive, an outdoor kitchen bar will also give you more counter space to work with… Which means more work area for food or drink prep!

If you can spare a spot on your patio… You truly can’t go wrong with a bar island.

Outdoor Kitchen Roof

outdoor kitchen under gazebo with table and seating on patio

Outdoor kitchen roofs are another trending feature.

On a hot summer day… A roof structure will cast some much-needed shade on your grill station.

And on top of that, they’re also a great way to protect your kitchen from precipitation.

Outdoor roof options are truly endless… With pergolas, pavilions, and gazebos often being the most popular choices.

But as we mentioned earlier… Don’t forget to include a vent hood if you have a full roof covering above your piping hot cooking appliances.

Lighting

new jersey outdoor kitchen by rta at night with lighting

When you have a full grill station beckoning… Wouldn’t you want it to be usable at all hours of the day?

So you don’t have to retire indoors come sundown… Outdoor kitchen lighting is a worthwhile addition.

String lighting, wall lights, and pendant lights are just a few examples of what’s possible.

And if your kitchen is under a roof covering… You could even include recessed lighting above your island.

Not only will lighting add a peaceful ambiance to your outdoor living space… It’ll also make your backyard safer to maneuver in the dark.

Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit

l shape outdoor kitchen idea with fire pit

As with outdoor kitchen lighting… Pairing your grill station with a fire feature is another fantastic choice for homeowners who want to hang out al fresco both day and night.

But not only does a fireplace or fire pit alongside your BBQ station create a welcoming atmosphere in your space… It’ll also make your patio more comfortable when the temps drop.

All in all… These features may not be essential for your cooking setup, but they’ll surely allow you to get much more use from your design.

Get All The Essential Outdoor Kitchen Components... In One Place

At this point, a clearer outdoor kitchen idea may be starting to take shape in your mind’s eye.

And now, you’re wondering where to get all the new outdoor kitchen components you need.

With the structure, appliances, accessories, and more to account for… This task may seem daunting.

How do you begin?

Of course, you could settle for a prefabricated grill station. But honestly, there’s a chance it won’t have everything you want.

And if you pay an arm and a leg to have a contractor source components and build your kitchen for you… You may be left waiting weeks or months. (Not to mention, the quality and safety of the finished project isn’t always a guarantee.) 

If neither prospect sounds all that appealing… We get it.

So what if we told you you could get all the essentials, without compromise… And in one place?

Here at RTA… We offer an easy, all-in-one custom outdoor kitchen solution.

That includes the durable concrete island structure, complete with outdoor kitchen vents…

Reinforced concrete or granite countertops…

And an extensive selection of 304 stainless steel built-in appliances, accessories, access doors, and storage solutions from Coyote Outdoor Living (plus high quality pizza ovens from Alfa)!

All of these components will be packaged and sent straight to your door, for a simple installation.

And in no time, you’ll be set up for a lifetime of outdoor cooking and hosting enjoyment.

Want more details?

Check out our Learning Hub for more helpful tips and tricks on jumpstarting your outdoor kitchen plans… And make use of our free online design services to start customizing your dream island.

We hope to be in touch soon!

Need Help With Your Plans?

Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.

FAQ

Essential outdoor kitchen components include the structure of your island, countertops, built-in appliances and accessories, storage drawers, cabinets, and access doors, and outdoor kitchen vents for safety. These are all key components of a functional, convenient, and safe outdoor cooking area!

On top of these must-have features, you could also opt to include trending add-ons like an outdoor kitchen bar island, lighting, or a roof covering over your BBQ grill station.

Wondering where to buy outdoor kitchen components? Online retailers are usually your best option for getting everything you need.

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