You’re in the middle of planning an outdoor kitchen project, and you’re wondering…
What is the best countertop for an outdoor kitchen?
It’s a big question.
After all, this is the surface you’ll be using to prepare and serve food!
At the very least, you’ll need a patio countertop that’s hygienic, durable, and aesthetically appealing.
But when trying to narrow it down to the best outdoor countertop options… You’ll quickly notice that everyone has their own opinions on what the “perfect” solution really is.
Who do you listen to?
Well, the reality is that there are pros and cons to most outdoor kitchen countertops options… And the best outdoor counter material for you may be the worst for another homeowner.
That’s why in this article, our aim is to shed some light on the topic… So you can determine which countertop material is truly the prime choice for your unique project.
But before we get going… Why trust our take on outdoor BBQ countertops?
We’re glad you asked. As an outdoor kitchen company… We’ve designed thousands of grill islands with custom outdoor countertops.
So from aesthetics, to durability, to food prep safety (and beyond)... We know how to identify the best outdoor countertop materials.
With that, let’s get started.
Choosing The Right Outdoor Kitchen Countertops: 8 “Top” Considerations
When selecting countertops for your new outdoor kitchen design… There’s more to it than simply picking the prettiest option or the most popular choice.
So to help set you straight in your search… Have a look at the following questions.
1. How Do You Plan To Use Your Outdoor Grill Island Countertops?
When planning an outdoor kitchen… You need to know how you aim to use it.
How will you host? What’s your outdoor cooking style? How are you going to use your outdoor patio counters?
The way you plan to use your countertops will play a major role in the material you end up choosing.
You may be thinking… “It’s just an outdoor kitchen countertop, how many different ways can you really use it?”
You’d be surprised!
To better grasp what we mean… Chew over the following:
- Are you going to be placing a lot of hot pots or other high temperature objects on your outdoor patio countertops?
- Is clean up on your mind when you cook? Or do you tend to be more blasé about spills and messes?
- Will you be using any sharp or heavy objects that may damage the surface of your BBQ island countertops?
- Are you planning a more intricate outdoor kitchen layout… Like one with outdoor bar countertops? (Certain countertop materials aren’t cut out for complex designs!)
The way you plan to use your outdoor kitchen worktop probably just became a whole lot clearer.
So keep these considerations in mind as we progress through the following points.
Want to bring your idea to life?
2. How Much Maintenance Do You Want To Deal With?
Whether you love it or hate it… Cleaning your outdoor kitchen countertops is unavoidable.
The question is… How easy are they to clean and maintain, and how often do you have to do it?
As far as routine cleaning goes… Granite and quartz countertops are generally the easiest to deal with, since they’re smooth and simple to wipe down.
Our only note here is to be wary of any acidic food spills… As residual citrus, tomato sauce, or vinegar can cause countertop etches and dark color spots.
Tile countertops are on the opposite end of the spectrum. The grout is highly susceptible to staining and absorbing filth… Which means more elbow grease is required to keep these spic and span.
Now, routine cleaning is just one side of the coin. You also have to consider ongoing maintenance.
In this regard, some outdoor kitchen countertops are a bit more involved than others.
Take concrete and other porous materials, for example. These need resealing every 1-2 years.
On the flipside, nonporous materials like soapstone don’t require any resealing.
If you’re someone who can’t be bothered with deep cleaning and constant upkeep… You should choose your outdoor kitchen countertops accordingly.
Even if it means spending a bit more money upfront… In the long run, it’ll be more than worth it.
3. What’s Your Budget?
Of course, your budget plays a role in any home improvement project.
So, it’s important to know how the countertops you choose stack up pricewise.
This comes down to two things:
- Aesthetic appeal
- Maintenance & convenience
Generally, a more aesthetically pleasing material is going to come at a higher cost.
For some homeowners, beauty is of the utmost importance… And the extra cost for your outdoor kitchen probably isn’t a point of concern.
Now, we’ve already touched on maintenance… But it’s worth reiterating.
The less you have to maintain your countertop, the more convenient it is. An outdoor kitchen countertop material that is easy to maintain also tends to cost more.
Take granite, for example. Oftentimes, the additional cost is well worth the convenient upkeep.
If you’re torn between saving now or putting in the work later… Always think long term.
Picture yourself going through the hassle of deep cleaning and maintaining your countertops down the road… Is that $250, $500, $1,000 you saved on inexpensive outdoor countertops really going to be worth it?
4. Do You Have Any Aesthetic Preferences?
As we mentioned earlier… Aesthetics play a huge role in the outdoor kitchen countertops you choose.
If a rustic look is more your speed… Options such as concrete, bluestone or limestone may be a great fit for you.
Looking for a modern aesthetic? Stay away from natural stone options.
Rather, a polished quartz or granite countertop would be really nice for your project. (Quartzite also gets a pass.)
At the end of the day, aesthetics are individualized. What looks great to you may not appeal to someone else. Determine the look you’re going for and figure out how that ties into your dream outdoor living space.
5. What’s Your Climate Like?
Unlike your indoor kitchen countertops, climate plays a significant role in the outdoor countertop materials you choose.
After all, your outdoor kitchen is… Well, outdoors! It will have to be resilient to the environment you live in.
If you live in an area like southern California with ideal weather… You won’t have to worry about the materials as much.
People who live in colder, Northern climates, on the other hand, will want to pay close attention. Some outdoor kitchen materials are highly susceptible to damage from humidity and freeze/thaw cycles.
Another consideration for countertops is sunlight. If you live in an area with intense sunlight (we’re looking at you, Arizona!) your countertops should be UV-resistant to prevent discoloration.
We’ll explain in more depth how other countertop materials stack up below. Stay tuned!
6. Where Will Your Outdoor Kitchen Be Placed?
What we’re really getting at here is if your kitchen will be exposed to direct sunlight or not.
Why does this matter?
Some countertop materials are highly efficient at absorbing heat. So when it’s sunny outside, don’t bother turning your grill on. Your countertop surface could nearly be hot enough to cook a burger!
But if not… What surfaces soak up the sun?
Darker granite and stainless steel outdoor kitchen countertops are the primary offenders. These materials will get searing hot when exposed to direct sunlight.
7. Is The Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Material Food Safe?
Anything related to food prep will require you to consider hygiene.
Even though you’ll probably be using cutting boards… At some point, food will come in direct contact with your countertop. Intentional or unintentional, it happens.
Porous countertops for outside need special care to remain hygienic… Since they readily absorb bacteria from food.
Once that happens… That bacteria can transfer to other dishes you prepare in the future. That’s no good!
Sometimes a good cleaning agent will kill the bacteria… But that’s not always the case.
It’s for this reason you have to use a sealer for porous countertops. The sealer creates a barrier to prevent filth and bacteria from penetrating the countertop surface. (Just make sure that any sealer you use is food-safe.)
8. Does It Have Flexural or Compressive Strength?
It may seem a bit “inside baseball…” But understanding this concept is really important for the countertop you choose. Plus, it’s not as complicated as it sounds!
Most companies will advertise the values of compressive strength. From our perspective… This is actually far less important than flexural strength for countertops.
Let’s define each.
- Flexural Strength: Refers to the material’s bend strength or ability to resist bending stress without cracking or failing.
- Compressive Strength: Refers to the material’s ability to withstand loads or compression being crushed or failing or the resistance of a material breaking under compression.
Can you start to see why we stress the importance of flexural strength? That’s where most of the stress on your countertops will be.
Poor flexural strength is the primary reason your countertop may split or crack. (This can also be due to temperature fluctuations or ground shift… Especially in frigid climates.)
Moral of the story? Look for a countertop material with good flexural strength.
Durable Outdoor Kitchen
Outdoor Kitchen Countertops Options
So, we’ve talked a lot about the things you should look out for…
But haven’t gone into much detail about the outdoor countertop materials themselves.
Let’s conduct a closer comparison of the different types of countertops.
(Note: we’ve only included heat resistant outdoor counter materials. Because of this, marble countertops and outdoor laminate countertops won’t be featured.)
Stainless Steel Countertops
Stainless steel countertops for outdoor kitchens will be one of your most expensive options… Ringing up at $70-$100 per square foot.
In terms of aesthetics, outdoor kitchen stainless steel countertops are about as modern as you can get. This is a definite pro if that’s what you’re looking for!
Being nonporous, stainless steel is also a highly hygienic surface. Most commercial kitchens utilize stainless steel for this reason.
It’s easy to clean and doesn’t need much in the way of maintenance. A simple wipe with household cleaner is all you’ll need to keep this countertop clean.
Of course, there are cons to stainless steel countertops as well.
If your outdoor kitchen won’t be under cover… These countertops will get searing hot in direct sunlight, making them virtually unusable. We would strongly consider another option if your outdoor kitchen won’t be shaded.
Stainless steel countertops can also rust over time. This is especially true in areas with high humidity and moisture. Be aware and keep a close eye on your countertops if you choose stainless… And always opt for grade 304 to ensure optimal rust and corrosion resistance.
While they look sleek and perfect at first… Stainless steel countertops are not scratch-resistant. If you aren’t bothered by this, you have nothing to worry about! Others may not be able to get past the slight imperfections in their countertop.
Soapstone outdoor countertops can vary widely in cost… Ranging from $35-$100 per square foot.
Like stainless, soapstone is a nonporous material, so these natural stone countertops are easy to keep clean and maintain.
With soapstone outdoor countertops, no resealing is necessary! Also being resistant to staining… You don’t have to stress about keeping these countertops looking like new.
Lastly, this is a great stone outdoor countertop option for those seeking the modern aesthetic. Whether you choose a light or dark soapstone… It’s sleek with a tasteful amount of marbling.
Unfortunately, soapstone is a soft material. It’s prone to getting scratched, dinged, or even chipped. As with stainless, some won’t be bothered by this risk. Others just won’t want to chance it.
Granite outdoor kitchen countertops can be a great mid-range option. The cost hovers around $50-100+ per square foot.
Granite outdoor kitchen countertops are a crowd pleaser.
This look can appeal to a wide range of design aesthetics… With a variety of colors available for your design.
Granite itself is an extremely dense and hard material… So no need to worry about scratches or dings here. And with the right sealer, outdoor granite countertops are highly resistant to staining.
Outdoor kitchen granite countertops absorb heat well and can get very hot when under direct sunlight. To avoid this, either consider putting your outdoor kitchen under a structure… Or simply choose a lighter color!
Outdoor Tile countertops will be your least expensive option ranging from $10-$40 per square foot.
As already mentioned, tile is cheap! This will appeal greatly to those needing to adhere to a strict budget.
Outdoor tile countertops can easily match any look you’re going for, too.
Tile exists in any color or pattern you could possibly want! No matter what tile you choose (whether it be granite, travertine, slate, ceramic, or porcelain tile) it will make your outdoor kitchen unique.
Sadly, we find the drawbacks of tile to be worse than the potential upside. It’s true, tile is inexpensive! But with many things… You get what you pay for.
One main issue is cleaning. The grout between tiles is highly porous. They’ll readily absorb bacteria, filth, and stain. This makes tile countertops not only difficult to clean… But also a challenge to keep your workspace hygienic.
Tile is also brittle. It’s highly susceptible to cracking and falling apart over time. This is especially true if you live in a climate with freeze / thaw cycles. For us, the potential for a constant headache is not worth the upfront savings.
Bluestone Or Limestone Countertops
Being similar materials, we’re going to lump these two stone countertops for outdoor kitchen options together.
Coincidentally, the price range for both bluestone countertops for outdoor kitchens and outdoor limestone countertops is identical from $25-$70 per square foot.
Both types of natural stone outdoor kitchen countertops can appeal to contemporary or classic styles. Bluestone is often seen both polished and unpolished… So this will appeal to the modern and rustic aesthetics alike.
Limestone and bluestone are durable surfaces. They’ll withstand any climate with no issues.
Like other natural outdoor stone countertops, limestone and bluestone are quite heavy. They are also susceptible to staining, particularly limestone.
Also know that natural stone in general cannot be reinforced. There’s always a chance they can crack or split.
Outdoor quartz countertops may be your most expensive option. The price ranges from $55-$155 per square foot.
Quartz is a beautiful material and appeals to most people. It can fit in with many different styles.
Quartz is a dense and durable material, resistant to both staining and scratching. This is a great plus when it comes to cleaning and maintenance! There’s not much upkeep with outdoor quartz countertops.
On the flip side, quartz doesn’t tolerate sunlight well. Over time, it can yellow from constant sun exposure.
Concrete outdoor kitchen countertops are another mid-range option. The cost hovers around $50-$75 per square foot.
Despite being a man made material… Concrete outdoor kitchen countertops have a distinctly natural look.
Concrete also has an advantage over stone. Natural stone cannot be reinforced, but concrete can. It’s not always done… So make sure your concrete countertop is reinforced before sealing the deal.
At the same time, concrete is a softer and more porous material. It does require regular maintenance as it is susceptible to staining and scratching.
As a natural part of the curing process, concrete is prone to cracking. That’s why it is so important to make sure your concrete is reinforced. This will prevent issues in the event it cracks.
What Is The Best Outdoor Countertop Material?
You’re probably expecting us to say “it depends.”
Well, you’re right! It does depend.
Everyone has unique needs for their outdoor kitchen project. Everyone also has different aesthetic tastes.
So really, the best countertops for outdoor kitchens are case-dependent. Ultimately, only you know what countertop material will be best for your project! At the same time, there are a couple we specifically recommend.
Concrete and granite.
Why We Use Concrete And Granite Outdoor Countertops
At RTA, we strongly believe that granite and concrete are the best outdoor kitchen countertops options.
We believe in long-term solutions. This belief is the driving force behind many of the decisions we make.
Our materials are chosen carefully to ensure the most durable, long-lasting outdoor kitchens possible. (This also allows us to stand behind our product with a lifetime warranty!)
We wanted to offer options that appeal to those desiring a natural or modern aesthetic. Our concrete countertops are perfect for those wanting a natural look. Granite, on the other hand, has a sleek and contemporary vibe.
Going back to durability… Both concrete and granite are incredibly durable materials for outdoor use. You won’t have to worry, even if you live in a harsh climate. These materials will remain structurally sound throughout the lifetime of ownership.
You’ll recall from above that concrete and granite require different levels of maintenance. RTA concrete countertops require an annual reseal to prevent staining and scratches. Our granite countertops come already sealed, and can last several years before needing a reseal.
Compared to concrete, granite is inherently more resistant to scratches and stains. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance countertop material… You will probably prefer granite.
More About Our Concrete Outdoor Kitchen Counters
It may not stay as clean or pretty as granite… But concrete countertops offer distinct advantages.
Some simply prefer the look of concrete.
It also doesn’t absorb heat as well as granite… So no need to worry about scorching hot countertops in the sun.
It is true that concrete countertops can crack over time (it’s part of their natural curing process). There’s no need to panic, however! These cracks are generally not structural. They will not harm the integrity of your countertop.
This is why it is essential for your concrete countertop to be reinforced. As with anything, some reinforcing materials are better than others. It’s best to reinforce a concrete countertop with non-corrosive materials. like microfibers and composite rebar.
Metal rebar or other metal reinforcements can rust and corrode over time. When it corrodes, it expands. This is what causes ghosting or spalling in your concrete countertop. In order to protect the internal reinforcement… The concrete has to be a certain thickness. Most countertops are not thick enough to provide the coverage needed… But ours are.
More About Our Granite Countertops
Back to granite.
RTA granite countertops for outdoor kitchens come standard with a leathered finish.
It’s different from the polished finish you’re used to seeing on indoor countertops. Polished granite has a shiny, glossy finish to it. Whereas, the leathered finish provides more of a matte look.
Are there advantages to a leathered finish over polished?
For granite countertops outside, yes. A leathered finish won’t reflect light. So you won’t end up getting blinded by a reflection from the sun. That’s always a plus!
The leathered granite finish will also have a more natural look. From our perspective, this lends itself better for many outdoor aesthetics.
Leathered finishes are still stain resistant like polished granite… And blemishes or smudges won’t be as visible with the leathered look.
But, that about sums it up!
Again, the countertop material you choose is really up to you…
But in our eyes, you really can’t beat granite and concrete.
Looking For More?
Looking for more information? That’s what we’re here for!
There is a wealth of knowledge on our website about all aspects of the outdoor kitchen experience. Be sure to browse our Learning Hub… Read more about our DIY outdoor kitchen offerings… And see what else piques your interest.
If you’re looking for more direct guidance… Set up a call with one of our Design Experts! They’ll be able to gain a true grasp of your dream outdoor living space, and guide you in the right direction.
Whether you decide to work with us or not, you’ll feel more confident about the next steps.
We look forward to helping you out!
Need Help With Your Plans?
Well… Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Here’s why laminate countertops are a no-go for the outdoors: As soon as moisture reaches the particle board, it will swell and ruin your countertop.
They also have poor heat resistance… Which means they’re not the best choice to support a hot built-in grill.
Reinforced concrete and granite outdoor countertops are by far the most durable options.
If you maintain them correctly, they won’t fade from sun exposure, are highly resistant to stains and scratches, and will hold up in any and all climate conditions.