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Small Outdoor Kitchen Ideas: 15 Best Designs & How to Plan

By Jayme Muller

September 20, 2022

So you want an outdoor kitchen…

But your outdoor living space is a bit constrained.

Too often we have grandiose ideas of what is possible… Only to have reality come crashing down on us.

That’s life, right?

Question is…

What can be done?

Having a small outdoor area doesn’t mean you have to give up on your outdoor kitchen dreams.

Not in the slightest!

It just means you’ll have to get more creative with how you think about your space.

If you’re still unsure… Let’s talk about why small outdoor kitchens can play in the big leagues just like their larger counterparts.

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Why Get a Small Outdoor Kitchen?

Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomach.

The same sentiment applies to outdoor kitchens.

We often think that our backyards are larger than they truly are.

When you start taking measurements and making calculations… You quickly realize you may be in over your head with your design.

It happens to the best of us!

But there’s no need to despair.

Unless you’re living in a shoebox… You’ll be capable of designing an incredible grill island for your area.

Here’s our argument for a small outdoor kitchen:

It is way better than not having an outdoor kitchen area at all!

In some cases… Small outdoor kitchens meet your needs better than a behemoth-sized layout.

Point is, we are firmly pro outdoor kitchen at RTA.

And that’s not just because we manufacture and sell grill islands!

It’s because we understand how much joy outdoor kitchens can bring to your home.

Just think about it.

Countless memories made with loved ones… Countless amazing meals enjoyed… And countless moments bathed by sunlight and fresh air outdoors.

All of this is made possible with an outdoor kitchen… Whether small or large.

Alright. Now that we’ve got you excited about your project…

Let’s get to designing your small outdoor kitchen!

No Outdoor Kitchen Idea Is Too Small!

Use our 3D design tool for free and bring your outdoor kitchen idea to life.

Designing for Small Outdoor Cooking Spaces

As you’re well aware… You’re going to have specific considerations when designing a small layout.

The following are just a few ideas to think about when creating your outdoor kitchen small space design.

Understanding Your Needs

While this point may seem obvious… It’s important to note.

You have to understand your needs when creating your design!

This is especially true of small outdoor kitchens.

When working in a tight area… You have to whittle down your “must-haves”.

In some cases… You may have to drop an appliance or two to make sure your design is functional.

Sacrificing that sink can be the difference between having counterspace, or none at all!

It’s a common planning mistake we see homeowners make… Even with larger layouts!

There are yet more considerations for a small outdoor kitchen.

Take grill size, for example.

Many homeowners oversize their grill.

It’s understandable. We often get into the mindset that a larger size is always better.

However… You really have to think about how many people you’ll truly be hosting for.

If you’re going to be grilling for yourself or a couple family members most often… You really don’t need a gargantuan grill.

Even though it doesn’t seem like much… Downsizing to a smaller grill can save you a ton of space.

The smaller the footprint, the larger the gains on the space you save.

Another way to save space on your design is to maximize efficiency.

Maximize Efficiency with Appliance Choices

While an outdoor kitchen should always feature an efficient use of space… This is especially true of a grill island with a smaller scale.

Once you’ve nailed down your true must-haves… Consider appliances that combine multiple features into one unit.

Storage Space Options
straight outdoor kitchen island with combo storage on deck

A great example of this is a combo door/drawer system.

Your grill will require an access door underneath. In a small area… This may prevent you from having a storage drawer for utensils.

In this scenario, spring for a combo door/drawer system. This will allow you to have the necessary access door and storage capacity… All comfortably fitting in a smaller footprint.

Maximize Cooking Options

Many homeowners also love the idea of having multiple outdoor cooking appliances. Owning both a gas and charcoal grill provides a ton of versatility in the way of cooking.

When you can’t choose… The answer is often, “Why not both?”

But sometimes, there’s simply not enough space for both outdoor cooking options.

What’s the alternative?

Consider a ceramic egg smoker, like Coyote’s Asado or the Big Green Egg.

You don’t get the convenience of a quick-firing gas grill… But you get everything else!

An Asado allows you to grill, smoke, and sear. All with that classic and addictive charcoal flavor.

You could also opt for a pellet grill. Fueled by wood pellets… These grills are a great blend of convenience and flavor.

You get a hint of smoke from the wood pellets… And a digital control panel for precise cooking temperatures.

This outdoor cooking appliance allows you to grill, smoke, sear, and even bake.

Talk about versatility.

Whether you prefer an Asado or a pellet grill… Either one will give you the flexibility you’re after in a single appliance.

Wondering how else you can save space?

Let’s talk about location.

Keep it Close to Home

Full disclosure… This tip really depends on how your space is set up.

When you don’t have a ton of backyard space to work with… It may not make sense to have your outdoor kitchen in the middle of the yard.

It may leave you with little to no room leftover to enjoy your outdoor space.

If possible… You may prefer to locate your outdoor kitchen next to the house.

Why?

Put simply, it just won’t take up as much room in your backyard!

You can have all the benefits of an outdoor kitchen… Without feeling like you’ve sacrificed your entire backyard for it.

This concept is known as a perimeter outdoor kitchen.

If you’re still not sold on the idea… You may like to know that a perimeter grill island can actually save you money!

There is a caveat, though. If you choose to install a perimeter outdoor kitchen… Make sure to keep safety in mind!

You’ll want to leave a little wiggle room between your island and the house. A grill gets hot, after all! And you don’t want all that heat directly on your house. 

Also consider installing a vent hood above your grill. This will ensure the area remains cool… And you won’t have to worry!

If you’d rather go another route, fret not. There are other ways to build an outdoor kitchen in a small area.

Consider Extending a Covered Area

If there’s not quite enough room to build your outdoor kitchen right next to the house…

Some homeowners opt to create a small covered area over the back of their home.

This space is perfect for a small outdoor kitchen to be nestled under.

And with a covered area… Many homeowners appreciate that they can grill all year round.

Of course, this adds quite a bit of complexity to your plans! You’ll only want to consider this if you are prepared for an additional home improvement project.

However… It’s still an option worth mentioning.

Wondering what else can be done?

Stretch it Out

Perhaps your space isn’t limited in the sense of pure size.

Maybe your backyard does have space… But it’s wide without much depth.

You may not be able to fit an L-shape outdoor kitchen.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have one at all!

Yes, the space is tight.

Why not get a longer linear island?

Rather than having an L-shape clog up your backyard… You could simply place two linear islands right next to each other.

You’ll still get the cooking space you want… Without having to compromise on appliances!

Sounds like a win-win to us.

Get Creative

Still not sure how a small outdoor kitchen can work in your outdoor space?

It’s time to get creative.

A BBQ island can be made possible in nearly anyone’s space… It just comes down to thinking outside of the box!

Here’s a quick example.

If you have your heart set on two islands…

Why do they need to be next to each other?

While you may not have the ability to create an L-shape or long straight island…

You may be able to have a grill island near the home… And a bar island in the backyard. Or vice versa.

You may not be fond of the idea at first!

That’s okay.

However… We’ve seen many homeowners utilize this strategy with great success! (You’ll see some examples later.)

Create Bar Seating

bar seating at a small outdoor kitchen with bright yellow stools

In some scenarios… You do have space for a small L-shaped outdoor kitchen.

But you can’t just place it anywhere!

A well placed L-shape can actually extend your space.

How?

Through adding bar seating.

This will give your guests a dining area without having to make room for a separate table.

Even still… You may not be sure how to make a small outdoor kitchen work in your backyard!

Work with a Designer

If you’re still not sure how to square this circle…

Work with a designer!

A well-trained outdoor kitchen Design Expert is the exact person you need for the job.

They’ll work directly with you to parse out the details… And make sure your BBQ island fits beautifully.

It’s truly a weight off your shoulders not having to go at it alone!

A Design Expert will think creatively and test the limits of what is possible in your outdoor living area.

The results?

Better than you could imagine!

This is just one reason why we invest so much into our Design Expert Team here at RTA.

But we’ll get to that later.

For now, let’s look at some small outdoor kitchen ideas!

start designing right now

In only a few minutes you can have a 3D render of the outdoor kitchen that is perfect for your space.

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas for Small Spaces

We can talk all day about ways to modify small outdoor kitchen designs… But it doesn’t really help if you can’t visualize it.

Let’s take a peek at 15 outdoor kitchen designs for small spaces.

Simple & Clean

An outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to be large to be considered elegant.

This beauty is just one example.

You can easily fit this layout in a small backyard or deck area.

With stylish stainless steel appliances… You’ve got all your bases covered.

The Essentials

Some homeowners just need the essentials.

In some cases… A grill with some counterspace is exactly what you need!

This 6′ outdoor kitchen setup will work in just about any space.

You get the beautiful aesthetic and functionality of a grill island… Without hogging up the entire backyard.

The Grill Station

Here’s another straight island example.

Being a bit longer… You can fit a few more outdoor appliances.

Beyond the grill, we have a dual side burner, drawer storage, and a pull out trash.

It’s everything you need for a killer barbecue!

Small Covered Outdoor Kitchen

a small ready to assemble outdoor kitchen in a convered area on a brick patio

Looking for small kitchen under cover?

Here’s a great one!

For the homeowner who wants to grill in all seasons… You can have your cake and eat it too.

A simple linear island with an Asado stand to the side could be perfect for your outdoor space.

You can grill and smoke under the protection of your enclosed area.

What else could you need?

Modest Outdoor Space Dining

This layout is a great example of the balance between size and functionality.

You get the stainless steel grill and preparation space… But you also get a bar island for seating.

And it’s still small!

You’ll only be able to seat two people at the bar island… But in a small space? That’s a great achievement.

DIY Small Outdoor Kitchen in the City

If you live in a city… You don’t need to give up on your dream of owning a grill island!

Your small outdoor space can be transformed into an excellent grill area.

Take this layout, for example.

You have a grill, area for food prep, and even storage space. All in a tiny area!

Modular Outdoor Kitchen with Mini Fridge

Curious about small modern outdoor kitchen ideas?

You’ll love this layout!

With thin countertops and a beige hue… This barbecue island is perfectly on trend.

And it can fit in a tiny area!

Small Outdoor Kitchen on Deck

Do you have limited space on your deck?

A small straight island can be just the fix.

With a mini fridge and grill… You’ll be all set up for entertaining outdoors.

Feeling inspired? let's see what you create!

Use our 3D design tool for free and bring your outdoor kitchen idea to life.

Pellet Grill Island

If your backyard is already relatively full… Consider placing your grill island right next to the house.

With a small backyard outdoor kitchen, you need to maximize your space.

This is a great way to do so!

Plus… All you’ll need to do is step outside and you’re ready to grill.

Break Up Your Islands

Still not resonating with these small outdoor kitchen ideas?

Small outdoor kitchen plans can be tough to create.

This is where creativity comes into play!

You don’t need to have the islands directly touching. If it doesn’t work for your space…

Why not break them up?

This is a great strategy to ensure you get everything you want… Without compromise.

Making the Most of It

While this backyard isn’t small by any stretch of the imagination… The area where the grill island is located is small!

The area of this deck may be what you’re trying to work with.

As evidenced here… You can create an outdoor kitchen for a small area. And a decently sized one at that!

Even though this space is tight… An L-Shape outdoor kitchen and dining area fits comfortably on this deck.

Small Yard Outdoor Kitchen

small stone outdoor kitchen on a covered deck

Here’s another great example of a small outdoor kitchen on a deck.

With a sizable grill and large refrigerator… You’re ready to host a large gathering in a limited space!

And with the grill situated to one side… There’s plenty of counter space for food prep and serving.

Small Outdoor Kitchen with Bar

This style is a great example of a small L Shape outdoor kitchen.

You’ve got the stainless steel appliances… And a modest bar area for seating.

It’s dining and entertaining all in one!

Small Outdoor Kitchen with Sink

When working with a small outdoor kitchen area… You don’t always have to make compromises!

For some homeowners, an outdoor sink is essential to have.

Understandably so. It’s nice to be able to wash your hands right outside after food prep.

This layout is an example of how a small outdoor kitchen island with a sink can be done!

Mina Starsiak Hawk's Outdoor Kitchen

This grill island setup is the epitome of a vacation feel at home.

If you’re not familiar… Mina Starsiak Hawk is the host of HGTV’s Good Bones.

So when it comes to design… She knows what she’s doing!

It certainly comes through with her small space outdoor kitchen.

As you can see, there are three separate islands in this area.

You’ve got the cooking area with a gas grill and power burner… You’ve got the pizza oven and mini fridge… Then a third food prep station with two refrigerators.

This outdoor kitchen for small patio was only made possible through breaking up the layout!

Mina’s grill island simply would not have worked as a gargantuan U Shape or L Shape.

But split up?

It just makes sense.

Now that we’ve gone through 15 small outdoor kitchen ideas… You may be feeling ready to start your project!

Good. That’s an exciting prospect!

But first… You have to determine what solution is best for your outdoor needs.

The Best DIY Small Outdoor Kitchen Solution?

After all these examples… You may be wondering if any of the above options will work for your outdoor space.

They certainly can!

RTA is your best bet when it comes to a DIY small outdoor kitchen solution.

This is due to a few reasons.

As we’ve already established… You’re going to need assistance with design when working in a small area.

Our design experts are here for you. They will work one on one with you to ensure that your grill island won’t just fit… It will be the perfect solution for your space.

You also require an outdoor kitchen that is DIY friendly.

And we mean DIY friendly.

There are many grill island options out there that can be built yourself. However… They’re often way beyond the skill level of the average homeowner.

RTA offers a solution that truly is accessible to all.

Our DIY outdoor kitchens are as easy to assemble as a piece of furniture.

Piece of cake, right?

It really is.

So if you’re in the market for an outdoor small kitchen…

Why not reach out to us? We’d be overjoyed to assist you with your project!

If you’re not quite ready to jump on the phone…

Play around with our free online design tool. Or even explore outdoor kitchen ideas of all sizes.

Either way, you’ll get an idea of what is possible for your outdoor kitchen space. And trust us… There’s a lot you can do!

Alright, enough rambling on our part… We look forward to helping you with your new outdoor kitchen!

we're ready to help

Ready to make a big impact with your small outdoor kitchen? Book a call with one of our expert designers to get started!

FAQ

Not really. The average U Shape layout requires at least 80 square feet for a proper setup. This will of course go up if you want bar seating or larger islands.

If you don’t have much space to work with… You’re better off putting two straight islands together than attempting a U Shape.

There are many ways to build a small outdoor kitchen. You can build from scratch, purchase a ready-to-finish kit, pick up a modular island…

We submit there’s a better option than all of the above. That’s ready-to-assemble.

You’ll get the perfect small design for your outdoor cooking space… Without any of the headache.

As with anything… It depends!

The higher the quality of your outdoor kitchen… The more it will cost.

The average cost of a high quality 5′ grill island sits around $5,000-$6,000 in current pricing.

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