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How to Plan the Perfect Outdoor Food Prep Area

How to Plan the Perfect Outdoor Food Prep Area - Proline Range Hoods

One of the keys to a complete outdoor kitchen is a functional outdoor food prep area. You want to be comfortable and cook efficiently. From the type of grill to your vent hood, here are six things to consider when planning the perfect outdoor cooking area.

How to Plan the Perfect Outdoor Cooking Area

Counter Space

How much counter space do you need to cook your favorite dishes? The more food you cook and guests you host, the more counter space you’ll need. Most counters are 36” tall but there’s not a set standard for the width. That’ll depend on your setup, budget, and if you’re serving guests.

Do you want some room to serve food from the counters as well? Will that be done at the same time as you are prepping food? Some people love the bar-and-grill setup where the cook is front and center, making and serving food. Outdoor bars typically have counters between 38” and 42” tall. Most bars seat anywhere from four to eight people, sometimes more.

Outdoor kitchen with island, seating, and range hood

Storage Space

Will you have cabinets or drawers for storage? Stainless steel cabinets and drawers are the most common. You might consider warming drawers too to help you with food prep. Ideally, fit all your cabinets under the grill area so you don’t have to move around when cooking.

Store your cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, dry food, or even dishes if you have the space. Whatever you use or cook with the most should go in these cabinets.

Type of Grill

There are many different types of grills: gas, propane, charcoal, pellet, green egg, and griddle are six popular options.

Most outdoor kitchens today feature gas grills. They are powerful and easy to control. Most gas grills use propane while some can be hooked up directly to your main gas line.

Propane grills are also common. Propane comes in liquid tanks that you hook up to your grill. It burns hotter than natural gas but both are great options for your outdoor kitchen.

Charcoal and green egg grills get a lot hotter than gas but require more supervision to regulate the heat. Pellet grills use wood pellets as a heat source. They have built-in temperature regulators to control how many pellets are fed into the grill.

Griddles are not as practical for everyday grilling; they’re more suited for big gatherings or socials. But you might see side burners that function as griddles in high-end outdoor kitchens.

Freestanding or built-in?

Most outdoor kitchens feature built-in grills. That is, they’re built into a stone countertop rather than freestanding. Built-in grills are more expensive to install but look much more modern than your typical freestanding grill.

Grill Size and Power

24” grills work well for a family of up to four people. 30” grills are a good choice for families of four to six. If you consistently cook for over six people, consider a 36”+ grill.

When shopping for a grill, it’s important to get the right size. If you buy a grill that’s too small, you might not have enough space to do the cooking you want. If it’s too large, you might end up not getting your money’s worth. Larger grills typically cost more so you want to make sure you make the right choice.

Keep in mind that it's better to find out you have too much space on your grill than too little. You can always turn off some of the burners if you don’t need them. But you don’t want to end up in a situation where your current grill doesn’t meet your needs.

Also consider that if you can’t heat up the entire grill, the additional space you have serves no purpose. Most grills range between 30,000 and 50,000 British Thermal Units, or BTUs.

Outdoor Vent Hood

With every outdoor grill, you’ll want an outdoor vent hood. An outdoor hood removes heavy grease and smoke from your cooking area. It’s a great addition to your outdoor kitchen over gas and propane grills. But, don’t mount yours over charcoal or green egg grills. Learn more at the links below.

Can I install a range hood over a charcoal or pellet grill?

Can I install a range hood over a Green Egg?


Consider a backsplash to protect the back wall of your cooking area from heavy grease and smoke. Stone, stainless steel, and tile are popular materials for a backsplash in your outdoor kitchen. A backsplash is easy to clean which allows you to focus more on making delicious meals. Without one, your cooking area may become sticky and greasy.


Fridges and freezers are popular options if you have the space. Some high-end kitchens feature pizza ovens. If you love baking homemade pizza, a pizza oven is a must-have!

Extra features

Think about side burners, griddles, warming drawers, smartphone connectivity, etc. What do you want to add to your cooking area that’s not essential but would be nice to have?

Side burners and griddles

Side burners and griddles are great options to supplement your outdoor grill. If you need a little extra space to cook food but don’t want to invest in a second grill, these extras might be right for you.

Outdoor sink

An outdoor sink is crucial to a functional outdoor space. You want easy access to a sink for all your cooking and cleaning needs.

Warming drawers

Warming drawers are great at keeping food warm. They’re especially practical if you are cooking for a crowd and want to ensure all the food is hot and ready to serve. It can be hard to ensure everything finishes cooking at the same time – and sometimes it’s impossible to keep all your food warm. But a warming drawer helps solve that problem.

Smartphone connectivity

Smartphone connectivity is a cool feature that’s recently become popular in the grilling space. After connecting to Bluetooth or WiFi, you can actually control your grill from anywhere in your home using your smartphone. Adjust the temperature or even receive alerts that tell you your food is ready. Pretty neat, right?

The possibilities are endless! As long as you make a space that’s functional for you and your family, you’ll be set.

For more inspiration on planning the perfect outdoor food prep area, check out these ideas! Thanks for reading.

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