If you love to spend time outside, and you're passionate about cooking, an outdoor kitchen could be a perfect investment – and a major upgrade for your home. You can expand your total kitchen area, spend more time with guests during outdoor parties, and enjoy all the benefits of an easier, lower-stress cleanup.

But which appliances do you really need for an outdoor kitchen? And how should you approach the planning process?

Tips for Choosing and Building Your Outdoor Kitchen

These are some of the best tips and strategies to follow when exploring the idea of building an outdoor kitchen.

1.  Understand your main motivations. Before you start looking at appliances or measuring your external space, understand your main motivations in building this kitchen. Are you interested in spending more time by yourself outdoors? Or are you trying to host outdoor parties with family and friends? Do you want to take advantage of the summer months or try to cook all year round? Is this outdoor kitchen more about functionality or aesthetic design? There are no right or wrong answers here; what's important is that you know why you want to build an outdoor kitchen, so that you can build the best one for your needs.

2.  Try to buy all in one place. It’s possible to get everything you need for your outdoor kitchen in one place, rather than buying pieces individually. If you have this option, take it. It's going to make shopping around much more convenient, and you can make sure all the individual pieces you add to your outdoor kitchen match perfectly. You can technically mix and match different elements from different vendors if you want a truly custom kitchen, but this will set you up for much more manual effort and searching.

3.  Research local laws and ordinances. Before making any purchases, take the time to research local laws and ordinances that might apply to you. In most areas, there's nothing wrong with building an outdoor kitchen, but in some cases, there may be restrictions on what you can build and how you can build it. This is especially a problem in homeowners associations (HOAs). If necessary, get written permission, or a permit to build.

4.  Set a realistic budget. A basic outdoor kitchen could set you back anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, while a top-upgraded kitchen could cost up to $100,000. That's an enormous range – and one that should be suited to a wide variety of chefs. Set a realistic budget for yourself – one that you can accommodate with your current income – and try to stick to that budget as closely as possible.

5.  Measure your space. Don't assume you understand exactly how big your outdoor space is; get a tape measure and measure it. Once you understand the exact dimensions you're working with, you'll be much more capable of filling in that space with the proper equipment – with no spillover.

6.  Anticipate your local climate. Not all areas are perfectly conducive for outdoor kitchens. Many areas of the United States suffer from harsh, cold winters that make it practically impossible to cook outdoors comfortably. If you're mostly interested in cooking during the spring, summer, and fall, this may not stop you from proceeding; it's just important to be realistic about how much you're going to use this kitchen.

7.  Choose your most important appliances. At this point, you'll be ready to start shopping around for appliances. Outdoor kitchens can come with a wide range of appliances, including refrigerators, stoves, ovens, and in some cases, even dishwashers. These are going to represent some of your biggest expenditures, so think carefully about what you truly need.

8.  Consider utility hookups. Some outdoor kitchens require utility hookups to function properly. Depending on the appliances you have, you may want access to running water, electricity, or natural gas. Your best option is hiring a contractor to run these utilities to your outdoor space.

9.  Plan for the future. If possible, plan your outdoor kitchen with the future in mind. Are you going to want to expand this kitchen in the future? Are you thinking about adding new appliances or increasing your total available surface area? If so, leave some room for those additions.

10.   Select the right materials and options. Here, you have tremendous flexibility, so rely on your personal preferences and instincts. There are countless model and style options to choose from; shop around for the best fit.

The Learning Process

No matter what, buying an outdoor kitchen is a learning process. Take your time, talk to the experts, and research your options carefully before buying. If you follow these strategies and attempt to make the best possible decisions, you’ll end up with a much more valuable investment.