Outdoor Kitchen Island Options
Expert Advice

Courtesy of BBQ Guys, bbqguys.com

Now that you know about the four main areas of most outdoor kitchens, it’s time to consider how you’d like them arranged. As always, your outdoor kitchen design plans for your BBQ island will be unique to you based on your budget and how much space is available, but there are a few types of grill island layouts you should be familiar with as you start making choices.

Linear BBQ Islands

Best for budget builders and small spaces, linear islands have a relatively tiny footprint while still serving as functional outdoor kitchens. They typically run along a side of the home (though they can be freestanding) and position the grill in the middle, with components and counter space on either side creating a central unit for simplicity. Because cooking and entertainment zones will be clustered on small linear islands, you may need to install insulation to create a buffer so appliances can operate efficiently. Linear islands are usually paired with a nearby dining table or outdoor seating set to establish a more complete space, but they can stand on their own just fine.

Galley Islands

Galley islands are simply two linear islands that run parallel to each other, with an open space in the middle. This layout is useful when multiple people are cooking at once. Workflow becomes more efficient because you can turn around to reach a different zone instead of moving up and down a single island. The possibilities expand with galley islands: they can mirror each other, or you can dedicate one side to prep and cooking zones and the other to entertainment and plate-and-serve zones. We recommend spacing galley islands at least three feet apart.

L-Shaped BBQ Islands

These are the most popular layouts, perhaps because the shape lends itself to a more creative design that can better support the concept of outdoor kitchen zones.  Placing your cooking and entertainment zones on opposite legs gives them all the cushion they need. L-shaped islands also help outdoor kitchens feel larger and slightly more enclosed, and even if the second leg is short, the added space means you can include more components.

U-Shaped Outdoor Kitchens

More space, more options, more creativity. That pattern reaches its peak with U-shaped islands, which provide maximum versatility when it comes to both the number of components and location of work zones. While a fully decked-out outdoor kitchen might be desirable, the true effect of U-shaped islands is that they create a cozy, naturally enclosed gathering place. Many homeowners with U-shaped outdoor kitchens reinforce this idea by lining every side with bar stools. Some have even begun adding a separate, small island at the opening of the “U” to make the space slightly more enclosed.

Other Details to Consider

At this point, all those backyard possibilities should be crystallizing into a probability. With a firm understanding of work zones and which grill island layout best fits your vision, you can move on to the next step of outdoor kitchen planning. Consider a few small details that can further personalize your BBQ island layout:

  • Split-level countertops
  • Foot rails
  • Backsplash

A split-level countertop can totally transform a space, starting with the simple fact that a heightened sitting area places guests above the exhaust from your grill and allows you to have eye-to-eye conversations with them while you’re cooking. Opting for two distinct levels also creates a natural barrier between the prep area and dining area on the same countertop, which can eliminate the need for a separate dining table. Dining or drinking at a flat countertop just feels like you’re at the kitchen table as usual. Doing the same thing at an elevated surface, you feel like you are having cocktails at the bar.

To further establish a bar-like setting, line the grill island with foot rails. Guests will have a place to rest their dangling feet, and the rail can serve as a stylish design element. Choose a backsplash that speaks to your personal tastes while standing up to the elements.