Outdoor Grill Station Ideas For The Perfect Entertaining Space

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In the summer months, there's nothing quite like grilling up a delicious meal outside while surrounded by family and friends. Connecting with nature, getting fresh air and a change of scenery, and enjoying the warmer weather with a tasty meal hits all the marks, especially when you have a perfect station set up for entertaining. However, grilling outside can present a few challenges — such as weather interruptions, lack of space, and poor organization — and a fun barbecue can quickly become a hassle when trying to accommodate a crowd. But with these grilling and prep area upgrades, your outdoor space will be the hit of the neighborhood.

Whether you plan to invest in a whole new barbecue island (complete with an outdoor fridge and sink), want to add an authentic smoker and pizza oven, or looking for simpler improvements, this guide has it all. Your family, friends, and guests will appreciate any of these big or small upgrades on long summer days when it's crucial to balance function and fun.

Make use of rollaway elements such as bar carts and wheeled tables

One simple way to quickly upgrade your grilling area is to merely add more space. Rollaway carts, storage, and tables on wheels not only create the illusion of a bigger, grander grill station, but they will allow you to prepare and serve with ease. If your grill doesn't offer plentiful space on the sides, or if you don't have the means or room to build a large counter around the grill, rolling carts can provide a quick solution. Extra surfaces and additional storage make entertaining that much easier, especially if you can move them around your backyard or porch to keep the space functional and also aesthetically pleasing. There's nothing better than a perfectly executed bar cart or even a snack cart in your backyard when grilling and entertaining.

Consider a cart or table with wheels to keep beverages organized and easy to navigate, even if you're hosting a large group. The AllModern solid wood bar cart from Wayfair is a perfect example of a sturdy cart that will seamlessly blend with natural surroundings and can be moved around your space effortlessly. Extra storage inside the cart provides room for other items that your guests might reach for, such as straws or ice. For something a little more industrial, the Saaba outdoor grill is meant to be an extension of your barbeque with space for utensils and a matching aesthetic. Alternatively, the Adagio outdoor bar cart island is basic and handy. Easily store items below and keep the top clear for snacks, cutlery, paper plates, etc. 

Invest in extra refrigerator space

Cool beverages, ice, condiments, and other cold accouterments are an absolute must for a successful barbecue or outdoor gathering, especially under the hot summer sun. You could pack a cooler, but that means filling it with ice and hoping it lasts — not to mention coolers lack organization. Instead, consider adding an outdoor refrigerator to your grilling area. This simple addition eliminates the need to run back and forth between the kitchen and your backyard, even when preparing elaborate meals. 

There are several options when choosing an outdoor refrigerator, and your budget will likely determine which product you take home. For dedicated grillers, elaborate stations can include paneled refrigerators for an elegant look and a sophisticated setup. But there are simpler options as well. Freestanding fridges tend to cost less and they are more easily moved around your space, such as this 24-inch stainless steel outdoor beverage fridge from Amazon, which is both weatherproof and quick-cooling. The most important factor to consider is whether or not the fridge you buy is rated for outdoors. Even covered or partially covered areas in your backyard can fall victim to the elements. A fridge designed for exterior conditions will be better able to handle sudden temperature swings, resist rust, and include the necessary insulation to keep items cold.

Build a BBQ island around your grilling space to create your own eat-in outdoor kitchen

Your grill station can be so much more than a free-standing grill and a folding chair. To really up your game and make entertaining outside a breeze, consider adding a barbecue island or simply a bar around your grill top. This upgrade instantly creates a designated grill area that will make preparing food and hanging out much more inviting for you and your guests. Building a permanent island on your deck or back patio sounds like a large project, but there are ways to hack this idea. For example, rather than purchasing an expensive setup with a grill built into the island, consider an island that will fit multiple grills to making switching them out easy, and which you can continually update. This extra space around your grill will have the appearance of being intentional, while providing a convenient area to stand and prepare your meals.

One important thing to make sure of is that you're building your island with safe materials that are fire-resistant, heat-resistant, and non-combustible. For example, constructing an island out of recycled wooden pallets might sound like a major money-saving move, but keep in mind that grilling is still cooking and safety precautions must be taken. Islands and bars should also be able to weather the elements, which means concrete and stainless steel are great options.

Don't forget your favorite technology

Just because you're grilling and entertaining outside doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your favorite technology. In fact, adding a bit of modern tech can really up your entertaining game. Speakers are a simple addition as they allow you to play music for all your guests, but a TV, some well-placed lighting, or even some high-tech cooking gadgets should not be overlooked when preparing your grill station this summer.

Weatherproof speakers are always a good idea when you'll be gathering outside, and there are plenty of clever ways to disguise your speakers and other patio features to make them less noticeable. You can choose between the convenience of a portable speaker or go more permanent and mount them around your space. Various options for weatherproof TVs are also available from brands like Sylvox, meaning you can mount one under your patio roof or display it somewhere more exposed. You can choose between TVs designed for full sun, partial sun, and commercial use. 

Additionally, remote-controlled lights can help create an inviting atmosphere. The right choice will allow you to easily dim the lights or brighten them, either with a remote or via an app. For example, these waterproof LED round moon lights from Dazuma will not only light up your backyard in a fun way, but they are weather-resistent and bound to start conversations. For the perfect modern ambiance, consider these rechargeable solar floor lamps (also from Dazuma) that are futuristic and whimsical.

Install a sink near your grill for easy clean-up

Installing a sink outside can do wonders for your backyard. Not only does it make the process of cooking and cleaning up that much easier, but your family will also benefit in other ways. Avoid running in and out of the house to wash your hands or clean up when you're gardening, playing with the kids, or generally creating a mess you'd rather keep outside (from activities like washing out the cooler to rinsing off sandy beach toys). There are certainly elaborate ways to install an outdoor sink, such as setting up supply lines, digging a well, or rerouting indoor plumbing to the outside. These methods are more involved, but they will ultimately last much longer.

Alternatively, there are easier, albeit less permanent, ways to incorporate a sink into your outdoor space. One very simple solution is this 2-in-1 outdoor water fountain from Walmart, which attaches to your garden hose. This can be a short-term option that makes your outdoor cooking experience more seamless, but it will lack hot water. More permanent options such as this outdoor sink station from Amazon can also offer a plug-and-play solution. A visit from a plumber, though, and you'll be one step closer to having that full outdoor kitchen that you want in your own backyard.

Make sure you have protection from the rain

Nothing ruins barbecue plans like a summer shower. If you're upgrading your grill station to ultimate entertainer status, be sure to think about overhead protection from not only rain but the sweltering sun as well. Providing a covered area away from the weather is a simple but impactful addition. Not only should you include rain coverage over your grill but also your seating area. If you're adding a roof or cover to your grill zone, there are a few precautions you must consider to keep your space safe and functional.

A canopy, pergola, or a retractable roof can be safely grilled under, if there's proper ventilation, plenty of space, and fire-resistant materials are used. A perfect example is this TikTok-approved grill gazebo that'll set your backyard apart from the rest. For added protection, you can also include a powerful range hood, similar to your indoor setup to prevent grease build-up. The rule of thumb for space is about 8-10 feet from the ground or above your grill. This will ensure that the heat and grease won't come in contact with or accumulate on the structure and cause a fire. In addition, you should always use non-combustible or fire-resistant materials and keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your home. Recommended materials for around and over your grill would be steel, masonry, ceramics, or fire-resistant fabric if you're using a canopy or extendable cover. Take note, charcoal grills emit more heat than gas, should not be used under awnings, canopies, or patio covers, and require more precautions overall. 

Add a smoker to your setup

Your outdoor cooking station could involve a charcoal grill and a pair of rusty tongs, but why not go all out with a few extra additions? Take your grilling skills and your entertaining space up a notch by adding an unexpected element, such as a smoker, and you'll be a grill master by the time the weekend rolls around. A smoker, whether it's a large installment or a table/grill-top version will automatically elevate the flavors at your next barbecue. That delectable savory, smoky profile and crispy bark are only achievable when cooked at a low temperature for a long time and sometimes a traditional grill just won't cut it.

Although you can mimic the process on a grill, a smoker is much more convenient because it doesn't have to be monitored as closely. Smokers are specifically designed to infuse meat with deep flavor while creating a crispy bark and a juicy inside. For a big addition that can handle larger cuts, consider a pellet smoker, such as the Traeger Grills Pro 780 (available on Amazon), an electric wood pellet smoker and grill that also connects to wifi for convenience. Pellet smokers require a minimum of monitoring, but tend to be pricier than water smokers. For a smaller addition, consider a compact water smoker that won't encroach on limited space, such as this stainless steel Americana charcoal water smoker for just under $150 at Walmart.

It's still the great outdoors, so consider pests and plan accordingly

The great outdoors are truly a blessing, but pesky bugs and other annoying critters can quickly descend, especially when there's food readily available. Keep yourself and your guests comfortable while you're grilling by preparing for unwanted barbecue guests. From mosquitoes and ants to small furry friends, there are easy, inexpensive, and even natural remedies for deterring pests from your grilling station.

Essential oils are a simple solution for many pests. Whether you bedeck your space with citronella candles or make your very own essential oil bug spray, the scents won't just deter bugs, but also give your outdoor space a pleasing aroma. Plants and flowers can also serve as potential, mild deterrents. Plants alone won't emit strong enough aromas to entirely rid your outdoor space of bugs, but they will look aesthetically pleasing and create a natural oasis around your grilling area. Garlic, rosemary, and basil, for example, are natural bug repellents and if they're close by you can utilize the fresh herbs when grilling. In addition, there are many flowers that you can grow to help ward off unwanted insects. Plant a small garden near your grill or create a portable herb garden in a box with wheels, such as this raised planter box (available for under $50 on Amazon) which you can move around your backyard. Tabletop fly fans (such as this set from Amazon) are another way to keep bugs away while outside. For more permanent options, you can build a bat house or remove any garden features with standing water.

Don't forget about storage

Your grill station might look perfect, but is it functional? One area that you might be underestimating is storage near your grill to make entertaining and preparing food that much easier. The last thing you want is to be running into the house every few minutes while the grill is hot and your guests are waiting. It's imperative to store essential items nearby. Having your utensils on hand and organized will keep the process running smoothly. Don't forget about larger items, such as extra bags of charcoal, spare propane tanks, bulky grill covers, large pans, and cleaning supplies for keeping your grill clean and safe this summer. All of these items should be within reach and smart storage can make this simple.

The best way to add storage to your grilling area is to utilize multifunctional options. For example, this 70-gallon storage bench from Amazon, offers additional seating for your guests and is the perfect place to store bulky items such as your charcoal chimney, grilling apron, or cleaning supplies. Similarly, something like this stainless-steel-topped grill table from Amazon is the perfect answer to extra counter space and it provides ample room to hide kitchen utensils out of sight and away from the elements. If you have the option for built-in storage in your barbecue island, consider a narrow pull-out spice rack. Something like this barbecue island pull-out spice shelf from Amazon won't take up space, but will make adding flavor a breeze.

Add a pizza oven to your grill station for authentic flavor and fun

A wood-fired pizza oven is an unexpected addition to your grill station that will provide fun for your family and friends. An outdoor pizza oven may even add value to your home. Not only can you make a variety of meals in one — much more than just pizza — but being able to watch your delicious creations cook to perfection and the authentic wood-fire flavor takes the experience up a notch. With a pizza oven you can get creative with fun meals that are perfect for entertaining. For example, it can offer a fast and flavorful way to roast certain cuts of meat, such as a rack of ribs, or a few skewers of kabobs. This exciting addition will be the hit of your gatherings as guests can roast veggies, make personal pizzas, and watch as marshmallows, desserts, and other meals pop and crackle over the flames.

Choose between a classic wood-fired oven that is made from stone or masonry or a more contemporary model that mimics the cooking method but is made from metal and can even be portable. The options range from permanent to portable, big to small, and everything in between. This freestanding wood-burning pizza oven from Wayfair is a perfect addition to your backyard that requires no complicated set-up or building projects. Still, it utilizes live fire and real wood for an authentic experience and flavor and even provides storage space for logs below. Alternative options, such as the Solo Stove Pi Prime gas pizza oven (also from Walmart), are powered by propane, which means the temperature is easier to regulate.