Ahhhh the smell and feeling of North Carolina BBQ has no parallel. BBQ's and Cookouts in the summer are quintessentially American and it is hard to describe 4th of July, Labor Day, and Memorial Day, in terms of what people love to do, without mentioning a BBQ or cookout. In North Carolina, especially, with its rich history of delicious BBQ, cooking outside for long periods of time and enjoying the fruits of your labor around a pit are part of the culture. As long time Realtors in The Triangle and cooking afficandos, we have seen lots of trends come and go in terms of trends in homes and amenities, but some things are always going to be big sellers, and the outdoor kitchen with BBQ is one of the top amenities in the South. Here are some of the latest ways to build a summer kitchen at any budget.

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas for Small Budgets

Just because you don’t have a big budget, does not mean you cannot really enjoy al fresco dining and an outdoor kitchen.One of the best things about the outdoor kitchen is how you can expand on it annually. Start with a grill, then upgrade to counters or freestanding prep areas, then move to counters and a pergola. There are also really great offers for full setups online. The image to the left is sold complete under$8000. All you need to really enjoy a summer night is charcoal, fire, and friends! 


The Grill

Even if you are on a budget, Invest in your grill. You can make the decision on charcoal or propane, if you do not want to run electricity, which can be a much more expensive upgrade, but you do want a quality grill. Charcoal grills are the most traditional and many purists will not cook on anything inorganic. Larry the owner of My NC Homes is a former executive chef and is personally a fan of gas and in each of his past three homes has invested in having natural gas made available for his grill so there's never any fear of running out of gas in the midst of cooking. If you've got the room consider a dedicated smoker as well.


Counters can get very expensive, however, you can have a contractor pour concrete shelves with counters, for a lot less money. Consider carefully the grill placement and if you are investing in counters, try to have a design in place for adding on, because removal is costly.


For seating, you can go second hand and find outdoor furniture at a Salvation Army, or there are tons of deals on sites like Joss and Main, Wayfair, and Overstock. If you have not chosen a spot with natural shade, many of these sets come with shades as well. In some instances, you can purchase a pergola for a really reasonable price.


If you do not have a deck and the cost of pavers is not in your “this year” plan, consider alternative flooring, not for the grill but for space where you will be dining. There are some synthetics that are not eyesores or bank breakers. Click here for inspiration 

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas for the Mid-Size Budget

An outdoor kitchen on a mid-size budget is absolutely doable in North Carolina. Some places that you might consider splurging would be the decking or pavers, refrigeration, and stonework. Each of these easily enhances the experience of cooking and dining outdoors and is scalable if you were looking to spend a bonus or tax return. Here are some of our scaled-up mid-budget options.

Applied Masonry

To upgrade concrete, you can add stone. This creates a classic look and you can upgrade counters in a similar way. The custom stonework is very popular right now and can be added at any time. Be sure that if you plan on adding electric at some point, that it is planned into the work, before anything permanent is installed.


One of the most popular items that an outdoor kitchen, of course, is refrigeration. From mini-fridges, to wine coolers, to ice makers, there are any number of upgrades. Starting out with a mini-fridge is probably best for a mid-size budget. The amount of power it requires, is usually easier to run, depending on where your kitchen is, and you would not require permits.

Decking or Pavers

With a mid size budget for an outdoor kitchen, consider pavers or decking. Typically You do not need permits to install pavers or decking, but it's always in your best interest to check with your local municipality as many have restrictions on impermeable surfaces like pavers as well as with your HOA. In projects over $15,000 and with running water or electric, you should have a plan for permits when the project grows. There are some really beautiful wood decks and blue stone pavers that are popular and well worth the return on investment.


Roofing for an outdoor kitchen can get really creative, from tin to pergola style. We recommend more substantial protection, the more you spend on your appliances and kitchen. One mid-budget and trendy way to protect your outdoor kitchen are with a tin-found roof. See inspiration here. Again here in the Triangle, you may need to make sure you can put up a roof (impermeable surface) without issue.

Lighting and Sound 

Even with a few more pricy upgrades, there are ways to add touches of ambiance to your outdoor kitchen. Tiki torches, solar in-ground lights, and solar in-ground speakers can be really affordable and are often on sale at TJ Maxx or Home Goods. Have a smart speaker, you can always just bring it out with you.

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas at Any Budget

If you are ready to invest in a show-stopping outdoor kitchen, the sky really is the limit. Hire a designer and contractor who will be overseeing permitting and design, to be sure that you invest and build properly for longevity and start looking at some really amazing kitchens.

Upscale Appliances

Outdoor kitchens are not just for BBQs with grills, consider a cooktop, griddle, or wood-burning pizza oven. Any number of built-ins are possible once you run plumbing and electricity to your outdoor kitchen. This is the time for the big green egg!

Plumbing and Electric

Installing sinks, ice makers, and refrigeration are a must in a luxury outdoor kitchen. This is where you will need permits and smart design. The costs are well worth not having to run back into the kitchen for something. This is where you truly have everything.

Ultimate Bar Seating and Serving

If you already have stone countertops, add a second freestanding counter that can do double duty as a bar that you can entertain around. It is a great place for working, especially if you add a wooden slab, and under-counter bar, and then make your seating separate. Many people create a configuration of a horseshoe and it works really well for outdoor entertaining.

Professional Lighting and Sound

A mid-range outdoor kitchen needs to have flooring, and some basics for lighting, but if you really want to impress, consider an outdoor fire pit, professional uplighting, and sound system. Professional lighting can get expensive, but there are a number of sound systems that are easy to install without a professional that are excellent.

Dine and Recline 

The dining furniture and the reclining furniture designs are indoor design quality. More interior designers are moving their expertise outside and collaborating with furniture designers to make some really gorgeous pieces, that are weatherproof. More and more we are seeing outdoor kitchens function more like living rooms.

If you are thinking about buying or selling on The Triangle and outdoor dining is a must, reach out to My NC Homes and we can help you find the perfect home or the perfect place to design your dream outdoor kitchen.

Posted by Larry Tollen on


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