Outdoor kitchens are a fantastic place to gather, cook and entertain during the warm months of the year. To make them truly functional and accessible on even the hottest days, the best outdoor kitchens have some type of shade or cover. Whether you need partial or full shade, it’s an important addition that will make your outdoor kitchen a much more welcoming space for everyone that uses it. 

The following seven shade ideas for outdoor kitchens will help make sure that your dining experience is comfortable, practical and relaxing for everyone. 

1. Cover a Deck With an Outdoor Pergola

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There are many places to place an outdoor kitchen around the home. For homeowners that have their kitchen on a raised deck or patio, sun exposure can be direct and intense.

Adding a pergola to the deck can help you get some much-needed shade while cooking and relaxing. It can also help add an enclosed feeling to the deck while retaining a light and airy aesthetic. Plus, vinyl pergolas are lightweight — unlike gazebos or pavilions — so they work well on decks that can’t handle extra weight. 

2. Install a Stand-Alone Pergola

A stand-alone pergola is one of the best choices for extra shade if your outdoor kitchen is positioned slightly away from the home. Pergolas are open on all four sides, so your kitchen and gathering area can remain open to the rest of your yard. 

Pergolas help define and compartmentalize large spaces. Despite their lack of walls, they still provide the sensation of sitting in a separate space within the backyard. This distinction can help make the kitchen a focal point in your outdoor areas, clearly communicating to guests that this area is meant for gathering. 

3. Utilize a Combination of Shade

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If you already have an outdoor kitchen close to the home in your back patio, consider adding a cantilevered extension over it for added shade and more interior square footage. As an added benefit, the integrated recessed lighting shown above maximizes nighttime visibility.

While shade for the grill and cooking equipment is important, it’s also essential to create a comfortable outdoor dining area. For an easy, shaded eating area, a post-mounted pergola is an excellent addition. This allows guests and family enjoying the outdoors to spread out and relax without crowding together under the cantilevered overhang.

4. Attach a Pergola 

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Pergolas are one of the most versatile types of shade you can have for your outdoor kitchen. Not only can they be placed on decks or used as a stand-alone cover, but they can also be attached directly to the home for added stability and a unique, trellised extension.

Areas close to the home are some of the most popular places for a grill or full outdoor kitchen. That’s why an attached vinyl pergola is such a practical choice for homeowners looking for an affordable and easy-to-install shade solution. 

It creates an enclosed feeling above, while still letting in plenty of light and air. Not to mention it’s much cheaper than a cantilevered home extension. The added shade from this design helps keep the kitchen and dining area from getting too hot while improving the home’s Spanish-style aesthetic.

5. Add Drop Shades to Exposed Sides

Covered outdoor kitchens are a great way to protect people from sun damage and heat exhaustion. However, a ceiling alone might not cut it when the sun moves closer to the horizon. That’s why an added drop shade to your kitchen cover is such a beneficial addition. They are a discreet, cheap and effective way to ensure that family and friends stay protected and comfortable around the twilight hours of the day.

Combined with an outdoor pergola, this design ensures that dinner guests can enjoy the outdoors without worrying about harsh sunlight from any angle.

6. Add a Counter-Height Pergola to an Outdoor Bar & Grill

Some outdoor spaces may not be suitable for a full dining area: That’s where this design comes in handy. With a countertop space that allows for unobstructed conversation between a cook and his/her guests, it’s easy for hours to go by sitting around this outdoor kitchen.

To protect this space from harsh sunlight, a post-mounted, counter-height pergola is the best choice for the job. Thanks to the versatility of this installation, posts can be mounted at various heights directly on top of the dining and drinking area. For the extra handy host, this installation has the potential to be a DIY project.

7. Choose Your Shade Percentage

Some pergolas are designed to block out most sunlight during peak hours of the day. Others are designed for more temperate conditions, where only 50% shade is needed for staying comfortable. In this outdoor space, sunlight is allowed to partially pass through the awning, so guests can still enjoy the warmth of a sunny day, without overheating.

Get the Right Shade for Your Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens can add an extra gathering space to your home, without dishing out thousands of dollars on a home extension. With the right cover, outdoor kitchens and dining areas are the perfect places to spend a warm, sunny day. 

To try one of these seven shade ideas for your outdoor kitchen, contact the pergola specialists at Heartland and enhance your home today.