The 'grill island' is the next big outdoor cooking trend that will make entertaining in your backyard even better

Barbecue islands are the best way to do alfresco dining in style by incorporating your grill into your backyard landscape

a modern concrete grill island in a backyard
(Image credit: Dave Kuelza. Design: mckimm architects)

Ever fancied jetting off on a sunny escape to a grill island? No, these aren't barbecuing vacations spent on golden sandy beaches, they're actually far closer to home; these clever contraptions can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own backyard.

Barbecue islands, sometimes known as grilling stations, are the best way to enjoy alfresco dining in style. If you want a beautiful landscape garden that incorporates your grill rather than it sticking out like a sore thumb of stainless steel, then these appliances are for you. Grill islands are essentially a kitchen island, but for your outdoor kitchen, often available in modular or prefabricated units but sometimes also built-in too, and they're set to be the hottest outdoor trend this summer. 

To find out more about barbecue islands, from the best gas grills to blend into your space to natural wood-fired options for a smokey flavor, we spoke with a few outdoor design experts.

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She's committed to sharing articles that help readers make the best shopping choices in their homes and backyards. For this piece, she asked experts why grill islands are set to be the hottest destination this summer

What is a grill island? 

A stone grill island at dusk on a back patio

(Image credit: Wayfair)

They're the outdoor appliance everyone's talking about, but what actually is a grill island? 'Grill islands are outdoor cooking and entertaining spaces that typically feature a built-in grill, counter space, storage, and other amenities,' says Ivo Iv, design expert and founder of Decor Home Ideas. 'They can range from simple designs with just a grill and a few shelves to elaborate structures with multiple cooking surfaces, sinks, refrigerators, and even outdoor TVs.' 

These professional-worthy barbecuing stations differ from your standard outdoor kitchen because they're typically not permanent fixtures and are usually portable, meaning you can easily store them away during the colder seasons and move them to a spot in your backyard that suits you. 

A wooden grill island at dusk

(Image credit: Huckleberry)

The trend for outdoor living has been on the mind of many homeowners in recent years, so it's no surprise that we're looking for more ways to embrace cooking, relaxing, and entertaining in our backyards - and grill islands do just that. 

'In California, where the weather is nice almost all year round, we’ve seen a huge uptick in outdoor kitchen requests,' says landscape architect Michael Pon of Michael Pon Consulting and Landscape Architecture. 'Grill islands, of course, are the next level after a free-standing grill and are great because they allow for better prepping and a full outdoor experience.'

But what really sets them apart from standard grills is their aesthetic designs. With wooden styles for a more natural look to stone-effect facades that blend beautifully with your rock garden, the various different designs on offer mean there will be one to compliment your space. 'From a design standpoint, you can build concrete and stone islands into the existing landscape and make a beautiful seamless indoor-outdoor kitchen,' Michael adds. 

'I think they are great depending on the space,' adds Los Angeles-based designer Linda Hayslett of LH.Designs. 'It helps with smaller spaces to incorporate a cooking area while having a place for people to sit and hang-out while people are barbequing.'

Where should you put a grill island? 

So where should you incorporate a grill island? While the main factor when deciding where to put regular grills concerns practicality, with a grill island you'll also want to consider your landscaping ideas.

'As far as placement goes, I always survey the existing landscape,' Michael says. 'Placement should be somewhere where views can be best enjoyed but close enough to the backyard entrance, for convenience's sake.' That said, safety should always be a priority. 'You always want the grill, whether it’s gas or charcoal, at least 10 feet away from any railings or structure,' Michael notes. 

Where to buy a grill island

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.