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Enhancing Your Outdoor Dirty Kitchen with Lighting

Published by: Maria Kelley • Updated: November 18, 2023 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

If you’re looking for a way to elevate your outdoor space and make it the talk of the neighbourhood, look no further than an al fresco dining experience. Imagine having dinner under the stars, illuminated by twinkling lights—doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? But how do you bring such an extravagant ambience into your backyard? 

Well, with the help of strategic lighting design coupled with designing a “dirty kitchen” for preparing meals outside, you can turn your tantalizing dreams of special al fresco evenings into reality! In this guide, we’ll review some tips on creating an inviting atmosphere in your backyard and enhancing it with warm lighting.

Best Outdoor Lighting Options

Choosing the right outdoor lighting for your space can be a game-changer. Not only does it illuminate your outdoor kitchen and dining area, but it also sets the mood and enhances the overall aesthetic of your backyard. Here are a few options that can help you create a magical dining environment:

string of lights hanging from a timber beam

1. String Lights

String lights are a popular choice for outdoor settings, and for good reason. They produce a warm, cosy glow that instantly transforms any space into a magical wonderland. Draping these lights over your dining area or winding them around trees in your backyard creates an enchanting canopy of light that’s perfect for late-night dining or parties.

2. Solar Lights

Solar lights are an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to light up your outdoor space. They absorb sunlight during the day and automatically turn on at dusk, offering a soft, natural glow that can elegantly light up pathways or frame your dirty kitchen area. Plus, they’re easy to install and require minimal maintenance.

3. Lanterns

Lanterns offer a more traditional approach and are perfect for adding a rustic touch to your backyard. They provide a focused, warm light that’s perfect for intimate gatherings. You can hang or situate them on tables or countertops for a personalised touch.

4. LED Spotlights

LED spotlights are the way to go to highlight specific outdoor kitchen features, like a beautiful countertop or a vintage grill. They produce a bright, concentrated light that draws attention to whatever it illuminates, making your outdoor kitchen features stand out.

Soft LED wall lights are also a smart lighting solution for your space.

5. Fire Pit

Not only does a fire pit provide warmth and light, but it also creates a cosy, intimate setting for dining. You can gather around the fire with your guests and enjoy some s’mores or hot cocoa while basking in its glow. Plus, it adds a touch of rustic charm to your outdoor space.

Tips For Decorating Your Outdoor Kitchen

Now that you know different lighting options, here are some tips to help you decorate your outdoor kitchen and dining area for the ultimate al fresco experience. It is important to remember the style and theme you want to achieve, as well as practicality and functionality.

dirty kitchen with gas cooker and food preparation area

1. Create Zones

Creating distinct zones in your outdoor kitchen is essential to ensure each area is used to its full potential. This could include a cooking area, a dining area, and a relaxation area. For instance, the cooking area should have enough light to see clearly while preparing meals — consider installing task lighting such as spotlights or under-cabinet lights. The dining area, on the other hand, benefits from softer, ambient lighting like string lights or lanterns to set a more intimate mood.

The relaxation area, perfect for after-dinner conversations, can be subtly lit with solar lights or even the warm glow from a fire pit. By creating these zones, you optimise the space and create a flow that guides your guests through the various outdoor gathering activities. Remember, each zone should have its own vibe, and lighting plays a crucial role in achieving this.

2. Include Various Lighting Levels

Including various lighting levels in your outdoor kitchen does more than make it functional—it adds depth and dimension to the space. Use a mix of general, task, and accent lighting to achieve this. General lighting, like that from string lights or an overhead fixture, provides overall illumination. From spotlights or under-cabinet lights, task lighting is great for specific tasks like cooking or reading.

Accent lighting, such as that from lanterns or LED spotlights, adds drama and highlights architectural features or plants in your outdoor kitchen. By layering these different lighting levels, you create a dynamic and inviting space that caters to different needs, whether cooking a feast, hosting a dinner party, or relaxing with a book.

3. Use Lighting To Enhance Safety

While aesthetics and functionality are important, safety should never be compromised in your outdoor kitchen. Ensure that all walking paths, stairs, and elevation changes are well-lit to prevent trips and falls. Solar path lights are a great way to illuminate walkways without adding to the electricity bill.

Also, consider the wet areas like the sink or areas near a pool—if any. Waterproof and high-rated IP lights could be used in these areas to prevent electric accidents. Remember, safety lights need not be glaring. Choose options that blend well with your overall design while providing ample light for safe navigation.

4. Embrace Smart Lighting

Smart lighting technology can take your outdoor kitchen to the next level. With features like dimming controls, colour-changing capabilities, and remote accessibility, smart lights provide ultimate convenience and customization. Imagine adjusting the brightness level or even the colour of your lights to match the mood of your gathering, all with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Additionally, many smart lights are energy-efficient, helping you reduce your carbon footprint. They also have scheduling options, allowing you to set when your lights should turn on or off. This feature is especially useful for security reasons, as it can create the illusion of someone being home even when you’re away.


Lighting is an essential aspect of any outdoor kitchen, and with so many options available, there’s something for everyone. Proper lighting can create a cosy and intimate vibe or a functional and practical space. 

Consider safety, functionality, and aesthetics when choosing your lighting options. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different types of lights for a dynamic and inviting outdoor kitchen. Contact an outdoor lighting specialist and see more options to enhance your al fresco cooking experience.

Maria Kelley