How to Select an Outdoor Kitchen Sink

Al fresco cooking and entertaining: consider durability, usage, and style for the best outdoor kitchen sink

Pinnacle copper outdoor kitchen sink in antique finish

Pinnacle copper kitchen sink in Antique featured in outdoor kitchen by Poirier + Associates Architects

’Tis the season for refreshing your outdoor kitchen so that you can live out your grilling fantasies and play host at sultry summer cocktail shindigs. Or, if you’re on the introverted side, you may just be dreaming of a calm retreat at the end of a stressful work day. Either way, as the summer holidays approach, it’s a fine time for us to address a question we hear so often: Which sink will work best in my al fresco kitchen?

Outdoor Stainless Steel Kitchen sink

Outdoor kitchen in stainless steel by Zakrzewski + Hyde Architects.

Shop for quality

When it comes to a kitchen sink used outside, you want something as resilient as it is striking. Building codes and plumbing costs can make installing a sink in an open-air kitchen quite an undertaking, so it’s best to choose one that you absolutely love—one luxurious enough to make it worth the investment.
Since sinks are made to live with water, most kitchen sinks will work just fine in an outside space. The most common are made of stainless steel (hint: one good gauge of quality for metal sinks is the thickness of the metal), but those made of marble, soapstone or granite are also great picks.

Olivos concrete outdoor bar prep sink

Olivos NativeStone concrete sink in Slate.

Look for a durability and low-maintenance

But what about the elements? You’ll find that most basins are impervious to them. For instance, Native Trails’ copper sinks are naturally equipped to withstand the elements; they never rust and are resistant to mildew. No, a Native Trails copper sink won’t easily turn green, or verdigris, simply by being outside. That takes years and continual contact with trace elements. However, it is critical that you choose a copper sink from a quality manufacturer as lower quality, less pure copper will react very differently with the environment and very likely will turn green. Our favorite thing about using copper sinks outdoors? They only grow more beautiful as the years go by and their patina develops. NativeStone concrete sinks are also ideal for outside use, with a UV resistant nano-sealer that prevents staining. Both copper and concrete require very little maintenance.
With all outdoor sinks, use mild soap and warm water to wipe down, and periodically remove anything stuck on—leaves, twigs, food, etc. Some sinks even come with covers you can place over them when not in use.

Mojito hammered copper outdoor kitchen sink

Mojito hammered copper sink in Brushed Nickel.

The pros and cons of stainless steel

When selecting the right material for your outdoor space, consider the sun and how it will reflect against a surface. Take it from Food & Wine writer Ian Maxtone-Graham, who wrote about his quest to create the perfect backyard kitchen: “I’d wanted a stainless steel countertop, which looks fine indoors, especially if you perform autopsies on weekends. Outdoors, though, it would have been a blinding mirror, bouncing the noontime sun up into the cook’s eyes. … If I could do it over, I’d replace the stainless steel sink with something dark and porcelain.”
If you do opt for a stainless steel sink, look for those built of grade 304 stainless, which is more resistant to corrosion. Don’t know how to recognize 304 stainless? Try a magnet; if it sticks to the metal, it’s not 304.
Even better: If you’re looking for the alluring silvery tones of stainless steel, but want to avoid the reflectivity, consider a hammered brushed nickel surface. A hammered and brushed texture is incredibly forgiving—the nicks, dents and scratches that occur during everyday use can make a stainless steel sink look beat-up over time, but a textured sink will better disguise these blemishes.

Outdoor Concrete Kitchen Sink under oak tree covered patio

Concrete sink in outdoor kitchen by Articulated Design

Speak to the natural setting

Though most people want to carry the design style they’ve established inside their home into their outdoor kitchen, the exterior setting requires a bit of extra consideration. Will a porcelain farmhouse sink make sense in the open air or stick out like a sore thumb?
After all, this is a space where you may be washing hands still dirty from the garden, rinsing freshly picked produce and garden tools, maybe even potting plants. Knowing this, many outdoor kitchen designers seek out natural materials like copper, stone or concrete. Copper, a “living” metal that’s always evolving, is as natural as it gets, and stone and concrete sinks, available in several earth tones, work seamlessly in outdoor spaces, adding a warmth that stainless steel and porcelain can’t.

Hammered Copper Outdoor Kitchen Sink

Rio Chico hammered copper sink in Brushed Nickel.

Consider an outdoor bar sink

What do you plan to do with your outdoor sink? Whip up cocktails and rinse out glasses? Or rinse food and wash dishes and grill grates? If the answer is both, you may want to establish a patio bar area as well as cooking area. If you’re into the idea of a designated outdoor bar, you have available to you a great number of bar and entertaining options that will add personality to your space. These basins come in both standard and fun shapes—long and narrow, as with Rio Chico, apron-front concrete like the Ventana, or round with a high-profile lip—i.e., the Mojito or the Olivos. The absolute best part of having a bar sink outside? They double as a stunning cooler during parties: Fill them with ice and beer bottles or seafood appetizers, and you’re ready to party all season long.
Browse our bar and prep sinks, and find kitchen design ideas in our Inspiration Gallery.