What Are the Pickleball Kitchen Rules?

Pickleball has been around since 1965. Despite this fact, Pickleball does not get the same kind of hype that some of its cousins do. Although Pickleball is a healthy blend of ping-pong, tennis, and badminton, several traits make the game unique.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by three fathers from Bainbridge Island, Washington to entertain their kids. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum made the equipment for the game by hand from items they had lying around the house and used rules from the games of tennis, badminton, and table tennis to create a fun new game for their families to enjoy.


People of any skill-set and age can play Pickleball. While the game is relatively simple and easy to play, there are now Pickleball tournaments, where highly skilled players compete against each other. 

Despite its simplicity, there are many rules to the Pickleball game that can be hard to grasp if you are a novice. One of the most prominent examples is ‘the rules of the kitchen’ when playing Pickleball. 

To fully explain the kitchen rules, let’s first discuss Pickleball’s base rules, as they will be essential for the kitchen.

If you’re looking for a complete beginner’s guide check out our guide: Pickleball Strategy: Complete Beginners GuideOpens in a new tab.!

What is Pickleball?

What is Pickleball? Infographic

Pickleball is a sport that follows a similar format to tennis and ping-pong, wherein a set of players volley a ball back and forth over a net. When it comes to Pickleball, players can play as both singles(one-on-one)or doubles(two teams of two), and the players typically need eleven points to win.

A Pickleball court is approximately the same size as a badminton court, with a low-hanging net in the center. Players interact with the ball by hitting it back and forth with a paddle over this net. 

For more information, check out out guide What is Pickleball?

Standard Rules of Pickleball

To win a Pickleball game, a player typically aims to reach eleven points but must also win by two. If the score is 11-10, for example, the game will continue until the score is 12-10.

Before each serve, the current score must be announced out loud by the player serving. Each player gets one serve before moving to the next player. If the ball hits the net or outside of the court, the ball is out, and the next player serves.

When a player serves at the start of the game, the opponent must let the ball bounce once before striking it back over the net. The player who has served must do the same before responding. After this, the game can be played without waiting for the ball to bounce.

All-in-all, pretty simple, right? However, there is one tricky part of Pickleball that can confuse even long-time players. That part is the kitchen. There are frequently many questions that come with this aspect of the game.

These questions can include: 

“Can you step into the kitchen in Pickleball?”

“Can a serve land in the kitchen in Pickleball?”

This article will help you answer questions you may have if you are interested in playing Pickleball.

What is the Kitchen?

What is the Kitchen? Infographic

Otherwise known as the “non-volley zone,” the kitchen is a space that extends outwards to seven feet on both sides of the net. The rules of this space, and the concept itself, is what sets Pickleball apart from sports such as badminton and tennis.

This space is a space that players must watch very carefully. Depending on what the player is doing, the space is completely off-limits. Knowing what a player can and cannot do in the kitchen is where things get tricky. While the kitchen concept may seem simple at first glance, the rules leave little wiggle room for error.

On the Pickleball court, there is a defining line that separates the regular court from the kitchen. This line is important to keep an eye on, as crossing the line at the wrong time can cost you a point and even the game. The kitchen also only refers to the marked space on the ground. 

What Can You Do in the Kitchen in Pickleball?

While playing Pickleball, you can technically be in the kitchen anytime you are not serving a volley. If you need to retrieve a ball, you are free to enter the kitchen. If you are moving around the court, you are allowed to be in the kitchen.

However, you do not necessarily want to be in the kitchen for long. While it is appropriate to be in the kitchen if you are not volleying a ball, there is not much else that you can do without facing a penalty. So the question becomes less about what you can do in the kitchen and more about what you cannot do.

What Do You Have to Avoid in the Kitchen?

When a player is in the kitchen, it is prohibited to serve a volley of any kind.

If any part of a player’s body or personal belongings touches the kitchen while serving, the opponent is automatically awarded a point in their favor. 

Now, this is where the trickiness comes in. Keeping yourself out of the kitchen may be more difficult than you’d expect for a multitude of reasons. 

The first being that keeping yourself out of the kitchen means any extension of you. This also includes inanimate objects. To be more specific, let’s say that you have a watch on.

If that watch falls off of your wrist and into the kitchen, this is considered breaking the rules. The same is also true with shoes, hats, keys, cigarettes, etc. Any item in your possession is considered an extension of you.

The second reason is that the same rule applies to playing a doubles match. If your partner accidentally causes you to cross into the kitchen while volleying, this will also grant your opponent one point. When it comes to volleying, the kitchen leaves very little wiggle room.  

A volley can mean multiple things. In the case of Pickleball, to volley is the act of two or more players hitting the ball over the next. Any time that a player is in the process of responding to the ball on their side, they must remain outside of the kitchen.

An exception to this rule is if the ball bounces. If the ball were to fall short and bounce, a player is allowed to step into the kitchen to respond. 

What is Toeing The Line?

Let’s go back to the defining lines of the kitchen. Remember that the kitchen is only referring to the physical space on the ground of the Pickleball court.

Let us say that a Pickleball is in the air above the kitchen. If a player hits the ball out of the air while standing behind the kitchen line, the player is not penalized. As long as the player is not making physical contact with the ‘kitchen floor,’ they are safe.

Ideally, a player will want to remain as close as possible to the kitchen line without crossing that border. This practice is called “toeing the line,” and while it is encouraged, the practice also opens players up to the risk of accidentally crossing that line.

Staying Out of the Kitchen

While there are times that it is technically allowed to be in the kitchen, being in there can open a player up to being vulnerable. 

For example, a player can return a ball while in the kitchen if that ball bounces beforehand. However, the player will want to remove themselves from the kitchen immediately. If the opponent returns the ball before the player is out of the kitchen, the player will have no choice but to let it go.

Dead balls are also off-limits. Even if a ball bounces, the player must remain out of the kitchen if the ball has been called out.

Initiating a Volley

Anything to do with playing or even initiating a volley is forbidden in the kitchen. 

If a player initiates a volley within the parameters of the kitchen and moves out of the kitchen before the opponent responds, this is still considered a break in the rules. 

Starting, playing, and finishing a volley, all must be done outside of the kitchen. If a player has moved into the kitchen to retrieve a ball, they must be outside of the kitchen before initiating. 

What are a Volley and Groundstroke?

A volley means that a player strikes the ball out of the air before it bounces.

On the other hand, a groundstroke is a shot that is executed after the ball has bounced.

Now that we have a better understanding of what the kitchen is in pickleball and have differentiated between the terms, “groundstroke” and “volley,” let’s take a look at the dangers of the pickleball kitchen.

The Dangers of the Pickleball Kitchen

To sum it all up, the Pickleball kitchen is a tricky place to be in. There are many rules that can cause slip-ups for even advanced players.

In short, it is best to be out of the kitchen as long as a player can be. But a player will also want to toe the kitchen line in case the opponent’s ball should bounce. In this case, it is acceptable to dip into the kitchen, but the player will want to return back outside the line immediately.

Toeing the line also allows a player to be able to hit a ball that is above the kitchen. As long as an extension of the player is not physically in the kitchen, the ball is fair game.

The most skilled players tend to be able to maneuver themselves in and out of the kitchen quickly. Timing is of the essence. These skilled players will also be able to remember the specifics of each rule.

While the kitchen is arguably the most complicated aspect of Pickleball, it is also what sets the game apart from others. This added challenge is what makes the game enjoyable to many players. 

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Brianna Goulet

Brianna loves to get outdoors for everything creative and fun. She has a passion for all things Pickleball and is an avid player. It is her goal to share everything you need to know about Pickleball so you can get out there and play with confidence!

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