Ever heard of a kitchen outside your home that doesn’t involve cooking? Welcome to the fascinating world of pickleball, where the term ‘kitchen’ gets a whole new meaning!

This guide will help you not only understand the pickleball kitchen rules but help confidently navigate and ultimately master the infamous kitchen.

So, are you ready to step into the kitchen and make it your key to success? Trust me, you’ll be putting away winning shots in no time!

Continue your journey with our complete guide to pickleball, taking you beyond the kitchen rules to explore the rules, game strategies, and pro tips that will help you elevate your game.

What Exactly is the Kitchen in Pickleball

The kitchen is actually an affectionate nickname for the non-volley zone. The non-volley zone is a distinct 7-foot rectangular zone that extends from both sides of the net. The lines that make up the non-volley zone are called the non-volley line, or the kitchen line. As the name suggests, you cannot hit a volley shot while standing in this area.

The dimensions of the non-volley zone are 7 feet by 20 feet, which spans the width of the court. The kitchen zone is located directly in front of the net, touching it and extending seven feet back toward the baseline on both sides.

This kitchen has some house rules of its own that keep the game fair and fun. These rules are set to stop players from getting too close to the net and aggressively smashing the ball. They help maintain pickleball’s unique character, which is all about combining skill, strategy, and finesse rather than brute force.

Why is it Known as the Kitchen?

As for how the pickleball kitchen got its name, it’s a bit of a mystery. However, a popular theory suggests it comes from the old saying, “stay out of the kitchen.” This phrase is often used to warn someone not to get too involved in a challenging situation, or they might ‘get burned.’ 

Relating back to pickleball, it’s a friendly warning to players to steer clear of the non-volley zone while hitting a volley shot, lest they violate the rules and get ‘burnt’ with a fault. How’s that for a bit of sporty wordplay?

Unpacking the Pickleball Lingo

Before we dive into the depths of the kitchen rules, let’s first clear up a couple of terms. You know how every sport has its own unique language? Well, pickleball is no exception! Two key terms that you’ll hear a lot on the pickleball court are ‘volley’ and ‘dinking.’ But what do they mean? Let’s break it down.

Volley Shot

A volley is when you hit the ball straight out of the air, without giving it a chance to bounce first. It’s an essential shot that keeps the pace of the game fast and exciting. But remember, volleys and the kitchen are like oil and water – they just don’t mix. Volleying in the kitchen or on the kitchen line is a no-go.

The Art of Dinking

Dinking is a gentle shot that just clears the net and lands within the opponent’s kitchen. This shot is less about power and more about finesse and strategy. The purpose? To lure your opponent closer to the net, preventing them from executing a powerful volley from behind the kitchen line.

Since they will have to move inside of the kitchen to return your shot, they must let the ball bounce first. This will produce a much weaker return shot in most cases than if they were able to hit a volley.

Rundown of the Official Kitchen Rules of Pickleball

Let’s decode the kitchen rules, one by one. These are the guidelines that distinguish pickleball from other paddle sports, creating a unique balance of power, skill, and strategy.

The Golden Pickleball Kitchen Rule

The kitchen is an off-limits area for volley shots. You can’t hit the ball before it bounces while standing in this zone. It’s strictly a no-volley territory. This rule isn’t just limited to the marked area; it extends to the pickleball court lines as well. If your foot or any article of clothing so much as touches the line while you’re volleying, it’s called a fault. When you’re in the heat of the game, watch your footwork!

Don’t Let Momentum Carry You Away

When hitting a volley outside of the kitchen, you can’t step into the kitchen due to the momentum from your shot. That means if you hit a volley and your follow-through carries you into the kitchen for any reason, that’s a fault – even if the ball is no longer in play.

Can You Serve into the Kitchen?

When serving, the ball can’t land in the kitchen or touch the kitchen line. If it does, it is considered a fault and you will lose your serve.

Pickleball Rulebook: Rules 9.A to 9.H

Are you ready to get into the nitty-gritty of the kitchen rule? We’ve broken down the official pickleball kitchen rules, rules 9.A to 9.H, into an easy-to-read table. For a full list of pickleball rules, check out the official pickleball rulebook.

Rule Number
9.AAll volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone.
For players using wheelchairs, the front (smaller) wheels may
touch the non-volley zone during a volley
9.BIt is a fault if the volleying player or anything that has
contact with the volleying player while in the act of volleying
touches the non-volley zone. For players using wheelchairs,
the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone.
9.CDuring the act of volleying, it is a fault if the volleying
player’s momentum causes the player to contact anything
that is touching the non-volley zone, including the player’s
partner. For players using wheelchairs, the front (smaller)
wheels may touch the non-volley zone.
9.DIf a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason,
that player cannot volley a return until both feet have made
contact with the playing surface completely outside the nonvolley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the nonvolley zone, jumping up to hit a volley, and then landing
outside the non-volley zone is a fault. If the rear wheels of a
wheelchair have touched the non-volley zone for any reason,
the player using a wheelchair cannot volley a return until
both rear wheels have made contact with the playing surface
outside the non-volley zone.
9.EA player may enter the non-volley zone at any time except
when that player is volleying the ball.
9.FA player may enter the non-volley zone before or after
returning any ball that bounces
9.GA player may stay inside the non-volley zone to return a ball
that has bounced. There is no violation if a player does not
exit the non-volley zone after hitting a ball that bounces.
9.HThere is no violation if a player returns the ball while their
partner is standing in the non-volley zone.

Unleashing the Power of the Kitchen: Moves You CAN Make

While the kitchen has its restrictions, it’s far from a no-play zone. In fact, it offers a wealth of strategic opportunities when leveraged correctly. In this section, we’ll explore two perfectly legal – and potentially game-changing – actions you can execute in the kitchen: dinking and performing the Erne shot. Let’s dig in!

Winning with Finesse: Dinking in the Kitchen

Now remember, in the kitchen, you cannot hit a return unless the ball bounces. This is where dinking becomes your secret weapon! 

By aiming your dinks strategically, you can force your opponent to move around, upsetting their rhythm and positioning. The key to a successful dink is to make it just high enough to clear the net but not so high that your opponent can volley it back. Work on mastering the angles of your dink to draw your opponent’s out wide before finishing them off up the middle.

Outsmarting your Opponent: Performing the Erne Shot

The Erne shot is a clever move named after pickleball player Erne Perry. This is a move where you volley the ball while stepping or jumping over the kitchen line, landing outside of the court and kitchen. It’s a legal move and one that can really catch your opponent off guard if executed well. 

Performing an Erne shot requires a mix of agility, precision, and good timing. When done correctly, you can intercept the ball at the high point instead of waiting on the ball to come to you, surprising your opponent and seizing control of the rally. Since you’re standing outside the kitchen at the point of contact and when landing, it doesn’t count as a volley from the kitchen – quite the crafty move!

By incorporating dinking and Erne shots into your pickleball strategy, you’ll be making the most out of the kitchen and keeping your opponents guessing!

Clearing the Air: Dispelling Common Misconceptions About the Pickleball Kitchen Rules

In the world of pickleball, there’s been a bit of confusion when it comes to the kitchen rules. Some players have a perception that the kitchen is a no-go zone, while others think they can step on the line during a volley – both of which are not accurate. To bring some clarity to this cloudy subject, let’s debunk a few of the most common misconceptions about the kitchen rule.

1. Misconception: You can’t ever step into the kitchen.

   Truth: This is the most common misconception regarding the kitchen. In reality, you’re allowed to step into the kitchen at any time as long as you are not hitting a volley shot.

2. Misconception: The kitchen line doesn’t count as part of the kitchen.

   Truth: Contrary to this belief, the line marking the kitchen does count as part of the kitchen. So if your foot is on the line during a volley, it is considered a fault.

3. Misconception: You can enter the kitchen after a volley if the ball is dead.

   Truth: Many players think they can enter the kitchen after hitting a volley if the ball is dead. This isn’t the case. The kitchen rules apply to your momentum as well. If your momentum carries you into the kitchen after a volley, it’s still a fault, even if the ball is dead.

These are just a few examples of the misconceptions floating around the pickleball kitchen. As with any game, understanding the rules fully – and the misconceptions that surround them – is the first step towards mastering the sport.

Wrapping Up

It’s clear that understanding the kitchen rules is not just about knowing what not to do. It’s about exploring the strategic depth that these rules add to the game and using them to your advantage.

From volley restrictions to leveraging techniques like dinking and the Erne shot, the kitchen rules add a unique layer of strategy to pickleball. And remember, it’s not just about keeping out of the kitchen, it’s about knowing when to step in, too!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can You Not Do in the Kitchen in Pickleball?

The kitchen or non-volley zone is an area where you can’t volley the ball. Doing so constitutes a fault. You must allow the ball to bounce before returning it from within the kitchen.

When Can You Step in the Kitchen in Pickleball?

You can step into the kitchen anytime during a point in pickleball. You can’t hit the ball out of the air (volley) while in the kitchen.

Can you be in the kitchen before the ball bounces?

Yes, you can step into the kitchen before the ball bounces. If you do and then volley the ball, it’s considered a fault. You can only step in the kitchen and volley the ball after it has bounced.

Can Your Momentum Carry You into the Kitchen?

Yes, your momentum can carry you into the kitchen after a groundstroke. If your momentum from a volley takes you into the kitchen, it’s considered a fault.

Can the Serve Bounce in the Kitchen in Pickleball?

The serve cannot bounce in the kitchen nor land on the kitchen line. This is considered a fault.

Can the Return of Serve in Pickleball Land in the Kitchen?

Yes, the return of the serve can land in the kitchen. The only shot not permitted to land in the kitchen is the serve.