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Pickleball Kitchen Explained | Rules, Tips, & More

pickleball kitchen

The Kitchen. Pickleball’s most infamous element. On both sides of the court, seven feet from the net, the kitchen keeps the athletically and physically superior from dominating the game. It holds strong as the pickleball court dynamic that encourages finesse instead of power. The kitchen is what makes the game so beautiful. So, what’s the history behind it, and how did it get its name? The Paddle Experts at JustPaddles explain everything you need to know and more. Let's dive in. 

Pickleball Kitchen

To understand how to play the kitchen effectively, it’s essential to know what it really is. For starters, “the kitchen” is a nickname given to pickleball’s non-volley zone. No player is allowed inside (or on the line) of the non-volley zone unless the ball has bounced. This includes stepping into the kitchen following a volley or after the ball has been ruled dead. 

Pickleball Court

The following are pickleball terms to know when learning how to play the kitchen strategically:

  • Groundstroke: A shot hit following a bounce.
  • Volley: A shot hit in the air before the ball bounces.
  • Dink: A soft shot used by experienced players to land just beyond the net, often within the kitchen, and force the opponent into a tight vertical angle on their return shot.
  • Erne: A predictive shot where a player jumps or runs around the kitchen to hit a fast-paced return. Usually used to catch the opponent off-guard.
  • ATP: The “around the post” shot is exactly like it seems. A player hits the ball around the netting, and the ball lands in the opponent’s court. This is a legal (and often exciting) play in pickleball.

Pickleball Kitchen Rules

According to the International Federation of Pickleball’s (IFP) official tournament rulebook

“A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying touches the non-volley zone or touches any non-volley line. For example, a fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, one of the player’s feet touches a non-volley line.”

The easiest takeaway here is to not hit a volley while in the kitchen. But there’s more to the rule than your first glance might see. Notice the verbiage around “anything the player is wearing or carrying.” This means that your hat cannot legally fall into the area, nor may your pickleball paddle touch the non-volley zone without a fault being declared. If you’re just playing a casual game with friends, you may choose not to invoke this rule but know that others may call out this rule if you are in a serious league or tournament match.

If you are interested in learning more about pickleball rules, be sure to read our other blog posts.

Why is it called the kitchen in pickleball?

While it is unknown, many believe that the non-volley zone in pickleball got the ‘kitchen’ nickname from shuffleboard. At the back of the scoring zone, there is a section labeled “10-off.” This is commonly referred to as the kitchen in shuffleboard. In the event you land in this zone, 10 points are deducted from your score. This “no-go” term was likely brought over to pickleball due to players not wanting the penalty associated with being caught inside this area.

Pro Tip - Pickleball Kitchen

In pickleball, when can you be in the kitchen?

Pickleball players are allowed inside the kitchen (non-volley zone) but not able to return the ball until the ball has bounced in the kitchen. It is common practice for experienced players to step into the kitchen to return a short dink casually. If you step into the kitchen, be sure to exit as soon as you can. Failure to do so will hang you out to dry. If you’re standing in the kitchen or on the kitchen line, your opponent is free to hit the ball anywhere in your direction without fear of you being able to return it until it bounces.

In conclusion, get to the kitchen as fast as you can, toe the line, and dominate your opponent. Avoid stepping into the kitchen unless the ball has bounced, and maybe try an erne or ATP at your next game. We’d love to hear how it goes.

Don't forget, if you ever have any questions about pickleball paddles or pickleball in general, our Paddle Experts are always here to help. You can contact them via phone at 866-382-3465, email at, or live chat. We’re JustPaddles, and we’re with you from Click to Court!

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