The kitchen is another term for the pickleball non-volley zone (NVZ). The kitchen is a seven-foot area between the net and the non-volley line 9n the court. Players can’t stand in the kitchen or kitchen line when volleying the pickleball, either. Any volleying of the ball while standing in the kitchen area will result in a fault, meaning a point loss.
So, why is the kitchen area called that in pickleball? What are the kitchen rules, and who calls in or out in the kitchen in pickleball? Can a pickleball serve land in the kitchen area, and what can you do and not do in the kitchen area on the court?
Here is the complete breakdown of the kitchen in pickleball.
Why Is It Called “The Kitchen” Area on a Pickleball Court?
The origin of the term “kitchen” is unclear, though some theories exist. One of these theories is that the name comes from shuffleboard, where the kitchen refers to an area where you do not want your shuffle to land. Three dads invented pickleball games for their children using a badminton court and improvised paddles and balls, so it’s no surprise that pickleball might take another element from a different game.
One that is perhaps less likely but worth mentioning is the idea that it came from the phrase, “if you can stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The game of pickleball is fast-paced, and there is some credence to this possibility, but the first is most likely.
What Are the Kitchen Rules in Pickleball?
The pickleball kitchen rules, officially known as the non-volley zone rules, are pretty straightforward. The critical thing to know about the kitchen is that you cannot be in the kitchen during an act of volleying. For those unfamiliar with that term, volleying means hitting the pickleball out of the air before it bounces. It is perfectly legal to stand in the kitchen as long as you aren’t hitting the ball in the air.
Another rule to remember is that even if you hit the ball in the air and your momentum takes you over into the kitchen, that will be a fault. As a player, you must come to a complete stop before the kitchen line after you hit the ball in the air, so be careful about crashing toward the net at full speed. However, there is room for interpretation that you will be fine if you come to a full stop before crossing into the kitchen area to play defense.
Finally, the last rule about the kitchen is that you can’t step out of the kitchen and volley the ball with one foot still in the air. You must have both feet firmly on the ground when you hit the pickleball if you are in the kitchen area.
Who Calls in The Kitchen in Pickleball?
According to the rulebook, pickleball players are generally responsible for calling kitchen faults, though if there are referees or line judges, the responsibility falls off of them. However, players can still call for the kitchen fault. The culture of calling kitchen faults in pickleball is such that players should give the benefit of the doubt to the opponent and not question an opponent’s line call unless there is a referee.
One thing to note is that spectators should not yell out faults if they appear in a game.
Can a Pickleball Serve Land in The Kitchen?
As a basic rule, a pickleball serve (the original serve from the baseline that starts the play) cannot land in the kitchen. If the pickleball clips the net, as long as it clears the kitchen, it is still legal. However, once the serve crosses the kitchen, the pickleball can land in the kitchen upon the return or subsequent play.
What Can You Do in The Pickleball Kitchen?
You can stand in the kitchen anytime in the game if you are not volleying. Furthermore, if the ball has bounced, you can step into the kitchen to return the volley; a ball bounce means the kitchen is in play.
What Can’t You Do in the Pickleball?
As a rule of thumb, remember the kitchen’s alternative name is the non-volley zone. There is no fault if you do not volley from the kitchen or land any part of your body after volleying the ball. Your foot cannot be touching the NVZ line, either.
In addition, you cannot drop anything in the kitchen area on the court. Dropping something refers to items you may be wearing or carrying. For example, if you volley and your hat flies off and lands in the non-volley zone, this is considered a fault. Similarly, if you lose your grip on your pickleball paddle following a volley shot, and it goes into the non-volley zone after the ball hit, it is a fault.
Should You Stand in the Kitchen Area on Defense?
Standing in the kitchen area on the pickleball court tends not to be the best idea. A player should play outside the kitchen to limit faults. Faults tend to happen due to a reaction of hitting the ball in the air while standing in the kitchen. Likewise, a drop shot that bounces into the kitchen won’t give you much room to work with to hit the ball over the net if you are that close to it.
Conclusion: What is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
In summary, the kitchen is a seven-foot area on the court that penalizes players for volleying the ball. Players can stand in the kitchen if they don’t hit the ball in the air. However, if the ball bounces in the kitchen, they can hit it, even if standing in the non-volley zone.
Along with playing in that area, all serves must pass the kitchen zone on a serve. As long as the serve lands below the server’s kitchen area diagonally, any future shots can land there during a game.
Any player can call the fault if there is a kitchen fault, not just the referee or line judge. Part of good pickleball sportsmanship is to accept your opponent’s call of a kitchen fault. Finally, spectators shouldn’t be calling any kitchen fault during tournament matches.