4 essential pickleball kitchen rules

The pickleball NVZ (non-volley zone) or kitchen area can be confusing if you are learning to play pickleball.

Danea & Barrett Bass



June 6, 2024



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The idea of the pickleball NVZ (non-volley zone) or kitchen area can be confusing if you are learning to play pickleball. The first rule you will learn is that you cannot hit a volley in the pickleball kitchen — but what does that mean? And what can you do in the kitchen? Here are four essential rules that you need to know about the pickleball kitchen area:

Rule #1: Re-establishing your feet outside the pickleball kitchen

If you are in the pickleball kitchen area, you will need to re-establish your feet outside of the kitchen before you can volley the ball.

In pickleball, if you're playing right at the kitchen line and the ball gets popped over your head, you have to propel yourself backward. Many people will take a step forward to push back to hit the overhead. If you step on the kitchen line or in the kitchen, you will need to re-establish your feet outside of the kitchen before you hit the shot, otherwise you are committing a fault.

If you press off the kitchen line it would be the same as stepping in the kitchen and hitting a volley. If you get lobbed in pickleball, it's okay to press back but make sure you establish both feet before hitting an overhead.

Learn more about the basic rules of the pickleball kitchen.

Rule #2: Don’t be afraid to go into the pickleball kitchen

What you can do in the pickleball kitchen

One of the most common misconceptions about the pickleball kitchen area is that players can never step in this area — they almost treat it like it's hot lava.

You can step in the kitchen zone anytime you want, and you can hit the ball when you're standing in the kitchen area, but you have to let it bounce.

What you can’t do in the pickleball kitchen

If you're standing in the pickleball kitchen and volley the ball, it will be a fault, so you should never “hang out” in the zone. You’ll see pickleball pros play very close to the kitchen line because they want to be able to take a volley and use it as a putaway or an aggressive shot. 

But if you're standing in the kitchen zone, you'll never be able to volley the ball.

It's best to stay around this kitchen line, instead of in it. But don't be afraid to step into the kitchen, temporarily. Many times, it's smarter to let that ball bounce in front of you and then step in and hit it, because you'll be more on balance than overreaching from behind the kitchen line.

Rule #3: Erne & ATP shot rules

Two shots happen at the pickleball kitchen line that are a lot of fun: the Erne and the ATP. Here are more details on both:

The pickleball Erne

An Erne is jumping over the kitchen to the sideline to hit the ball. When you're nearing the ball you can step into the kitchen, but you must re-establish both feet outside of the kitchen in order to hit that ball. It is also legal to completely jump over the kitchen and land on the outside of the court.

Make sure you 1. Establish both your feet before hitting the ball if you do step in the kitchen, and 2. Don’t let your pickleball paddle hit the net — you (and anything you are wearing or carrying) cannot cross the plane of the net unless you contact the ball.

Pickleball ATP shot

Another completely legal shot is the pickleball ATP shot, or “Around the Post” shot.

An ATP shot usually happens when you’re dinking crosscourt and you get pulled out wide. You can come out to the side of the court and hit the ball around the post. As long as you don't hit the post, the ATP shot a completely legal shot in pickleball — and it's really fun to master.

Rule #4: Momentum & the pickleball kitchen

As a beginner pickleball player, one of the most difficult rules to understand is the pickleball momentum rule.

The white line at the top of the kitchen is part of the kitchen, so you cannot volley the ball if your toes are over this white line. If you are on this line and volley the ball out of the air, it is a fault.

The same rule applies when it comes to your momentum as you hit the ball: if you volley a ball and your momentum takes you into the kitchen — even if you contacted the ball before your foot steps into the kitchen — it is a fault.

The pop-up is a common shot where players use momentum that causes them to fall in the kitchen: They will hit their put-away shot and their momentum will cause them to step in the kitchen. That is a fault in the game of pickleball.

Learn more about the momentum rule here.