Insider’s Guide to Outdoor Kitchens in Northern Michigan

The tips and strategies you need to create your favorite space… that’s not in your house. These outdoor kitchens are the perfect inspiration for your home.

Great efficiency on Grand Traverse Bay

The homeowner of this outdoor kitchen on Grand Traverse Bay (pictured above) had enough experience grilling (especially on his Big Green Egg) to know exactly what he wanted when he had the chance to completely design his new space .

Here’s what he says makes his outdoor kitchen perfect:

  • A 72-inch, 2300 CFM Trade-Wind blower to draw smoke away from the home.
  • Three halogen lights over the grill/workspace so he can grill at night.
  • A plug to connect his carbon starter.
  • Lynx gas grill of professional quality as a supplement to Big Green Egg.
  • NatureKast weatherproof cabinet. This company is all about outdoor cooking – right down to the cupboard specially tailored to hold a Big Green Egg.
  • Space enough to be able to set pans and dishes down.
  • A granite table top that can handle hot pans and cleans up easily.
  • The perfect positionthat’s right next to the indoor kitchen pantry, so he has easy access to ingredients—including rosemary, garlic, kosher salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil—that he uses in his signature smoked lamb shank.
  • A view. Tucked away on the corner of his deck, this homeowner feels like royalty. “It’s unbelievable,” he says. “I can just relax with a cigar when I cook and look out at the water.”

Related reading: Kitchen Blues: 3 Lakefront-Inspired Northern Michigan Kitchens.

EVERYTHING AND the kitchen sink

When she’s not designing dream kitchens for her clients, Angela Goodall, founder and lead designer of Kitchen Choreography, is creating dreamy meals for her family and friends. Summer evenings find her in her outdoor kitchen, perhaps mixing up a batch of her famous margaritas (think fresh strawberries, limeade, Grand Marnier and good tequila) to pair with a platter of tequila lime chicken and black rice salad.

Check out Goodall’s advice for making sure you get the most out of an outdoor kitchen:

  • Take the time to research grills. Does it have all the bells and whistles you want? Does it need an outlet for that rotisserie you can’t wait to use? Building your grill into a cabinet makes preparation and serving much easier, but if you do, you’ll want a grill that lasts as long as your cabinet and vice versa.
  • Beverage coolers are good to have outside, but they do not double up for food refrigeration. Goodall’s solution for food – or food and drink – is a double-drawer cooling unit that fits neatly under the counter in your prep space.
  • Granite is an ideal table top in an outdoor area. It is beautiful, water and heat resistant and cleans up easily.
  • Don’t overlook an outdoor sink– it will elevate the experience, from cooking to cleaning.

Photo by Jason Hulet Photography

Related reading: The right coat: 3 colorful shades to inspire your home.

Close to home must-haves

Among other accomplishments, kitchen designer Dawn Whyte, founder and lead designer of Petoskey Kitchens, has earned a reputation for her outstanding outdoor kitchen designs. Whyte has actually taught a class for the National Kitchen and Bath Association called “Adventure into the Outdoors.”

Here are a few of Whyte’s top outdoor kitchen design must-haves:

  • The most important thing to consider is the location and proximity to the indoor kitchen. You want easy access indoors for plates and utensils and for monitoring food being prepared inside. This is especially important if you are planning a limited kitchen with no water, etc. If you are planning a fully functional outdoor kitchen, consider the availability of gas, water lines and sewer.
  • The second most important thing is to make the grill the focal point. Everyone likes to show off their culinary expertise – and to cook while visiting with their family and guests.
  • Finally, if you make your outdoor kitchen a three-season spaceyou must consider how to tie it into the architecture of your house, enable possible heating of the room, consider wind and weather control and ensure that it fits into the landscape with planting and original stone.

Outdoor kitchen with grill

Photo by Todd Zawistowski

Related reading: Put a bird on it: 5 lovely wallpapers to inspire your home.

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