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

Stunning Efficiency on Grand Traverse Bay

The homeowner of this outdoor kitchen on Grand Traverse Bay (image 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 fan to draw smoke away from the home.
  • Three halogen lights over the grill/work space so he can grill at night.
  • An electrical outlet to plug in his charcoal starter.
  • A professional grade Lynx gas grill to complement the Big Green Egg.
  • NatureKast Weatherproof Cabinetry. This company is all about cooking in the outdoors—right down to the cabinet spe- cifically tailored to hold a Big Green Egg.
  • Enough space to be able to set pans and platters down.
  • A granite countertop that can handle hot pans and cleans up easily.
  • The perfect position, situated directly off the indoor kitchen pantry so he has easy access to ingredients—including the rosemary, garlic, Kosher salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil that he uses in his signature smoked crown of lamb.
  • A view. Tucked on the corner of his deck, this homeowner feels like a king. “It’s unbelievable,” he says. “I can just relax with a cigar when I’m cooking and look out at the water.”

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

When she isn’t designing dream kitchens for her clients, Angela Goodall, founder and principal designer of Kitchen Choreography, is cooking up dreamy meals for her family and friends. Summer evenings find her in her outdoor kitchen, maybe 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 electrical outlet for that rotisserie you can’t wait to use? Building your grill into cabinetry makes preparation and serving much easier, but if you do, you are going to want a grill that lasts as long as your cabinetry and vice versa.
  • Beverage coolers are great to have outside, but they don’t do well doubling for food refrigeration. Goodall’s solution for food—or food and beverages—is a double- drawer refrigeration unit that fits neatly under the counter of your prep space.
  • Granite is an ideal countertop in an outside area. It is handsome, water- and heat-resistant and cleans up easily.
  • Don’t overlook an outdoor sink—it will elevate the experience, from cooking to clean up.
Outdoor kitchen with dining table

Photo by Jason Hulet Photography

Close to Home Must-Haves

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

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

  • The most important thing to consider is the location and proximity to the indoor kitchen. You want easy access to the indoors for dishes and utensils and for monitoring food that’s being prepped inside. This is particularly important if you are planning a limited kitchen without water, etc. If you are planning a fully operational outdoor kitchen, you need to consider the availability of gas, water lines and sewer.
  • The next most important thing is to make the grill the focal point. Everyone likes to show off their culinary expertise—and to cook while they are visiting with their family and guests.
  • Finally, if you are making your outdoor kitchen a three-season space, you need to consider how to tie it into the architecture of your house, allow for possible heating of the space, consider wind and weather control as well as ensuring it fits into the landscape with plantings and indigenous stone.
Outdoor kitchen with Grill

Photo by Todd Zawistowski

Photo(s) by Jacqueline Southby