Fire pits have become an increasingly popular backyard and outdoor gathering feature over the last few years, and for good reason. A fire pit provides warmth, ambiance, and a place for friends and family to congregate in any season. The flickering glow of a fire on a cool evening is soothing and draws people together instinctively.
Fire pits allow you to safely contain a cozy fire for enjoyment and functionality. But they’re not limited only to creating traditional campfire vibes. Many fire pits today double as grills, enabling you to cook delicious food conveniently over an open flame.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about fire pits, from types and features to how to get the most out of your fire pit grilling experience. Let’s get started!
What are Fire Pits?
A fire pit is essentially a recreational fire container designed for safety and aesthetics. Fire pits come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, materials, and configurations. The enclosure contains the fire safely while radiating ambient warmth and light.
Fire pits are available as:
- Permanent backyard installations
- Portable standalone units
- Tabletop fire bowls
- Integrated grill and fire pit combinations
Materials range from metals like steel or copper to fireproof concrete, stone, and ceramics. Styles include modern, rustic, industrial, and more. Size depends on the number of people you plan to accommodate.
Why are Fire Pits Popular?
There are many excellent reasons that fire pits have become a sought-after backyard feature:
- Provide warmth on cool evenings and nights
- Create a beautiful ambiance with a flickering fire glow
- Draw people together instinctively around the fire
- Allow safe outdoor fire enjoyment
- Double as a grill/cooking station
- Highly customizable with various designs to suit different aesthetics
- Available in permanent or portable options
Types of Fire Pits
Let’s briefly touch on the different kinds of fire pits.
Wood Burning Fire Pits
The most traditional type of fire pit relies on good old fashioned wood as fuel. These fire pits are designed especially for safely containing a classic crackling campfire. Many are deep and wide to stack logs. They create excellent ambient flames but most wood burning pits don’t allow for adjustable grilling.
Natural Gas Fire Pits
For ease of use, gas fire pits connect to your home’s natural gas line. Simply flip a switch or turn a dial to ignite the flames. Gas fire pits heat efficiently and can provide adjustable heat for cooking. No smoke or embers to clean up either. Installation does require professional help running the gas line.
Propane fire pits offer an appealing combination of portability and convenience. Instead of connecting to a gas line, they use a refillable propane tank. Light up instantly and adjust the flames with a control valve. Tanks are easy to swap when empty. Many propane fire pits have legs to move them around.
Innovative fire pits go beyond containing just a fire. Multi-functional fire pits incorporate metal grilling surfaces, cooking grids, and adjustable cooking heights. Some even include side tables and storage! Dual purpose designs allow you to grill your favorite foods over an open flame and enjoy an ambient fire in one unit.
Fire Pit Inserts
Convert an existing space into a fire pit with a modular insert. Round and square designs retrofit nicely into a stone or masonry surround you already have in place. Install a durable steel or iron fire bowl and you’ve instantly upgraded to a fire pit without major landscaping. Many attractive options available.
Tips for Cooking Over Your Fire Pit
One of the most fun ways to up your fire pit experience is by grilling tasty food over the open flames. You’ll infuse everything with a delicious smoky flavor. While similar to classic campfire cooking, a fire pit grill requires some special considerations. Follow these tips and techniques for fire pit cooking success:
Not all fire pits are created equal when it comes to grilling. Look for a fire pit with adjustable cooking grates at various heights above the flame or a model designed specifically for cooking. This allows you to control the intensity of the heat. You’ll also want adequate ventilation for proper airflow. Sturdy construction is important – intense heat can warp cheaper metals.
Use Proper Fuels
Select fuel that burns consistently and evenly. For wood burning fire pits, hardwoods like oak or hickory make excellent cooking coals. They burn slowly and steadily while producing flavorsome smoke. Quick burning softwoods are harder to control heat with. Lump charcoal is a great alternative for an even, hot fire bed.
Propane fire pits are ideal for grilling since you can adjust the flame precisely. Avoid highly aromatic woods that will overwhelm food flavor.
Let the Fire Burn Down
Don’t try to grill over an active open flame. Allow the fire to burn down to hot coals first. This provides a more even and controlled heat surface. It also prevents unsavory soot from depositing on your food. Wait until the flames completely die down and you’re left with glowing embers.
Mind the Temperature
Regulating temperature is key for fire pit grilling. Approach it in the same way you would a charcoal barbecue. Shooting for a hot fire around 600-650°F. Monitor the temp with a grill thermometer placed at the cooking grate level.
Start with a very hot fire to quickly sear foods. Opening vents or lifting the grate higher increases airflow and temperature. Partially closing vents or lowering the grate closer to the coals lowers the temp.
It takes practice learning the nuances of your particular fire pit’s airflow and temperature regulation.
Use Proper Tools
Equip yourself with a good set of grilling tools. Long handles keep hands safely away from the heat. Stainless steel spatulas, tongs, and skewers hold up to high temperatures. A stiff wire grill brush is essential for cleaning the grates pre and post cooking.
Protect your hands from the heat with good quality grilling gloves. They’ll enable you to adjust the grates and coals safely.
Go Lean on Meats
Choosing lean cuts of meat is ideal when grilling over a fire pit. Fattier meats like ribs and brisket will inevitably create more flaming flare ups. Leaner cuts like chicken breasts, fish fillets, sirloin steaks, pork chops etc. cook more calmly over the coals. They’re less likely to burn or dry out.
Just remember to baste lean meats during cooking with a sauce glaze for added moisture and flavor.
That covers the key tips and techniques for great fire pit grilling results! Now let’s look at some of the best foods you can make over your fire pit…
Best Foods for Fire Pit Cooking
Once you get the hang of controlling your fire pit’s temperature zones and heat intensity, the possibilities are endless for amazing foods you can grill over the open flames. Here are some of our favorite recipes and ideas:
- Steaks – Porterhouse, ribeye, and tenderloin are done over high heat for perfect caramelization
- Hamburgers – Smoky flavor takes burgers to the next level
- Chicken – From full birds to breasts, legs, wings – always juicy
- Pork chops – Get a nice char on bone-in or boneless chops
- Sausages – Hot dogs, brats, linguica – fire pit classics!
- Kebabs – Alternate meats, veggies, and fruits on skewers
– Shrimp – Quick cooking and tasty with shells on or peeled
– Scallops – Get a nice sear while keeping interiors tender
– Fish fillets – Salmon, halibut, cod and more grill up nicely
– Whole fish – Butterfly or stuff whole trout, bass, etc for full flavor
– Corn – Charred sweet corn is a classic cooked in husks
– Asparagus – Quick grill asparagus spears for caramelization
– Zucchini – Try planks for grill marks or skewer coin slices
– Onions – Sweet onions are great grilled whole or in thick rounds
– Eggplant – Smoky flavor complements eggplant’s creamy texture
– Peaches – Halved peaches develop lovely sweetness when grilled
– Pineapple – Caramelized natural sugars with grill marks
– Apples – Warm soft apples are ideal paired with ice cream
– Pears – Another great fruit pairing with grilled flavor
– Brick oven style right on the grates – crisp crust and melty cheese
– S’mores – No campfire necessary. Make this classic fire pit side.
– Bananas – Sliced bananas with chocolate chips wrapped in foil
Let’s look at some top rated fire pits that allow you to masterfully grill, cook, and smoke foods while enjoying a crackling fire.
Solo Stove Bonfire Pit + Grate Bundle
– Stainless steel fire pit with 360° Airflow Design for hotter, cleaner burn
– Includes bonfire grill for direct flame grilling and smoking
– Raised secondary rack for smoking larger quantities
– Portable and easy to clean out ashes
Bali Outdoors Wood Burning Fire Pit with BBQ Grill
– Dual chamber wood burning fire pit
– Adjustable stainless steel BBQ grill
– Chrome plated cooking grid and charcoal rack
– Built in access doors for charcoal and ashes
– Wheels for easy mobility
Endless Summer LP Fire Pit with Grill Insert
– Durable steel propane fire pit construction
– Multifunction grill insert converts flames into grill
– Adjustable flame dial and safety auto shut-off
– Portable on four sturdy legs with handles
– Cover included for storage
If you want flexibility in where you can enjoy a fire, a portable fire pit is the way to go. These offer the ambiance and functionality of a fire pit wherever you decide to set them up. Let’s look at popular options.
Propane fire pits use a refillable gas tank to ignite instantly with the turn of a dial or push button. Many include legs to elevate them off the ground for tabletop use. Wheeled models are easy to maneuver. Pros of propane:
- Portable and easy to relocate
- Adjustable flame control
- Leave no ash or embers to clean up
Cons would be propane tank refills and storage when not in use.
Traditional wood burning fire pits give you that nostalgic campfire feel. Portable folding and collapsible versions are compact for camping but offer the same ambient glow. Pros include:
- Burn real wood for authenticity
- Inexpensive compared to propane
- Can cook over the natural wood coals
The downsides are smoke, soot, ash clean-up, and transporting wood fuel.
Here are our top picks for portable fire pit options:
Solo Stove Bonfire – Compact stainless steel wood burning fire pit with excellent airflow and easy ash removal.
UCO Flatpack Grill and Fire Pit – Lightweight folding stainless steel grill and fire pit. Easy to transport and assemble.
Breeo X Series Smokeless Fire Pit – Innovative design pulls in air for a smokeless wood burning fire.
Fire Pit Accessories to Enhance Your Experience
You’ll need some key accessories on hand to get the most enjoyment from your fire pit.
A sturdy set of fire pit tools is essential. Look for long handles and sturdy materials that can withstand high temperatures.
- Shovel – Metal shovel for scooping ash, moving coals
- Poker – For stoking, prodding, and adjusting burning wood
- Tongs – Gripping logs and cooking foods over the fire
- Bellows – Fanning air on coals for superior airflow
Grilling requires high quality grates designed to handle the intense heat.
- Cast iron – Excellent heat retention
- Stainless steel – Durability and easy cleaning
- Chrome plated – Resists corrosion
Look for a grate size and shape to match your fire pit dimensions. Height adjustability gives you control over the intensity of the heat for grilling.
Gathering around the fire pit is all about comfortable, durable seating.
- Fire pit benches – Curved concrete or stone benches
- Individual chairs – Folding, wooden, and metal options
- Rocking chairs – Classic touch with heat resistant cushions
- Swings – Hang near the warmth of the fire
Your seating arrangement depends on the shape/size of your fire pit and how many people you plan to accommodate.
Fire Pit Safety Tips
While fire pits contain the fire in a controlled area, safety should still be a priority to prevent accidents and injuries. Follow these tips:
- Position at least 10 feet away from structures, trees and bushes. Farther if burning larger fires.
- Ensure adequate ventilation and airflow. Do not obstruct vents or exhaust ports.
- Use a spark screen over the fire. This prevents embers from escaping and burning anything outside the pit.
- Always fully extinguish the fire before leaving it unattended. Douse flames and coals thoroughly with water and stir until cold to the touch.
With some common sense safety practices, you can enjoy cozy evenings around the fire pit for years to come.
Maintaining Your Fire Pit
Performing regular maintenance keeps your fire pit in top shape. Follow this routine care:
- Frequently remove ashes, debris, and unburned wood accumulation which can obstruct airflow.
- Check components for damage from heat exposure – grates, handles, hardware. Replace anything broken or warped.
- Clean exterior surfaces with soap and water as needed – especially after heavy use.
- Store portable fire pits covered and protected from weather in the off season.
With proper use and regular upkeep, a quality fire pit will provide enjoyment for years to come!
Fire Pit FAQs
What is the safest fire pit fuel source?
Propane fire pits are the safest fuel option since you can precisely control the flame height. There are no issues with embers or ash. For wood burning pits, hardwoods like oak provide consistently safe combustion.
How hot do fire pits get?
Depending on the size and construction, most fire pits reach temperatures between 500-1000°F. Propane and gas fire pits on the low end and robust steel/stone wood burning pits on the high end.
Can you grill on any fire pit?
A: You can grill on many fire pits, but the best results come from a model specifically designed for grilling with adjustable cooking heights. Not all are optimized for direct cooking.
What is the best way to start a fire in a fire pit?
Start with dry kindling and newspaper below neatly stacked logs. Light the paper in a few spots so flames spread evenly. Then let the fire strengthen before adding larger logs. Never use gasoline.
How close should a fire pit be to a house?
It’s recommended to position fire pits at least 10 feet away from any structures, trees/plants, and combustible materials. Farther than 10 feet is safer for larger fire pits.
Can fire pits be used indoors?
No, fire pits are designed solely for outdoor use. They produce smoke, embers, and high heat that make them unsafe for indoor use. Ventilation is also required.
How long will a fire pit last?
High quality steel, stone, and masonry fire pits can last 5-10 years or longer with proper maintenance and care. Less expensive models may need replacing after 3-5 years.
Let me know if you would like me to add any other questions to this FAQ section or modify any part of it. I’m happy to expand on it further based on the types of questions you think would be helpful for readers of the fire pit page.
That concludes our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about fire pits! From types and features to grilling tips and top rated products, we covered all aspects of owning a fire pit. With this information, you can select the perfect fire pit design for your needs. Get ready for many memorable nights gathered around the mesmerizing glow of your own backyard fire pit. Enjoy convenience cooking, special ambiance, and quality time with your nearest and dearest. Get the fire started and relaxation awaits!