It’s time to go camping again and let’s not beat about the bush; there’s a lot you are going to need to pack. A lot of your camping gear is considered to be essential and unless you are cowboy camping, it is likely that you will want something you can cook on.
Many people opt to take a BBQ and a fire pit, but is it really necessary to take both? Can you cook on a firepit?
The good news is that it is entirely possible to grill food using a fire pit. So, whether you are off on a camping adventure or want to enjoy some al fresco dining at home, your fire pit could be a viable method of grilling to perfection.
However, cooking on a fire pit is an experience in and of itself, so it is important to get to grips with this method. In this guide, we will be looking at some top tips to make sure that your fire pit meals are always a roaring success.
Is A Fire Pit The Same As A BBQ?
Outdoor dining is normally done on a BBQ and these can be as simple as a small disposable grill through to a giant gas BBQ that rivals the cooker you have in the kitchen at home. Either way, these products are designed for the same thing; cooking.
On the flip side, a fire pit isn’t typically designed with its main purpose as cooking, but that isn’t to say that it cannot be used for this reason. In fact, many fire pits come with grills and other accessories that make cooking a lot easier, proving that these are indeed, multi-purpose products.
But one of the greatest advantages that a fire pit has over a BBQ is that it is incredibly versatile. There are so many different foods that can be cooked using this type of equipment; from toasting marshmallows with the kids, through to roasting meats if your fire pit has a lid, you are certainly spoiled for choice.
But what’s even greater is that a fire pit is a much more involved experience than a BBQ. Normally, when you attend a BBQ party, there will be one person standing at the grill doing all the hard work, while everyone else sits on the patio enjoying a glass of wine. This is a little isolating for the chef.
When you are sitting around a fire pit, everyone can get involved and cooking becomes a much more social experience. Some might compare it to the way in which our primal ancestors cooked; gathering around an open fire as the sun set and making the most of this social time.
Tips For Cooking On A Fire Pit
If you are new to using a fire pit to cook food, you don’t need to be overly concerned as this is a pretty simple method of cooking. However, there are always ways that you can optimise the experience and our top tips will set you on the path to success.
Make Sure It’s Safe
It might sound as though we are teaching you to suck eggs but we cannot stress the importance of fire safety enough. Your fire pit will be designed to contain the fire, to a degree, but there is always a risk of things going wrong. For this reason, it is always a sensible idea to have a bucket of water, or something else for extinguishing, nearby when using a fire pit. Even if the fire is well controlled, there is a risk of small bits spitting off and setting things alight.
We wrote an article around having a fire pit on grass, which is worth checking out.
Furthermore, you should only ever light the fire in an open space. There should be no overhanging trees or structures and you should certainly never light your fire under a gazebo or inside your tent.
Choosing Your Fuel
A fire pit is a versatile piece of equipment and as such, you have a choice when it comes to the type of fuel you use. A lot of people like the idea of burning wood as there is a rustic quality to this that cannot be obtained when using coal. However, if you are looking to cook on your fire pit, it is important that you use a mixture of fuels.
Coal is excellent for getting the heat of the fire to the right temperature for cooking. In contrast, wood will provide you with an intense flavour. The type of wood you use will alter the flavour of the food and while everyone has their favourites, we consider almond or hickory to be among the best.
If you have ever lit a coal BBQ, you may have added firelighters and while these may make the experience of starting a fire much easier, they shouldn’t be used with a fire pit. Make sure you check out our guide to starting a fire pit.
Hold Back On Cooking
It can be tempting to throw your food on the fire as soon as the flames rise up, but this isn’t going to give you the best results. If you do this, there is a likely chance that the food will quickly burn on the outside without being fully cooked inside; nobody wants that.
After lighting your fire, sit back and enjoy watching the flames flicker for some time. You can do this for a least half an hour but could push the time to 40 minutes as this will allow the fire time to properly establish and for the flames to die back a little. While you do want some flames, they need to be controlled and you also need a lot of residual heat from the hot coals or wood you are burning.
Types of Fire Pit Cooking
The beauty of the fire pit is that you can cook in so many ways; while you may feel like grilling one evening, the next you might want to try out your roasting skills. While there may be a degree of trial and error, you can generally follow these tips for the best results every time.
Grilling is one of the most common methods of cooking on a fire pit and probably the most simple.
As we mentioned earlier, some fire pits will come with a grill, but if yours doesn’t, these can be picked up from any outdoor store or online. What’s great about this method is it can be very inclusive for your guests and they can get involved and everyone can have a turn at grilling. Most people are already familiar with the cooking times and so there isn’t generally any confusion with this method.
Cooking In A Pot
If you want something a little different or simply want a way to keep your food warm, then cooking in a pot over your fire pit is a great way to do this. You will need a little more equipment than other methods, but the tasty results are certainly worth the extra effort. One of the best ways to cook with a pot is campfire tripod cooking, needless to say we've written a guide to it!
Typically, you wouldn’t be able to cook in a pot on a BBQ so this is where a fire pit has a serious advantage. If you want to serve things like stews or curries, then you can cook them in your home oven and simply warm them over the fire. For this, you can suspend the pot over the fire using a tripod or it can be placed onto the coals for full cooking.
One of the most primal ways of cooking food over a fire is to do a spit roast. There is no denying that you will need to spend a little more time on cooking but the juicy meat that you end up with is so mouth watering that even the busiest of chefs would be willing to put in the extra time.
Most garden or camping fire pits are a little smaller and so cooking things like whole chickens and game birds is easier. However, if you have a very large fire pit, there is nothing stopping you experimenting with a whole hog roast. But do keep in mind that cooking large animals like this could take in excess of six to eight hours.
For the most simple and hassle-free cooking that will allow your guests to get involved, skewers are a no-brainer. Kids will love making sweet skewers with marshmallows while the adults might like to cook pieces of veg and meat.
This is a highly social way of cooking and one that goes down very well both on the campsite and at a garden or bonfire party.
Regardless of what you are cooking over your fire pit, it is essential to keep in mind that you might not get excellent results on the first try. As we mentioned, there is some trial and error involved but that is all part of the fun. So, don’t feel disheartened if your sausages didn’t sizzle or your fish didn’t fry, just keep going with it and you’ll soon learn tricks that work for you.
Cooking over an open fire has a special appeal that you can never quite put your finger on. Regardless, a lot of people want the convenience of being able to double their fire pit up as a way of cooking and this is easy to do. Check out our article about Fire Pits on Decking, if you plan to have it on the decking and maybe under a hard top gazebo and look into Cast Iron Chimineas. Whether you want to roast an entire hog or simply warm up some skewers, this is a fun way of cooking that allows everyone to get involved.