Learning how to cook on a fire pit is a wonderful way to use these on-trend features to their full potential.
If you've already perused our fire pit ideas, you'll know they're a natural focal point for outdoor seating spaces, keeping everyone cozy and adding aesthetic value. So, wouldn't it be great to use them to whip up a delicious feast, too? That way, you won't need to splash out on a separate BBQ or gas grill, plus the smokey, chargrilled flavor you get from cooking over firewood is hard to beat.
And if you think your cooking choices are limited with this approach, think again. We've brought together some useful tips to help you get started – from the best wood to use to accessories you can add to make all sorts of culinary creations a possibility.
Try these 6 tips for how to cook on a fire pit
1. Set up your cooking station
First things first – you'll want to get prepared before you start cooking. Setting up in the very center of your outdoor living space is generally the most social patio fire pit idea. But, if it's particularly windy, you might want to move it to a more sheltered spot – ensuring it's not too close to anything flammable, of course – where smoke won't blow into everyone's face.
For a smooth cooking experience, you'll want to make sure you've got all your food prep sorted, too, whether that's marinating veggie kebabs or chopping your side salad. You'll need to light your fire around 45 minutes before you actually start cooking, say the experts at FirepitsUK (opens in new tab), which will allow the flames to die down and embers to form. So, final preparations can be done during this time, as long as someone is supervising the fire.
2. Use the right firewood
The fuel for your fire pit is very important for getting the best cooking results. FirepitsUK advises using dry wood, with a moisture content of less than 20%. It's much harder to get a decent, hot fire burning with damp wood, plus it will create lots of smoke. Keeping the timber in a sturdy log store will help ensure it is in good condition for use.
In terms of the type of wood to use, some are much better than others. Hardwoods don't spit like softwoods, FirepitsUK explains. They recommend ash, oak (when seasoned for at least two years), and hazel, amongst others. Some of the firewoods they say to avoid are horse chestnut, larch, and spruce.
To get the fire started, you can use kindling and a natural firelighter which will prevent your food from having a chemical taint.
You don't necessarily need a large fire for cooking. With bigger fire pits, it's often a good idea to separate the bowl into two areas: one for embers and one where you can keep adding small logs for consistent flames and to create more embers. Cooking over hot ashes will give a more consistent cook, while cooking over flames will give your food a chargrilled flavor, explains the team.
3. Add a simple grill grate
For easy cooking, all you need to do is add a grill grate over your fire pit. Check to see if your fire pit has a matching one available that fits neatly over the top. Otherwise, there are plenty available to buy online (try Amazon (opens in new tab)), including ones that are attached to a stake for pushing into the ground. For a social approach, you could alternatively supply guests with individual grill baskets so they can cook their own food.
Once you've got your grill in place, you can simply treat your fire pit like a BBQ – our guide on how to cook on a charcoal grill is full of useful info. From salmon steaks to sausages and baked potatoes wrapped in foil and pierced with a fork, there are all kinds of classic grilled goodies that are easy to make. But if you want to go a step further, accessories such as hot plates and kebab racks can come in useful.
As FirepitsUK explains, their kebab rack means the days of BBQ food sticking are over. 'They are particularly good for fish skewers,' they add. A hot plate is ideal for creating an even, high heat, they continue – 'perfect for burgers.' You can also use them to sauté veggies, or even fry eggs.
4. Cook up a one-pot wonder
Another approach for how to cook on a fire pit is to use a pot suspended above it. This traditional method is perfect for making comforting stews, chilis, and even porridge. And don't forget about mulled drinks too – mugs of hot apple juice or gently spiced wine always go down a treat at winter BBQs.
There are various stands and hooks that you can buy online for suspending your pot from. Alternatively, you can simply put a heavy-bottomed, cast iron pan straight on top of a grill grate.
5. Impress guests with meat cooked on a hanging hook
If you really want to impress with your outdoor cooking, then using a stand and a hook to grill a joint of meat suspended above the flames is definitely one way to go about it. It takes a good few hours – around three or four for a leg of lamb, for instance – but this labor of love can be well worth it and makes a great talking point for a BBQ party.
If trying this technique with a leg of lamb, brine it frequently to prevent it from burning, as suggests the experts at OverTheFireCooking (opens in new tab). They also recommend placing a skillet of vegetables beneath while the meat cooks – it'll catch all the drippings, giving them extra flavor.
6. Stay safe when cooking on your fire pit
Of course, safety is paramount when fires are involved. Avoid making your fire too big, otherwise it will be too hot to stand near while you cook. As FirepitsUK suggests, it's also worth investing in long-handled tools (without rubber) to protect your hands from the heat. Have these somewhere that's easily accessible in your outdoor grill station area. Always use BBQ gloves when handling hot grills and other accessories.
It's also a good idea to have a bucket of water to hand in case of any accidents. And of course, remember to keep an eye on the fire at all times, and don't allow children or pets around it without close supervision. Be aware of flying sparks, too, which can be a fire risk and potentially burn people close by.