There is nothing quite like cooking outside over an open flame. Many of us think of this as something we only do when we are camping. But when you have a fire pit in your garden, you can do this whenever you want in your very own backyard. We’ve put together these fire pit ideas to help you work out what you need.
We’ll discuss why it is such a good idea to get a fire pit, where you might put one, and how to use it safely. Next, we’ll give you some fire pit ideas, whether you want to make one or buy one. We’ll also give you some tips for cooking above your fire pit. Finally, we’ll take a look at some other options for cooking outside. Read on, and you should find yourself cooking outside over an open flame, or in some other way, in no time at all.
Why Create an Outdoor Fire Pit in Your Backyard?
An outdoor fire pit can allow you to cook outside whenever you want. If you love campground cooking, an outdoor fire pit can allow you to enjoy this activity whenever you wish. There is something special about this back to basics activity. It can allow you to get closer to nature, and reconnect with something more primal within yourself.
Human beings evolved as we gathered around fires throughout our long history. We are primed by evolution to feel a sense of comfort and security as we gather around a hearth or fire. An outdoor fire pit can be a place a cook, but it can also simply be a place to congregate. It can be a place where we can gather to feel close with the ones we love.
Watching the flickering flames of a real fire can help us feel relaxed. It can allow us to free ourselves from the stresses and strains of everyday life.
Of course, it can also allow us to heat an outside space without having to resort to the use of fossil fuels. So a real, wood burning or charcoal burning fire pit can be an eco-friendly solution. It can help us to make full use of our backyards, and turn them into extra rooms for our homes. When you have a fire pit, you can sit outside longer in the evening, and use your garden for a longer portion of the year.
Where to Place a Fire Pit
Where you choose to place an outdoor fire pit will, of course, depend on the outdoor space available where you live. It will depend on any local regulations that apply, and on the overall layout and design of your garden. Of course, you should always check that they are allowed where you live before considering one for your property.
As a general rule of thumb, however, fire pits should be:
- At least ten feet away from your house.
- At least ten feet away from garden boundaries or a neighbour’s property.
- A safe distance from fencing, trees, or other flammable materials. There should be no overhanging branches.
- On a level site.
- In a relatively sheltered position, out of strong winds.
- In a place that allows for social gathering – with space for seating around it.
If you plan to cook regularly on your fire pit, you may also wish to consider placing it fairly close to other elements of an outdoors kitchen. In addition, you might like to consider the proximity of your fire pit to other design elements on your property. For example, perhaps it should be located close to your wood store, or easily reached from the location where you source the wood/charcoal for your fires.
Safety Tips For Fires and Cooking Outside Over an Open Flame
Always be safe around your fire pit.
Of course, when dealing with fires, safety should always be a paramount consideration. You must think about safety not only when choosing a location for your fire pit, but also when thinking about the various fire pit ideas. The fire pit should always be designed and implemented in such a way that it does not pose a safety risk. The fire should be surrounded by non-flammable materials, and the fire should never be able to spread. The fire pit ideas described below all take fire safety into account.
It will also be very important to make sure you can use your fire pit safely, especially when cooking outside over an open flame. Here are some safety tips to help you make sure you never become unstuck:
- Never leave a fire unattended.
- Be sure to teach children about fire safety and never leave them unattended around the fire.
- Make sure pets are not able to harm themselves around your fire pit. Keep flighty, lively pets away when the fire pit is lit.
- Use only cooking equipment designed for use over an open flame.
- Wear gloves to build a wood fire to avoid splinters, and when cooking to avoid burning your hands on hot handles etc..
- Consider adding built-in seating, so movable seating cannot be moved too close to the flames.
- Do not add anything toxic/ plastic/ combustible to the flames. Stick to burning only wood or charcoal for the safest and least harmful option.
- Safeguard your health and the health of your friends and family by avoiding the use of toxic firelighters. Choose only natural, sustainable options.
- Always make sure that your fire is fully out before retiring for the night.
DIY Fire Pit Ideas
There are a number of different fire pit ideas to consider. You will have to make a number of choices. The first choice involves whether you would like to make your own fire pit, or buy one of the ready-made options that are on the market.
If you do decide to make your own, there are plenty of DIY fire pit ideas out there to give you some inspiration. Generally speaking you will choose one of the following DIY fire pit options:
- A low-level fire bowl or hearth.
- A table-height fire plinth/ fire bowl/ hearth.
You may also construct built-in seating around your fire pit, whichever of these fire pit ideas you opt for.
Your most important considerations, whichever option you go for, will be the overall style, and the materials that you choose to use. In terms of the overall style, you will have to decide whether you would like a rustic look, or a far more sleek and modern appearance. Think about your own personal style preferences, and how your fire pit will fit in with other elements in your garden.
When it comes to your choice of materials, here are five different eco-friendly DIY fire pit ideas you could consider:
Clay or Ceramic Surround Fire Pits
A rustic, in-ground fire pit is, in essence, simply as hole in the ground that you can build your fire in. But you can enhance your fire pit by surrounding it with attractive, non-flammable materials. One simple solution is simply to line your pit, and create a surround for it, using natural clay. Alternatively, you could also consider using pre-fired ceramic tiles or other clay ceramics to line the edges of your simple fire pit.
You could also make a low-level fire pit or hearth using clay as in the video below:
Stone Fire Pits
A simple stone fire pit.
You can make a wide range of different built-in fire pits using stone. A simple ring of stones may look lovely around a simple in ground fire pit. But you can also consider making far more elaborate pits – not just low-level hearths but also table-top options using dry-stacked or mortared stone. You can also use stone, perhaps even rocks sourced from your own property, to create pathways and built-in seating around your fire pit.
Reclaimed Concrete Fire Pits
Concrete is another material that is used to make a wide range of fire pits. DIY concrete fire pit ideas can be found on a range of sites online. To make your fire pit more eco-friendly and sustainable, however, you should consider using reclaimed concrete for the job. This will cut your carbon footprint and allow you to reduce waste by making sure of a material that would otherwise be thrown away.
Reclaimed Brick Fire Pits
You can also use reclaimed bricks to make a DIY brick fire pit. If you can source some old bricks for this project, you can keep these out of landfill and create a safe surround for your fire pit hearth. You can also use bricks, as with both of the ideas above, to create higher-level fire pits. You can also use them to build pathways or built-in seating nearby.
Reclaimed Metal Fire Pits
You can also surround your fire pit, of whatever type, with metal. Again, using reclaimed materials will cut the environmental cost of your project. It can keep the financial costs down too. This cool steel fire pit, for example, can be made using some steel chequerplate and rebar. You can also upcycle old metal drums and other containers to make some amazing metal fire pits for your garden – no matter what type of fire pit you want to make. An added benefit of many of the metal fire pit ideas is that they can be portable – so you do not need to commit to a permanent fire pit installation.
These are just some eco-friendly materials that you can use to make your own fire pit in your garden.
Best Outdoor Fire Pits
One example of a cauldron-type fire pit that you can buy.
Of course, you do not necessarily have to take a DIY approach if you want a fire pit in your garden. You could also choose to employ a builder to make one for you. Or, easier still, you could buy one of the ready-made fire pits or Chimineas that are on the market.
While there are a wide range of different fire pits on offer, the most common that you can buy are cauldron type fire pits.
Cauldron-Type Fire Pits
These free-standing, small, portable fire pits are usually made of some kind of metal. Some are rounded and rustic looking while others can be far more modern. The basic idea is that these are receptacles in which you can light a fire. You can also find covered fire pits, and a wide range of more elaborate fire pits with cooking grill and other features attached.
An alternative to a fire pit is a chiminea. These are usually made from metal or ceramic, and are basically pits with a short chimney attached. They usually have a wider pot belly where you light your fire, with an opening where you can insert the wood, and a thinner chimney section above.
Cooking Above a Fire Pit
In addition to thinking about the construction or purchase of your fire pit, you should also think about how you might further equip your fire pit to allow you to indulge more easily in outdoors cooking.
Grills for an Outdoor Fire Pit
The easiest way to cook over the open flames of a fire in your fire pit is to install a grill over the construction. This grill might be a built-in feature, it might hinge away to one side, or it might be entirely removable.
You could also consider purchasing a dutch oven to cook in over your fire pit. A cast iron Dutch oven can be particularly useful for outdoor cooking. But you will also need some way to suspend this over your fire pit. You might consider purchasing a tripod, or dutch oven stand.
Alternatives to a Traditional Fire Pit For Outside Cooking
An outdoor fire pit can be wonderful for outdoors cooking. But there are also a number of other options that you could consider if you love cooking outdoors. For example, you might consider:
- Making a DIY barbecue grill.
- Constructing your own outdoors pizza oven.
- Building an outdoors smoker.
- Cooking with the sun in a solar oven.
Whichever route you choose to go down when it comes to cooking outside over an open flame, a fire pit or one of these alternatives can be a great addition to your backyard.
Elizabeth Waddington is a smallholder, permaculture designer and environmental consultant. When not designing food producing systems or advising growers around the world, she is to be found in her own garden. On her 1/3 of an acre patch of land she has a walled forest garden orchard (home to rescue chickens), a polyculture vegetable plot, a polytunnel, wildlife pond, wild woodland garden and more and is working every day towards greater self-sufficiency. She is passionate about sustainability and loves to inspire others about the wonderful things home gardeners can do for people and planet.