Buyer’s Guide To Fire Pit Grills
Evolve your fire pit from simply toasting marshmallows to preparing fine meals. We'll review what to look for in a fire pit grill.
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Fire pit grills combine the enjoyment of a backyard fire with the efficiency of an outdoor grill. Some fire pits are designed with cooking in mind, but you can also upgrade your existing fire pit. Sounds like fun, right?
What is a Fire Pit Grill?
In its most basic form, a fire pit grill is a fire pit with a cooking surface. This can be as straightforward as setting a grill grate on top of a fire ring, or as intricate as a system of cooking surfaces and accessories.
Cooking on a fire pit has its challenges. Compared to gas grills, fire pits have irregular heat distribution, no lid and relatively minor flame control. But for many backyard chefs, the enjoyment of cooking over an open flame outweighs those drawbacks. Plus, there’s something special about the sense of community when friends or family gather around a fire pit.
Types of Fire Pit Grills
Fire pit grills are generally classified by the type of fuel they use and how portable they are.
Fuel: Backyard fire pits can burn wood, charcoal or gas/propane. However, gas fire pits are more commonly used as decoration.
Portable or permanent: Fire pit grills may be permanent installations, or fold up and slip into a backpack. Their potential portability makes them favorites for tailgating and weekend escapes where a full-sized gas grill isn’t an option.
What To Consider When Buying a Fire Pit Grill
Here are some key elements to consider when shopping for a fire pit grill:
These include wood, wood pellets and charcoal. Gas-fed fire pits feature natural gas or propane. Most backyard fire pits are wood burners, but the choice of fuel is up to you.
Bowl depth and adjustable grates
A too-deep bowl will leave a wide gap between the heat and your food, while a grate that’s right in the flames will char your food too quickly. Look for a bowl depth of six to 10 inches. Some fire pit grills feature grates with adjustable heights, giving you control over how close the food comes to the flame.
Many fire pits can be moved from site to site, but that doesn’t mean they’re truly portable. When considering a portable fire pit, take into account its weight, the fuel type and the ease of cleaning.
Wood, wood pellet and charcoal fire pits create ash mess. But their fuel supply is generally lighter and more compact, and will be used up over the course of your trip. Gas burners don’t require ash clean-out, but propane tanks are heavy and bulky. If you’re using your fire pit grill at a tailgate, weight is less of a concern.
Smokeless or traditional
Smokeless fire pits use a clever two-walled construction to direct airflow, generating a secondary combustion at the top of the fire pit. This secondary flame burns off ash before it can escape the fire pit, virtually eliminating smoke.
Smokeless fire pits can absolutely be used as grills, but their high heat also means approaching grilling in a different way. Smokeless fire pits work great when you let the fire burn down to embers, or when the food can be raised high enough to avoid char. Some smokeless grills use high heat to their advantage with searing rims.
Cleaning and maintenance
Always clean off the grill grate and utensils to prolong their life and prevent them from affecting the taste of your food. Remove ash buildup with a shovel or scoop and wipe down surfaces as needed. A cover will protect your fire pit from the elements and curious animals.
Here we mean both the overall height of the cooking surface and the distance from the bottom of the fire pit to the ground.
A fire pit with a taller grill grate allows for easy cooking without stooping over, and an adjustable-height grate lets you control how close the food gets to the heat. A raised fire bowl permits a good, hot fire without scorching the ground or wooden deck beneath it.
Single unit or retrofit
You can purchase a fire pit with a grill grate, or buy accessories like this free-standing adjustable grate that can turn any fire pit into a grill. Retrofits are also perfect for DIYers who want to build their own fire pit.
This varies by size, fuel type and material. Budget fire pit grills range from $100 to $300, while higher end models can cost $600 to $1,000. Splurgy models can cost even more. But for most DIYers, $250 to $350 will deliver the best bang for the buck.
Three Great Fire Pit Grills to Consider
Taking all these factors into account, here are three outstanding fire pit grills to help get you started.
Best fire pit grill for backpackers
If you love travel and camping and need a portable fire pit grill, consider the Wolf and Grizzly Campfire Trio. This backpacker-friendly model weighs only 4.4 pounds but can bear up to 32 pounds of weight, so it can hold a pot of boiling water or a skillet full of stir-fry with no problem.
It burn woods or charcoal, features an adjustable-height grill grate and comes with a fire starting set.
Best budget backyard fire pit grill
For grilling basic meals without a major investment, try the Bali Outdoors Fire Pit Grill. With a 24-inch fire pit and a 32-inch tabletop, it offers a fair amount of cooking surface. The bowl depth runs 12 inches, and the height-adjustable cooking grate swings away from the heat when the food is done.
Best splurge backyard fire pit grill
For DIYers with a gourmet streak, the Breeo X30 insert with SearPlate and Firemaster package is a luxury option that’s worth the investment. The Breeo X30 is smokeless, and their cooking options work with the high temperatures of its secondary combustion.
The Firemaster package provides multiple adjustable cooking grates. The Breeo SearPlate is a steel ring that sits over the top of the fire pit and holds your ingredients like a narrow, circular frying pan.
The SearPlate is also available as a standalone if you love the concept but prefer something less costly than the Firemaster bundle.
DIY Fire Pit Grill
If you decide you’d rather build than buy, you can DIY with a build-your-own fire pit grill.