6 Tips on How to Cook Over an Open Fire


Maybe you’re going on a camping trip? Perhaps you’re just trying to spend more time outdoors? In any case, you’re looking to cook over a fire. 

The problem? You’ve never done it before and you’re afraid that something’s going to go wrong. That’s why you’re reading this article: you’re looking for tips. 

Fortunately, we can provide them to you. Without further ado, here are 6 tips for cooking over a fire ring. 

1. Buy the Proper Equipment

The equipment needed for cooking over a fire pit is different from the equipment needed to cook inside. As such, before you get started, you’re going to need to find the proper equipment. 

Some of the things you’ll need include a fire pit cooking grate, cast iron frying pans, a kettle, long tongs and forks, and a dutch oven. You might also need some more specialized equipment based on the type of cooking that you’re going to do. 

You can find all of this equipment online for a fairly respectable price. In fact, you can even buy it in a set, if you’re looking to save a bit of money. 

Of course, you’ll also need a fire pit of some kind. There are plenty of Barebones fire pits out there that can get you started on a budget. 

2. Get the Grate Height Right

Once you have your equipment, you’re going to need to set up your grate. When doing this, it’s important that you get its height right. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning your food (or of not cooking it at all). 

Now, how high should your grate be? Generally speaking, you should keep it around 2 inches above the top of your flame. The fire will likely come up and cinch the meat from time to time but as long as it’s not consistently burning through it, everything should be fine. 

Note, if your foods are in a pan or a pot, you can allow the flame to touch the bottom of the bottom. In fact, this will provide a more evenly-heated cooking surface, allowing for a more thorough cook altogether. 

3. Turn Foods Often

Regardless of the way in which you’re cooking your food, you’re going to have to flip it to keep it from burning. However, when cooking over an open fire, you’re going to have to flip foods even more. 

Why is this? Because, if the fire makes contact with your food for an extended period of time, it will burn it. As such, to prevent any side of the food from seeing too much fire, you have to rotate the food often. 

We recommend cooking each side for no longer than 2 minutes straight. However, every 30 seconds to a minute is a safer range in general. 

In any case, you have to be vigilant. Keep an eye on your food to ensure that it’s not becoming too black. If it’s darkening, give it a flip. 

4. Start the Fire Early On

Another thing you’re going to want to do is to start the fire early on in the process. You don’t want to throw food on the grate as soon as the fire has started; you’re going to want the fire to heat the grate first. This way, the heat will be spread evenly throughout the grate, allowing for a thorough cook of all your food. 

The other reason to start your fire early is so that you can gauge its height after it’s been roaring for a while. A flame’s height will change over time, generally plateauing at one height for an extended period. This is the period that you want to take advantage of when cooking. 

We recommend waiting for 15 minutes after the flame has begun before you start cooking food. This is typically sufficient time to get the grate hot and to gain an understanding of how tall the flame will be. 

5. Think Simple

Though you could conceivably cook anything over an open fire, generally speaking, it’s wise to stay simple with it. This is true for a number of reasons. 

For one, when cooking over an open fire, you’re outside. And when you have tons of food waiting to be cooked outside, it’s more susceptible to contamination. The fewer foods you have out, the less likely contamination is to occur.  

There’s also the fact that an open flame is less thorough than an oven or a stovetop. It’s less predictable and less consistent as well. As such, it might not provide you with the control needed to facilitate fancy and complex dishes. 

Wondering what to cook over a fire pit? Think hamburgers and hotdogs and soup and other homogeneous dishes. If you want to go the extra mile, try a few of these recipes

6. Build a Proper Fire

If you’re going to be successful in cooking over an open fire, you have to know how to build a proper fire. A proper fire will provide a hot and even flame, thus allowing you to cook all parts of your food with an even distribution of heat. 

The last thing you want to do is just throw logs randomly into the pit. Start by placing your logs in teepee formation. Then, once they’re in place, burn some sort of kindling. 

Once the kindling starts burning consistently, add some smaller logs. These logs should eventually catch fire, and then spread the flame to the logs that are in the teepee formation. 

Once the teepee is burning, your fire should be blazing evenly in all areas. Now all that’s left to do is to add additional wood as the flame starts to fade. 

Anyone Can Cook Over a Fire

In truth, anyone can cook over a fire. Just put the above-reviewed tips into action and you’re sure to have an excellent outdoor eating experience. 

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