How to Properly Cook Over a Fire Pit

By Katie Conaway | cooking wood, Firewood
Aug. 12016

The smell of food roasting over an wood fire is the highlight of any campfire, beach bonfire or backyard cookout. As you might have guessed, it does take more effort to cook outdoors over a live flame. So, be prepared, be patient and be safe.

Be Prepared

Prep Food Items

Most cooks will tell you, one of the keys to delicious food is preparation. When planning to cook outdoors, it is even more important to chop vegetables, trim/prepare meat, mix sauces, and make baking mixes before you light your fire. This frees up much needed time to tend to the cooking fire.

Bring the Right Equipment

You also need to make sure you have the right equipment. Outdoor cooking does not allow you to riffle through a drawer or run to the nearest store if you don’t have something on hand. You must think ahead and make sure you packed everything you MIGHT need. Here is a good list to reference according to

  • Skewers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cooking tongs
  • Oven mitts
  • Grill rack
  • Flame-resistant pot
  • Bucket of water
  • Dried wood


You’ll notice that wood and the camp grill were on the list. Do not rely on a campsite to provide these items. These are the most common items people forget to bring with them in order to cook over a fire pit. If you don’t have these (especially the wood), then you won’t be cooking!

Be Patient

Just because you see flames does not mean it is time to start cooking. says that this is another common mistake of aspiring open fire cooks. Let the fire burn down before cooking. A good cooking fire is primarily hot coals and a few logs of burning wood. Achieving hot coals take around 30-45 minutes, depending on the weather and fire conditions.


Take Time to Build Your Fire

Follow these steps to make sure your fire is perfect for cooking:

  1. Begin your cooking fire by making a small starter fire with kindling and small logs of wood
  2. Build the fire on only one side
  3. Let it burn for 30 minutes
  4. Move hot coals to the other side of the fire pit
  5. Add some larger pieces of wood as needed to keep the fire going

Don’t Rush Your Cooking

The most common mistake made when cooking over an open fire is to put the food directly in the flame. This never works. What will happen is you will burn your food. Follow these simple rules of thumb to make sure your food is cooked and never burned:

  • Cook over the fire with skewers a couple of inches above the flame, rotating to cook all sides until golden-brown
  • Place the grill over the flame side of the fire to boil water, roast meats & grill vegetables
  • Bake by wrapping foods in aluminum foil & use cooking tongs to place in embers or coals
  • Make sure to let you meat “rest” after cooking (this ensures the juices are distributed and the cooking is distributed throughout)

Be Safe

The freedom to cook over an open fire is a privilege which requires the utmost caution and respect  according to As with building a campfire, it is important to consider the following safety tips when building your cooking fire:

  • Use only dry seasoned wood, never green wood, to cut down on unnecessary smoke pollution
  • Make sure your fire pit is enclosed with rocks, bricks or other flame resistant-material
  • Make sure your fire pit is at least 8’ from brush or combustibles
  • Have a bucket of water handy in case of errant spark or flame
  • When done using the fire, make sure to soak thoroughly with water


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