We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
There is something elemental and beautiful about fire. Fire brings people together as they toast marshmallows and share stories. Fire in an outdoor grill brings out the best in a chef as he or she dazzles guests with charred steak, burgers, hot dogs, and roasted corn. Fire is fun, hypnotic, and a mood stabilizer, with its calm crackling and multicored hue against a dark and starry night.
If you want to bring a good old-fashioned campfire to your own backyard, a fire pit is a great way to do that. A commercially made fire pit is an upgraded campfire set in a self-contained, pre-made unit of solid, strong material. It is this type of fire pit that we will discuss in detail in our shopping guide.
At BestReviews, we take pride in the work we do. We thoroughly research products to develop a clear understanding of the markets we cover, and we never accept samples from vendors. We continually survey customers to gain first-hand feedback on the products we review.
If you’re in the market for a fire pit, we invite you to take a look at our five best products in the matrix above.
To learn more about selecting the right fire pit, please read on.
In recent years, commercial fire pits made of metal, clay, stone, and brick have been big sellers. Buying a commercially made fire pit not only saves you a good deal of physical labor, it also gets you up and running quickly.
A fire pit can do more than simply set the mood. With a grate on top, a fire pit can be used for cooking. And those using a continuous heat source, such as a propane-based unit, can create enough warmth to heat up an entire patio on a chilly night.
One way to figure out which type of fire pit would work best in your setting is to eyeball your outdoor living space. Be sure to measure the space before installing the fire pit, allowing plenty of room for your guests to maneuver comfortably and safely around it.
Here’s a look at three major fire pit types: wood-burning, propane, and natural gas fire pits.
In some areas, you must disclose ownership of a fire pit to your insurance company.
The vast majority of fire pits for sale at home improvement stores utilize wood as their fire base. These vary in size from tabletop models to those that come with large fire bowls (the round part that holds the fire) and sit on legs for easy portability. Wood-burning models generally come with a grate that can be used for cooking, a mesh spark guard, and a poker. The spark guard prevents embers from escaping the fire bowl without obscuring the view. The poker is used to safely move the wood and coals around to keep the fire going.
To safely place a wood-burning fire pit on a deck made from wood or any other flammable material, keep it away from furniture, railings, and plants susceptible to fire.
Generally larger in size, a propane pit is often the star of the outdoor setting and can be ornate in design.
Operating on a self-contained propane tank (much like an outdoor grill), this model can range from a portable unit to a state-of-the-art model in which the fire pit is built into a table.
Place your fire pit in a spot located away from flammable or dangerous areas, such as trees or power lines.
If you are fortunate enough to have a natural gas line accessible to your outdoor space, natural gas can be a great option, as the fire pit will never run out of fuel.
But if you opt for a natural gas model and do not have a gas line running to your outdoor space, be prepared for a hefty plumbing charge.
Always put a flame-resistant surface beneath and around the fire pit, and surround it with a screen to prevent sparks from spreading.
For those who use a wood-burning fire pit, it’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of safe fire pit operation. The last thing you want is to be the culprit of a forest or residential fire.
Step 1: Collect kindling, tinder, and fuel. Tinder can be straw, dry pine needles, or newspaper. Kindling consists of small twigs or sticks. Fuel is the word used to refer to the larger logs that keep the blaze going.
Some areas of the U.S. ban the use of fire pits. For example, in Denver, Colorado, outdoor open fires are prohibited by the city.
Step 3: Light the tinder with a match and observe as the tinder begins to light the kindling.
Step 4: Add some smaller logs to the fire after the kindling begins to burn. The kindling may give way once the logs are placed on top. This helps create long-lasting, glowing embers.
Step 5: As the smaller logs begin to burn, add some larger logs to keep the flames roaring. Over time, the fire will gradually diminish. To keep it going, add more tinder and kindling.
To make a s’more on a fire pit, use a roasting stick to cook a marshmallow to a desired doneness. Then press it with a square of chocolate between two graham crackers.
Use a broom-and-shovel tool set to clean out the ashes from your fire pit on a regular basis. After the ashes have cooled off, place them in a metal container.
To keep your fire pit from rusting, use a cover during rainy weather.
A fire pit should sit on a hard surface, such as stone or brick. Never place it near the house, and locate it away from power lines and vegetation like trees and flowers.
In this price range, you can find affordable wood-burning fire pits that may require a bit of assembly, such as putting the legs on the bottom of the unit.
It’s common for inexperienced cooks to be impatient when cooking on a fire pit. Wait at least 30 to 45 minutes for the fire to grow hot before you begin to cook your outdoor fare.
Moving up in price range affords the consumer some choice in the wood-burning category.
Here you can find units with larger and deeper fire bowls, as well as some that feature ornate designs built into the outside of the metal unit.
If budget is not an issue, consider a deluxe unit that combines functions. Some fire pits also serve as grills and outdoor dining tables.
As budget becomes less of a concern, consumers can opt for fancier wood-burning fire pits or consider a propane unit. Propane-based fire pits are a matter of taste, as some buyers may wish to avoid any appliance (such as a grill or heater) where you have to come in contact with the fuel.
Keeping in mind the cost of adding a natural gas line to your backyard, if you want to go with a fire pit other than wood-burning, a natural-gas model (which requires professional installation in most cases) can range from $200 at the low end to several thousand dollars if you want to be the star of your neighborhood.
Q. Can I cook on a fire pit without a grate?
A. Yes. There are a number of foods you can cook on a carefully placed stick over a wood-burning fire pit, including hot dogs, bacon, biscuits, and of course, marshmallows.
Q. What sort of stick should I use when cooking over an open fire pit?
A. Select a fresh stick that is long enough to safely reach into the fire without burning your hand. Shave off some bark at the end of the stick, and whittle a sharp tip to keep your food in place.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.