Ever since it was discovered, masterfully harnessed, and tamed 1.7 million years ago, fire has been a constant companion of man, be it in the ancient iteration of his modern-day image.
Throughout the years, fire has protected man from predators and the darkness. It has also warmed their presence, even until now, particularly in the outdoors. However, if there is one thing about how our ancestors utilized fire that has transcended eras, it is that until now, humans still need fire–the evidence of combustion–in cooking their food.
From hanging the prey, they hunted over its flickering embers to controlling the heat and intensity of the flames it emits on a stove, the use of fire as a means for eventually eating has been undoubtedly ingrained in us.
And while technology paves the way for more innovative ways to harness fire as means for cooking, some people still prefer to follow how the primordial man prepared their food: over a fire.
Or, in the case of this article, over a fire pit.
Whether you’re here to know how to build a fire pit for camping or how to cook over one, then get ready because we are going to talk about fire pits a lot in this article.
What is a Fire Pit?
For starters, the Merriam Dictionary defines a fire pit as a hole (or a pit) dug into the ground, encased by either blocks of stone or metalworks, wherein one starts a fire inside it whether for cooking or warmth.
Your backyard can also be a home for the fire pit you are trying to assemble, as it can act as an alfresco area of your house wherein you could have guests and socialize all you want. Especially in this right now, wherein open-air social spaces are more important due to the pandemic.
So in a way, a fire pit is like an attempt to recreate a campfire-like experience within the confines of your home or to build one because you are indeed camping.
Building your Fire Pit
With all of that out of the way, it is now time to learn how to make an outdoor fire pit, whether for a rustic backyard barbecue or a tranquil camping trip outdoors.
Before starting, you have to identify the area where you will eventually build your fit pit. Ensure that the area you will be assembling on is free from vegetation and other obstruction that might be eaten by the flames of your pit should it become big.
After marking the ground, lay out the bottom rings of stones that will serve as the foundation of your fire pit. See to it that the stones have enough spaces between them.
Dig out the grounds of your fire pit using a shovel or any digging tools you have at your disposal. You must also ensure that the bottom of the hole is leveled.
The suggested depth of fire pits is about 6 inches deep. Clear out any remaining rocks or roots that you may find while digging your fire pit.
You must also provide your fire pit a prospective drainage area for your fire pit, just in case there are any weather disturbances, particularly rain while camping or cooking over it.
That is why you have to fill/level the hole’s bottom with gravel.
Start placing your first ring of stone blocks. If they overlap each other’s height, then use a rubber mallet to level them equally.
After finishing the first ring, you can lay the second ring of blocks while using the first one as a reference for placing the stones. While doing this, glue one block on top of the other while using some strong adhesives.
If you’re at home, then you can put cement between the blocks to stick them together.
Fill it (again)
Once you are done building the frame of your fire pit, it is time to fill it with another layer of gravel plus sand. You could also add lava rocks or beads as a filler.During this step, you will insert the campfire ring into the fire pit’s center. Ensure that the ring is aligned or not above the block wall of your fire pit.
Cooking on your Fire Pit
Just like how our prehistoric ancestors cooked their food over the flames they have earnestly built using stones, we modern-day humans can too. The sight of our food scraped by our fire pit’s flames can be admittedly satisfyingly primal.
Do know that you can almost cook anything above a fire pit. It is almost like the spitting image of a barbecue grill, minus the conventional stuff and features.
To get that satisfying feeling of preparing food over a campfire–all by yourself–there are still some points to consider how to cook over a camping fire pit.
Your fire pit is less complicated compared to your conventional grill, as it only needs firewood to keep its flames from flickering. However, because you are cooking directly above burning firewood, it can impact the taste of your food. That is why it is best to choose your firewood wisely if you do not want to alert the taste of your food.
You have to remember that cooking over a fire pit is the same as cooking on a grill. Hence, do note that your food can get burnt if the fire becomes too big.
And because it is like cooking on a grill, do not forget to bring cooking accessories fit for the bill like skewers, tongs, grill rack, and aluminum foil.
Lastly, do not forget that dealing with fire can become a highly complex situation when it starts going out of control. That is why you should always have a bucket of water that could put out your fire pit should things go south.
Portable Fire Pits
Can you use a portable fire pit when camping?
Yes, you can cook on portable fire pits, namely a propane fire pit, which is hooked to gas burners and is easier to use. They can even withstand wet and windy conditions.
This type of fire pit poses a very low risk of starting wildfires, for they are easier to put out as they are controlled and regulated by the users themselves.
Additionally, you also don’t need to spend time gathering firewood compared to your average fire pit. You just have to open your tank, light up the burner, and voila!
Lastly, it is more affordable. While building fire pits can be expensive, particularly buying firewood (and needs to be replenished), propane tanks can last longer and can be refilled again.