All About A Wood Burning Grill
or Fire Pit Grill
A wood burning grill, or fire pit grill, is any outdoor fire pit which you can build a real firewood fire on, throw on a grill grid or rotisserie and cook up a delicious meal of real wood grilled outdoor cooking. For the adventurous cook, this type of outdoor cooking is the ultimate in natural fuel and flavor enhancement. While cooking with real firewood can be challenging in some ways, it is also very rewarding, fun and absolutely delicious!
One tip to remember when cooking on any firewood fire, don't put your food over the open flames or it will burn quickly! Instead, wait until a big pile of wood has burnt down and you have a deep core of hot glowing embers. These are ideal to cook over! The only exception is if you have a tall rotisserie spit which can hold your food at a safe distance over the open fire, allowing it to slowly roast in the smoke and ambient heat but not burning.
Types of Wood Burning Grills
- Free-standing Portable Outdoor Fire Pit Grill - Available at many home supply warehouses, hardware stores, outdoor centers and barbecue specialty stores, many of these portable fire pits come equipped with a grill grate which fits right on top of your firewood embers. This allows you to both build a nice big outdoor fire to relax around and to cook on the embers. The disadvantage is that you have to wait for your wood to burn down to embers to put the grid on and start grilling. The advantage is that the flavor of real firewood grilled food is second to none! They vary in size and form somewhat so shop around. Some have wheels for easy portability. If you want to cook over the open flames, without using the grill grate, you can purchase or build a rotisserie spit to slowly rotisserie-roast foods like whole poultry or leg of lamb.
- Wood Burning Charcoal Grill - Most charcoal grills are not built for handling real firewood fires. They are often too small to accommodate firewood logs and may not stand up to the super high heat of an intense firewood blaze. Some heavy duty grills are big enough and made to withstand a firewood fire and thus can be used as a wood burning grill, such as the Weber Ranch Kettle pictured here. Check with your specific grills specifications before trying to build a wood fire in it!
- Fireplace Grill - This is not outdoor cooking, but another option for wood fire cooking is to cook over your fire in your fireplace! If you aren't handy with metal and can't build your own, SpitJack.com sells great hearth grills like the one pictured here.
- Campfire Grill Pit - A campfire fire pit can be turned into a wood burning grill with a little ingenuity! All you need is a metal grill grate, you can even use the one off your home barbecue. Simply build a fire pit first, keeping the size to about the same diameter or length of your grill grate. If you dig a deep enough pit you can simply rest the grill grid on the ground so that it is supported above your embers. If you don't want to dig that deep, simply use some heavy stones around the fire to support the grill over your fire.
- Brick Wood Fire Grill - Either a temporary cinderblock fire pit or a permanent stone or brick fire pit can be used to support a grill grate. Simply plan your fire pit to be a size that will support an available grill grate. It should overlap the stone or brick at the edges at least an inch on each side so that it is stable. If you don't have a barbecue, you can buy replacement grill grids at many hardware stores or anywhere grills and grill supplies are sold. If you already have a permanent brick or stone fire pit you simply have to find a grill grate big enough to fit across your outdoor fire pit to turn it into a wood burning grill. In any of these scenarios, simply build a big fire and let it burn until you have a nice bed of hot embers. Place the grill on top and you are ready to cook!
What to Look for in a Wood Burning Grill
- Size - You want a fire pit which is big enough for the food you plan to cook and will also fit comfortably in the space you have available. Pre-made portable fire pits vary tremendously in size from small ones not much bigger than your average kettle barbecue up to very large pits that can fit several people around.
- Portability - If you plan to move your wood burning grill, either to store it between uses or to take with you camping, make sure it is portable. Some have wheels to facilitate moving. Also be sure it is not too big to fit in your car or truck! Most simple cast iron or copper fire pits are not extremely heavy and one or two men can carry it easily.
- Available Accessories to Enhance your Wood Fire Cooking - Besides the requisite grill grate that should come with your wood fire grill, see if your grill comes with an additional accessories or has them available. For example, the Sojoe fire pit, a popular portable fire pit grill available from SpitJack.com and other fine retailers, is pictured here with its optional motorized rotisserie. This allows you to slowly roast larger roasts like whole poultry and leg of lamb over your wood fire. Other accessories to consider and look out for are firewood pokers to maneuver your firewood, a mesh lid to block flying embers and a solid lid (like you would have on your barbecue) to retain heat and allow you to slow roast foods on your wood burning grill.
To learn more about cooking on an outdoor fire pit, see my Fire Pit Cooking page.
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Done learning about the wood burning grill?
Learn more about different types of Outdoor Fire Pits.