For millennia, people have gathered together around a fire or a hearth. There is something very primal about congregating around a fire and gazing into flickering flames.
Having a fire pit, or another means of cooking outdoors can allow us to connect with our primal selves.
Burning wood can be a great way to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and to get back to basics.
On a natural homestead, burning wood is often an important part of life. Many of us rely on wood inside our homes to heat our space and perhaps our water too.
Many of us also cook on wood-powered stoves inside our kitchens. But have you considered how you could also burn wood for cooking outdoors, and the different ways that you could do so?
Many of us have a barbecue or grill, of course. But a barbecue is just one option for outdoors cooking.
A fire pit is more than just a space to gather around with friends and family.
It can also allow us to expand our outdoor cooking and find new ways to prepare the produce we grow. A fire pit can be a very versatile option, that can be used to cook outdoors in a range of different ways.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some cool DIY fire pit ideas you could consider. But we’ll also talk about whether a fire pit is the right option for your outdoor cooking.
We’ll delve a little into how you can use one, and consider some other interesting options.
Finally, we’ll take a look at an alternative way to cook outdoors – one that does not involve burning any fuel at all.
Why Cook Outdoors?
First of all, let’s take a moment to consider why we would cook outdoors at all. You might be perfectly happy cooking in your kitchen. You might wonder what all the fuss is about.
If you are not yet a convert to outdoors cooking, you might like to think about the following:
- Cooking outdoors allows you to spend more time in a natural setting, and get closer to nature.
- If your kitchen indoors is rather small, cooking outdoors can offer the opportunity for more collaborative and communal cooking with family or friends.
- Cooking outdoors can mean that you can get fresh produce onto your plates even faster, and retain even more of its nutritional benefits.
- Outdoors cooking can allow you to experiment with different flavours and different recipes as you delve into different cooking methods.
- If you cook indoors using gas or electricity, cooking outside with wood (or in another way) will allow you to reduce your reliance on polluting fossil fuels and help combat global warming.
What Are the Different Outdoor Cooking Ideas To Consider?
As mentioned above, a barbecue is not the only outdoor cooking idea to consider.
Most of us, if we cook outdoors at all, are only familiar with using a standard barbecue or grill.
If we ever cook outdoors in other ways, it tends to be only when we are camping. But we may be able to cook over an open fire at home too.
So, let’s take a look at each of the outdoor cooking methods in turn:
Cooking on a Fire Pit Over an Open Flame
The simplest way to cook outdoors is simply to cook over an open flame. If you are a keen camper, you may already have done this on your adventures.
But perhaps you could consider installing a fire pit and cooking in this way at home too?
There are a number of different methods you can employ to cook when you have an uncovered fire pit. You could:
- Use a toasting fork to toast things over the flames. Marshmallows are, of course, a common choice. But you could cook a range of other things in this way too.
- Cook things in foil packages/ leaf packages in the embers and around the edges of the fire.
(For example, baked potatoes, or baked apples…)
- Use a tripod to suspend a dutch oven or other vessel over the flames.
Of course, you can also have a grill suspended over your fire pit. A grill could be used as support for a frying pan, large pot or other cooking receptacle.
Barbecuing & Grilling
Most people don’t think of a fire pit as a barbecue. But of course, a fire pit with a grill can be used in exactly the same way as a barbecue that you construct or buy.
Barbecuing or grilling is probably the most common form of outdoors cooking. But few people explore the opportunities for cooking in this way over a fire pit, rather than on a dedicated outdoors appliance.
Even if you decide not to have a fire pit, there are still plenty of more interesting and unusual DIY barbecue ideas to consider.
And there are plenty of recipes out there to explore to broaden your horizons.
Another option that people do not think of as frequently is smoking food at home. If you have smoked food at all, it is likely to have been under the hood or cover of a barbecue.
But there is also potential to smoke food at home above a fire pit. Or to make a dedicated wood-fired smoker for your backyard.
There are a lot of cool ideas out there to help you make a smoker on your homestead.
And you can not only use it for smoking meat and fish. There are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan ideas for your smoker to consider.
Cooking in an Outdoors Wood-Fired Oven
If you really love to cook outdoors, you can go one stage further than making a fire pit, and construct an entire outdoors wood-fired oven instead.
Learn more about how you might go about making one a little later in this article.
Cooking in a Solar Oven
Cooking with wood is not right for everyone. You might not have easy access to wood. You might live in an area where outside fires are prohibited.
If you find yourself in this situation, there may still be a way for you to cook outside.
This method is the ultimate in eco-friendly cooking. It will allow you to cook using only the power of the sun.
Even if you do still want a fire pit for your backyard, solar cooking could still be a really interesting alternative (or additional means of cooking) to consider.
Types of Fire Pit
Since the first three of these cooking methods can involve creating a fire pit, let’s take a look at some cool DIY firepit ideas you could consider. (In this article, we’ll only be looking at wood fire pits, not fire pits that run on fossil fuel.)
First of all, let’s think about the different types of fire pit that you could make for yourself:
1. Sunken Fire Pits
The first type of fire pit to consider is a fire pit that is sunken into the ground. This is a ‘pit’ in the most accurate use of the term.
Creating a sunken fire pit can literally be as simple as choosing a suitable spot and making a hole in the ground. However, sunken fire pits can also have decorative surrounds.
Such pits can have a somewhat raised edge around them, or be lined with a particular material. (We’ll be looking at materials choices in more depth below).
2. Ground Level Fire Pits
Some fire pits are simply, when it comes down to it, circles marked on the ground. Such fire pits are not dug into the ground but rather, fire is laid within a ring at ground level.
The circle of the fire pit can be marked with a simple ring of stones, for example, or have a somewhat more elaborate design.
Usually, there is some level of surround, though this is not usually very high. Nor is it formal in its characteristics. This is another rustic choice.
3. Fire Pits With Raised Surrounds
Some fire pit have much higher surrounds. These are often built to a couple of feet high, or even higher. These higher surrounds can be used to support a grill for outdoors cooking, or even adjoin to outdoors built-in seating.
Fire pits with raised surrounds can be rustic. Often, however, they are more orderly and formal in appearance. Depending on the materials chosen, they can incorporate a wide range of different styles and ideas.
4. Plinth Top Fire Pits
If you want your fire to be at higher level, raised up above the ground, then you might like to consider making a plinth top fire pit.
You can make the plinth using many of the same materials that you might use to make a raised surround for a fire pit.
However, when creating a raised level fire pit yourself, it is very important to take safety considerations into account.
This is usually the most complex type of outdoors fire set up to create. The other methods, therefore, are usually better for DIYers.
5. Container Fire Pits
Another way to go when it comes to creating a fire pit is to use a ready-made container to start fires in.
You can buy a range of container type fire pits on line. Usually, these resemble a large cauldron or concave shape and many come complete with grills. Sometimes they have covers too.
But you do not need to buy container fire pits. You can also make your own.
Some examples of things that can be used as fire pit containers are given later in this article.
Natural DIY Firepit Materials
No matter which type of fire pit you decide to create, one of the most important decisions is which materials you will use.
In order to keep your DIY fire pit project as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible, I recommend that you use natural or reclaimed materials.
6. ‘Just a Pit’ Fire Pits
Of course, you can keep things very simple and not use any additional materials at all. Of course, you can create a sunken fire pit simply by making a hole in the ground, and starting a fire within it.
But if you do decide to use other materials to improve and/or beautify your DIY fire pit, here are some of the materials choices that you could make:
7. Clay Fire Pits
Clay is a material that you might be able to source for free on your homestead. It can have a wide range of uses.
You can use clay to line in pit, or to mold a short surround for a fire pit.
At the link below, you can see an example of making a fire pit using clay (and rocks).
8. Cob/ Abobe Fire Pits
Another way to use natural clay from your homestead or surrounding area is in cob or adobe. Cob or adobe walls can be used to add height to a firepit surround.
Interestingly, this versatile material can also be used to make a fire pit seating area.
By incorporating the ideas of a rocket mass stove, a fire pit can be use to heat cob-molded bench seating from below.
You can also use these materials to improve a fire pit and turn it into a complete outdoors oven or fireplace.
Cob Bench and Oven @ pinterest.com.
9. Earth Bag & Plaster Fire Pits
Another way to make fire pit surrounds and bench seating to surround one is to use soil. Soil is crammed into bags, which can be stacked, then rendered in plaster.
Below is one stunning example which utilised this technique.
Building a Fire Pit and Seating Area @ earthbagbuilding.com.
10. River Rock Fire Pits
Of course, one of the simplest ways to make a fire pit surround is simply to place a ring or a short dry-stacked wall or natural rocks or river rocks.
You can place the rocks in a range of different ways to create the visual effect that you want – from the most rustic and simple campfire type designs, to something far more sleek and sophisticated.
How to Build a Field Stone Fire Pit @ dengarden.com.
11. Stone Wall Surround Fire Pits
Of course, you can also use cut stone or natural stone in various shapes and sizes to make beautiful solid walls to surround your fire pit.
Using stone, you really can create a fire pit to fit in with any different style.
Stone Fire Pit @ diynetwork.com.
12. Stone Slab Surround Fire Pits
Slabs of flat stone can also be placed around a fire pit to create a ring, or even a higher surround.
Flat stone slabs create a rather different effect to rounded or squared off stone and allow you to create another different effect.
Stone Fire Pit @ pinterest.com.
13. Pebble Surround Fire Pits
If you are creating a sunken fire pit, you could consider creating a decorative edging to keep people back from the edge by filling a ring trench around the edges of the pit with pebbles.
You could also combine the use of natural pebbles collected from your backyard or surrounding area with other ideas on this list.
14. Natural Mosaic Surround Fire Pits
If you do decide to create a simple sunken or ground level pit, you could also consider creating edging around the fire with a natural mosaic.
You could inlay a range of different natural materials to make your mosaic, such as pebbles and mineral stones, shells, etc..
15. Clay/ Ceramic Chimineas
One final idea (which is far more difficult to do yourself) is to use a chiminea in place of an open fire pit. A chiminea is a fire bowl and chimney combined.
They can be made of clay/ceramic or metal. If you are already experienced at working with clay, however, this could be something to consider.
Turning Clay into a Great Chiminea @ doityourself.com.
Upcycled Fire Pit Materials
In addition to considering natural materials, you may also like to think about using reclaimed materials to make your fire pit. Here are some of the reclaimed materials you might be able to use:
16. Upcycled Sheet Metal Fire Pits
Upcycled sheet metal can be turned into a simple ring to line a sunken fire pit, or to place around a fire pit to create a raised surround.
If you have welding skills, you could also consider using all sorts of different scrap metal to make a container fire pit for your homestead.
How to Make a Cool Steel Fire Pit for Your Back Yard or Garden @ instructables.com.
17. Upcycled Wheel Rim Fire Pits
If the above project seems a little too advanced, you could simply use an old wheel rim to form a ring for your new fire pit.
You could also try something a little more sophisticated and stack wheel rims (as in the below example) to make a fire pit/ wood stove for your homestead.
No Weld Car Rims Fire Pit @ instructables.com.
18. Reclaimed Brick Surround Fire Pits
Another relatively easy project to take on is creating a fire pit made from reclaimed bricks. Much the same as stone and rock, brick can be used to create a wide range of beautiful fire pits.
From a simple ring of bricks around your fire, to decorative surrounds and even plinths.
Brick Fire Pit @ historicalbricks.com.
19. Reclaimed Concrete Surround Fire Pits
Of course, another alternative to using brick or stone is using reclaimed concrete blocks. Using concrete blocks or cinder blocks to build up a surround around a fire pit can be one way to keep these materials out of landfill.
Cinder Block Fire Pit @ bestoutdoorfirepits.com.
20. Upcycled Oil Drum Fire Pits
Another cool idea is to make a fire pit from an old oil drum. There are plenty of ways to upcycle an old drum to make a fire pit. But how is this for an interesting and unique idea?
Oil Drum Garden Fire Pit With Skyline @ instructables.com.
21. Upcycled Water Trough Fire Pit
An old water trough, horse trough or stock tank is another large metal receptacle that could be used to create a fire pit in the right setting.
A long and thin fire pit rather than a round one could be great for placing in front of bench seating so everyone can get the benefit of the heat.
22. Old Dutch Oven or Cauldron Fire Pits
If you have any old cast iron receptacles that have seen better days, these can simply be upcycled to make a small fire pit for your patio.
Simply set your receptacle in a suitable site that has been prepared for it, and you can light your fires inside. (Of course, plenty of cauldron-type container fire pits are available to buy online or in stores. But making your own from upcycled materials is a more eco-friendly option.)
23. DIY Recycled Copper Fire Pit
Those who are hardened DIYers may like to create an amazing copper fire pit for a fraction of the cost of buying a ready made one.
By melting down reclaimed copper piping or other copper items, you could pour it into a mold to make your own rustic copper fire pit. Hammered copper is wonderful for reflecting the light.
This is definitely not one for beginners, but if you are into metalwork, this could be an amazing project to take on.
24. Upcycled Washing Machine Drum Fire Pit
A popular project is to turn an old washing machine drum into a fire pit. Here’s a tutorial showing you how:
Barbecuing Over a Wood/ Charcoal Fire Pit
You can barbecue over almost any type of fire pit. And it does not really matter which materials you have used.
You will, of course, require a metal grill to place over the heat. Barbecuing differs somewhat from simpler methods of cooking with your open fire.
With barbecuing, you will let the flames from wood or charcoal die down before you place the items you wish to cook on the grill.
Burning charcoal in your fire pit could allow you to get better results, and you can consider making your own charcoal for this purpose. Perhaps you could even do so using wood grown on your property.
However, you can also barbecue over a simple wood fire.
Of course, you do not necessarily have to choose a fire pit for barbecuing. There are also a range of different ways that you could make your own DIY barbecue grill for your property.
For example, you could consider making a barbecue from a 55 gallon drum.
Smoking Food Over a Fire Pit
If you want to smoke food in your backyard, this can also be done over a fire pit. You can make a small DIY smoker, for example, with a metal biscuit tin.
Or, you could create something much more elaborate, creating a cover over the fire pit and a smoking cabinet or container above.
Wood-Fired Oven Ideas
If you decide that you really want to expand your outdoors cooking options, then an outdoors wood fired oven is an enticing option.
There are a number of different ways to make a wood fired oven. Many of them use the same materials that can be used to make a fire pit.
For example, you can use clay/ cob/ adobe to form a dome style oven.
Such a structure can be build on top of a fire base made from a range of different materials.
One of the best ideas involves building a base from rock or reclaimed brick. You then fill this base with old glass bottles.
On top of this base you then place your cooking surface, and a clay or cob dome to form the oven itself.
Wood Fired Clay Pizza Oven @ instructables.com.
By now, you should have a much clearer idea of how you can undertake a DIY project to cook using wood.
You can do so by building a fire pit using one or more of the ideas listed above. Or you can create your own wood-fired oven for your homestead.
But, as we discussed near the beginning of this article, cooking with wood is not your only eco-friendly option. In fact, you can go even greener and not burn any fuel at all.
Before you definitely decide to create a fire pit, barbecue, smoker or wood-fired outdoors oven for your outdoors cooking, let’s take a look at a fascinating alternative.
You might be better to cook food in your backyard with energy directly from the sun.
Cooking Food With Solar Energy
A solar oven is an oven that allows you to cook food using only the sun’s rays. You can buy solar ovens from dedicated suppliers and from a number of retailers online.
For example, check out the following examples:
But as you can see from these examples, buying a pre-made solar cooker can be expensive. Fortunately, you can simply and relatively easily make your own.
Below are some examples of DIY solar ovens that you could make.
How To Make and Use a Solar Oven @ wikihow.com.
How to Build Your Own Cheap, Simple Solar Oven @ chelseagreen.com.
DIY Solar Oven @ instructables.com.
There are plenty of other plans out there for efficient solar ovens that can cook food surprisingly successfully. Of course, cooking in this way will take much more time than cooking with wood.
But when you get it right it can be a very rewarding experience.