Gone Outdoors

How to Use the Base of a Grill for a Fire Pit

by Marc Chase

Some rustic campsites lack established campfire pits or rings, and some parks and preserves post strict rules against scarring the brush or grass with coals, embers and flame. But bring a kettle-style charcoal grill -- large or small -- along on a campout or even out on driveways and patios, and you have a ready-made fire pit that keeps flames off the ground and provides optimum ventilation for keeping fires going.

1. Remove the kettle grill lid and cooking grate and set them aside before placing the shredded paper towels in a mound atop the center of the coal grate.

2. Turn all bottom grill vents to fully open positions for maximum air flow.

3. Place the dry twigs around the outside of the shredded paper towels in a tipi formation.

4. Light the paper towels from the bottom, positioning the lit match below the coal grate so fire spreads from bottom to top.

5. Allow the twigs to catch. They should begin to crackle, pop, and produce flame.

6. Break the larger sticks into 6- to 8-inch pieces, and slowly arrange them in the tipi pattern around the burning twigs, adding only one or two sticks every minute or so and allowing the added sticks to catch fire before adding more.

7. Add larger logs in a tipi pattern one or two logs at a time and only after the flames from the twigs and sticks are rising several inches from the fire's base.

Items you will need
  • Kettle-style barbecue grill with charcoal grate
  • Small, dry twigs
  • 1 or 2 shredded paper towels
  • 10 to 12 sticks the width of an index finger
  • Logs or split firewood
  • Matches or lighter

Tips

  • Always keep the coal grate inside the grill when using it as a fire pit. The grate provides separation between the wood and the grill floor, allowing oxygen to feed and fan the flames. Fires built directly on the grill bottom will snuff out quickly.
  • Kettle-style grills provide the best surface area for use as fire pits and come with completely removable lids, essential for open fires.
  • Always keep two 5-gallon buckets of water handy for emergency dousing of flames that escape the grill or burn out of control.
  • Build fires at a safe distance from tents, houses or brush to avoid damage from flames and structure fires.

Warning

  • Always add tinder, kindling and wood with care, placing the fuel onto the fire in such a manner that hands stay clear of flames.

References

  • "Boy Scout Filedbook"; Third Edition; 1984
  • "Boy Scout Handbook"; 10th edition; 1990

About the Author

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative newspaper reporter and editor of 12 years. Specializing in computer-assisted reporting, he holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.