Cooking over fire has been the most primitive, yet still popular way of outdoor cooking. The aroma and flavor of a fire-cooked meal have been an overriding feature that has withstood the test of time.
While the emergence of fuel-based cooking mechanisms such as isobutane, propane, and other fuel sources have made them quite popular, many people still prefer fire pit cooking because of the aroma, minimal fuel costs, and reduced carbon footprint. Why else do you think most campgrounds have prebuilt fire pits available for campers?
One of the primary challenges of cooking over a fire pit is to ensure even distribution of heat. Campfire grill grates can play an important role in ensuring that. In this article, we will look at some of the best campfire grill grates available in the market.
While there are many types of campfire grills, we will primarily focus on two types the collapsible table-type campfire grill grates and hovering swivel campfire grill grates.
We will also look at the major factors to consider while buying a campfire grill and also look at some of the safety considerations to keep in mind while using such campfire grills.
What is a campfire grill grate and why do you need one?
As per Wikipedia, “Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of the food, commonly from above or below. Grilling usually involves a significant amount of direct, radiant heat, and tends to be used for cooking meat quickly.”
One way of grilling food is to use an over-the-fire campfire grill grate.
These Campfire grill grates come in different types, shapes, and sizes. But the most commonly used grill arrangements are the table-type, flat campfire grill grate and swivel campfire grill grate.
- Table-type campfire grill grate: The table-type campfire grill grates, or freestanding camping grills as they are also sometimes known as, consist of a rectangular grilling surface supported by collapsible legs to keep some distance from the fire. The table campfire grill grate can be heavy-duty, made of high grade welded steel with heavy meshes, or lightweight, made of nickel-steel wires. With straight or reclined legs, such campfire grills create a flat-bed for cooking food directly over the fire. It is worth mentioning that the height or the clearance over the fire is not very adjustable.
- Swivel campfire grill grates The swivel campfire grills are essentially adjustable campfire grills and consist of a nail-type swivel or stake, which can be hammered into the ground or adjusted using rocks. The food can be placed on one or more surface plates and the clearance from the fire can be adjusted periodically. A typical swivel or stake camping grill consists of a heavy-duty stake and one or more grilling grates with an adjustable locking mechanism to hold them firmly in one position.
All these camping grill designs are shown in the image below:
There are three primary reasons on why an over-the-fire campfire grill grate is such popular camping cookware:
- Oven Cooking: Since the campfire grill grate provides a flat, uniform surface over the fire, it can help in ensuring even cooking of your food. Moreover, adjustable campfire grills can even provide a varied clearance from the fire as you cook the food.
- Blending: A campfire grill grate provides an excellent uniform blending surface away from the burning fuel. Cooking food without the grill can make blenders such as sauces, spice blends, rubs, and marinades useless as these items would not remain on the food surface.
- Safety: Since the grill provides a uniform cooking surface, it is easier to cook items in pots and pans safely without a lot of hassle while stirring, as compared to other campfire cooking mechanisms such as tripods.
In the next sections, we look at some of the factors while considering the best collapsible campfire grill grate or swivel campfire grill grate for your needs and share our top picks.
How to pick the best campfire grill grate for yourself?
The first major decision that you have to make about picking the best campfire grill grate is to decide which type of campfire grill would you want to go for. Once you decide to choose a table campfire grill grate or swivel campfire grill grate, the task of selecting the best campfire grill would basically be governed by a few factors, as summarized below.
Note that we have primarily focused on standard-sized fire grills suitable for simultaneously cooking up to two items cycle, but the same factors would hold for bigger grills in the same category:
- The building material of the campfire grill grate
- Dimensions of the cooking surface and height of the campfire grill grate
- Weight of the campfire grill grate
- Miscellaneous considerations
The building material of the campfire grill grate
Considering that the campfire grill is exposed to direct heat from fire or charcoal, the building material of the campfire grill is an important criterion to consider, as it governs the durability and weight of the grill.
Typically the body of a fire grill is made up of high-grade welded-steel for heavy-duty campfire grill grates and stainless steel for lightweight collapsible campfire grill grates. The mesh of the grill is generally diamond-shaped made with heat-resistant nylon, nichrome, or steel. An example of this design is the widely popular Camp Chef Lumberjack Over The Fire Grill.
In order to prevent the surface from over-heating and rusting, the grate and legs of steel campfire grills are coated with heat-resistant black paint. Lightweight stainless steel campfire grills do not require a paint coating as stainless steel is rust-resistant in itself.
In the case of the swivel campfire grills such as the Texsport Heavy Duty Barbecue Swivel Grill, the swivel is made from welded steel to ensure sturdiness and durability. The plates are also nichrome or steel wire.
Check that the building material of the campfire grill grate is specified as steel and the surface is well-protected against rust before picking the best campfire grill grate for your needs.
Dimensions of the cooking surface and height of the campfire grill
The dimensions of the campfire grills are defined by the cooking area expressed as the length and width of the cooking plate.
Typical fire grills have a cooking surface in excess of 100 square inches. Popular heavy-duty table campfire grill grates such as the Texsport Heavy Duty over Fire Camp Grill and the Camp Chef Lumberjack Over The Fire Grill also come in sizes smaller and bigger than the standard 100 sq.inch sizes.
Lightweight campfire grills can have a smaller area, though some of them also support around 100 square inch cooking area. Swivel campfire grills also follow the same dimensions. Since the plates of swivel campfire grills are independent of the swivel, you can fit in a larger sized plate as long as the swivel can support the loaded plate.
The height of the grill is often an important factor as it can govern if the grill can fit properly over an already built fire pit. Reclining-leg table campfire grills such as Coleman Deluxe Camp Grill can fit in fire pits which are wider because of their reclined legs. Straight table fire grill such as the UCO Grilliput Portable Camping Grill fit only standard sized fire pits because of their straight, vertical legs.
For adjustable swivel campfire grills, the height is typically the maximum height you can move your cooking plate to. Most adjustable campfire grills such as the Adjust-A-Grill Swivel Grill support around 2 feet ( 24 inches) of height from fire. An exception of this is Titan Outdoors Campfire Swivel Grill which supports a height of more than 50 inches.
Weight of the campfire grill grate
If you are backpacking or hiking and carrying your own supplies, the weight of the campfire grill becomes an important criterion to consider. Lightweight campfire grills such as UCO Grilliput Portable Camping Grill offer a decent cooking grate and weigh as little as 1.2 pounds.
Heavy-duty-table and swivel campfire grills weigh a lot more and hence are not suitable for backpacking. Such grills work well for car-camping, RVing, or backyard firepit cooking only.
In addition to the major factors listed above, there are some miscellaneous considerations that can help you choose the best campfire grill grate.
One such consideration is the paint used on your heavy-duty table grate or swivel campfire grill. The reason certain heavy-duty grills are costlier than others is that they use better heat-resistant paint for the surface. Always, go for heat-resistant coated campfire grills as they have a longer life.
Another factor to consider is if there are any accessories or additional items available with the grill. For example, Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill comes with three plates that can be attached to the swivel.
Some other grills such as Adjust-A-Grill Swivel Grill come with useful accessories such as storage bags to carry the grills. Check out the accessories available with the grill and decide if they can help you in selecting the best option for your needs.
Which are the best campfire grills and what our picks are?
The Texsport Heavy Duty Over Fire Camp Grill is a well-built, heavy-duty fire grill grate. The grate of the grill is made of high grade welded steel, with a diamond-shaped mesh made from fire-retardant nylon, providing a sturdy cooking surface.
The standard medium-sized grill weighs 10 pounds, while the extra-large grill has a weight of 20 pounds. The reason it scores over the Camp Chef Lumberjack Over The Fire Grill is that it has bigger meshes on the grate, which ensure that maximum heat is passed on to the cooking utensil or food.
The Texsport Heavy Duty Over Fire Camp Grill comes in multiple sizes, with the smallest size being 16 inches by 12 inches. The large size is the standard size of 24 inches by 16 inches, which creates a cooking grate for two vessels at one time.
It features two inclined foldable legs to support the grate. These support legs can create a clearance of around 8-9 inches, so if you would like to cook directly over the fire and need a larger clearance, you can put some bricks or rocks under both the legs.
The Texsport campfire grill works well for use with cast iron vessels and can support most Dutch oven cookware. Generally, a pot weighing anywhere between 20-25 lbs. can be easily supported by the mid-sized grill, while the larger can grill can support even a 30 or 35 pounds utensil.
The Texsport grill is backed by a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
For all these reasons, the Texsport Heavy Duty Over Fire Camp Grill is our Editor’s choice for the best heavy-duty campfire grill grate.
The UCO Grilliput Portable Camping Grill is an ultra-light, dishwasher safe, straight-legged camping fire grill that is made from heavy-duty stainless steel. And when it comes to a backpacking-friendly grill grate, it is one of the most portable models out there.
The UCO grill has slightly smaller dimensions of 10.2 inches by 9.1 inches. Its straight legs help in creating a clearance of more than 7 inches. Its sturdy construction can support up to 3.3 pounds of weight on its legs.
The UCO Grilliput camping grill has an ultra-lightweight of 1.24 pounds and is extremely storage-friendly. It can be collapsed to fit in like a tube with a bail for hanging during storage. Assembling is easy and you can refer to some online videos to master it before stepping out in the wild.
The UCO Grilliput is dishwasher-safe, so cleaning is easy after a trip. It even has an intelligently-designed cleaning groove to clean soiled grills while in the field.
The UCO Grilliput is backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
For all these reasons, UCO Grilliput Portable Camping is our Editor’s choice for the best lightweight campfire grill grate for camping or backpacking. If you are looking for a portable over-the-fire campfire grill, then you can check this grill out.
The Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill is a large-sized swivel campfire grill made with high-grade steel and is really a top-of-the-line adjustable campfire grill grate.
The Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill features a heavy-duty 2-piece steel stake that is over 40-inches long. Once securely inserted, it can provide a 360-degree rotation by adjusting the clamp, with a clearance of around 2-feet.
The Camp Chef swivel grill comes with 3 cooking grates – a steel grill, a steel griddle, and a steel charcoal box. The body and cooking grate is made of solid steel, with wired meshing for uniform cooking. The surface dimensions of the grate are 16 inches by 20 inches.
The grill also comes with a smart tote carry bag for easy storage and transportation. The Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill is backed by a one-year no-hassle warranty.
For all these reasons, The Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill is our Editor’s choice for the best swivel campfire grill. If you are looking for an adjustable campfire grill grate to cook some fancy over-the-fire meals on your next campfire cookout, then consider getting the Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill.
Campfire Grill Cookware
As discussed above, in order to cook over the fire grill you need to use only recommended cooking utensils. Generally, heavy-duty table and swivel grills can hold more weight and hence can support cast iron and enamel pots and pans. Some of the popular cookware sets for such grills are listed below:
- Lodge 5-Piece Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Cookware Set
- Stansport Cast Iron 6 Piece Cookware Set
- Outdoor Gourmet 5 Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set
- Winterial Cast Iron Camping Dutch Oven
For lightweight grills such as the UCO Grilliput Portable Camping Grill, you should opt for special aluminum or titanium cookware as they are lightweight and would not overburden the grill. Some of the popular camping cookware sets are listed below:
- MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit
- Unigear Camping Cookware and pot set
- Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set
- HealthPro Titanium Lightweight Cook set
- Snow Peak 3 Piece Titanium Cook set
Safety Considerations while using campfire grills
Some basic safety considerations should be kept in mind while using a campfire grill. These considerations are listed below:
- Never use the fire grill in a closed area such as a tent even as a storage or heating surface as it can harm the tent liner.
- Always ensure that you place the grill on a stable ground surface. For swivel grills, ensure that the swivel is hammered deep into the ground. This will ensure that the grill is properly balanced while cooking.
- Always use recommended pots and pans of the correct size with the grills, especially around the edges. Overloading the grill can often lead to the untimely folding of the grill legs or swivel.
- Do not touch the grill with bare hands. Always use heat resistant gloves, mittens, or a cloth to operate.
You can consider the following options for heat resistant gloves:
- Grill Armor Extreme Heat Resistant Oven Gloves
- G & F Dupont Nomex Heat Resistant gloves
- Comenzar Silicone Insulated BBQ Cooking Gloves
- Always ensure that you dispose of the ashes/residue after the cookout responsibly and safely. Use fire pits wherever possible. Any smoldering wood or charcoal can cause fires.
Final thoughts on best campfire grill grates for camping or backyard cooking
In this post, we looked at some of the best tables and swivel over-the-fire camping grills. For table-type campfire grills, we looked at the heavy-duty campfire grills as well as ultralight campfire grills for backpacking. While camping grills and grates come in many shapes and sizes, the table and swivel grills are the most popular for backyard or camping cookouts.
Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else. Have a great backyard or camping cookout!