Camping is a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. Proper preparation and having the right camping gear are essential for an enjoyable and stress-free experience. You’ll also need to think about what to eat and how you cook your food. If you go camping, you’ll likely have an open campfire, so finding the best campfire grill makes perfect sense to cook or heat your food over a nice wood fire.
This piece of equipment is a pretty simple concept, is portable, and will last for years with proper care. In fact, you may like cooking over a campfire so much you even choose to do it at home. No matter your purpose, many grills will work great no matter where you decide to use them.
What is a campfire cooking grill?
You’ll hear two terms when it comes to campfire cooking: grill and grate. What is the difference, you ask? Nothing really. They are of metal construction and commonly are in a rectangular or circular shape. This shape is on purpose as it needs to sit over or a across a campfire for cooking.
Some come in a wire grid design, while others are straight bars like on your typical gas or charcoal grills. You can usually choose to either set food on them directly, like hot dogs or hamburgers, but they’re typically sturdy enough to place pots, pans, and dutch ovens.
The bottom line is they’re all designed to heat food or drinks. Whether called a campfire grill rack or a campfire grate, the best campfire grill is sturdy and designed to last a long time.
Why use a campfire cooking grill?
Whether you camp a lot or are new to this fun recreational activity, you always have to consider what you will eat when camping. Some people take the minimalistic approach and opt for foods that require zero cooking or go the backpacker route and eat dehydrated meals where boiling water is the only requirement. Others have a stronger culinary bent and like to have hot, delicious meals while enjoying the beautiful scenery around them.
Campfire Cooking Grill
A campfire grill is an excellent tool for those who prefer to cook while camping and only requires a campfire. Depending on where you camp, there will likely be firewood available nearby, or you can take your own. A campfire is kind of a camping necessity anyway, so really, you’re killing two birds with one stone. Using a campfire cooking grill is a great way to teach kids a few outdoor survival skills. You could also use a camp stove instead on your next camping trip and still teach the kids plenty about cooking outdoors.
If you don’t want to take pots and pans, you can quickly grill hamburgers or hotdogs on a grill. Or, by adding a few additional pieces of cookware, you can easily cook anything from bacon to mac and cheese to stir fry.
Further, there are many lightweight and packable grills that are easy to stow away and throw in your vehicle when you’re ready to take off on your camping trip.
Campfire Cooking Grill Materials
Campfire grills come in various materials, from stainless steel to cast iron. Below are some different types of common metals in a grill grate.
Alloy steel is composed of various elements and is broken into two groups, either low-alloy or high-alloy. Typically when referring to alloy steel, it is low-alloy that is being referenced. Alloy steel is stronger, tougher, more wear-resistant, less corrosive, and stays harder at hot temperatures than carbon steel.
Elements that may be found in alloy steel include aluminum, bismuth, boron, chromium, copper, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, sulfur, titanium, tungsten, and
Stainless steel is a ferrous alloy that contains a minimum of approximately 11% chromium. This prevents the iron from rusting and provides heat-resistant properties. Varying stainless steel grades indicate the type and amount of elements found in each, which dictates what they are used for. Stainless steel is common in all sorts of items and gadgets. Especially when potentially exposed to food.
There are several types of stainless steel that may include the following elements: nitrogen, aluminum, silicon, sulfur, titanium, nickel, copper, selenium, niobium, and molybdenum.
Cast iron is an iron-carbon alloy with more than 2% carbon content and is alloyed with silicon. Iron alloys with less carbon are steel. Other elements often alloyed to make cast iron include: manganese, chromium, molybdenum, titanium, and vanadium.
Cast iron has a low melting point, good castability, is resistant to deformation, is wear-resistant, and is common across times such as pipes to kitchenware.
Best Campfire Grill Grate
As is the case with many of the things we review, often several great items fall into more than one category. So, make sure you read through each thoroughly to learn the pros and cons and determine the best camping grill grate for your needs.
When looking for the best camping grills, consider how you’ll be using them. For example, do you want something for car camping, home use, or backpacking? Weight will be a consideration depending on your answer. Especially if backpacking. You will want to find a light weight grill grate to use with your best backpacking grill. Additionally, if you’ll be using it frequently, you will want to consider something on the heavier-duty end. If you’re an occasional user, you may not have to worry as much about heavy-duty construction.
Whether you’re looking for the best adjustable campfire grill grate, packable or heavy-duty grill grate, we’ve got you covered! Read on for our top picks.
Best Folding Grill Grate
Several grills on our list may fit this category, but we think the best lightweight foldable grill grate is the REDCAMP Folding Campfire Grill. This grill has several features that make it our top choice.
Collapsible Grill Grate
First, this collapsible grill grate is made of stainless steel, which is beneficial for several reasons:
- It does not rust or corrode quickly, which is vital if you cook food directly on the grill.
- It’s more lightweight than some of its iron counterparts.
- Being stainless steel makes it much easier to clean.
Next, we love that this foldable grill comes with a carrying bag. Of course, it makes for easier transport, but it also means you don’t have to clean the grill right away. So, for example, you may not have access to the best ways to clean a grill with burnt on burger when you are camping. However, you also don’t want to put a greasy, dirty grill back in your vehicle. That’s where the carry bag comes in handy. Throw it in the bag, toss it in your rig, and save the cleaning for when you’re back home.
This best portable grill is sturdy enough to place a pot or pan (or both) on, but you can also cook on it directly. It’s not huge, so if you’re planning on feeding many people, this may not be big enough for cooking a lot of steaks. However, it is big enough to fit quite a few hot dogs or sausages.
We also like how easily this grill folds up and stows away. The mechanisms are well-built and straightforward, meaning it’s easy to set up and take down, and there are minimal pieces to potentially break. Further, the legs come off, which makes for easier cleaning.
Best Swinging Campfire Cooking Grate
While a stationary grill works just fine for most circumstances, there are benefits to a campfire cooking grates swing arm design. Or sometimes referred to as a swivel grill. Having the ability to move a grill away from a hot spot or when something is finished cooking can be pretty handy. We love the GameMaker Open Fire Cooking Grill & Skillet Combo because of its dual purpose.
This handy piece of camping equipment comes with a grill and a skillet, making it great for cooking different foods at the same time. For example, you could cook scrambled eggs or vegetables on the skillet while cooking sausage or steaks on the grill.
Griddle and Skillet
Both the griddle and skillet attach to a stake you drive in the ground next to the campfire, then swivel 360 degrees for placement over the heat where it best serves your cooking needs. Not only does this allow you to remove your food from the high heat as necessary, but it also means you don’t have to unnecessarily reach across the fire. Additionally, the grill and griddle can be adjusted up or down for perfect height adjustment. Easily control the height of the grill and how close to the heat you position your food for great temperature control. This allows you to move your food closer to or further away from the heat as needed.
Made in the USA, this heavy steel grill is easy to put together and take apart. It works great for camping and backyard use. Some reviewers say it warps slightly with use, but that is common with many mesh designs and doesn’t affect the functionality. We think the utility of this grill, combined with the cost, makes it worth trying.
Best Cast Iron Campfire Grill Grate
As we all know, cooking with cast iron is a bit of an art, but the results are well worth it. Further, cast iron cooking equipment is designed to last forever, often passed down through generations. While heavier than many alternatives, we still love cast iron and think the Steven Raichlen Cast Iron Tuscan BBQ Grill is a potential heirloom that will provide years of delicious camping food. Some even use it for cooking at home!
This cast iron campfire grill is high quality and great for using over a wood or charcoal campfire or fire pit. There are plenty of options for fuel sources. The heavy-duty cast iron construction ensures it will heat evenly and prevent warping. The square 14″ x14″ cooking service fits nicely over a round pit or campfire. Season this grill like your other cast iron for the best results.
Cooking With A Cast Iron Dutch Oven Or Pans
As with cooking with a cast iron dutch oven or pans, it holds heat so well it’s not designed to actually be used with direct flame. Therefore, place this cooking grate in the heat to prep it, let it get hot, then use it for a nice, even grill over the hot coals. The triangular tube design also makes perfect campfire grill marks on your favorite meat.
While you can undoubtedly place food directly on this grill, it is sturdy enough for putting a pot or pan. Many people also use this in their wood-fired ovens at home. Additionally, this handy cooking grate comes with removable legs for easy storage.
Best Lightweight Over Fire Grill Grate
Often an over fire camp grill is too heavy for carrying very far. If you’re a backpacker, a grill grate is usually not feasible because of the weight. However, the Branded Boards Bushcraft Stainless BBQ Folding Grill Grate is an exception.
Weighing in at a mere .35 pounds, it packs up nicely and is perfect for cooking for one or two people or a small group in the backcountry (or front country!). This is not a big grill at 6″ x6″ when folded in half and 6″ x12″ when unfolded. However, anything bigger would also be heavier, so size is the tradeoff.
This grill folds up and slides into an included burlap bag for easy carrying. Reviewers say the bag is also big enough to fit other pieces of equipment, such as a few utensils. The packed-up size is small enough to easily slip into your backpack, whether for day use or an overnight trip.
The wire grid is made from food-grade stainless steel, making it lightweight and easy to clean. It has strong, welded hinges and is strong enough to set a pot or pan.
It is budget-friendly and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not happy with it, send it back for a refund. However, we think you’ll want to hold on to this handy grill for lots of grilling use in the great outdoors.
Best Heavy Duty Campfire Grill
While plenty of lightweight grills are on the market, sometimes you just want a heavy duty over fire grill that will stand up to years of use. While nothing fancy, we think the practical nature of the Texsport Heavy Duty Over Fire Camp Grill is worth considering.
This inexpensive, foldable grill is made of heavy-duty welded alloy steel with foldable legs. It comes in two sizes, a medium (12″ x16″) and a large (25″ x16.5″) grilling surface area. While it’s not huge, it is still plenty big enough to cook for several people. Nice for a medium size group but not for large groups. It’s sturdy enough to hold a dutch oven or other heavy cast iron pots or pans. The legs fold out and provide a sturdy base.
This is the perfect grill for outdoor cooking over a fire pit. However, while it gets excellent reviews, users do note two things. When first used, the painted steel tends to burn off, and therefore, it’s best to cover with foil for the first use or two if placing food on it directly. If you’re using pots and pans, this is less of an issue. Second, in some instances, people noted that the mesh tends to warp slightly when heated. However, users report this isn’t enough to affect performance or sturdiness; it’s just something to be aware of.
Overall, this heavy-duty best over fire grill isan excellent multi-functional piece of equipment, great for cooking when camping.
When looking for the best camping fire grill, there are many great options. It all depends on your budget, intended use, how frequently you’ll be cooking, and personal preference. There is no one-size-fits-all, and that’s okay! The good news is all of the options we’ve listed are relatively budget-friendly, and several come with money-back guarantees. What is the best option for you?
The best campfire grill will be one you get years of use from, cooking many good meals out in the woods or in your backyard. Whether you like to keep it simple or you have a creative culinary bent and get fancy, the right equipment can make all the difference in the final results. So, do your research, look at reviews, review what we shared above to find a great option and the overall best grill grate for you. Then get out and get cooking!