The 10 Best Over Fire Grills
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in May of 2016. If you're the type of person who loves to rough it in the wilderness, then ditch that portable gas stove for a more authentic outdoor cooking experience. These over-fire grills are made from heavy-duty materials in a variety of designs, and they'll let you boil water for coffee or tea and prepare all your classic barbecue favorites over an open flame at home or when camping. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 04, 2021:
These versatile grills are great for those who like to keep things simple, and allow for barbequing using a campfire or a fire pit. They are available in a range of sizes, from portable one-person options to large multi-shelved models to feed the whole family. In this update, we made minimal changes, as most of our previous recommendations are still solid options that cover a wide range of cooking applications.
The main consideration will invariably be the size and portability. Those who need something to take on camping trips will likely prefer a foldable option that doesn't weigh too much. The stainless steel Redcamp Portable is the lightest in the ranking at about three pounds. It is available in two sizes and its folding legs allow it to be stored completely flat. Similar in design is the Texsport Heavy Duty, which is made from welded steel for durability, however, this does increase the weight to over two kilograms. In the special honors section, we included an extremely lightweight option that packs down into a thin tube of just 12 inches long.
At the other end of the scale, we have The Bruntmor Swing, which is made up of a metal A-frame on which its many hooks, chains, and grill are suspended, giving a wide variety of cooking options. A new addition is the Stansport Heavy-Duty, which incorporates a hand-cranked rotisserie for grilling fowl or large cuts of meat. Again, this is too heavy and bulky to be a portable option, and would be better suited for use over a permanent fire pit.
February 12, 2020:
Anyone who goes camping or backpacking or to festivals and tailgates will wonder how they ever did without an over-fire grill. They're also a great alternative to a gas or charcoal grill if you have a fire pit at home and like to barbecue every now and again.
Before we dig into the updates we made today, we wanted to go over a few quick points regarding safety. To start, some over-fire grills are safe to cook on directly, while others are solely meant to support pots and pans. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to ensure the model you're eyeing can meet your needs. Many grills have paint or finishes that render them unsafe for food. Some users simply season their grates beforehand to burn the excess off, but we suggest just buying something intended for contact with food to begin with.
It's also important to follow the proper safety protocol when grilling. That includes keeping fires well away from tents or any other structures. Never leave a fire unattended and be prepared to put one out if it gets out of control. Many over-fire grills are solid steel or iron and get extremely hot, so don't touch any part of one without protective gear unless that part has stay-cool properties. Keep kids and pets away from hot grills and open flames at all times.
Today we said goodbye to the Budweiser Portable Compact Scout in favor of the similar, more universally appealing Thanson Portable. It does everything the Budweiser model does without the conspicuous logo branding. We removed the Stansport Rotisserie due to quality complaints and a bulky design. We added the high-grade Bruntmor Swing in its stead. This unit is ideal for serious cooks who want to prepare large meals for big groups, and it folds flat for storage when all is said and done.
Cowboy Fire Pit Grill For an all-in-one outdoor cooking solution, the versatile Cowboy Grill allows for multi-use as a fire pit, open fire grilling, and cooking station. It has a height-adjustable cooking surface, an overhead bar for hanging pots and accessories, and comes with four removable legs. barebonesliving.com
Nashrio Portable Ideal for camping trips, this compact, stainless steel grill weighs only 12 ounces, and completely disassembles into a thin tube just 12 inches long. It is simple to put together in a couple of minutes and provides a sturdy platform for cooking in the wild. mitrosin.com
Why Does Grilled Food Taste So Much Better?
But it's difficult, if not impossible, to attain the same level of charring that a grill offers with any other cooking method.
Everyone knows that boiled hot dogs and burgers cooked in a frying pan simply can't hold a candle to the delicious, complex flavors of their grilled counterparts. And it seems like just about anything, whether it's meat, vegetables, or even fruit, tastes better when it's cooked over an open flame, be it gas, charcoal, or an over-fire grill. But have you ever wondered why?
While there could be a psychological aspect having to do with our ancestors cooking everything over a fire, the main reason that grilled foods taste so much better comes down to the Maillard reaction, which is the scientific name for what happens to foods as they brown during the cooking process. Grilling isn't the only way to achieve this effect — cooking anything over high heat, whether it's in a skillet, in the oven, or under a broiler, causes food to brown. But it's difficult, if not impossible, to attain the same level of charring that a grill offers with any other cooking method.
The Maillard reaction takes its name from a French chemist named Louis-Camille Maillard, who published a paper in 1912 describing the effects of heat on amino acids and sugars. Essentially, as foods caramelize, the reaction produces flavor compounds that break down as they cook, which in turn creates new flavor compounds. This process continues for as long as the food is exposed to heat, which explains why a longer cooking time produces a more complex depth of flavor. High temperatures accelerate the Maillard reaction, which is why meats and vegetables brown so much more quickly and develop a more intense sear when cooked on a grill.
Grilling Tips And Tricks
Before you start cooking, whether you're using an over-fire grill or a traditional model, it's important to allow the grill to preheat for 10-15 minutes. This ensures that your cooking surface is hot enough to produce a good sear and helps to loosen up any bits of food from your last grilling session, making them easier to brush off. It also helps to prevent food from sticking to the grates.
Speaking of sticking, you may be tempted to oil the grates of your grill to make sure your food releases easily. While this does work, it can cause flareups if excess oil drips into the flames, and at super high temperatures, the oil burns off in no time. It's better to brush or spray a light coating of oil onto your food before putting it on the grill.
Before you start cooking, whether you're using an over-fire grill or a traditional model, it's important to allow the grill to preheat for 10-15 minutes.
When cooking cuts of meat that tend to dry out easily on the grill, brining them beforehand can make a world of difference. If you're unfamiliar with the term, brining is basically a fancy word for soaking food in a saltwater solution. This helps to add more water to the meat, and the salt relaxes the muscle fibers and keeps them from contracting as much during the cooking process, which leads to less moisture loss. Ideally, you want a five or six percent salt concentration, which works out to about 3/4 cup of salt per gallon of water. You can let your food soak for a few hours or overnight if you have time, but even 30 minutes of brining has a noticeable effect.
Kebabs are among the most popular grilled foods, and though it seems like a simple process to cut up meats and vegetables and cook them on pointy sticks, there are a few things you can do to make your kebabs even better. Make sure to cut your ingredients into evenly-sized pieces, so they all finish cooking at the same time. It's also important to choose your vegetables wisely — try to stick with quick-cooking veggies, like peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. If you want to use veggies that take longer to cook, boil them until they're almost done before they go on the grill, so they finish cooking along with the other ingredients. If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least half an hour before cooking to prevent them from burning.
Some people feel that grilling without a beer in hand is basically heresy. But a nice, cold brew isn't just for drinking — beer is great for marinating and basting your barbecued delicacies, too. It can also be used as a replacement for water when soaking wood chips for smoking. You can even grill a whole chicken sitting on top of a can of beer to keep it moist and infuse it with flavor.
Foods You Probably Didn't Know You Could Grill
For most people, simple things like steaks, chicken, burgers, and hot dogs come to mind when they think of grilling. But meat is far from the only thing you can cook on the barbecue.
And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, grill slices of pound cake to add a unique twist to strawberry shortcake.
Almost any vegetable tastes better grilled, from peppers and onions to broccoli and asparagus. Corn on the cob is especially tasty with some nicely charred bits. For a fresh take on salad, try grilling your lettuce. Romaine is the most commonly used because it's sturdier than other types of lettuce and can handle the heat better. Simply cut the whole head into halves or quarters, drizzle it with oil, and grill over medium heat for a few minutes on each side. You can also use a big chunk of iceberg lettuce to make a grilled version of the wedge salad that's a staple at steakhouses everywhere.
If you like to make homemade pizza, step up your game by throwing your next pie on the grill. Restaurants cook their pizzas at super high temperatures that can't be achieved by most home ovens, and the direct heat of a grill is better for reproducing pizzeria-style crusts.
It may sound strange, but even desserts can be grilled, and many fruits are delicious when cooked over an open flame. Try grilling halved peaches and filling them with yogurt, then drizzle them with honey and top with granola for a healthy sweet treat. You can also cut pineapple or mango into wedges and grill them to accompany ice cream. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, grill slices of pound cake to add a unique twist to strawberry shortcake.