The Ultimate Guide to Fire Pit Grates
I’ll go ahead and say it — fire pit grates add brand new life to your fire pit setup. If you’ve already set your aesthetic up the way you’d like, they allow you to expand how you use your fire pit in a meaningful way.
A bottom grate allows you to easily start your fire, while a cooking grate enables you to enjoy a home cooked meal while hanging out in your back yard (or even camping).
Not only do they come in all shapes and sizes, but they provide the kind of utility to turn any gathering up a notch. However, what should you look for when buying a new fire pit grate?
Buckle up, let’s explore the wild world of fire pit grates and figure out which of the many options available will be perfect for your setup.
- Do you need one?
- Which type?
- Sizing a Fire Pit Grate
- What to Look For
- Four Distinct Styles
- Classic Round Fire Pit Grate
- Wagon Wheel / Spider’s Web Fire Pit Grate
- Hex Shaped Fire Pit Grate
- Square Fire Pit Grate
- Evaluating Cooking Fire Pit Grates [cooking]
- Which cooking grate?
- Recommended Cooking Grates
- Final Thoughts
Do you need one?
First, let’s explore whether or not you actually need a grate for your fire pit. Let’s look at some common advantages for fire pit grates:
- Makes it easier to light an outdoor fire (if installed at the base)
- Enables delicious food to be cooked (when you add a cooking grate on top)
If you’d like either of those benefits, I’d recommend picking one up. They’re a sincere quality of life increase.
But let’s be fair — are there any cons? Unfortunately, a few:
- Grates can be rust-prone when constructed of certain materials
- Cooking grates require regular maintenance and cleaning
- You may have a difficult time finding one if your fire pit is an irregular shape or size
You don’t expressly need a grate, but they can be useful tools to keep fire pits burning longer and hotter.
Just in case you’re a complete greenhorn in the world of pit grates, let’s lay out the potential options here. First, let’s examine your run-of-the-mill fire pit cooking grate.
Regular Fire Pit Grates
The grates sit at the base of your fire pit, elevating the wood to encourage airflow. Additionally, some models even have ember catchers, keeping the hot coals in your fire.
The increased airflow ensures that your fire will burn hotter and brighter.
Here’s what a simple round fire pit grate looks like:
Now, there’s a non-zero chance that you came here looking for fire pit cooking grates. Let’s make sure we include those as well.
Fire Pit Cooking Grate
As you’ll see below, fire pit cooking grates are a completely different beast. They sit above the fire and allow you to cook burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and other campfire food.
If you’re looking for a regular fire pit grate, you can ignore the sections I’ve marked “cooking”. Likewise, if you’re looking for a fire pit cooking grate, you can ignore the sections with “cooking” omitted.
Sizing a Fire Pit Grate
So, what size grate do you actually need? There’s no one answer here — it has everything to do with the size of your fire pit. As stated earlier, an irregularly sized fire pit may cause difficulties when finding a properly sized grate.
With that being said, the most common grate sizes are:
To determine the fire pit grate size you need, simply measure the interior of your fire pit and pick the grate in the bucket below that size. For instance, if the diameter of your fire pit was 26 inches, you’d want to select a 24 inch grate.
What to Look For
For regular, run-of-the-mill fire pit grates, you only have a few concerns to weigh:
- Construction material
These are mostly self-explanatory, but let’s look at the various construction materials you might encounter.
The best construction material for fire pit grates is steel. It’s more rust resistant than other materials and is able to stand up to the hottest, heaviest logs.
Cast iron is another potential choice, but I’d advise against it. Since grates aren’t made to frequently move, cast iron grates are much more prone to rust and the elements.
While you may like the look of cast-iron fire pit grates, you won’t like it when they start disintegrating after a few seasons!
Four Distinct Styles
There are three major styles to consider when evaluating fire pit grates.
- Classic round
- Wagon wheel / spider
- Hex shaped
Classic Round Fire Pit Grate
We’ve already shown you this one: the classic round fire pit grate. These are great and can handle almost every situation perfectly.
However, they’re more difficult to clean and are slightly high maintenance. Depending on the kind you buy, they can also be more flimsy and unable to stand up to larger logs.
If you’re looking for a round fire pit grate with legs, look no further than this 27 pound steel product from TITAN GREAT OUTDOORS. The thick, square bars sit a lofty 4″ above the ground, allowing plenty of space for falling ash. It’s also priced extremely well (link).
Wagon Wheel / Spider’s Web Fire Pit Grate
While these wagon wheel fire pit grates are round, they’re different from the classic round grates above. They’re distinct in a few distinct and important ways:
- They have a circular design, with spokes extending from the center (hence the “wagon wheel/spider’s web” comparison).
- The end of the spokes tend to be slightly raised.
The last part is important because it prevents your wood / fuel from rolling off away from the coals. It’s a major plus!
We absolutely love this wagon wheel fire pit grate. The support ring is thick and the 4-1/2″ high log bed keeps airflow strong. This in turn reduces the amount of overall smoke and ensures that your outdoor space stays smelling nice.
Additionally, the look is both industrial and rustic at the same time. It’s just plain cool. It’s a bit on the pricey side (as wagon wheel grates often are). However, you definitely get what you pay for. See for yourself.
Hex Shaped Fire Pit Grate
Hex shaped fire pit grates are similar to their Wagon Wheel cousins. The main difference is that instead of a round circle, the grate is in a hex shape. The difference here is mostly aesthetic.
Although they look fairly different, they are just as effective at larger payloads.
Wayfair provides this excellent hex-shape fire pit grate. The round-ish, hex shape is ideal for campfires, fire pits, and even fireplaces. Not only is it rust-resistant, but even the hottest fires won’t weaken the structural integrity.
Square Fire Pit Grate
Square fire pit grates have four right angles and equal sides, just like all other squares. While they’re somewhat of a niche option, they allow you to get more coverage area for your grate if you also have a square fire pit.
We picked this as our favorite square fire pit grate with legs primarily because we loved the round one so much.
Why might you choose a square fire pit grate instead? Aside from the aesthetic, it’s fantastic when you need your grate to completely fit the size of your square fire pit. A round grate will leave a gap for each corner in square fire pits.
Evaluating Cooking Fire Pit Grates [cooking]
If you’re looking for a fire pit grate that you can cook on, you’ll be evaluating the inventory using slightly different criteria. For one, you won’t care how sturdy the grate is — no matter how hefty your burgers are, they won’t be heavier than logs!
Another difference is that you’ll care more about the surface of the grate. While it’s perfectly acceptable for a fire-only grate to get dirty, have blemishes, and even rust, you won’t want the same thing to happen when cooking.
Additionally, the pattern of the grate is also of note. While you can use simple parallel, a diamond pattern also offers a great sear and may help you lose less food to gravity.
Before we get in to the exact models of grates, let’s get something out of the way first.
Is it safe to cook over fire pit grates? Usually, yes. However, many manufacturer’s will recommend that you don’t place food directly on the surface of the grate. The surface of many grates have been treated with materials known to cause cancer. This isn’t something you want coming into contact with your food!
Which cooking grate?
So, which fire pit cooking grate should you get? That depends on a few factors, including the size of your fire pit, the food you’re planning to cook, and your desire to move the rig.
How large of a fire pit cooking grate should you get? You definitely want to get a large enough cooking grate for your cooking needs. If you have a family of six, a smaller grate simply won’t cut it!
However, you also need to make sure that the grate will properly fit your fire pit. A 40″ fire pit cooking grate won’t do much if your fire pit only has a diameter of 28″!
What kind of food?
This is a less obvious concern. However, if you want to cook smaller bits of food on your fire pit, you should consider a cooking grate with a smaller gap pattern.
If you regularly find yourself slinging steaks and burgers, a simple grill grate might do.
You should also consider how permanent you’d like your cooking grate to be.
Recommended Cooking Grates
After evaluating hundreds of products, we have compiled a great list of recommended fire pit cooking grates (we also have other outdoor cooking accessories ready to read about).
Our Recommended Fire Pit Cooking Grate
This fantastic grate from Sunnydaze comes in many sizes and can fit over most fire pits. If you have a rectangular pit, be sure to buy a grill grate with a diameter larger than the largest side.
Why choose this one? We’re quite partial to the “x-marks” style, as it creates a delicious looking sear on meat and vegetables.
Yes, you can get this kind of sear with parallel grates by rotating the food 90 degrees, but:
- I’m lazy.
- Each time you touch a steak, it adds space for error.
Apart from the sear lines, the materials and build quality is what everyone expects from a product by Sunnydaze (they’re really, really good). You’ll pay a bit more (check the price here), but it will definitely pay off in the long run. For that extra money, you get a durable design and a generous warranty.
Our Recommended Adjustable Fire Pit Cooking Grate
If you’re looking for an adjustable grate, it’s hard to go wrong with this adjustable grate grill (again from Sunnydaze). We picked this mainly because it’s easy to assemble, easy to use, and has the quality/warranty we expect from Sunnydaze.
To install, you simply push the bottom stakes into the grass/ground around your fire pit.
A word of caution, if you have pavers or concrete next to your fire pit, you won’t be able to use it.
However, if your fire pit is on grass and you’d like a great adjustable grill grate, you can find this product here.
Whether you’re looking for regular fire pit grates or fire pit cooking grates, you’ll be pleased once you pull the trigger. Do you have a favorite grate we’ve not covered? Feel free to share in the comments and maybe we’ll cover it in a future article!
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