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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
There’s a lot more to campfire cooking than scorching hotdogs and broiling marshmallows. Cooking directly over a campfire requires attention and finesse, and you’re often a whole lot hungrier in the woods than when the modern comforts of home surround you. To make camping more effortless, we've made a guide about the best camping grills to invest in, but if you want to make an amazing campfire grill of your own, then read on.
Depending on the materials at hand and the time you have, you can create a successful grill using a log, a grate, a tripod, a can, or even coals. You can even build a fire inside of a log like the Swedes or Finns do, but only if you have an ax.
Whatever you use, the results are sure to be delicious when cooked over an open flame in the wilderness on a DIY campfire grill.
1. Elements of a Successful Campfire Grill
To cook food successfully over a fire, you need to be vigilant and have the ability to adjust how close the meat is to the flame. Even if you’re just cooking on coals, which is how many outdoors folks do it, you still need to turn the food every so often, so it cooks evenly.
If you don’t get the timing right, your food could come out with overdone and underdone parts. Not only is this unpalatable, but it is also dangerous, especially if you’re in the backcountry away from medical attention. Here are a few ways to create a DIY campfire grill.
3. Double Grill with Hinge
One way to make a grill is to create a double grill with a hinge connecting them, handles, and a lock on the other side. Here’s what you’ll need to make this handy, double-sided DIY grill for camping or hunting expeditions.
- Two grills, either oven racks or something else that resembles a grate
- Wire, like fencing wire or even the spare tines from an oven grate
- Snippers to cut the wire
- Pliers to bend the wire
Once you’ve amassed your equipment, here’s what you’ll do to make yourself a DIY double-sided campfire grill.
Step 1: Make handles first
Using the thickest wire you’ve got on hand, bend it with the pliers into a U-shape, 15” long and 2” across, for a handle. Not only will you use the handle to manipulate the grill, but you’ll also use it as part of the locking mechanism, so be sure to use the thickest wire you can. Attaching the grate handles is the trickiest part – connect it from both directions for extra stability.
Step 2: Connect the panels
Using thick wire, line up the handles and create a hinge to hold everything together on the other side of the grates. You have to wrap the fencing wire tightly, but not too tightly, as that makes the hinge unusable.
Step 3: Create the locking mechanism
The lock for the double-sided grill is a simple twist of wire. Take a leftover piece of wire and wrap it around the handles of your grill, twisting the ends together on the other side. This loop of wire should be snug enough to keep the gadget together but not too tight that it is difficult to get on or off.
After you’ve finished assembling the pieces of your DIY campfire drill, check it over for sharp edges that could potentially scrape or cut you.
4. Swedish or Finnish Torch
One of the coolest looking DIY campfire grills is a fire in a log. Hailing from the snowy climes of Finland and Sweden, all you need for this smart grill alternative is an ax (or chainsaw) and a log.
If you have a 3’ log, stand it on one end and cut 2 crossing notches 1’ deep into one end. This will take some effort so take your time creating these notches. The depth of these cuts determines how well oxygen circulates in your log and how quickly the tinder ignites the log’s inside.
Sprinkle tinder into the notches and light, adding twigs and kindling as you go. Let the log burn down as you would charcoal or other incendiaries before cooking on it. You can put a grill or a cast iron pan over the log to cook.
The great thing about this procedure is that, after you’re done cooking on it, you can let the log burn down in your firepit, providing warmth, light, and entertainment for hours.
5. Create a Tripod
Another genius way of cooking your food over a campfire is to rig a tripod up and over the central part to hang pots, a Dutch oven, a coffee pot, a grate, or even a trussed prime rib. Here are the materials you’ll need to create a tripod.
- 3 pieces of ½“conduit pipe at least 4’ long (some hardware stores can cut it to size for you)
- 2 S-hooks
- 3 eye bolts
- 4’ chains with wire links (not the heavy-duty kind)
- Hammer, hacksaw, wire cutter, and pliers
Step 1: Open eye bolt and assemble
Taking one of the eye bolts (not a heavy-duty one), open the eye-end up with pliers. Fit the other eye bolts through the open one, followed by the end of the wire chain, and hammer the eye closed again to secure them all together.
Step 2: Put pipes on eye bolts
Slip the ends of the eye bolts into the pipes and stand them equidistant from one another so that they all stand together. Attach an S-hook at the top and use the pliers to close it, as this hook helps you adjust how close or far your food is from the fire.
Step 3: Measure the chain
To make sure that the chain is the correct length, measure it so that, at its longest, the pot sits on the ground. Cut the chain, attach another S-hook, and you’re ready to cook over your campfire.
The chain’s length (and your food’s proximity to the heat) is adjustable using the S-hook. The tripod is a great DIY campfire tool because it lets you hang items like grates for grilling or kettles to make your morning coffee.
The Final Say
It’s up to you whether you want to grill your food ultra-rustically with a Swedish torch, make yourself a brand-new camp kitchen implement like the double-sided grill, or provide many cooking methods in one with a DIY tripod. There are countless ways to practically and affordably augment your camp kitchen.
The watchword in campfire cooking is vigilance; don’t take your eyes off of your grilling food for long because items need to be turned often. You have to let the wood burn down as well, so you get consistent heat to cook your food all at the same rate.
However, you do it, cooking under the stars in a device you rigged yourself is incalculably satisfying and rewarding. And the results are delectable.
So what to do now that you’re armed with the knowledge of making your own campfire grill? You can look into our design suggestions for DIY portable fire pits or maybe our DIY fire pit grill grate guide.