How to Build a Campfire for Cooking

Campfire Cooking

By Mitra Cazaubon

Camping just isn’t camping without a fire. Whether to roast marshmallows or keep you warm; you got to have one. Better yet, a campfire you can use to cook is ideal. In this article, I will give you the step by step process to build a campfire specially designed for cooking.

Safety Tips

1)    Before you start your fire ensure you are allowed to light a fire in your location. If your area is dry and hot, be extremely careful or don’t light a fire at all.

2)    Your tent should be at least 25 ft away from the campfire downwind.

3)    Don’t light a fire near the base of any tree, as this can kill or damage the tree. Neither should you light a fire near dead stumps as fire can travel underground through the dead roots and damage neighboring trees.

4)    To avoid accidents clear dry overhanging branches or low hanging branches. Keep water close by in case of an incident.

5)    Rack dry leaves and debris away from your fire location (not downwind of the fire).


A cutting tool for processing your wood; and a small shovel for digging a trench and manoeuvring hot coals are all the tools you’ll need. You can use a Y stick or your shovel as a rake to get rid of dry leaves and debris before lighting the fire.

Constructing a Trench Fire for Campfire Cooking


Dig a 4ftX1ft trench about three inches deep. You can get the same effect by lining the area with stones. I used both techniques, digging the trench and lining one side with rocks. This configuration gives me the added benefit of a reflector wall made of stone which is ideal for keeping warm and for smoke reduction.

Building Campfire Cooking Trench


Get your firewood, two Y sticks (to be placed on either side of the trench), one or more sticks with hooks  (for hanging pots) and a long stick the length of the trench (for ridge pole). Process your firewood, kindling, and tinder ensuring that you cut them to fit inside your trench.


build campfire cooking trench 2


Take your two Y sticks and put them on opposite sides of your trench (see photo). Secure them by digging a small hole for each stick. Place your ridge pole onto your Y sticks.



Place your tinder along the entire bottom of trench then light. Add kindling over tinder allowing the fire to breathe. Then add firewood diagonally to the previous layer. Allow wood to burn through the length of the trench. Crave notches in your hook stick to hang your pot.



Start cooking. Place some pots directly on the coals or hang those that can be hung, roast your meat on the stick or add a grill and barbecue.


Campfires are great for making that excursion more memorable, and one of the best for campfire cooking is the trench fire. You won’t need a separate fire for grilling and cooking since the trench fire will allow for a variety of cooking styles and cook pots.

A simple three-stone fire, instead of the trench, can also work if you don’t want to be extravagant. But for multiple pots, baking, roasting meat and chatting around a trench fire with reflector wall is perfect.

Next time you go camping with friends show off your skills and build a trench fire to cook up a storm.

Here is a video that also shows a completed cooking trench and the finished result in action…

Once you have your campfire cooking set up to go, you can also check out online recipe ideas.

Multiple Contributor | Website

Mitra Cazaubon is a nature-loving, free-spirited explorer from the small island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean.  You will have her energized with the mention of camping or sustainable living.

When she isn’t blogging about her adventures she is writing and giving relationship advice. Her soon-to-be-open blog will feature thought-provoking philosophies and her journey to finding true happiness.

She is married to the love of her life, a survivalist, and they spend most of their time gardening in their off-grid home. The remainder of their time is spent keeping up with their active son.

10 thoughts on “How to Build a Campfire for Cooking

  • September 11, 2020 at 1:17 am

    Wow, I never realized how little I knew about building a fire. We’re having a campfire for a bridal shower and now I feel truly equipped to handle the situation. For some reason, I never thought to consider damage to the trees nearby or planning ahead to have water ready just in case.

  • September 9, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    I have done many campfires in winters of North India but never made a campfire on my own. Generally, my friends used to make this. But you have really useful tips on how to create pit first. The Y shape stick concept I was not knowing also creating hooks to hang utensil is a good idea. Giving some space for the fire to get oxygen is a good tip.

  • September 9, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    Camping without fire feels incomplete and you made the whole campfire setup simple and doable. I have never done it myself but these steps make me confident of trying next time. And I totally love the fact that a trench fire allows for a variety of cooking styles and cook pots.

  • September 9, 2020 at 9:15 am

    I have always enjoyed going out to a picnic spot with family or friends and what attracted me right from childhood was the community participation in preparing food.A dish prepared outside home always tasted better to me than the same one prepared at home. Have seen the mothers preparing the fireplace but have never really looked at how it is done. Hence this was really informative coming from you.Such a methodical way to go about it.Now I think I can do it myself.

  • September 8, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I love to be out in nature, in isolation, all by myself or with a select few friends. Camping is one of my favorites, and I would love to do this more. I am not really good with cooking at home, let alone out in nature. Building a campfire would be such an adventure for me, I think I would find it challenging but enjoyable. This is such a great guide to try something new!

  • September 8, 2020 at 4:56 am

    Wow this is so cool. For me setting up a campfire has always been a challenge when I go for camping. I struggle with it always and end up not doing it. This guide will hopefully help me the next time I am there for camping. I was not aware of the step 1 itself about digging a bit before starting. I will try it out.

  • September 8, 2020 at 4:29 am

    Being a huge fan of Survivors I have always wanted to learn the skill of setting up a kitchen in the wild. But since I am not a camp goer, I always felt it was a very difficult skill. But reading your stepwise guide it seems so doable, even for a beginner like me! I especially loved that video. Hopefully I get to put this in use soon 🙂

  • September 7, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Besides changing a tire, this is the one skill I really most wanted to learn in life. I’m not going to lie, I think it would look pretty bad ass to go camping with friends or family and be able to whip up a meal over an open campfire like this. I’m going to try it on our next cousin’s camping trip! Good call on not lighting the fire near the base of a tree, I clearly don’t get out enough because I had no idea!

  • September 7, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    I would definitely want a campfire. May not cook on it but would not want to miss sitting around it for stories and for marshmallows. I love the creativity of nothing but wood to hold pots. Good to reinforce the safety tips. With wildfires destroying so much land these days, I would not want to be the cause of another!

  • August 19, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Guess one if the basics and key to camping. You can’t do much without a fire. Great read and thanks for sharing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
%d bloggers like this: