What is the best outdoor fire pit? The first thing to consider is fuel. Gas-powered fire pits provide immediate clean heat, but the problem with gas is that it dissipates quickly. The solution to the problem is to use special material to trap and radiate more heat as the gas burns. That is why you should opt for the models that include fiberglass or quartz materials. BTU is another thing you should know. The more BTUs you put out, the more ambient heat you will get. As for materials, outdoor fire pits can be made from stone, steel or copper. With stone models being too heavy to move around the yard, steel pits seem to be the best option. This kind of material is also rust- and weather-resistant and easier to clean. We believe that Outland Firebowl 883 Mega Outdoor Fire Pit fits these criteria best.

Outland Outdoor Propane Gas Fire Pit: photo

Why have we chosen it? This model is portable and easy to use, which is exactly what you need for an outdoor party. Powered by propane, the pit hits an area of about 50 feet on a still day. With a total output of 58,000 BTU per hour, this product is powerful enough to create a warm ambiance in your backyard. That said, it is affordable and can be set up in minutes without a tool. Made from high-quality stainless steel, the pit comes with a durable cover that is resistant to weather conditions and UV rays. Using a special valve knob, you can easily adjust the flame height.

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A lot of us love barbeques, and a lot of us love fire. I know I was a little pyro as a kid, and my love of fire remains as an adult.

The thing is that I, and I think a lot of other people in warmer climes, don’t actually like to do the grilling or barbeque thing in the middle of summer. To be frank, it’s too damn hot, especially in LA where I grew up, and in Florida where I now live. We prefer barbeques in the fall, and here, even in the winter, never in the summer when the mercury is through the roof.

There are basically two general form factors, and two general types of barbeque or fire pits, and the form factors and types can, to an extent, mix. A traditional fire or barbeque pit is actually a pit dug into the ground, but these tend to be built as a DIY project, or implemented by a contractor, and they’re not what we’re looking at today.

What we’re really looking at are above ground units, which tend to either be wrought iron/steel devices in which wood or charcoal are burned, or tend to be gas affairs which can be simple, or even ornate pieces of full on outdoor furniture. We’ll see a spectrum of simple to elaborate when we look at products in just a bit.

There are basically four or five types of fuel for these, depending on how you categorize them. You can burn wood or charcoal in some, which makes them giant, open grill concepts. These are also the best for cooking if you want to use it as a barbeque pit. Some burn natural gas, propane or butane, just as there are gas grills. Usually, it’s propane as it doesn’t cause food cooking over the open flame to taste funky, where butane and natural gas might (this is up for debate, some say it does, others say they don’t taste a difference between gases).

As far as which is advantageous over the others, it depends on your climate and what you want to use it for. Some of these are ideal for heat, light and cooking, while others are really purely for heat and atmosphere. In the case of gas ones, some are okay to cook with, but most of them tend to be more ornamental or just for heat, as drippings from food can kind of screw them up.

If you want to cook (even roasting hot dogs and marshmallows) over your fire pit, you’re going to want to go with something that burns wood or charcoal. They’re designed to be emptied out and hosed down easily, and there’s nothing for the food drippings to mess up.

If you just want heat and atmosphere, and you’re properly careful with gas, you’ll probably get more out of a gas powered fire pit. The flame is clean, odorless and less hassle to keep going. It lacks the pleasant smell of burning wood nor charcoal, and it actually puts out a bit less ambient heat (gas burns hot, but the heat dissipates more readily).

This again depends on what you actually want the fire pit for. If you’re trying to provide a decent amount of actual comfortable heat in an open area, you’re going to get a lot more out of wood or charcoal-burning fire pits. As wood and charcoal burn, they put out dirtier heat yes, but it’s more persistent heat, and the coals and ashes retain and radiate a lot of thermal energy as well.

Conversely, gas provides immediate clean heat, but it dissipates quickly, and unless there’s some material to trap and radiate more heat as the gas burns, you’re getting more atmosphere than anything else.

The two gas ones we’ll look at today solve this problem using fiberglass or quartz materials to trap and re-radiate some of this heat more diffusely, but this doesn’t compare to actual burning wood nor charcoal. You can’t change the laws of physics.

With gas fire pits, you do get the advantage of a somewhat more precise BTU measurement, and the more BTUs you put out, the more ambient heat you’ll get. We’ll touch on calculations in a second, though don’t get excited/worried – it’s kind of a crapshoot to calculate this kind of thing.

Okay, like I just said, you really can’t calculate with any precision how well a given heater will heat an outdoor, or open area. You have to factor in wind shear, humidity, various geological and geometric features, etc. So really, all you can do is estimate the heating range and average temperature, and reduce it by about 0.5 for every mile per hour of wind you might be having.

This gives you a rough estimate, but it’s still not going to be very precise. It’s a crapshoot, really.

Compared to patio heaters, the efficiency is more or less the same, really. It brings a hazard with open flames, but heaters can start fires too if they’re obstructed. So, if you’re worried about sacrificing efficiency or effectiveness for atmosphere, don’t worry about that.

Best Outdoor Fire Pits

Below, you will find the TOP best outdoor fire pits at a price ranging from $80 to $200. The two of them are fueled by propane while one model uses wood or charcoal. All them are made of steel but differ in design that is either rounded or four-square. The range of heat also varies and can reach as much as 50 feet for peak warmth on a still day.

AmazonBasics 23.5 Inch Steel Lattice Fire Pit

AmazonBasics 23.5 Inch Steel Lattice Fire Pit: photo

This here is a basic wood or charcoal fire pit made of steel. You can cook over this, you can use it for heat, and it’s very safe. It’s not bad looking either. There’s not a lot to really say about this beyond the benefits I mentioned from retained heat provided by hot ash and embers. It costs a little extra with the cover, by the way, which seems stupid to me.

Features

  • Construction: Steel lattice.
  • Fuel: Wood or charcoal.
  • Form factor: Round, on legs.
  • BTU: N/A.
  • Range of heat: Varies.

Performance

This is honestly what I’d use if I had a fire pit in my backyard. I don’t really do anything outdoorsy enough to even bother nowadays, but this is what I’d use if I were going to. It’s simple, no-nonsense, and there’s nothing to explode.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to maintain and clean.
  • Very safe.
  • Very affordable.
  • Dirtier fire.
  • More effort to keep stoked.
  • Cover costs extra.

AmazonBasics: Check the current price

Blue Rhino Outdoor Propane Gas Fire Pit

Blue Rhino Outdoor Propane Gas Fire Pit: photoThis is a handsome fire pit, I’m just not that into gas for any kind of combustion due to personal experiences. The blue fiberglass of the pit does trap and radiate more heat, and it’s quite an attractive design. And, you know you’re getting a quality gas device from someone like Blue Rhino, they’re a leader in these.

Features

  • Construction: Steel and fiberglass.
  • Fuel: Propane.
  • Form factor: Four-square, on legs.
  • BTU: 30,000 (it’s over nine thousand!)
  • Range of heat: About 50 feet for peak warmth on a still day.

Performance

If I were going to go with a gas fire pit, this is probably what I’d have. It’s stately, attractive, and the piezo ignition is safe. As gas goes, this is a pretty safe and solid approach. I have to wonder why the flames are photoshopped on all the images of this, it sells the fire quality short.

Pros Cons
  • As safe as gas can be.
  • Not a bad price.
  • Attractive.
  • Gas is explosive.
  • Wind shear gives these a hard time.
  • Fire has a weird hiss with gas.

Blue Rhino: Check the current price

Outland Firebowl 883 Mega Outdoor Propane Gas Fire Pit | Best Portable

Outland Firebowl 883 Mega Outdoor Propane Gas Fire Pit: photo

It’s kind of utilitarian, and the long gas line worries me. But, if you like UV and glowing effects with your gas flame, this is worth looking into. It’s also fairly affordable.

Features

  • Construction: Steel.
  • Fuel: Propane.
  • Form factor: Round, on legs.
  • BTU: 58,000
  • Range of heat: About 50 feet for peak warmth on a still day.

Performance

This is a little less powerful, and is designed to be a tabletop style solution. I see caterers use these a lot for ambiance, and they work well for it. Not my bag, but for the price, it’s still a pretty decent fire pit.

Pros Cons
  • Easy.
  • Heats decently.
  • Portable.
  • Gas is explosive.
  • Not as attractive.
  • Depends too much on UV.

Outland Living: Check the current price

15 Best-Selling Outdoor Fire Pits Comparative Table

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Yaheetech 32" Outdoor Metal Firepit Square Table Backyard Patio Garden Stove Wood Burning Fire Pit with Spark Screen, Log Poker and Cover

Where things can go wrong: Precautions

That said, to me, this is probably the best time to talk about fire pits. Now, I’ve personally always just built basic ones, digging a pit, lining it with stone and gravel, and just calling it a day. I’ve never bought a prefabricated one, mainly because I wouldn’t get enough use out of it to justify the cost. I’m not the most outdoorsy person there is, even when the weather is fair.

I have however lived places that already had one, and spent time at barbeques where others had fancier ones, so I’m not devoid of experience with them.

I’d like to share a little bit of personal experience with these, and where things can go wrong.

I rented a house with some friends some time ago (long time readers will remember the raccoon and hot tub story – same place, same season in fact), and the backyard of this place was pretty decked out. There was a pool, a hot tub, a fire pit and a very nice enclosed patio in this place. It was nice.

Well, the fire pit they had was actually gas-powered, and I think these are somewhat bad ideas. The regulator valve of the thing seized one night, and the flames started to die down a bit, and my friend said he was going to go check out why the fire was out. I advised him to not get that close, but he was as stubborn as I was, and as he got within a few feet, a massive fireball rose from it, throwing him a few feet and shaking the windows.

He wasn’t hurt, no damage was even done to the fire pit, but as a scientist by training, I know what could have happened, and in what ways it could have been so much worse. I tell you this to point out that I recommend charcoal or wood burning pits above gas (it makes better food anyhow), and if you want to use gas, to be so very, very careful, the stuff does in fact explode. Explosions are a lot louder in person than movies and TV would have you believe as well!