Indefinitely Wild

BioLite’s FirePit Is the Best Portable Grill Ever

It's smokeless and sears hotter than anything else I've tried

Do not try this at home. Stunts performed by professional stunt dogs. And yes, that is Robert Young Pelton's latest knife, the 100 percent made in America HEST/F Urban Ti. (Wes Siler)

The trick to grilling meat well? Getting a fire hot enough to sear the outside, locking in moisture and flavor, while also being able to lower the heat so you can cook the steak or burger gently. Thanks to its integrated fan, Biolite’s new FirePit is able to quickly and easily perform both tasks. It functions as an outstanding smokeless fire pit, too. All in a package that’s affordable and reasonably portable.

What Is It?

The FirePit is a rectangular box made out of perforated sheet metal that sits on folding legs. The legs keep it from burning the surface it’s resting on, and the perforations let you see the fire through the walls and let the heat radiate out. All that's pretty conventional. It’s what’s inside that makes this thing special.

First is the fuel grate, which either rests just above the bottom of the pit, facilitating good airflow, or hangs higher up, moving the fuel closer to the grill grate. That grate slides securely along the length of the pit, allowing you to easily add more fuel or remove whatever it is you’re cooking from the heat. 

Second is the forced air system, which blows air from an external, battery-powered fan. Like a blacksmith using a bellows, forcing air into a fire makes it burn much hotter. More heat can be good for cooking or warming yourself up, and it also makes a fire burn cleaner. That’s what gives BioLite’s FirePit the ability to run virtually smoke-free.

That external fan and its 10,000 mAh battery unit detach, so you can easily bring it inside to charge via micro-USB.

BioLite_FirePit-Chimney
Just like any other grill, you'll have an easier time getting your charcoal going if you use a chimney. But, the FirePit's forced air induction helps speed that along, and will make starting your charcoal inside the grill reasonably painless as well. (Wes Siler)

Who Is It For?

The FirePit is portable, but as it weighs 20 pounds, you won't be taking it anywhere that you wouldn't take a large cooler. It’d be ideal for tailgating, hanging out on a beach, car camping, or using in your yard or patio. The rectangular shape means it’ll fit better onto small decks or patios than a traditional round metal fire pit, and the folding legs make it easy to shove in the back of a car or truck, even if it does take up as much room as a 35-quart cooler.

Design

Unlike other wood-burning BioLite gadgets, the FirePit does not try to reclaim energy from heat. That creates a simple product with a clear purpose—the FirePit burns stuff really well. You can use the battery included in the detachable fan unit to charge stuff via USB, but like other products from the brand, its output is very limited (just 2 Amps), so you’re best using that USB port to run one of the accessory lights. 

BioLite-FirePit-Sear
Searing the strips after 30 seconds on one side. (Wes Siler)

Using It

I’m not a fan of BioLite’s original product, the CampStove. It’s too heavy to take backpacking, too small to be much use car camping, and cooks way too slowly, while requiring you to constantly top it up with fresh sticks. After trying and failing to find a use for the slick-looking package, I’d written off the brand entirely.

And then I saw the FirePit. Instead of trying to turn fire into a phone charge, it simply sets out to make a really good flame. I like fire. And I love the FirePit.

To test it, I cooked steaks for me, my girlfriend, and our two spoiled mutts. Starting with the fuel basket in the raised position, I filled the chimney with natural lump charcoal, then used the FirePit’s fan to help get that going quickly. Once those coals were glowing red, I emptied the chimney into the fuel basket, topped it up with more charcoal, and slid the grill grate closed. With the fan running on high, the entire thing went from cold to ready-to-sear in under 15 minutes.

On high, the fire created a convincing, dark sear on the steaks in just 30 seconds per side. I then pulled the meat off, turned the fan down low, and scooted the coals to one side of the grill. After resting the meat for 20 minutes, I inserted a thermometer, and returned it to the cold side of the grill for about eight minutes, until it reached 130 degrees. The result wasn’t the best steaks I’d ever cooked—that honor remains with my Big Green Egg—but it was an awful lot better than I’m typically able to achieve in camp, with only an eighth-inch or so of gray between the black sear and the pink inside.

We pulled the potatoes out of the foil, added some collard greens, used the tongs to lower the fuel basket to the low position, added some cord wood, and enjoyed lunch by the fire. With the fan on high, the FirePit burns wood very hot, leading to its near-smokeless performance. Heat radiates out through the perforated sides. With the fan turned low, there’s a small amount of smoke, and the flames climb a little higher as combustion becomes less efficient.

Once the fire was cool, I was able to slide open a hatch in the bottom of the pit, and easily empty all the ash into a metal bucket. Burning a fire after cooking meant that all the grease was cooked off, and the inside of the pit is a bit ashy, but not sticky or gross.

BioLite-FirePit-Steak
My foolproof method for grilling steaks is: Rub both sides with a liberal amount of non-virgin olive oil and your favorite seasoning. Put a quick sear on both sides at the highest temperature you can achieve on your equipment. Set steaks aside and rest for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to low, insert meat thermometer, and cook to 130 degrees. Works on a campfire, a grill, or even in a cast iron pan on a gas range. For camping, I like Omaha Steaks Private Reserve. They're great quality at a reasonable price, and the individual vacuum-sealed packages make freezing them, transporting them, and defrosting them a cinch. (Wes Siler)

Likes

  • Slick design looks great with a fire burning inside, especially at night when you can really see through the perforated walls.
  • Easy and intuitive to use. Put stuff you want to burn inside, light it, turn the fan on, and you’re good to go. You won’t have any trouble getting your fire or coals going in this thing.
  • Works incredibly well as a grill, giving you fine control of cooking temperature at the push of a button.
  • Grill conveniently and securely slides off the fire, allowing you to add more fuel or move meat away from the heat.
  • 10,000 mAh battery provides long runtimes—five hours on high, 24 on low.
  • Burns virtually smoke-free on high.
  • Sears hot. 
  • Fan/Battery unit detaches easily so you can bring it inside to charge.
  • Rectangular shape makes the most of small spaces. If it’s safe to do so, the FirePit would work great on the deck or patio of an apartment.
  • Fan is very quiet, even on high.

Dislikes

  • For cooking, it’d be really nice to have a lid.
  • Eats up charcoal on high at an alarming rate.
  • A little large even for car camping. It’d be nice to see a smaller version.

BioLite-FirePit-Fire
The FirePit works great as a fire pit, too. The forced air induction helps the fire burn hotter, which eliminates most of the smoke, while projecting heat strongly outwards. (Wes Siler)

Should You Buy It?

Doubling as both an excellent fire pit and an amazing grill, the FirePit will be the perfect partner for fun evenings outdoors. You’ll appreciate how easy it makes it to get a fire going or to start a nice even bed of coals, and you’ll enjoy cooking on it, then standing around it later to stay warm.

At $200, it’s priced well, too. Pre-orders are available on Kickstarter until October 20. 

Buy Now

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