The best fire pits are the ultimate gadget for cozy outdoor living, whether it's summer or winter. Settling down in front of a beautiful, glowing fire is an experience like no other, and this is what you and your guests can enjoy when you make room on your patio for a stylish fire pit. They can quickly transform a cold yard into a welcoming evening hangout, and some will give you the opportunity to roast a sausage, a s'more, or perhaps even grill a fish or two.
Not every fire pit is created equal though. Some are straight wood-burning fire pits, some can incorporate charcoal, and some guzzle propane. As such, the best fire pits vary wildly, and there are some superb yet affordable options out there from reputable outdoor living brands such as Solo Stoves, BioLite, and Tiki Brand. These three in particular make fire pits that use clever airflow management to not only achieve a hotter burn, but to do away with most of the smoke too.
They sit closer to the higher end in terms of price, but buying the best fire pit does not necessarily mean burning money needlessly. You can pay anywhere from just over $100 to close to $1,000 for a fully-loaded fire pit setup, and - dare we say it - in some cases they can rival the best patio heaters in terms of warmth and price.
There's certainly an aesthetic advantage to a beautiful open flame, although there can also be a lot more ongoing maintenance required - and you'll usually need to be careful to protect the surface your fire pit is sitting on (we'd recommend using a heat protection mat). So let's break down our picks of the best fire pits for cozy outdoor gatherings now. And for other ways to entertain in your yard and create an inviting atmosphere, read our guides to the best gas grills and outdoor solar lights.
1. Tiki Brand Fire Pit: Best fire pits for parties
Balance is the order of the day here and Tiki Brand has perfectly combined the attractiveness and practicality of the Fire Pit's design and the convenience of its pellet-burning capabilities with the freedom to fire up logs if you prefer the ability to build a roaring fire with airflow which effectively cuts smoke down to the bare minimum.
It has a slide-out ash tray for easy cleaning, an assembly process that involves attaching just three screws, and a cover included. The only thing it lacks, at least as we write, is a spark shield - but only because Tiki Brand has gone back to the drawing board to create a better one, due in summer 2021.
This is pricier than some, but if you're planning an evening get-together it's the perfect centerpiece. If you want style and ultimate relaxation, we'd also suggest throwing in a hot tub to complete your garden oasis.
- Read our Tiki Brand Fire Pit review
2. BioLite FirePit+: Best fire pit for control
Biolite's innovative fire pit enables you to do more than you can with many, using a battery-powered Bluetooth system to control airflow, allowing you to tweak the size of its flames using your phone, and keeping smoke to a bare minimum.
Throw in some charcoal and you've got a portable hibachi grill, with a grill grate included; burn wood instead and you can make the most of its 'X-Ray Mesh' body, which offers a good view of the fire from three sides and radiates heat outwards for maximum warmth.
It isn't huge, and you'll definitely want to maintain it a little more often than some of the rough-and-ready fire pits on offer here, but there's nothing quite like it, particularly if you're planning a camping trip and need something to pull double duty.
3. Outland Living Mega Fire Pit: Best propane fire pit
The CSA approval of the Outland Living Mega Fire Pit means you can use it in places where burning wood fires are banned (see below for more on that) which is certainly one reason to pick it over the other fire pits in this guide - but it's also very convenient.
You can start it in seconds, switch it off rather than having to wait for a fire to burn out, convert it to natural gas if it's staying home, or carry it around without any of the mess of wood pits if you're on the move. It's very handsome, too, and includes everything you'll need bar a propane bottle.
And you may need more than one of those, depending on how much you burn it, since it has a maximum 58,000 BTU output, though this can be easily adjusted if you're happy with slightly smaller flames.
- Read our Outland Living Mega Fire Pit review
4. Amazon Basics 26" Geometric Square Fire Pit: Best cheap fire pit
Proof that you don't need to spend through the nose if all you need is a convenient place to build a fire, Amazon's bargain fire pit comes with everything you'll need, from a spark screen to a poker, and seems very sturdy with it.
Perhaps its pre-distressed looks won't be for everyone, but wood burners all tend to get a little charred after a few fires anyway - this has plenty of ventilation to allow good airflow, and radiates a heck of a lot of side-to-side heat.
It's square, too: that means you get far more room to build a fire than those pits with a 26-inch circular diameter. The Amazon Basics 26" Geometric Square Fire Pit is also on the lighter side, meaning you can move it where it needs to be with ease.
5. Bali Outdoors Wood Burner: Best fire pit for cooking food too
There's nothing to stop you roasting the odd marshmallow over one of our other top fire pits - or, indeed, adding your own grill grate over the top of them - but nothing else here can match the Bali Outdoors Wood Burning Fire Pit when it's time to use that heat for a little cooking.
It has an integrated grill top with a high capacity, as well as a generous shelf running around the top of the pit that's perfect for keeping things warm. And you won't be short of warmth, because this offers great outward radiation, and even has a ring around its legs which you can (carefully) use as a footrest.
The price isn't bad, either, although there's no spark shield and that grill may make it quite difficult to introduce your own.
- Read our Bali Outdoors Wood Burner review
6. Solo Stove Yukon: Best fire pit for big flames
While its stainless steel look is either likely to suit your patio or stand out like a sore thumb, Solo Stove's largest fire pit is capable of creating some truly huge flames, employing a furnace-like airflow system that drags air in under the fire as well as pulling it in around the top ring, reigniting smoke for a double burn.
It's really very clever - although its design does mean that cleaning out ash means inverting the whole thing. This is a luxury option, the most expensive fire pit on our list, and also the most basic by default; things get even more expensive once you've picked up a spark shield, a cover, and a host of other accessories. But if you're looking for a fire pit that'll impress, and one which will stand the test of time, this is it.
- Read our Solo Stove Yukon review
Today’s best fire pit prices
How to choose the best fire pit
Everyone's situation and reasons for wanting a fire pit are going to be different, so it's important to consider exactly how you might use it before biting the bullet. If it's likely to be left out in the open, make sure you pick a fire pit that's rust-resistant, and preferably one with a cover included.
If it's going to be used on a deck or grass, look for something which doesn't radiate its heat downwards, or pick up a heat-resistant barrier to stop things from getting scorched. And if you're not entirely sure where you'll use it, something portable is a real plus, to save you dragging 50lbs of dirty metal across your yard.
Keep an eye out for spark shields, which can stop errant embers flying out without cutting down on the heat, perfect if you're gathering around the fire pit to keep warm or using it near anything flammable - and look for fire pits that produce less smoke if you're going to get really close, because nobody likes a face full of fumes, and your neighbors will thank you.
Finally, bear in mind that fire pits need certain tools to make the most of them: check what's included when you buy, so you don't get stung by any hidden extra requirements.
Wood-burning laws when using fire pits in America
Wood burning fire pits can produce a large amount of smoke - or, to put it another way, a large amount of particle pollution. The EPA highly recommends burning only seasoned and dry firewood, with a moisture content around 20%.
It also recommends not burning it at all on days where there is an air quality alert. Burning green wood (or, indeed, anything other than wood) is a big no-no.
While there is no official legal restriction on wood-burning fires on a federal level, local governments often apply restrictions on recreational fires, and many campgrounds do not allow them, so check your state or city ordinance before buying.
It may be that you can only burn on certain days - the City of Albuquerque, for instance, has regular no-burn days designed to keep air quality high - and in times of drought you will likely find state-wide bans in place to prevent brush fires.