A crackling outdoor fire brings people together like nothing else. Watching the mesmerizing flames under a starry night sky creates an unforgettable atmosphere in your backyard. But ordinary fire pits have some downsides. They don’t retain heat well, producing weak flames that struggle in windy weather. And over time, they deteriorate from exposure to the elements.
That’s why cast iron fire pits have become a popular alternative. The heavy cast iron construction absorbs more heat, pumping out cozier fires that stay strong in windy conditions. Cast iron also ages beautifully, developing a rustic patina over time. With a quality cast iron fire pit, you’ll enjoy many years of memories around the fire with family and friends.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cast iron fire pits, including:
- How to choose the right size, design, and features for your needs
- Reviews of the top 5 highest rated cast iron fire pit options
- Frequently asked questions about using and maintaining cast iron fire pits
- Tips for properly caring for your cast iron pit to maximize its lifespan
Let’s get started!
How to Choose the Perfect Cast Iron Fire Pit
Selecting the right cast iron fire pit comes down to considering a few key factors:
One of the most important decisions is choosing the diameter size that will fit your space appropriately. Consider how many people you’d like to gather around the fire comfortably.
Larger fire pits around 30-40 inches across allow 4-6 people to sit together. Smaller models in the 20-30 inch range are best for 1-4 people. Measure the area you want to place it to ensure enough clearance.
It’s better to go larger rather than smaller if you have the space. The ample room creates a welcoming social atmosphere. You also get higher heat output and stronger flames with a bigger fire pit.
While round is the classic shape, cast iron fire pits also come in square, rectangle, and octagon designs.
The main benefit of square/rectangle shapes is they can tuck perfectly against corners, walls, or other hardscaping features in your yard. Round styles are better for open areas where traffic circulates all around.
Some models include wheels or casters for easy mobility. This is beneficial if you need to store the fire pit seasonally or want to move it around occasionally.
Wheeled fire pits also work nicely on balconies, patios, or rooftop decks where they need to be positioned carefully. Just be sure to place on a non-flammable surface even when moving.
Adjustable Cooking Surface
Certain cast iron fire pits have adjustable cooking surfaces that move up and down over the flame. This creates versatility to lower it for roasting food or raise it up for open fire ambiance.
Models with adjustable cooking grates make excellent backyard grill replacements. They allow you to sear meats and veggies over the open fire for amazing flavor.
Most cast iron fire pits feature decorative cutout patterns on the side panels. These provide added visual interest and glow beautifully at night when the fire illuminates the cutout design.
Some popular cutout motifs are floral shapes, stars, moons, sunbursts, and other abstract flows and swirls. Look for a style that fits your personality and backyard decor.
Fire Bowl Depth
Deeper fire bowls contain sparks better and also accommodate larger logs and bigger fires. Look for a depth of at least 10 inches. Anything shallower lets embers fly out more easily.
The covered spark guard screens help contain embers as well. But a roomy fire bowl also reduces the risk.
Examine the overall construction and thickness of the cast iron used in manufacturing. Lighter, thinner metal leads to warping problems over time as it expands and contracts with heat.
High quality cast iron fire pits made from 1/4-inch thick or more iron cost more but resist warping issues. Check that any legs, stands, or wheels are also made of tough steel.
Any cast iron fire pit you choose should have certain safety features like:
- Mesh spark guard screens to contain flying embers
- Fire pokers for stoking and moving logs
- Handles that stay cool to the touch for safe maneuvering
- High side walls to prevent accidental contact
Look for models that emphasize these important safety considerations. Don’t compromise on a unit missing any of these features.
You can find basic smaller cast iron fire pits for around $100-$200. But larger higher-end models run $300 on up to $500+.
Set a budget based on the quality and longevity you expect. Also make sure it includes any accessories you need. Sturdy metal covers, grilling grates, log racks and spark screens all add to the cost.
Some top manufacturers known for quality cast iron fire pits are:
- Landmann – very popular brand carried widely; excellent quality in the medium price range
- Uniflame – moderately priced but durable construction that lasts
- Sunnydaze – wide range with great budget-friendly options
- Pleasant Hearth – pricier but high quality and stylish designs
- Best Choice Products – low-cost importer with smaller, portable models
Having compared the key factors to consider, let’s look at 5 highly rated cast iron fire pit options.
Top 5 Cast Iron Fire Pits for Backyard Enjoyment
1. Landmann 28345 Big Sky Stars & Moons Firepit
This customer favorite from Landmann features a large 33-inch diameter wide enough for 4-6 people. The bowl depth measures a roomy 12 inches to contain sparks.
Beautiful cutouts of stars and moons make a decorative statement day or night when illuminated by the fire. Durable 1/4-inch thick steel construction ensures stability and longevity.
Weighing 120 pounds, this substantial fire pit won’t get knocked around in windy conditions. The black powder coated finish resists rusting. Bronze accents on the legs and handles add character.
Pros: Large size, deep fire bowl, attractive cutout design, sturdy long-lasting construction
Cons: Requires two people for assembly, heavy if needing to move frequently
Price Range: $$
2. Uniflame Endless Summer Square Fire Pit
This square-shaped cast iron pit fits snugly into corners. The 27-inch width accommodates 2-4 people comfortably.
A unique benefit is the adjustable cooking grate that moves up and down over the fire. This allows for precise temperature control when grilling.
The deep fire bowl contains sparks and the mesh screen adds safety. Attractive bronze diamond cutouts glow at night. Durable cast iron construction resists elements and rust.
Pros: Adjustable grate, square shape good for corners, tough bronze finish, moderate size
Cons: Requires more maintenance to limit rust in coastal areas
Price Range: $$$
3. Sunnydaze 36 Inch Outdoor Fire Pit Bowl
At only $120, this budget-friendly model from Sunnydaze provides great value. The large 36-inch diameter works well for larger gatherings up to 8 people.
Decorative diamond and circle cutout patterns emit a warm glow. The mesh screen, poker, and cool touch handles maximize safety.
1/4-inch thick steel construction resists warping. Easy roll wheels make it portable. Also includes a bonus cooking grate for grilling versatility.
Pros: Low cost, huge size, portable wheels, cooking grate included
Cons: Requires more rust protection and maintenance
Price Range: $
4. Pleasant Hearth Martin Cast Iron 3-in-1 Fire Pit
This elegant fire pit has a wide 36-inch diameter bowl to create a cozy warmth zone. Intricate star and moon cutout designs are visually striking day or night.
The integrated wood grate provides a raised surface to build fires and allows for airflow underneath. A removable mesh screen adds security.
Thick cast iron construction makes this pit very sturdy but still reasonably lightweight at just under 100 pounds. Rust-resistant coating limits maintenance needs.
Pros: Stylish decorative design, large size, good value, sturdy integrated wood grate
Cons: Doesn’t have adjustable grill height options
Price Range: $$
5. Best Choice Products Small Space Outdoor Fire Pit
Measuring just 22-inches across, this compact cauldron-style fire pit is a great option for small spaces. The spherical shape adds modern flair.
Four caster wheels make it ultra portable to use in different areas or store away seasonally. The mesh screen and fire poker maximize safety.
Thick cast iron construction retains heat nicely despite the small size. Perfect for apartments, balconies, and patios with limited room.
Pros: Very portable, great for tight spaces, unique modern design
Cons: Not large enough for big groups
Price Range: $
This covers 5 top-rated cast iron fire pits spanning a range of sizes, features, and budgets. Read on for frequently asked questions about using and caring for cast iron fire pits.
FAQs About Enjoying Cast Iron Fire Pits Safely
How much assembly do they require?
Most cast iron fire pits only need minimal assembly to attach the legs or wheels. Many are ready for use right out the box. But larger or more complex models can take a few hours to put together. Have 2 people assemble bigger fire pits for an easier process.
What can you safely burn in a cast iron fire pit?
The best fuels are dry hardwoods like oak, hickory, or maple logs. Avoid overly resinous soft woods like pine that spit embers more. Some fire pits allow burning charcoal briquettes as well. Never burn trash or driftwood which release toxic smoke.
How do you prevent cast iron fire pits from rusting?
Proper curing and seasoning upon purchase creates a protective layer. Covering your fire pit when not in use prevents moisture exposure that causes rust. Applying high heat paint regularly also maintains the finish.
What safety precautions should you take with a cast iron fire pit?
- Place on a non-flammable surface like stone, concrete, or mineral soil – not wood decks
- Maintain a clearance of at least 3 feet on all sides from anything combustible
- Never leave a fire unattended
- Have a fire extinguisher and hose/bucket of water nearby
- Instruct children to keep safe distance
Can you cook over a cast iron fire pit?
Models with adjustable cooking grates are ideal for grilling and searing foods over the open flame. On standard pits without grates, you can place a grill grate accessory over the top to cook on. Avoid putting food directly on open flames which can deposit soot.
Are cast iron fire pits allowed on wooden decks?
It’s unsafe to use cast iron fire pits directly on top of wooden decks or porches. The intense heat can ignite the wood. Only place on noncombustible surfaces like stone or concrete. Use extreme caution if placing on balconies or rooftop patios. Consult your building code for regulations.
How much heat do cast iron fire pits emit?
Cast iron absorbs and radiates heat efficiently. A quality fire pit provides enough warmth for 4-6 people seated around it on cold nights. Smaller ones adequately heat just 1 or 2 people. Wind blocks can boost heat by reducing air flow. The larger the diameter, the more cozy heat is produced.
What maintenance do you need to perform on a cast iron fire pit?
- Remove ash buildup regularly
- Cover the pit when not in use
- Refinish with high temperature paint as needed to combat rust
- Store in a protected area during rainy or winter months
- Check periodically for cracks or damage
- Keep any moving parts properly lubricated
Caring for Your Investment: How to Make Your Cast Iron Fire Pit Last
Like any outdoor gear, proper care and maintenance makes a big difference in longevity. Follow these tips to get the most enjoyment out of your cast iron fire pit for years to come:
Cure It Correctly
Carefully follow the manufacturer’s curing process when you first get your fire pit. This involves slowly building up low temperature fires to harden the cast iron. Proper curing prevents future cracking and establishes a protective finish.
Keep It Covered
Invest in a durable weatherproof cover to place over your fire pit when not in use for long periods. Even high quality cast iron can eventually rust without protection from rain and moisture when stored outside.
Remove Ashes Frequently
Don’t let ashes accumulate much more than an inch or two before cleaning out. Regular ash removal improves airflow and prevents smothering the fire. Scoop them into a metal container using heat-safe ash tools.
Check for Creeping Critters
Critters like spiders or rodents can sneak into fire pits and take up residence. Carefully remove any debris or nest materials to keep them clean. Avoid burning logs infested with insects which can spread.
Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint
High temperature spray paint formulated for stoves and grills renews and protects the finish. Use a wire brush to remove any loose flaking pieces first. Rustoleum and Stove Bright brand paints work well.
Touch Up Scratches
If scratches appear, lightly sand the area with fine grit sandpaper to remove burrs or raised edges. Wipe clean before spraying on fresh paint. Enamel paint fills in scratches best.
Keep It Lubricated
Apply lubricating oil to any hinges, wheels, or moving parts monthly. This prevents annoying squeaks or stuck components that won’t budge. Avoid cooking oils which can get gummy.
Check for Cracks
Inspect your fire pit carefully each season for any small cracks forming, especially around welds or joints. Cracks allow quicker rusting from water seeping in. Use high heat caulk to seal any small cracks.
Wheel your fire pit into a protected garage or shed during the rainy season or winter months if possible. This limits harsh exposure that accelerates wear. If keeping outside, keep covered.
Remove Ashes Before Storing
Don’t let ashes sit inside the bowl if storing your fire pit for extended periods when not in use. Wood ash can retain moisture and promote rust if left for months.
Treat your cast iron fire bowl with care and it will provide enjoyment for many years to come. Follow this advice and you’ll have memorable backyard gatherings around a glowing fire for seasons on end. The same fire pit could even get passed down as a family heirloom.
Gather Around Your New Fire Pit
Few things feel as comforting and timeless as gathering with loved ones around a crackling fire under the night sky. Cast iron fire pits evoke simpler times but provide modern convenience and durability.
We’ve covered the key steps from choosing the ideal size, shape and features to properly caring for your new fire pit. Use this guide to make an informed decision matching your needs and outdoor space.
Rest assured the high quality thick cast iron construction will endure for decades when maintained according to our tips. That makes a cast iron fire pit a smart long-term investment that returns fond memories for years to come.
Now it’s time to break out the graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. Your new favorite backyard getaway awaits. Let the laughter and meaningful conversations last late into the evening as the glowing flames light up the darkness.