Bear Grylls’s Top Tips for Building Cooking Fires Outdoors


As a survivalist, adventurer, and Chief Scout, Bear Grylls has had to light many fires for his survival and comfort over the years, and he has given a lot of advice on different ways to light fires as well.

If you’ve gone camping or have ever found yourself in a survival situation outdoors, you know how important it is to be able to light a fire in the wild—whether it’s for cooking food, providing warmth, boiling water to purify it, or warming water for a wash. Campsite fires also provide a focal point and a place to gather in the evenings.

If you plan to cook over a fire outdoors, here’s Bear’s advice on how to set it up: 

Making Sturdy Fireplaces

Image by Kevin Trimmer

You can set up different fireplaces for cooking, using natural materials like tree branches and rocks.

To set up a stable fireplace for a pot or kettle, Bear lights the fire in the center of three flat stones. This gives stability to support a large cooking pot, which can be balanced on the stones.

If the ground is uneven or there is a slope, Bear uses the slope and some large rocks to support the cooking utensils over the fire. Place some sharpened sticks or branches into the slope and rest the other end on rocks on the other side.

If you will be in one place for a long time, Bear says it’s a good idea to dig a hole to make a more permanent fireplace.

To make a simple fireplace with wind assistance, place two large logs parallel to the wind and light the fire in between them. The wind will keep the fire burning. 

Setting up Spits and Skewers

Bear makes natural skewers with pieces of wood or sticks. Place each piece of meat or fish on a stick and hold or balance them over the fire to cook, or insert one end into the ground for stability.

To make an easy spit for roasting food over the fire, sharpen the ends of two branches and drive them into the ground. Place a long stick across the fire to act as a spit.

For something sturdier, set up a large support branch over the fire. You can use this to hold utensils such as a pot or a kettle.

To set this up, place one end of a large forked branch in the ground and surround this with rocks to hold it into place. At the other end of the branch, sharpen a smaller branch and drive it into the ground. Rest one arm of the other end of the support branch onto this and use it along with the other arm to balance pots and kettles.

You can also use a large rock and a branch to make a “crane” to hang a pot from. Place the center of the branch on a large log and place the other end under a large rock. The free end can now be elevated over the fire, and this is where you hang the pot.

Other Cooking Fires 

Image by Harlan Schwartz

Bear creates a star-shaped fire by placing four logs in a star shape on the ground and lighting a fire in the center. Push the logs in as they burn for a long-lasting cooking spot.

He has also used a large slab of stone as a griddle. It will take a long time to heat up, but it will then stay hot for a long time. Make sure to use a dry, solid rock for this method.

Always Extinguish Your Fire

When you are leaving a campsite, always make sure to extinguish your fire properly, and always take precautions to keep a fire from spreading into dangerous forest fire.

What’s your favorite method for building a cooking fire?

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