Best Cooking Campfire Layout   Recently updated !

Keyhole campfire layout

Best cooking campfire layout
The “Keyhole” campfire
Cooking those delicious campfire recipes is a lot easier when you have the right campfire layout – one designed for cooking and campfire safety.

A good cooking campfire is more than just a flaming pile of wood in a campfire ring.

Unless you are just roasting hot dogs on a stick, your campfire recipes will probably call for a combination of open flame direct heat, and the slower heat of a bed of coals.

If you have the choice of laying out your own campfire, a “key-hole” layout is best. But even if you are restricted to a contained campfire ring or other pre-made fire enclosure, like campfire grills, you can still get the best cooking results with just a little thought when building your fire. Regardless of whether you build a campfire to cook with a Dutch oven, or a skillet or griddle using a cast iron grill, your secret campfire recipes will turn out best when you have a campfire layout that cooks the way you need it to.

The concept behind the “keyhole” campfire layout:

  • Most campfire camping recipes call for both hot, direct flame heat, and, more controlled heat from hot coals – especially Dutch oven recipes. This layout provides for an area where hot coals can be raked out of the “roaring” vertical fire to a “semi-separate” more controlled “hot coals” area
  • Campfires are also for sitting around. This “keyhole” layout provides an area for a great roaring, (or subdued), campfire to enjoy, and an area of hot coals for cooking – or just peering into.

If you were just looking for directions to actually stack, build, and light a campfire; Here is an illustrated step-by-step “how to build a campfire” guide.

Your campsite will probably not have a bunch of rocks laying around to build your campfire layout, (like in the illustration), but for safety you should have some type of border around your campfire.

Large pieces of bulk firewood can be used if rocks or fire rings are not available.

Tip: A good pair of campfire gloves is almost a must-have for campfire cooking. Here is a guide to some good choices for campfire cooking gloves.

Now, the question is …
What else could you use to make those delicious camping recipes easier to cook using a campfire?

Campfire Cooking Grills

Campfire Grates and Grills:
Even if your campsite provides fire rings – they usually don’t have cooking grates, (or they are very small and immovable), a cooking grate will make it a lot easier to cook over a campfire.
They are not expensive, and models like the one above are made of sturdy steel, and have legs that fold-up to make packing and transporting a snap.


campfire cooking tripod and grill

Campfire Cooking Tripods and Grills:
If you prefer more flexibility – a campfire cooking tripod, with or without a grill, may be something to consider. With their adjustable chains, they allow better heat control and versatility.

Just make sure it has sturdy legs and an all-metal linkage at the top, like the one in the image above.


Where to the best prices on the camping gear you need:

The logical thought is your local camping and outdoor supply store. And that may be a good choice if you can catch a hot sale. But quality camping cookware and equipment can be pricey, – so go prepared, check online prices first so you have something to compare to. is a good place to check first. They are the most trusted marketplace online, their prices are usually better than anywhere else. Almost every item qualifies for Free shipping for purchases over $25, and their free 3 – 5 day standard shipping is almost always faster than that. Plus, their return policy is better and easier than Walmart’s.

Here are some examples of other camping equipment and cookware you might need.
*Note – all shopping links are my own Amazon affiliate links that I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus

Even if you are not interested in buying now, they will give you an idea of the choices you have and the prices you can expect.



Storage Tips: How to pack your cooking gear; The first Choice would be a real camping chuck box, but if you are not that “into it” yet, then a 30-gal plastic tote works, or even plastic milk crates, or a large canvas duffel bag. Just stay away from cardboard boxes, sooner or later, (probably sooner), the bottom will fall out and all your gear will be on the ground.

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Another reason to check-out Amazon, — free standard shipping. Camping equipment can be heavy, and almost everything discussed here will ship for free if your purchase is over $35!

Notes and discussions:

Here are a few more pieces of camping gear you might be interested in:

You can make your own wax-based fire starters for outdoor camping, (and for fireplaces and deck fire pits), but fire starters like these on the left, by Coleman, are so inexpensive and easy to use that you’ll never use paper or tinder again for your campfires. See available Coleman Strike-a-Fire Fire Starters


Once you use a folding camp shovel, and discover all its uses around camp you will wonder why you didn’t include one in your camp gear sooner. This sturdy but light-weight Coleman model is so compact it even fits in a 10″ carry-bag. Here are some of the models available: Folding Camp Shovel

Here are some samples of other campfire cooking gear you can find on Amazon. Just like the fire starters, once you have one of these camp tools you will wonder how you ever did without it. Especially when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.

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