Smokeless Fire Pits to Warm Up Your Backyard

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If you light a wood fire, a couple of things are guaranteed to happen. One is that somebody will make s'mores (it's just about obligatory), and another is that wherever you sit, smoke will somehow wind up drifting into your eyes. Smokeless fire pits aim to give you all of the pleasure of that outdoor experience while taming the smoke. One fire pit is literally called "Bonfire 2.0," which pretty much conveys the whole concept. If you're ready to give your eyes—and your neighbors—a break from the smoke, we've selected six of the best smokeless fire pits for you to consider.

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How Smokeless Fire Pits Work

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of smokeless fire pits. One kind burns gas—usually propane—but there are a few natural gas fire pits, as well. Those are smokeless by default, because gas burns more cleanly than wood. We're not talking about those today. The other kind—the ones typically sold as "smokeless" fire pits—are fueled by wood, in the form of compressed wood pellets or conventional firewood. What makes them smokeless is their double-wall design, which uses airflow to create a "blast furnace" effect. The end result is an extra-hot fire, where most of the combustion by-products that would otherwise become smoke are burned instead through secondary combustion.

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Is it completely smoke-free? Sadly not, especially in the first few minutes when the fire is newly-lit and coming up to temperature But it does reduce smoke to a bare minimum, while still giving you the opportunity to enjoy a natural wood fire in the cool of the evening.

Tip

The highly efficient combustion of a low smoke fire pit (perhaps a better description than smokeless) means less smoke in the air and your clothes, but you’ll also burn through your firewood more rapidly. That’s not an issue at home, where you may only want a fire for an hour or two anyway, but it might be inconvenient if you’re camping and have to allow for extra firewood.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Smokeless Fire Pit

Fuel Source:‌ So which fire pit owner are you: Do you want to use relatively inexpensive cordwood, or clean-burning, convenient pellets? Most fire pits will let you use either kind of wood, but for some of the smallest and most portable fire pits, you might need to have your firewood specially cut to shorter lengths. Pellets are often the more practical option for these smaller pits, and have the advantage of burning cleanly and leaving less ash behind.

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Size:‌ Smokeless fire pits come in a range of sizes, from compact units that are perfect for you and your "plus one," to more deluxe models that can comfortably accommodate six or more. Smaller models are easier to move or even take with you to the beach, while larger ones are better for entertaining (and can sometimes be a pain to move, if needed). Medium- and large-sized fire pits give you more flexibility as to the size of wood you choose to burn.

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Overall Design:‌ Many smokeless fire pits are relatively simple stainless steel cylinders, but some have more eye-catching designs. Most are standalone, but a few are available for use as built-ins to give them a more traditional stone- or brick-faced appearance. Wood-burning fire pits need to be emptied, covered or moved indoors to protect them from the rain (wood ash forms caustic compounds when wet, corroding your fire pit), so it's handy if the pit you choose includes a lid or removable cover.

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Ease of Cleaning:‌ Moving a fire pit is inconvenient unless it's really small and light, and not all models have covers, so ideally the pit you choose will provide an easy way to remove the ash. The best smokeless fire pits typically have an ash tray that's easily removed and emptied. Some can just be tipped upside down and emptied out like a tin can, and then hosed clean. It's not necessarily the single make-or-break feature in your purchase decision, but it's something to be aware of when you're reading reviews.

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Warning

The airflow system used in smokeless fire pits helps them burn a lot hotter than a typical open fire, reaching temperatures that can range between 1400 and 1900 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the fuel type. They represent a substantial burn hazard, and you should never attempt to disassemble or empty one until it has cooled fully.

Image Credit: Kirk Fisher/iStock/GettyImages

The Best Overall Smokeless Fire Pit

A lot of smokeless fire pits look more or less alike, but not this one: The Tiki Fire Pit is still made of stainless steel, but it's powder-coated in a dark finish that contributes to its sleekly modern appearance. That being said, it's not all about looks. Its 25-inch diameter is large enough to make burning full-sized wood convenient, and you'll fit lots of family and friends around it (depending on the size of your patio furniture).

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At 43 pounds, it's hefty enough that you'll probably want to leave it in place, but not so heavy that it's daunting to move when necessary. That might not be often, because it does include a weather-resistant cloth cover in the purchase price. The company sells packs of pellets for burning or for use as fire starters, but you can use plain ol' kindling if you wish. Cleanup is especially easy, with a large, removable ash pan that simply pulls out and empties. It ticks all the main boxes, makes a nice fire, and looks good doing it. What more could you want?

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The Best Compact Smokeless Fire Pit

Solo's line of smokeless fire pits—the compact Ranger, mid-sized Bonfire and large Yukon—are all distinguished by clean design, excellent performance and relative light weight. That makes the Ranger an easy choice as the best compact fire pit, between its light weight (a little more than 16 pounds) and its 15-inch diameter. That's about as small as a fire pit can be while still using normal-sized firewood. Solo's design creates tremendous airflow almost immediately after you start the fire, so you'll get less smoke filling your outdoor space even while the fire's getting established. It even comes with its own drawstring carry bag for taking it to the beach or on a camping trip.

As the "2.0" in the name suggests, this is a redesign of the original Ranger. It now has a removable ash pan for easy cleaning, a feature it shares with its larger 2.0 siblings (so Bonfire 2.0 wasn't deliberately intended to be a description of the entire product category, just a happy accident).

The Best Heavy-Duty Smokeless Fire Pit

Like our top pick, the Breeo X series fire pits are visually distinctive. They're still a steel fire pit, but the exterior is made of corten steel framed in stainless. Corten is an alloy that's normally used for industrial and structural applications. It comes from the factory looking like regular blue steel, but quickly develops an earthy red-brown patina which—instead of weakening the metal—protects it from the elements and further corrosion. The company claims its outdoor fire pits will last a lifetime, and backs them accordingly with a limited lifetime warranty.

You can further round out your fire pit's capabilities with a wide range of high-quality accessories, including a lid, a spark screen, a grill grate or sear plate rim for cooking, and many more. You can also get the same fire pit in durable 304 stainless steel at a somewhat higher price, if that's a better fit for your personal esthetic. The Series 19 is the smallest of Breeo's X series at 22 inches' diameter and 47 pounds, but it's still plenty large enough for you and your friends. This pit and its two larger siblings can also be purchased in a bundle with accessory kits that let you use them as an insert, rather than a freestanding firepit, if that's a better fit for your ideal backyard design. Breeo invented the smokeless fire pit, and they still do it as well as anyone.

The Best Budget Fire Pit

If you're on a tight budget, or just want the ambiance of a bonfire at home without the usual amount of smoke, you can't go wrong with this lightweight and startlingly low-priced fire pit from Blue Sky. Assembly is pretty simple: There's a base, which serves as the ash pan, and you position the actual fire pit on top of it. Done!

At a diameter of 16 inches, it's barely larger than the Solo Ranger, but don't let the small size fool you. It's a very effective fire pit, and throws off a significant amount of heat whether you're burning firewood or pellets. The distinctively angular design and black finish make it visually appealing, as well. The pit also comes with a carry case, for camping or tailgating (bring the marshmallows!). Is it the best portable fire pit? That distinction probably goes to Solo's Ranger, but at roughly a third of the Ranger's price, the Blue Sky is all many people will need, and very good in its own right.

The Best for Warming a Space

This is a pretty aggressive price for a 24-inch fire pit from a well-known brand, but there's more to the Cuisinart than its sleek styling (black and stainless, very consistent with the rest of the company's line). Its bowl shape is common among conventional fire pits, but less so for a smokeless design. That's important, because despite their high-temperature operation, the heat generated by many cylindrical fire pits tends to go straight upwards.

The Cuisinart model is equally effective at smokeless operation, but its bowl shape means more heat is radiated down toward your legs and hands, as opposed to up around your face (and remember, the warm air will rise to envelop you thanks to natural convection). As with the Blue Sky model, the base serves as your ash pan, and you can simply lift off the bowl to empty it. The Cuisinart isn't perfect (the bowl shape means it won't hold as much wood at a time as other 24-inch pits), but there's a lot to like about it.

The Best Fire Pit for Cookouts

All of these fire pits can be used for cooking, with the addition of suitable accessories from the manufacturer or third parties. Breeo has an especially good line of cooking accessories, though they add significantly to the cost of what's already a premium-priced product. If you want a fire pit that's ready to cook with right out of the box, this one from Cast Master might just fit the bill. It's a simple stainless steel cylinder, like many other fire pits, but it comes complete with a grill grate that's custom-matched to its 19-inch interior. This gives it over 280 square inches of cooking surface, comparable to many charcoal kettles and perfectly adequate to cooking for a modest crowd. You can drop in the charcoal grate to use that as fuel instead, or stick with burning wood (it cooks well, either way).

It also comes with a carrying case for tailgating or going to the beach, though the lack of handles means it's not especially convenient to reposition once it's out of its bag. At 30 pounds, it's a bit large for true portability, but not at all difficult to sling in and out of your vehicle or tote across the sand. Still, at a price that compares favorably to most other fire pits and some of the best charcoal grills, it represents excellent value for the dollar.

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