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Because I love campfire cooking, knowing how to work with the heat of a campfire is essential! Because of this I wondered, what IS the hottest part of a campfire?
The hottest part of a campfire is the air in the middle of the firewood “teepee.” In the area above the ground, but under where all of the firewood meets at the top of the fire, temperatures can exceed 1400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Read on to see how I tested this out!
How I tested the campfire temperatures
To test the temperature of the fire I used an infrared thermometer. The thermometer has a laser that puts a red dot on the area you are testing the temperature of.
For each area below, I tested the same area multiple times to ensure I was getting a consistent and accurate temperature reading.
The wood I was using was seasoned hickory.
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What is the hottest part of the campfire-the test!
I wanted to start an average campfire so I lit the firewood in the classic campfire “teepee” configuration. I would consider it to be a fairly small fire, and I am betting larger campfires or bonfires temperatures could be much higher than the one I tested!
*Know that as I was holding the thermometer on the fire it would fluctuate around 50 degrees as the fire changed slightly. These are estimates, not exact temperatures.
The reading at the base of the campfire only registered around 122 degrees Fahrenheit, which surprised me!
In the empty spaced underneath where the tops of the pieces of firewood touch, the air right in the center of the campfire maxed out my thermometer! My model registers temperatures up to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was above that.
I researched how hot a campfire gets and the numbers vary slightly, as they would in real-life conditions, and I found numbers ranging anywhere from 970 degrees (which our exceeded) to 1650 degrees Fahrenheit.
The top of the highest piece of wood in our campfire teepee was about 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
I also wanted to test the air above the campfire and I was surprised that it registered only at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
What influences the heat of my campfire?
Unless you are in a scientific lab setting, the heat of a campfire is never going to be consistent because there are so many variables that affect it.
A few factors that determine the heat of your campfire:
- Species of the wood-hardwoods are more dense and burn hotter than softwoods
- Moisture content-firewood that isn’t completely seasoned or that has been exposed to moisture won’t burn as hot as dry firewood
- Level of decay-firewood that has rot is less dense and has a higher moisture content and for both of those reasons, it burns cooler
- Wind conditions-oxygen is fuel to a fire so a breeze is going to result in a hotter burning fire
- Size of the fire-a larger campfire or bonfire not only has more wood fuel available to turn into heat, but the internal, hotter part of the fire has more insulation and can definitely exceed the temperature of my fire tested above!
How can I make my campfire hotter?
Besides using hardwood that is properly seasoned and building a bigger fire, is there any other way to pull more heat from your campfire? The answer is yes, and it is an easy fix!
Campfire bellows are a metal tube that you blow air into at the base of the fire. Your breath has enough oxygen in it to add fuel to fire right where it needs it the most, heating it up.
In fact, after this experiment, I hadn’t thrown any logs on for a while and the fire started to peter out. I used the campfire bellows and a few moments later the fire had raged back to life.
These are inexpensive and take up very little room, but are great for heating up a fire, and for getting one started, as well.
The model I have is the Pocket Bellows and you can see it on Amazon here.
How an infrared thermometer is useful when campfire cooking.
If you are someone who doesn’t love the guesswork part of campfire cooking, you may find an infrared thermometer to be incredibly useful.
I used the thermometer to test how high on the tripod chain my dutch oven needs to be off of the firewood to get specific cooking temperatures, which you can read a bit more about int he next section.
What I found to be useful was that I could test both the exterior and contents of my dutch oven during the cook to get a good idea of what temperature I was cooking at. This is especially useful for a new campfire cook who hasn’t yet learned from experience, but doesn’t want to have a bunch of cooking fails while trying!
See the one I got from Amazon here.
How high above the fire do I put my dutch oven for campfire cooking?
I will show more results in an upcoming article soon, but using the method I described above, I tested how high a dutch oven is on the chain in the tripod and how hot the dtuch oven got.
I found that to cook at approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the dutch oven needs to be nearly touching the top of the wood in the campfire.
At about 7-10″ off of the firewood, a PREHEATED dutch oven will cook at just under 200 degrees. This is around the same temperature you would cook at in a crockpot on low. You can give your supper a quick start by starting it low, touching the top of the wood in the campfire for a few minutes and then moving it up once the oven has heated.
How can I quickly and easily start my campfire?
If you struggle to start campfires, try the 6-Pack-in-a-Box method!
Keep cartons from 6-packs in your laundry room and shove the link from your dryer in the holes in the 6-pack.
Find small boxes that your 6-pack cartons will fit inside.
When you are ready to start your fire, put your lint filled 6-pack in a box. Put a piece of lint in the box, but outside of the 6-pack and light that lint.
Once it lights, build your campfire teepee right on the box for support. You won’t have to worry about your firewood toppling over, AND the lint gets the fire going fast
Thanks for reading, and have fun at your next burn!
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Cooking with a tripod over a fire feels a little like I should be camping next to my covered wagon. It’s old school, rustic, and pretty darn fun. But, if you’re going to cook over an open fire, make sure you get one that’s sturdy! This Lodge tripod is the model that I use and I don’t think it will every give out on me or need replaced. Get yours here and start your campfire cooking adventure now!