How Do Smokeless Fire Pits Work? (2023)
Smokeless fire pits are effective at eliminating most smoke, but it’s important to know how they work, and what you can do to enhance the low-smoke environment.
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.Here's how we make money.
See our high-level takeaways below, or skip to our full review!Our Take:
- Durable 304 stainless steel construction
- Efficient burn requires more wood than some fire pits
- Options for multiple price points and preferences
- Portable enough to join the family camping trip
- Unique design reduces smoke substantially
- Less ash to clean up than traditional fire pits
Jump to: Full Review
- Choose between corten steel & stainless steel
- Heavier than its competitors
- Corten steel develops handsome patina
- Patent-pending X Airflow technology supports stronger fire
- Outpost accessory available for open-fire cooking
- Sear plate can be used to cook while you enjoy fire
- 100% USA manufactured
Jump to: Full Review
There is not much better than a backyard fire pit. After all, there's not much more relaxing than relaxing near a fire with family and friends.
A fire pit can make a great addition to any outdoor space. However, while fire pits are excellent for adding heat or another cooking area to your home, they do produce one drawback - smoke.
Fortunately, modern engineering allows us to enjoy all the benefits of fire pits without as much of the soot and horrible smoke smell you've come to know with a traditional fire pit.
How Do Smokeless Fire Pits Work?
The first thing you need to know is this: a smoke-free fire pit would be better described as a low-smoke fire pit in most instances. Still, these smokeless fire pits put off minimal smoke, andsignificantly less smoke than the alternatives.
So is a smokeless fire pit worth it? Yes, in our opinion, a smokeless fire pit is a great addition to any outdoor space. For most people doing their research, the decision will mostly come down toBreeo vs Solo Stove, and here are our favorites:
What Is a Smokeless Fire Pit?
The name pretty much says it all. These outdoor fire pits can produce intense heat and flames but without the smoke that comes along with burning wood. However, make no mistake - these pits still use wood. The secret isn't natural gas or propane fuel that you have to keep refilling all the time. There is nothing more authentic than a wood fire pit, and that is the trick here. The ability to enjoy a real wood fire without excessive smoke is the magic sauce.
Also, keep in mind that the word "smokeless" is not precise. These pits still create smoke, but their design allows the fire to burn any leftover soot before it escapes. This happens through a process called secondary combustion, which we will explain more momentarily. Basically, these pits burn both the wood and the smoke it produces, ensuring cleaner results.
As previously alluded to, you will notice smoke for the first 10 or 20 minutes after lighting your fuel. You may also notice smoke if you use excessive amounts of paper, cardboard, or specific store-bought fire starters as a fuel source. The trick is to learn how to use your unit, and how your smokeless fire pit works.
For now, know this: Using natural fire starters and hardwoods will create less smoke than most synthetic materials. Also, the hotter your fire pit is, and the more it spreads out toward the double walls of the burn chamber, the more efficient your fire will be, and the less smoke it will produce.
How Can A Fire Pit Be Smokeless?
The secret to these products is the design. But first, let's consider why wood produces smoke in the first place.
Wood contains four primary components: moisture, organic compounds (e.g., cellulose), carbon, and ash. When burning wood, you cause the water to evaporate, and the organic compounds ignite. Those compounds, mixed with steam from the moisture, create smoke. So, as the wood burns down, more compounds get exposed, creating more smoke.
After a while, all of these elements burn off, leaving a clean, smoke-free fire. This phenomenon is why hot charcoal doesn't produce as much smoke. All of the organic materials have burned away, leaving just the ash (non-burnable elements) and carbon left.
So, how does this affect smokeless fire pits? There are two reasons why these pits don't produce as much smoke as regular fire.
These pits have two sets of insulated walls with a gap between them. The opening traps air, which gets superheated from the heat of the flames. As the oxygen gets hot, it rises and then escapes from small holes at the top of the pit.
For smoke to burn, it needs sufficient heat and oxygen. So, the presence of superheated air at the top of the fire enables it to reignite. So, the smoke burns off before it escapes into the atmosphere. Interestingly, sometimes people will ask whether smokeless fire pits get hot, when the reality is that the excessive heat output is what enables the fire to re-burn its own smoke.
Bottom Air Flow
Oxygen is hugely vital for fire - this is why blowing on a small flame can cause it to grow quickly. So, smokeless fire pits will have a vent on the bottom that allows air to flow in from all sides. Regular fire pits collect ash on the bottom, preventing air from getting to the wood. When this happens, you'll notice extra smoke because the compounds can't burn off as easily.
These two design elements not only eliminate most of the smoke but also produce extra heat. So, whether you're trying to warm up outside or cooking some delicious food, you can utilize hotter, cleaner flames.
There are different ways to accomplish this additional airflow. Breeo, for instance, has a patented X Airflow system at the bottom of their fire pits. Two bars cross forming an X, and vent holes are designed into each bar. This effectively pulls fresh oxygen into the bottom of the fire and prevents that airflow from quickly becoming blocked by ash build-up.
Solo Stove, on the other hand, features a precision base plate with holes that allow spent ash to fall away from the fire and into the ash pan. By allowing the ash to fall away from the fire, and oxygen to flow into the base of the fire, much of the smoke is eliminated.
Where Does The Smoke Go On A Smokeless Fire Pit
The base of the fire pits is designed to allow airflow, even as the fire starts to produce ash. And because the airflow rises above the falling ash, less smoke is produced from the base of the fire. This is because burning ash produces smoke.
At the same time, the air is pulled into the bottom of the double-wall constructed burn chamber. As air flows between the two walls, the air is heated by the fire. The hot air then flows out vents at the top of the burn chamber, and secondary combustion takes place in which the smoke produced below the vent holes is re-burned.
Sometimes the best technology requires no computer chips, and that is the case with these fire pits. You will no longer need to sit around a campfire, and constantly feel the need to move your chair, because these newer outdoor fire pits are designed to avoid excessive smoke. There is a wide variety of options on the market, but at the most basic level, the enhanced airflow at the base of the fire is combined with double-wall construction that produces a secondary burn of remaining smoke.
The result is that the remaining smoke is burned away by a complete burn, from the same fire that produced the smoke at the point of primary combustion. Pretty incredible, really.
What's the Best Smokeless Fuel For Fire Pit?
Smokeless fire pits are designed for burning wood only. Be sure that you buy dry, clean wood for burning. If there's too much water, it will take longer to burn and create more smoke. You might be wondering how this differs from a propane fire pit. The reality is that we are talking apples and oranges to a certain extent.
Sure, propane fire pits don't produce much smoke, but they aren't very authentic either, and most people choose to keep their propane fire pits in more controlled settings like on your deck. If you are looking for a more traditional campfire experience, you need to use wood. The difference here is that newer smokeless fire pits, such as those made by Breeo and Solo Stove, allow for a more traditional campfire experience, but with significantly less smoke than a standard fire pit where you might burn wood logs.
Does Smokeless Fire Wood Exist?
Technically, no. All wood can and will create some smoke, but some types of wood will burn cleaner than others. Here are some crucial factors to pay attention to when choosing wood for your smokeless fire pit.
Dry Wood - The more moisture within the wood, the more smoke, and steam it will produce. Ideally, you can either buy extra-dry firewood or let your own chopped wood dry for a few weeks. Overall, as long as the moisture content is less than 10 percent, you don't have to worry about much smoke. Kiln-dried firewood is best. You may not have known there are so many firewood types, but kiln-dried firewood is the perfect option for a smokeless pit.
Clean Wood - As we mentioned, organic compounds create the most smoke, and some examples of these compounds include tree sap and bark. When choosing wood, make sure that it's as clean as possible. Not only can sap make a lot of smoke, but it can also produce an off-putting smell.
Thinner Pieces - The primary goal of a smokeless fire pit is to increase the airflow as much as possible. So, if you're trying to burn extra-thick logs, you'll wind up with more smoke than you want. Instead, it's much better to break the wood into smaller, thinner pieces. This way, more air can get around it, allowing the smoke to burn more easily.
Do Smokeless Fire Pits Really Work?
Yes, smokeless fire pits do work and are effective at reducing overall smoke output by a substantial amount. Smokeless technology is an innovative design that burns off excess smoke, which conventional fire pits don't do.
With this understood, we want to be clear in stating that this doesn't mean your experience will be completely smoke-free. You may experience some smoke when you are getting your fire started, and you may experience smoke if you don't use proper fuel.
Still, once you've learned how to properly use it, you will greatly appreciate the benefits of smokeless fire pits, as they do substantially and noticeably reduce the amount of smoke you will experience. And because smokeless fire pit designs work best when the fire is hottest and heat air to re-burn smoke, these units are premium fire pits that put off radiant heat.
Tips For Using A Smokeless Fire Pit
Since the purpose of these pits is to burn off as much smoke as possible, it is important to keep in mind there are things you can do to improve their efficiency. Fortunately, you can utilize some different techniques to ensure that you get as little smoke as possible, such as:
Don't Stack Wood Too High - Keep your wood below the air holes on top of the fire pit. If there's fuel above these holes, the smoke won't reignite before it enters the air.
Space Out the Wood - Putting too much fuel in the fire can also create excess smoke. When there are air pockets between pieces, compounds can burn hotter, creating more by-products like smoke. As a rule, you want to add just a few extra wood logs at a time.
Keep the Pit Clean - Cleaning your smokeless fire pit will keep it working well for much longer. After each use (and once the pit has cooled), be sure to remove any ash and charcoal. Also, check the air holes for any clogs or debris. Over time, soot and ash can collect inside the air pocket, so you might have to dust it out.
Use High-Quality Wood - As we illustrated above, the wood you use for your fire pit matters. Be sure to pick dry, clean wood whenever possible.
Are Smokeless Fire Pits Safer
In a way, yes, they are. You don't have to worry as much about embers and ash floating through the air as you do with regular fire pits. Since burning embers can be a fire hazard, using a smokeless fire pit can be safer overall. That said, the pit itself can get scalding hot, meaning that it takes a while longer to cool off. So, before cleaning the pit, be sure to test the surface. And while these units offer a cleaner burn, that doesn't mean there won't be any embers. A spark screen is the best way to avoid fly-away embers.
And because the smoke-free technology is more effective when the flames are hot and spread toward the outer walls where the air is heated for secondary combustion, it is important to use a heat shield between your pit and the surface it is sitting on. Pavers, stone, gravel, and even outdoor tiles work nicely. We recommend always using a shield, but you should especially avoid using it on composite decking or wood decks, without a heat shield.
Can You Cook On a Smokeless Fire Pit?
If you are interested in cooking, we recommend that you consider a Breeo fire pit, which we have reviewed extensively. The Breeo X Series is designed with cooking specifically in mind. The rim of the Breeo X Series is available with an optional sear plate, which is a thick stainless steel rim that is wide enough to cook vegetables, steaks, or even crab legs (I've done it!).
Still, the sear plate alone is nice for occasionally searing a steak, but it is insufficient for large-scale cooking, and that is why the Breeo is specifically designed to work with cooking accessories. The Breeo Outpost is the best fire pit cooking grate we've ever used. It slides into a purpose-built port that perfectly aligns the cooking grate over the fire. Plus, if you want to take the Breeo Outpost on a camping trip, it is designed with Anchor Point technology that allows you to stake the post in the ground and swivel the grill grate over the fire.
If that's not enough, you can then attach a kettle hook on the top of the Outpost post, which is designed to hold a flat bottom cast-iron kettle, which is perfect for cooking stews and other soups.
Competitor products like those sold by Solo Stove aren't designed for cooking. In fact, Solo Stove sells a purpose-built outdoor grill for cooking. And while the Solo Stove grill features 360-degree airflow to maximize heat efficiency, it doesn't include the low smoke technology that a smokeless pit would include.
So all of these pits put off sufficient heat for cooking, but only the Breeo X Series X Series is a smokeless pit actually designed for cooking, and the Breeo Outpost is a cooking attachment that facilitates incredible versatility and is the most advanced design you will find in a cooking grate.
How To Take Care Of Your Fire Pit
Keeping your pit clean and dry is the best way to take care of your fire pit and extend its useful life. While most of the smokeless pits are built from stainless steel or corten steel (architectural steel), they may still deteriorate over time if not properly cared for.
For instance, rain mixing with ash creates a harsh sludge that may speed the fire pit's deterioration. So what can you do? Do you have to move your fire pit to the garage when not in use? Not necessarily. This is another area where Breeo shines in comparison to Solo Stove. Breeo fire pits are built with a thicker gauge stainless steel, and the brand builds their pits so they can feasibly last decades in your backyard.
Solo Stove, on the other hand, recommends moving most of their fire pits to a dry area when not in use. Of course, keep in mind that all of their pits aside from the largest fire pit are considered portable. This is one consideration in comparing the Solo Stove Bonfire vs Yukon This is one of the reasons Solo Stove products are made with a thinner gauge stainless steel that makes them much lighter than Breeo pits.
Regardless of which brand you go with, clean out your fire pit after it cools, and use a lid, protective cover, or both, to keep the elements out of the burn chamber. If needed, clean with gentle dish soap and water.
The Best Smokeless Fire Pit
In determining what the best smokeless fire pit is, it is important to decide on its intended use, and how much space you have. If you are looking for a truly portable fire pit, then it will make sense to choose a product with a more compact design, such as the Solo Stove Ranger. It's a lightweight fire pit that can easily be cleaned out and taken with you on the next family road trip.
The Ranger is the perfect size for a campsite and produces a beautiful flame, though the Solo Stove Bonfire might be the better option for your back patio, and while it is slightly larger than the Ranger, it is portable too.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a permanent addition to your backyard, then the Breeo X Series or Breeo Luxeve make more sense. The stainless steel construction uses a thicker gauge material, and while this heavy-duty steel construction makes the pit heavier than the competition, this is also a sign it is built for longevity. And here is a pro tip: The Breeo X series can be custom-built with either stainless steel or corten steel. The corten steel develops a beautiful patina over time.
And if you want a pit for cooking, there really is no better option than aBreeo X Series, with sear plate ring, Breeo Outpost grill grate, and attachable kettle hook and cast-iron kettle. You get the benefit of cooking on a hotter fire, which is the result of the efficient design but without dealing with the pesky smoke.
For a bigger backyard where you expect to have big gatherings, consider either the larger Breeo X Series (it comes in a few sizes) or the Solo Stove Yukon. The largest X Series is 30 inches in diameter on the inside of the burn chamber, while the Yukon is 27 inches in diameter from the outer wall to the outer wall. So yes, you could fit the largest Yukon inside the largest X Series, but they are both larger fire pits that will serve as a perfect heat source to gather around with family and friends.
So, what's our favorite fire pit? We've reviewed everything from the high-end Arteflame to the lower-end Blue Sky, and in our opinion, Breeo and Solo Stove are the best options. Choose Solo Stove if you are looking for a lightweight and portable fire pit, and choose Breeo X Series if you want a more permanent solution where you could even cook up family meals.
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox!
The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners. All company, product and service names used in this website are for identification purposes only. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.
It is our policy to make every effort to respect the copyrights of outside parties. If you believe that your copyright has been misused, please provide us with a message stating your position and we will endeavor to correct any misuse immediately.
Some products we try first-hand, while other products we review based on detailed research, without trying them first-hand. Of the products we try first-hand, some products we receive for free in exchange for an honest review, and other products we pay for. Given the range of products we review, research is essential to every review we share.