Iron Vs. Stainless Steel Fire Pits

Sandra Kirkland

Since man first discovered fire and learned how to harness it, there have been fire pits, from the simplest campfires to elaborate fire bowls. Some are made specifically to be portable, while others are dug in the ground with a stone surround, but most are made of either cast iron or stainless steel to be used as a warm and welcoming spot in the garden or on the patio. The differences between cast iron and stainless steel fire pits are worth noting.

Weighing in

Fire pits can be simple, plain and portable.
An antique cast iron stove can serve as a fire pit.

A determining factor in choosing between an iron or stainless steel fire pit is its permanence. If you've ever cooked a rasher of bacon in a cast iron pan, you know how heavy it is. So, if you think you might ever want to move your pit from one place to another, you won't want cast iron. Stainless steel is much lighter than cast iron, so you can change your mind about the location of your fire pit.

Heating up

If gathering around the fire pit on a cool autumn evening is one of your desires, choose either cast iron or stainless steel. Their heat conductivity is about the same except the stainless steel will keep the heat longer after the fire dies. In either case, don't touch the metal of the fire pit, and use asbestos heavy-duty gloves or mitts when tending the fire.


While cast iron is very durable, it is also vulnerable to cracking and rusting. You need to keep up with the oxidization by cleaning the surface with steel wool and painting it with a high-temperature paint that is formulated for this purpose. Stainless steel is rust resistant and does not crack. When it has cooled down and is not in use, cover your pit to avoid accumulation of water.

Keeping a Safe Fire Pit

Before purchasing a fire pit, choose your site carefully. Ensure there are no overhanging branches or anything combustible near the site, and situate the pit on a stone or brick surface. If you place it on a wooden deck, lay heat-resistant material in a wide area underneath the pit. Purchase a screen cover to keep ashes and sparks from becoming a nuisance, and plan to have enough room for comfort between the fire pit and your guests for an evening of warmth and camaraderie.