Baby Step 37: The Art of Pit Cooking

Pit cooking has been around since early man created fire.

Pit cooking takes a bit of preparation: digging a large hole, lining it with rocks and building a big fire within the pit. The work easily balances out with effortless cooking.  Let the party begin while your meal slowly roasts to perfection.

Food wrapped in foil , wet leaves or placed in a Dutch oven cooks well in a pit. It’s the perfect care-free method to cooking large size meats such as, chickens, hams, pigs, and roasts. By layering the meal – 1st meat, then potatoes, next vegetables and lastly dessert, a whole meal can be prepared at once. Heat is retained in the hot rocks and coals (hot zone). The pit starts very hot at the bottom and gradually cools with each layer.

Where to dig:

  • Be sure you dig on high ground above any ground water.
  • Find a spot near available rocks for lining pit.
  • Do not use lake or river rocks. These contain moisture and may explode when heated.
  • find a spot with dry, loose, soil that is easy to dig.

The Underground Pit:

  • Dig a hole three times larger than the food or Dutch oven you will be cooking in the pit.
  • Line  the pit with flat or near flat rocks.
  • Build a large fire and let it burn in the pit for at least an hour building as many coals as possible.

Filling the Pit with Dinner:

  • Brush coals to one side of pit.
  • Lay wrapped meats (foil, wet leaves) on hot rocks at bottom of pit.
  • place a layer of coals on top.
  • Place wrapped potatoes, squash, sweet corn, apples, bananas/pineapple on the coals.
  • Top with a few more coals.
  • Cover with leaves or foil.
  • Cover leaves or foil with dirt from the hole.
  • Forget about it. for large meats allow 6-8 hours, chickens 2-3 hours.
  • After allowed cooking time remove layer of cover dirt and leaves or foil.
  • Using gloves, sticks or tongs pull all food bundles from pit.
  • Unwrap and serve.

Homesteading Downsized Cooking Pit

We enjoy pit cooking so much that we built this cooking pit. It’s easy and quick to heat up with charcoal. It is the perfect size for our Dutch Oven and holds heat for many hours while remaining virtually smokeless. We built it by digging  a square hole, and lining it with patio pavers, a piece of scrap granite and rocks.




Learning alternative methods of off-grid cookery such as pit cooking  is a baby step to life’s independence.



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