How hot does a campfire get?

2:48 a.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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The title says it all....

Had a conversation with some friends the other day and we started yaking about campfires and how hot they get.  For cooking I would think not as hot as a person would think, as unlike a bonfire you are using just enough wood to get coals to cook over.  Still, if anyone here has ever taken a thermometer to their fire I would be curious as to how hot it was.  If you use hardwood I would imagine it would be hotter...

Snakey

9:24 a.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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I once camped with some forest fire fighters in Yosemite back in the winter of 1980. They had a heat measuring device that had a cord like probe that could be stuck to a fire source and the temp read. It came to 500 F.

But I have read where others figured from direct heat that a aluminum can would melt as wood lead meaning the fire was closer to 1200 F.

Remember the scene in castaway when Tom Hanks character knocks himself out trying to dislodge a tooth? he falls with his head close to the fire in his cave. I thought he's going to wake with a badly burned face, but the next scene he is awake at dawn and is okay. I have burnt my face just getting too close when trying to get old night before coals to light some twigs on fire.

Interesting question, lets see what other answers you get?

10:13 a.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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 People that work metal can judge the temperature of a fire by its color.  The flames go from blue to yellow to orange to white hot.

11:25 a.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks...

Yeah Gary...movies are known for inaccuracies.  :)   I figured that any small fire, whether open or in a small stove should not get over 500 degrees.  But as ppine pointed out, the color of the fire would indicate temp too.  I forgot about that..   

11:37 a.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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Paper burns at 451F, as any SciFi reader knows.  And wood is about the same.  But the heat of a fire depends on much more than just the fuel.  If you don't believe me, light a small fire with dry wood, and then watch what happens when a strong wind kicks up.  The fire will get a LOT hotter.  That's why blacksmiths use bellows. 

 

And it may light the rest of the forest on fire....just sayin'.

 

Out here in the West, we think about this stuff.

11:57 a.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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Practically speaking, it's hot enough to melt an aluminum pot.

At the same time it's not hot enough to melt an iron frying pan or a steel or titanium pot.

Do you need a more accurate answer?

5:15 p.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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I like your answer Yuri....grin

11:11 a.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks all...

I see people all the time building a big fire, even in their small wood stoves.  I am sure you have all seen the YouTube videos with people shoving sticks in the side of the stove.  You can then see the massive flames shooting out the top.  I have been in campsites where people build literal bonfires that light up a huge area.  To balzaccom's point...which I don't get the SciFi reference, but do get the bellows or blowing on it added oxygen to the fire.  Most surely it makes sense that it would feed the fire.  Also I am not advocating unsafe campfires as there are way too many forest fires started by this.  

In fact, the point I was making with my friends is that you don't need a big fire at all.  A small bed of coals is all that needed to cook food, when placed closer to the fire.  So this was a conversation about the degrees or temp, rather than anything else. Better question I suppose is how small of open fire have you cooked with..?  

I thought that some of you, like GaryPalmer, had experience with temps via an infrared gun..ect.  Curious as to how the hardwoods would affect the temps.

That's all...

Thanks

Snakey

  

11:34 a.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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When I used to cook with fire on trail I usually just used a tiny stick fire to cook rice or soup. Very similar to the wood stoves you see today, but without the stove and just propping the pot on rocks or holding it in my hand if I had nothing better. Unless you are baking potatoes or roasting a tri tip a twig fire is all you really need to cook.

12:11 p.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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Snakey said:

Thanks all...

I see people all the time building a big fire, even in their small wood stoves.  I am sure you have all seen the YouTube videos with people shoving sticks in the side of the stove.  You can then see the massive flames shooting out the top.  I have been in campsites where people build literal bonfires that light up a huge area.  To balzaccom's point...which I don't get the SciFi reference, but do get the bellows or blowing on it added oxygen to the fire. ...

That's all...

Thanks

Snakey

  

 Major work of Sci Fi is "Fahrenheit 451"--about the burning of books in the future.  The temperature refers to the temperature at which paper burns.

7:06 p.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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Snakey:

Cutting to the gist of your post, regarding your friend's opinion about fire size and cooking.  Who cares what temps are generated, even a small fire generates lots of heat.

Small fires cook food; large fires burn food.  The images below demonstrate a good meat roasting fire.  The finished lamb rack has a nice caramelized surface,  is juicy (note liquid seeping from top right of the rack) and cooked to a perfect med rare.  Note the flames are smaller than the cut of meat.  It is primarily the coals under the meat doing the cooking.  The amount of coals required are the same as you use in your back yard BBQ.  There is enough heat to roast, yet not ignite the wood shiver I fashioned into a skewer.

Ed
image.jpg

image.jpg


 

10:56 p.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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balzaccom said:

Snakey said:

Thanks all...

I see people all the time building a big fire, even in their small wood stoves.  I am sure you have all seen the YouTube videos with people shoving sticks in the side of the stove.  You can then see the massive flames shooting out the top.  I have been in campsites where people build literal bonfires that light up a huge area.  To balzaccom's point...which I don't get the SciFi reference, but do get the bellows or blowing on it added oxygen to the fire. ...

That's all...

Thanks

Snakey

  

 Major work of Sci Fi is "Fahrenheit 451"--about the burning of books in the future.  The temperature refers to the temperature at which paper burns.

 Ha...someone at work explained the movie thing...thanks.

11:00 p.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Snakey:

Cutting to the gist of your post, regarding your friend's opinion about fire size and cooking.  Who cares what temps are generated, even a small fire generates lots of heat.

Small fires cook food; large fires burn food.  The images below demonstrate a good meat roasting fire.  The finished lamb rack has a nice caramelized surface,  is juicy (note liquid seeping from top right of the rack) and cooked to a perfect med rare.  Note the flames are smaller than the cut of meat.  It is primarily the coals under the meat doing the cooking.  The amount of coals required are the same as you use in your back yard BBQ.  There is enough heat to roast, yet not ignite the wood shiver I fashioned into a skewer.

Ed
image.jpg

image.jpg


 

 Yeah...that's what I said in my last post...what I was telling my friends.  Totally agree...

Now after seeing this picture my stomach is growling...damn that looks good. 

11:53 a.m. on January 8, 2016 (EST)
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The 451 F cited above as the temperature at which paper burns is not the temperature you would measure from burning paper.  It is actually the autoignition temperature (actually a range of about 425-475, depending on the paper).  This means that paper that is exposed to the atmosphere will ignite when it it brought to that temperature.  The fire temperature after it ignites is dependent on multiple factors.

Temps of different types of fire are much higher, see this forensics reference:

http://www.tcforensic.com.au/docs/article10.html

Note that the temps in that article are celsius.  Your campfire or stove burn hotter than you think.  And since many heat sources are above the melting point of aluminum, why does your aluminum pot not melt when you cook with it?  I think it is several factors, the most dominant being the quick conductance of heat from the flame contact to the contents of the pot and up the sides of the pot where heat is lost to the atmosphere.

1:03 a.m. on January 25, 2016 (EST)
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I've always wanted to calculate the BTUs put off at the peak of your average campfire. 500,000?

6:24 a.m. on January 25, 2016 (EST)
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A good bed of coals from a campfire is hot enough to take the temper out of shovel blade.  I learned that as a stupid kid.

8:55 a.m. on January 26, 2016 (EST)
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I've had almost no red meat for over 7 years now due to health reasons but that lamb looks amazing! Dang Ed...that will be in my head for a while now.

8:30 a.m. on February 11, 2016 (EST)
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lamb rack

Baste with minced rosemary in a garlic puree. Roasts in 20 - 45 minutes, depending on the fire.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Roasting fire: start with six 3'' diameter sticks to obtain a starting coal base.  I add additional sticks in a manner that makes them mostly smoke.

 

 

11:17 a.m. on February 13, 2016 (EST)
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Hot enough to boil water, cook food, and keep you warm in any temperature. Hot enough to keep the boogey man away and cheer people up. Hot enough to dry out your clothes and your sleeping bag.

9:53 p.m. on February 13, 2016 (EST)
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Ppine, a better analogy has never been made... I love it!!! "...keep the boogey man away..." Haha! Awesome!

11:25 a.m. on February 15, 2016 (EST)
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Ppine that was good...:)

1:54 a.m. on February 17, 2016 (EST)
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Unless the boogeymen scare away your friends...  Hot enough depends on the use...but I get the over-generalization.  This started with a conversation with a friend that was going to make a campfire grille out of aluminum and I said that I thought it wouldn't handle the heat.  But lambertiana said it right when he said:

 ... since many heat sources are above the melting point of aluminum, why does your aluminum pot not melt when you cook with it?  I think it is several factors, the most dominant being the quick conductance of heat from the flame contact to the contents of the pot and up the sides of the pot where heat is lost to the atmosphere.

My friend just decided to make it out steel tubing, but then he bought a Purcell trench grill instead.  No matter...I always use a small bed of coals unless it's cold outside, when a slightly bigger fire is in order.  

12:36 p.m. on February 17, 2016 (EST)
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varries quite a bit. A really hot fire can be well over 1000 degrees. Was curious so bought along an infared thermomiter. Was enough to melt a glass bottle. 

3:20 p.m. on February 17, 2016 (EST)
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I found a shovel stuck in the ground at the site of an old range  fire. I took it home and used it for awhile. A big strong friend of mine snapped it in two within twenty minutes. The fire caused the shovel  to lose its temper and become brittle.

April 5, 2020
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