Build a Fire Upside Down

Build a Fire Upside DownI just have to write a quick article on building a fire in the smoker as I have always subscribed to the boy scout version.. you know the small stuff on the bottom in a tee pee fashion, then slightly larger stuff on top of that and once it gets going you throw on some larger stuff to really get the fire going.

I have always been pretty good at it and I can’t say that I was one who had trouble building a fire but a short while back someone mentioned something about an upside down fire and I had to try it.

It requires forgetting everything you think you know about building a fire and learning everything totally backwards from what seems logical.

I did some research and once I thought I had the new way of building a fire figured out, I went out to my big wood fired smoker and decided to give it a try.

I had to give it my own thumbs up or thumbs down.

The idea is to place large 4-5 inch unsplit logs on the bottom of the firebox as close to each other as possible. On top of that and in a perpendicular fashion you place slightly smaller split logs very close together.

On top of those two layers you place small sticks of about 1-1/2 inch diameter very close together perpendicular on top of the layer directly beneath it.

Lay a section of newspaper on top of the wood.

Pile some very small kindling on top of the paper and then light the paper and wait for it to happen.

The paper starts burning and very quickly lights the kindling. Within just a few minutes the kindling is blazing and your job is over.

I don’t know exactly how it works but let me tell you that the kindling lights the wood below that, the wood below that lights the next layer and so on.

This setup will burn for hours unattended and this is happy news for anyone who needs to build a fire whether that be in the smoker or in the fireplace.

I have now tried it outdoors in my smoker firebox and in the fireplace in the house and it works equally well in both places.

My method is not exactly like some others do it but you get the idea.. it is backwards from what seems correct but for some odd reason it works and works very well.

Fire building is a technique that is learned and I hope this helps some of you in your endeavors.

I do think that some practice will be required to learn how much wood is needed to maintain a 225-240 degree fire but that will come in time.

For now enjoy the new fire building techniques and let me know if you have any tips to add to this.

I will be taking some more pictures the next time I do this which should help you visualize the actual procedure.


  1. Mart@ Vitamins For Hair Loss says:

    Nice one,
    weve had nothing but a smoke filled room with the bad design of our chimney/fireplace. But I have heightened the chimney stack & tried the upside down fire & lo & behold I could sit back & enjoy the fire for a while & not get stressed about smoke & poking it every 5 minutes!!

  2. Mitch-SM-T20 says:

    This technique you describe is an advanced technique usually used at Boy Scout camps for our ceremonial campfires. The traditional cooking fire lay that you are used to us taught by local scout troops and is intended to give you quick heat. The “upside down” fire is intended for a long burn. Ceremonial campfires may be needed to provide light for ninety minutes or more. Wood shavings can substitute for the paper in this fire lay.

  3. youtube video on upsidedown fire very cool-

    • Jokensmoken says:

      Yes, I too learned this 40 years ago in scouts, but we also used this technique for building a long lasting coals for cooking. We did it slightly different leaving what would be the center log on the bottom an empty space to catch the coals as the top layers burn. As the top burns and coals collect in the center space roll the next two logs onto them, leaving the outer two slightly away from the coals and fire which is now completely contained between the two outer most logs…As this burns down roll the remaining two logs in, still leaving a space between them but colse enough together to set your pots or fry pan on…Now the thing that made this work was the outer two logs were probably 6 inches in diameter with the next two Iggy smaller, allowing for the top fire to collapse into the center and leaving the outer sides of the outer logs to remain “outside the fire” and never fully ignite…Takes a couple hours but properly done will build a bank of coals that can cook for 20 and last the day if hardwoods are used.

  4. Jokensmoken says:

    It’s very similar to the minion charcoal technique…Been doing this for years for outdoor cooking fires, which by the way, I learned in boyscouts.

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