Chuckwagon Campfire Cooking Rack




About: I fear that, given today's world, there will possibly be no "batteries" to easily buy shortly... what will we do? We'll do what great-granddaddy did!

Maybe you've seen those wrought-iron cooking setups that the cowboys use to hang their Dutch Ovens and other cast-iron over the camp fire.  A search on the Internet will reveal that they tend to be a bit expensive if not outright obscene in terms of cost.  Here's how to make one for less that $30 that will serve just as well as any on the market.

Step 1: The Parts

All you'll need is three 48-inch long x 1/2-inch black steel plumbing pipes from the hardware store.  In addition, you'll need two T-connectors (3/4 inch by 3/4 inch by 1/2 inch), perhaps 4 cheap 5/16ths carabiners or S-hooks, and 2 lengths of 2-foot x 1/4 inch link chain.  See the photograph that illustrates all of these components.  Total cost for all of these was less than $30.

Step 2: Putting the Rack Together - the Rack

Nothing to it!... Just thread two of the pipes into the matching 1/2 inch inputs in the two "T' connectors.

Step 3: Putting the Rack Together - Bang Em in the Ground

Take the back of your axe or perhaps a heavy mallet and drive the pipes with their connectors into the ground about a foot.  These obviously need to be spaced on either side of your intended campfire location and can't be farther apart than the length of the horizontal pipe (I used a 48 inch pipe but you can employ longer pipe if you like).

You'll notice that while the pipes are 1/2 inch in inner diameter, the straight-through inputs of the T-connectors are 3/4 inch in inner diameter.  This allows the pipe to slide through the connector.

Step 4: Putting the Rack Together - the Hangers

Snap a carabiner or S-hook onto each end of the two lengths of chain.

Step 5: Putting the Rack Together - the Hangers

Slide one carabiner/chain end onto the pipe.  Repeat for as many chain hangers as you've chosen to employ.

Step 6: Attach Your Ovens and Light the Fire!

Adjust the height as you deem necessary by passing the loose end of the chains through the pot bails and snapping the carabiner to the appropriate chain link.  It's easy to modify the height of the pot above the fire and control temperatures as necessary!  Enjoy! - "Outdoor Ed" Livesay



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    13 Discussions


    8 months ago

    Nice setup, including all the added suggestions. One thing I would add is a pair of 1/2" pipe caps to the ends of the horizontal pipe. They would keep the pipe from sliding through the tee's and also help protect anyone brushing by too close.


    1 year ago

    Nice project! I'd like to reprint this article in Wood-Fired Magazine. Please contact me at


    4 years ago

    Great Instructible!
    One question though. I've cooked on an open pit like this several times before, and always on a 4' X 1' fire pit under 1/2" cold rolled fire irons. They always felt solid. My top bar will be 5' and I'm going to be hanging two 16" Dutch ovens and a couple coffee pots on the top bar. The DO's are around 40 lbs a piece when empty. How solid is the half inch pipe? I don't want to get everything going just to have it collapse in the fire. I was thinking of stepping up to 3/4" and 1" fittings.
    Any thoughts?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm... Good question. Just to err on the safe side, I'd say that going to 3/4" pipe would certainly do the trick! Thanks! Ed


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so much. This is exactly what I was looking for. I am trying out a one month project where all dinners will be cooked outside weather permitting. I am curious to see the cost savings over using my old indoor stove that cost a fortune to run. Plus I have a few garbage bins of scrape oak, pine and cherry to use up. This will save me a lot of money. Thanks


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this great Instructable! Just to let you know, I took advantage of the CC license and translated it in French, on an instructables-like website targeted at LARP players. So far we only got positive reactions :).

    Oh, and did I say it ? Thanks again :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    It is a pretty nice oven rack for certain areas
    - i see you pound the uprights about a foot in the ground.

    For an all round oven rack - you could use the same priciple of screwing the piping together but go for an A-frame style on each end.

    No pounding of the uprights in the ground and might be a bit more stable all round.

    I'm just thinking of if it rains and the ground soaks and your pots/ovens are full - the wind starts blowing - pots / ovens start swinging - you may find your next meal on the ground being eaten by the critters.

    Plus with an A-frame style you can go with lighter weight piping for the uprights.

    another idea just looking at it - to prevent the pots chain from slipping you could use say 10" pieces of piping - with a coupler 1.5"nipple - then  coupler then 10" piece and the same again to make up the horizontal support (top pipe) the nipple in the middel of the couplers would prevent the chain from slipping side to side or down the pipe - say if you tip the pot/oven to one side - like scooping out that last deliscious drop of campifire stew...?

    just some thoughts... but nice job and one last question...

    So... when is dinner being served?

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I really like this Instructable for a campfire cooking rack. Being able to take the whole thing apart to store it or transport it makes it even more appealing.

    I also like the suggestion to add tee-connectors to the bottom of each leg. To avoid having to stake the connectors to the ground, though, you could run another length of pipe through each of the bottom tee-connectors to make the whole thing stable and free-standing.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Neat idea!

    Step 3 - Perhaps putting a piece of wood on the pipe before whacking it with the back of an axe might be a tad safer for the metal. Black pipe tends to crack or shatter when struck repeatedly. If this critical point breaks we'd starve. ;)

    Another thought - if you put Ts at the bottom of the vertical pipes you might not need to pound this in the ground. You could anchor the inverted Ts with a few stakes made out of rebar bent in a U shape.



    7 years ago on Step 6

    This are great! You could also set two of these side by side and that way you could hang 4 pieces of chain to suspend a grill above the fire that you built right in the middle.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    There's plenty of room to hang 4 medium pots on a single rack. By using a 6-foot piece of lateral pipe, more than enough room would exist.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    You are correct. I should have said this would make it a great grill.

    I did vote for your instructable.