The Fire Triangle

The fire triangle illustrates the rule that combustion reactions require three elements to proceed. Reduce or remove any element and the fire will lose power, smolder, or go out altogether. This simple rule is critical when cooking with charcoal and especially wood fuel, as we’ll shortly see in How Wood Burns.

Heat is maximized by maintaining a compact, vertical geometry of the fuel.  This arrangement:
  • Concentrates the combustion energy in a smaller volume
  • Reduces distances between burning material to maximize radiant intensity
  • Captures some convective energy within the fire itself

Assuming we maintain good geometry/heat, a fire’s thermal output will be constrained by a shortage of air or a shortage of fuel – never both at the same time. We’ll discuss these control methods in Common Pits.