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Arteflame Classic 40″ Review

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ArteFlame Classic 40"

Arteflame’s Classic 40” is a wood burning griddle or plancha that doubles as a fire bowl with a sculptural beauty rarely seen in the world of outdoor cooking. The cooktop is a 40 inch diameter, one half inch thick disc with an 18 inch opening in the center made of uncoated carbon steel. A round carbon steel “sizzle grate” that covers the center opening is included to extend the cook surface directly over the central fire. The carbon steel cook surfaces must be seasoned and maintained much like a cast iron griddle or skillet. More on this later. The fire bowl and stand are constructed of weathering steel, aka corten steel, a popular choice for outdoor sculptures and architectural applications. This type of weathering steel resists corrosion by forming an appealing, rust-like protective layer and eliminates the need for paint or other coatings, (see below).

Massive rusted colored, wavy metal outdoor sculpture metal that appears to be about 20 feet high. A man leans against it.

Few would deny Arteflame’s compelling presence. On day one, it became the focal point of my deck and I joked about wearing a white toga when firing it up. Guests were immediately smitten and drawn to it. Some were concerned that you could mistakenly set your drink, or worse, your arm right on the hot steel. A fair point, but this issue comes up with any hot object indoors or out, and it’s pretty easy to see that the flaming fire bowl will be hot. An additional flat surface to accommodate plates and drinks would be a welcome utilitarian feature, although not an aesthetic one. Any side table will accomplish the same thing.

The Arteflame Classic 40” is a large capacity griddle. Griddles, aka planchas, are flat cook surfaces, usually steel or cast iron, that are heated from underneath. They are very popular in restaurants for quickly cooking thin meats, delicate fish, chopped vegetables, eggs, pancakes, and pretty much anything that doesn’t need to be roasted, baked, smoked or fried. In his best-selling book, Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, Meathead writes, “The great advantage of griddling is that cooking is fast and you get an unmatched dark sear because you are cooking by conduction, the most efficient heating method. Click here to learn more about conduction and the different ways heat moves to and through food. Arteflame’s open wood fire also adds smoke aroma, and a mesmerizing spectacle day or night. With the sizzle grate installed, (see below), the center of the Arteflame also functions as a BBQ grill in addition to a plancha.

A round metal surface with a round cut out grill in the middle. Glowing fire is seen through the grill grates. Two steak with long bones extending upward are searing on the grill.

Many refer to griddles as grills, but they are not. A grill, also known as a brazier, is a cooker where the food sits on a grate above flame, directly exposed to the heat. Hibachis and Weber Kettles are good examples of grills/braziers. Click here for more useful definitions from our Glossary of Cooking and Barbecue Lingo. Most wood and/or charcoal burning cookers use dampers or vents to control temperature by regulating the amount of air (oxygen) that feeds the fire. Arteflame’s fire bowl has a small 1″ hole in the bottom and a larger 2″ hole off to one side for drainage and ventilation. But unlike a Weber Kettle, there is no way to adjust the vents. Click here to learn about using vents to controlling temps with charcoal and wood.

Large round metal bowl with autumn leaves inside.

Given Arteflame’s unique design with an unregulated live fire surrounded by an 11 inch wide griddle ring, we expected the heat to be concentrated in the center and drop off at the perimeter. However, the heat pattern was much more unruly and asymmetric than anticipated. We got frustrated by the uneven heat and eventually agreed to let an Arteflame rep drop by to show us how it’s done. It turns out that the size of your fire largely determines your cooking temperature, and you have to chase the hot and cool spots around the cooktop as needed. We haven’t fully embraced this premise because temperature control is a hallmark of the best cookers. The best way to control the heat on this cooker is to create an even coal bed around the circumference of the cooktop. Despite this more hands-on approach to temperature control, we believe the Arteflame’s unique and aesthetic design will find a place in the pantheon of outdoor cooking.

How to fire up Arteflame

The carbon steel cooktop must be seasoned before first use by coating it with cooking oil and cranking up a fire, much like seasoning a cast-iron pan. This seasoning process quickly creates a dark non-stick surface shown below. To season or cook on the Arteflame light up a large wood fire in the fire bowl. Arteflame recommends starting with a half chimney of Match Light instant start charcoal.

Large round metal bowl with autumn leaves and charcoal inside.

Build the fire by placing several splits crisscrossed over the coal.

Round metal bowl filled with burning wood on an outdoor deck.

Add cooking oil to the cooktop.

Large round firebowl filled with burning wood. A hand is pouring oil on the flat perimeter surface.

Spread the oil with a cloth or paper towel and coat the entire cooking surface.

Large round firebowl filled with burning wood. A hand is wiping down the flat perimeter surface with a paper towel.

Push the burning wood under the cook surface and add fresh logs.

A large round fire bowl with a blazing wood fire in the center. It is on an outdoor deck.

How to cook on Arteflame

Here’s a neat trick: you can cut food right on the carbon steel cooktop (if you don’t mind dulling your knife blade a bit).

A large round firebowl with wood buring in the center. A man is cutting onions right on the flat metal surface surrounding the fire.

Bacon is your friend with Arteflame, providing flavor, lubricant and a rough barometer of where the hot spots are developing on the cooktop.

A large round firebowl with a wide griddle surface circling the hot wood fire. Bacon and chopped onions are all around the griddle.

Some cinders can jump from the fire to the griddle and the food. This was not a big problem during our tests, but it could be on a windy day. Best to keep the coal bed tucked beneath the circumference of the cooktop.

Curved metal surface with a fire underneath. Chopped onions and Brussels sprouts are cooking on the surface.

In the blink of an eye, our Arteflame rep had a feast in process.

A large round fire bowl with a wide griddle surface circling the hot wood fire. Meats and vegetables are cooking all around the griddle.

As foods cooked, he moved them around, finding hot spots to sear meat and cooler, holding spots for foods that just needed to be kept warm.

A large round fire bowl with a wide griddle surface circling the hot wood fire. Meats and vegetables are cooking all around the griddle. A man is cutting into a steak with a large knife.

And of course we had to have….

A large round fire bowl with a flat griddlw wrapped around the wood fire. Bacon and eggs are cooking on the griddle.

Bacon and eggs! The cooktop is slightly pitched to the center to coax oil and grease into the fire rather than onto your deck or patio. Nonetheless, protective concrete pavers should be placed beneath the Arteflame to catch wayward drips or splatters. When you are finished cooking, simply scrape any residual gunk into the fire to burn up. Then wipe the cooktop clean like you would with a cast-iron pan. There is no ash removal system, so ashes must be scooped out after each use to avoid plugging up the drainage holes in the bowl.

Before buying, consider this

It’s essentially a big griddle. That’s great when you want to griddle a lot and gather your friends around for a feast. Arteflame also offers a rotisserie for the 40 inch model (see below), and you can use pots and pans over the fire much like you would with a campfire. There are lots of culinary possibilities with this cooker. But at nearly 3 1/2 feet in diameter, it is pretty big and not as well suited to just cooking a couple burgers. However, you can make a small fire off to one side of the fire bowl. And Arteflame makes smaller 30 inch and 20 inch models.

A large round fire bowl with a flat griddle surface wrapped around the central wood fire. Pots and pans filled with food are cooking on the griddle and a chicken on motorized rotisserie is hovering over the fire.

The size and aesthetics of the Arteflame are among its greatest strengths. Everyone loves to gather around a gorgeous fire bowl where you can also cook a big feast. But, from a practical standpoint, if you don’t need all that cooking area, you could get by with a couple cast iron skillets placed over your grill or kamado and have greater temperature control. In fact, Arteflame makes kettle grill and kamado inserts for this purpose (see below).

Kamado with dome open to show heavy metal round griddle inside. On an outdoor deck with green bushes in the background.

Arteflame touts being maintenance free. It’s true that it has no moving parts, electronics or fasteners and is built of heavy steel that should last for generations. But if you don’t use it on a regular basis, the carbon steel surface can rust. Our readers who own cast iron grates, skillets and Dutch ovens know the cleaning routine. These metals must be scraped, wiped down and oiled, and then burned again (re-seasoned) to maintain the dark non-stick surface. Leave them out on your deck, and before long these metal cooktops will be as bright orange with rust as Arteflame’s corten steel fire bowl and stand. Arteflame recommends rubbing the cooktop with oil periodically when not in use. Worst case, the surface can be sanded down and re-seasoned. A fitted vinyl cover is optional, but it will likely only slow rust down a bit while spoiling one of Arteflame’s main selling points, its beauty! Why buy a statue then cover it with black vinyl?

Impractical or marvelously impractical?

As mentioned previously, when we first began Arteflame tests we were frustrated by the uneven heat. With an infrared thermometer, we measured the cooking surface temps in ten places with following results: Inner edge: 340°, 280°, 440°, 490° and 560°F

Outer Edge: 250°, 200°, 280°, 330° and 380°F We tried and tried to build the fire just right and even out the coal bed, aiming to impose sheer will on the random heat pattern. But success eluded us. Only after observing the Arteflame rep cook a variety of foods did the advantages of this unusual cooker come into focus. We began to appreciate the Arteflame experience. It’s not for everyone by a long shot. Even if the $2,450 price tag is within your budget, you have to be drawn to varying heat levels of Arteflame’s live fire. You have to accept that the heat is largely uncontrollable and be willing to maintain the cooking surface. If you can embrace the simplicity and hands-on nature of a fire bowl with a large, built-in griddle, your reward will be a stunning, modern outdoor centerpiece that creates unique and thrilling social experiences. Think of it as a lifestyle decision. Arteflame’s website provides recipes and videos that offer insight to this type of outdoor lifestyle.

Men and women standing around a large round fire bowl with a griddle cooking surface wrapped around the blazing wood fire. They are cooking meat and vegetables and drinking wine.

The Chef’s Podium

For commercial use, it’s easy to see why some chefs love cooking at the Arteflame podium while chatting it up and hamming it up with guests. It’s almost like cooking on the Olympic flame itself.

hree photos of a large round, outdoor fire bowl with flaming wood fire inside. A flat griddle wraps around each fire. Men are cooking on the round griddles.

In addition to round griddle inserts for kettles and kamados, Arteflame offers a few different sizes shown below.

Three beautiful rust colored fire bowls with flames leaping from the centers.

We tested an older two piece model with a single piece fire bowl and cooktop that weighed well over 200 pounds. Our two piece Arteflame arrived in two cardboard boxes on a pallet weighing a total of 350 pounds. I had to hire my landscapers to schlep the heavy metal pieces onto the deck. The current three piece models have a separate 110 pound fire bowl, 120 pound cook top and 60 pound stand, making them easier to move and enabling owners to take away the cook top and just use Arteflame as a fire bowl. Some ash and embers fall into the center stand, so Arteflame should be placed on concrete pavers to avoid damaging decking or pavement. Check inside the stand periodically to remove ash and unburnt wood fragments that can collect at the bottom. Arteflame carries a limited three year warranty for materials and workmanship to the original purchaser of the product from an Authorized Dealer. We thank Arteflame for providing a Classic 40” for this review.

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Product Information:

  • Model:
    Classic 40"
  • Item Price:
    $ 2,450.00
    *Price Subject To Change
  • Where to buy (buying from this supplier supports this website):
  • Made in USA:
  • Review Method:
    Cooked On It
    We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
  • Primary Function:
    Grill, Griddle grills
  • Fuel:
  • Primary Capacity:
    1256 square inches
    Large (about 62 burgers)

Published On: 9/29/2017 Last Modified: 10/11/2023

  • Max Good,’s Full-Time Grill Tester - Max Good is's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame and is the world's only full-time reviewer of outdoor cooking equipment including smokers, grills, pizza ovens, griddles, and more.


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