One of the most fun and common outdoor activities that both children and adults love is marshmallow roasting over a bright fire. It’s a simple and timeless activity that is great for bonding and recreation. But what fire source is safe for marshmallow roasting? Actually the fire that is produced either by wood or propane is safe for roasting marshmallows. Gel fuel fire pits are also typically safe to use.
In its chemical sense, propane is a saturated, single-bonded hydrocarbon chain. It is derived from refined petroleum and is a common industrial and domestic fuel.
Just like every other type of gas, propane is odorless. Thus, another chemical is added to it to give it a distinct scent for the main purpose of leak detection. The specific chemical is ethanethiol which is a byproduct of oil refining processes as well. A small amount of it is added in propane and other gases. It is generally inert and harmless.
Carbon dioxide and water are the products of complete combustion of gases. For incomplete combustion of gases, carbon monoxide and soot are the products. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, toxic gas that can be fatal when inhaled.
What are the scenarios wherein incomplete combustion can occur? The first one is in the event of a propane lean burn. When you see flames that seem to fly away from the burner and then vanish into thin air, that’s a case of lean burning.
The second scenario is a propane rich burn where the flames are bigger than they usually are and colored bright yellow. These occurrences are typically caused by a lack of oxygen. So if you use a fire kit, also remember to use it outdoors so you do not deprive it of oxygen and it can achieve complete combustion to prevent the formation of carbon monoxide. Aside from fire kits, propane is also used fuel for cars, stoves, and barbeque grills.
Fire can be a huge hazard if uncontrolled. It can cause the loss of lives and properties. The invention of fire pits have helped in the safety of lighting a fire outdoors. The stones and fireproof materials that fire pits are made of can keep the fire in one place and make it easier to manage.
Gatherings held outdoors just hit differently. There is something so special and intimate about outdoor gatherings with your loved ones under the night sky and a bright fire in the middle, telling stories, laughing, singing, and roasting marshmallows. There are many devices available in the market today that enable you to safely build a fire outdoors in a controlled environment. Chimineas and fire pits are great examples. They can run on wood or gas.
Outdoor fireplaces come in many designs. There are portable designs that allow you to bring it with you on trips. Very convenient for marshmallow roasting in the wilderness over controlled fire! They are efficient and functional. Word of caution: do not put plastics or flammable materials near the fire pit – basically items that can easily catch fire even via fumes. Follow the instructions stated in the product manual provided by the manufacturer.
You should also be aware of the laws that govern fire safety in your locality. Some states require you to put at least 20 feet of distance between the fire pit and the nearest wall of your house. There are also some conditions about putting your fire pit on the deck. The deck has to be sturdy enough to carry the weight of the fire pit. There are light and heavy variants of propane gas fire pits.
According to data gathered by the Consumer Products Safety Commission way back in 2017, there were at least 5,300 fire pit-related injuries and accidents that were brought to the emergency room in the United States. Majority of the patients were children. Children are impulsive and require constant attention especially around hazardous items. It is best that you place the fire pit somewhere children cannot easily access and do not frequently go to. It has to be away from a spot where there is a lot of movement and flammable materials.
Give enough room around the fire pit for people to move without accidentally bumping into it and at the same time, it should be at a convenient proximity for roasting marshmallows. Do not crowd or horse around the fire pit especially when there is a fire burning to avoid accidents.
Marshmallow originally came from the sap of a plant which bears the same name which was discovered in Ancient Egypt. It was initially used for the treatment of sore throat. It is also a content in herbal supplements for the treatment of gut problems.
We’re not sure where the idea of roasting marshmallows started but to whoever first thought of it, we are eternally grateful. The marshmallows that are commercially available today are merely mixtures of sugar and gelatin.
When you expose marshmallows to heat, there are two possible outcomes. At high temperatures, it can undergo caramelization. This is due to the burning of the sugar component. The browning phenomenon that occurs is also called the Maillard reaction where sugars and proteins react with each other. This happens under low heat.
The perfect roasted marshmallow is achieved when burned at low heat and slowly. This creates that perfect brown color and rich crisp outside but soft on the inside. You can roast marshmallows using sticks but if you use burner pans or other cookware, make sure they are clean so it does not affect the taste of the marshmallows.
Is it possible to roast marshmallows over a propane fire pit?
Kids will most likely ask if you can roast marshmallows with it when you bring home a new fire pit. But surprisingly, even adults are also curious about the possibility of marshmallow roasting over a fire pit.
In general, fire pits are mostly just intended for decorative purposes. Many producers of fire pits do not advise that you use it for cooking. However, roasting marshmallows isn’t technically cooking. So to answer your question, yes. You can roast marshmallows on fire pits. But there are some strict rules that you have to abide by so you can make the most out of it.
How to roast marshmallows over a propane fire pit
Allow us to share to you DIY tips on marshmallow roasting over fire pits.
First, what makes a perfect roasted marshmallow?
- Slight golden brown color on the sides. Do not include the top and bottom portion of the marshmallow when roasting. As much as possible do not subject them directly to the flame.
- Dry and brittle texture of the roasted surfaces. These flakes can easily be taken off if you do not want to eat them but they are edible. Some people like to eat them separately.
- Soft and fluffy on the inside
- No burnt portions
These are typically done over wood fire but that does not mean you can’t achieve it over propane fire kits.
Now for the step-by-step procedure. Because contrary to popular belief, the art of marshmallow roasting is more than just skewing it through a stick and holding it over the flame. It takes patience and meticulousness.
- We personally recommend using a metal road or stick for your marshmallow. Look for a spot with a small flame.
- Position the marshmallow just a little bit above the tip of the flame. Avoid subjecting the marshmallow to direct contact with the flame.
- Occasionally rotate the stick that holds your marshmallow to evenly roast all sides. Make sure that you monitor the color of the marshmallow so you know if that part is already done.
- You may dip the marshmallow into the flame itself but only for a very short while around 3-4 seconds while rotating it.
- When you see that all sides have achieved the golden brown color, remove it from the flame and blow on it to cool it down rapidly.
- You can now eat it, set it aside, or prepare your smores.
Dropped a marshmallow into the pit?
Oh no! There goes that little white fluff. Dropping your marshmallow into the pit is inevitable. Don’t fret. It happens more than you think. You have to prepare yourself for the cleaning that needs to be done.
You should not leave that dropped marshmallow lying there for a long time. The melted marshmallow can harden and stick to the surfaces of the fire pit, making it harder to remove. When you clean the fire pit, see to it that it’s already cool to the touch. You do not want to burn yourself in the process. Glass fire pits take a longer time to cool down than lava rock fire pits.
If you also use the fire pit for cooking, some juices or food particles can clog up the pores of the fire pit. It can also become a cause of rodent or pest infestation. All these factors can damage or reduce the usability and lifespan of your fire pit.
So that you won’t encounter any of these problems, it’s probably in your best interest to just use the fire pit for marshmallow roasting and stick to the conventional cooking methods to protect your fire pit and save yourself the unnecessary hassle.
Precautions for roasting marshmallows over a propane fire pit
Even though it’s typically safe to roast marshmallows over a propane-fueled flame, it’s still a good idea to be cautious about other potential contaminants that might make their way onto your food – in this case, the marshmallows.
The one thing that you should pay attention to is the chemical formulation of the propane gas that you are using. You can double check the formulation of the propane gas to make sure that there are no other harmful additives in it since you will be subjecting the marshmallows directly to the flame. This is not very common anymore today but it would not hurt to make sure.
You should know that propane fire kits are not intended to have food cooked over them so they most likely did not undergo any food safety testing. Materials used in the construction of fire pits also determine if the flame produced is safe for food to be exposed to.
Fun facts about marshmallow roasting
- Like we already mentioned above, marshmallows were first discovered in ancient Egypt from the sap of a plant. They were originally used as treatment for various health ailments. However, the marshmallows that are being sold today are not anymore sourced from that plant and are no longer used therapeutically.
- The ingredients of marshmallows are water, sugar, gelatin, corn syrup, and air incorporation.
- Who doesn’t love s’mores? The person who came up with this genius idea of a camping snack really deserves a lot of appreciation. According to National Geographic, the recipe for s’mores was apparently first discovered written in a Girl Scout camping guidebook published way back in 1927.
- Ligonier, Indiana is considered as the marshmallow capital of the world according to the National Confectioners Association.
- There are a lot more recipes that you can try out with s’mores! Play around!
Cleaning and maintenance
As long as you did not drop anything in the fire pit, cleaning should be quick and easy. Usually for propane fire kits all you have to do is turn a knob to turn the fire off. It is a good practice that you do a thorough cleaning of your fire pit every after a few uses.
You may notice a black stain on your fire glass or lava rock fire pit if you regularly use propane as a fuel source. This is normal and is a result of the gas fumes that are emitted during combustion. Don’t worry because they are easily removed.
To avoid this problem, it would be better if you opt for a dark-colored fire glass so the soot won’t leave a noticeable stain. But even so, you still have to clean it every once in a while. For lava rocks, the black soot stain is not that visible but still requires cleaning every now and then.
Clean your fire glass or lava rocks
If you dropped burnt marshmallow into your glass fire pit, soak it in a solution of vinegar and baking soda first before proceeding to the next steps. This is only possible if it has only been there for a short while. The following tips we will be giving are not anymore applicable if it has been stuck there for a long while. You are better off throwing that away.
As for lava rocks, this is a dead-end scenario. It is nearly impossible to completely remove the burnt marshmallow stuck on the surface because of the porous surface. It is best that you just replace the entire thing.
Safety precaution: Always wear protective gloves when handling your fire pit so you won’t leave your hands vulnerable to sharp fragments in case you accidentally break it.
- Separate the fire media from the fire pit itself.
- Put the fire media in a strainer.
- Rinse it with clean water in the sink or from a hose.
- Wash it using regular dish soap and thoroughly cover it with suds.
- Rinse the media and set it out to dry.
Make sure that your fire media is completely dry before you use it again on your fire pit. Even just a little bit of moisture can damage the fire media if lit on fire. It can cause the media to crack or break altogether.
Common cooking concerns about propane fire pits
Consumers are usually concerned about the health and taste aspects that are associated with cooking food over propane fire pits. Since cooking is not really the main purpose of fire pits, there are a lot of risks that come with maintenance and repair.
With that in mind, allow us to put your mind at ease.
1. Health impact. The propane gas that is used in fire pits is the same gas that is used with barbecue grills which is an equipment that is really designed for cooking food. So it’s safe to say that there is no risk being posed by the use of propane when you cook with your fire pits and you use it as fuel source.
It’s pretty safe to cook over fire pits. There have been no cases that say otherwise. Just as long as you prevent food spillage and droppings and keep it free from dirt and other debris, it should be good.
Additional information: There is nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in roasted marshmallows roasted over gas, wood, or charcoal. But keep it in moderation because consuming too much burnt food may have some negative health effects.
2. Chemical taste. A lot of you may also be worried that there will be an unpleasant taste that may be imparted to the food when using propane due to the distinct gas smell but you should know that the smell is not of propane but of another chemical additive that is incorporated for safety reasons. That chemical will not affect the food in any way and goes away upon combustion.
3. Damage to the fire pit when roasting marshmallows. Again, if you happen to drop any food onto the surfaces of the fire pit, it is pretty easy to clean just as long as it is not left for a long time. It’s important you regularly clean and maintain your fire pit and fire media especially if you use it to cook food. A dirty fire pit can increase the risk of rodent and insect infestation and the food residues can go rancid and become smelly. Some particles may also clog up the pores of the fire pit. The best way to prevent damage is to keep it clean.
Frequently asked questions
Here are more common queries about marshmallow roasting over propane fire pits.
Does it change the taste of the marshmallow?
No. Propane is a clean-burning gas and it even burns cleaner than wood. That is a fact. The cleaner the combustion, the less the ability it has of changing the taste of the food that you cook under it – in this case, the marshmallows. Propane is also used for grillers and the results have been great.
Can you also roast marshmallows over lava rock fire pits?
Yes. Lava rocks are good heat distributors so the food that you cook over it has better chances of being evenly cooked. There are propane fire pits that use fire glass and this is also a good choice for marshmallow roasting.
Is it safe?
There’s no such thing as 100% safe when dealing with fire. However, there is less risk of accidents when using fire pits. Just follow precautions and safety regulations and you’re good to go with your outdoor campfire and marshmallow roasting.
Are burnt marshmallows bad for your health?
Even though they are delectable treats, it is not advisable to eat burnt marshmallows frequently and in large quantities. It’s alright to indulge every once in a while just for special occasions. We suggest not totally burning the marshmallow but just the right kind of golden brown is the best option.
What else can be cooked on a propane fire pit?
We can’t stress this enough. Fire pits are not intended for cooking purposes. We draw the line at marshmallow roasting but other kinds of cooking are beyond the purpose of the fire pit. Roasting marshmallows on fire pits is great because marshmallows do not drip and therefore there is less possibility of dropping food particles or droppings into the fire pit. We do not recommend cooking meat or vegetables over propane fire pits.