Can You Roast Marshmallows on a Propane / Gas Fire Pit?
A backyard fire pit can be a lot of fun, and there are many advantages to using natural gas. In particular, it can be a cost-effective, reliable, and environmentally friendly fuel source.
This is great for an outdoor fire pit where reliability is especially important. Some people prefer wood fire pits for the ambiance but, let’s face it, getting a wood fire started can be a pain in the neck when you’re entertaining. Gas pits make it easy to flip on the fire and the fun.
Can You Roast Marshmallows on a Propane Gas Fire Pit?
Still, there are some downsides to gas fire pits, and many people worry about the safety of cooking or even just roasting marshmallows over a propane flame. The good news is that it generally is safe to cook over a gas flame as long as you keep some key safety issues in mind.
In particular, it’s important to keep your gas fire pit clean and we’ll cover care and cleaning further down. Briefly, just remember that natural gas is highly combustible, and so it’s important to store and use it safely. That means following all manufacturer instructions, using common sense, and keeping your fire pit clean and well-maintained.
Cooking on a Gas Fire Pit
If you’ve ever done any grilling, you’ve probably already used a propane gas flame to cook! Most modern grills use propane fuel, although of course there are charcoal and wood-pellet grills as well. The only difference with a natural gas fire pit is that, unlike a grill, most fire pits don’t have the necessary grease catches and venting.
Thankfully, there are some workarounds for this. So you can cook in your outdoor space even if you just have a gas fire pit. For something like roasting marshmallows or even hot dogs, however, you won’t need to set anything up. Just be careful not to let anything drip into the fire bowl.
If they do, there are ways to clean it up, which we’ll also cover in a moment. But it’s always best to prevent this from happening in the first place. So make sure you have secure skewers to use if you’re going to roast a marshmallow on your gas fire pit.
Keep in mind that while it is safe to cook over a basic propane gas fire pit, there are some gas-fueled outdoor fire features that you don’t want to cook on. These can add a lot of flair to your outdoor space but they’re not the best option for cooking.
Cooking on Lava Rocks
Lava rocks are a common filler for gas fire pits, Almost every gas fire pit will have some kind of fire pit media to fill the fire bowl and distribute the flames more easily. This makes the pit a more beautiful outdoor feature, but it can sometimes be a problem for cooking.
You want to make sure the lava rocks you’re using have been weathered and cleaned before cooking over them. Not only do fresh lava rocks emit some dangerous gasses, but they can also explode! This is rare though, and most commercially available lava rocks have been properly treated before the sale.
Cooking on Fire Glass
Fire glass on the other hand, is a perfectly safe fire pit media to cook over. Fire glass looks pretty spectacular, and it’s a bit easier to clean up than other fire pit media.
Unlike lava rocks, fire glass is usually smooth. You should still be careful not to drip marshmallow gunk or other food into the fire pit, but fire glass is one of the easier options to clean. In particular, you can easily replace any “beads” of glass that get messy and this is usually fairly cheap.
Cooking on a Fire Table
Gas fire tables are not the best for cooking. Because they tend to have more complicated designs, fore tables are sometimes made to be decorative only. With lots of complicated parts, it’s easier to mess up than a simple propane fire pit.
Still, a fire table can look quite beautiful, and it’s understandable to want to fire up some marshmallows when you’re gathered around. Just like any other gas flame fire feature, you can do simple things like roasting marshmallows or hot dogs without much work.
Just be careful not to drop a melty marshmallow into the table’s mechanisms. That said, some fire tables come with cooking equipment that makes it safe and easy to cook right on your fire feature. There are also fire tables available that take a variety of different fuels and it may be a good idea to look into alternatives that allow you to use wood or charcoal. These tend to be a bit better designed for cooking over.
Gas Fire Cooking Tips
The key to effective and safe outdoor living with a gas fire pit is to account for drippings and grease. The main problem with cooking on a gas fire pit is that grease and dripped food can clog the gas lines and create other problems for the pit itself.
There is not really any risk of dangerous chemicals entering the food and it’s not even a problem of weird smells or tastes. It’s really about making sure you keep your fire pit clean to avoid difficult clean-up or a ruined gas pit. So how can you cook with a propane tank fire pit while keeping your outdoor living space clean and functional?
The simplest option is to use burner pans. These are pans that fit over your fire pit and allow the flame to heat the food without exposing the burners or other elements to food mess. You’ll want to get one that has a lip to keep grease from dripping out.
Grill boards are a no-go because too much grease falls through the slats. The other option for cooking in an outdoor space with a gas fire element is to use a simple cast iron pan over the open flame. Just like a burner pan, a cast iron pan will prevent food from dripping into the fire bowl.
Make sure to take care when moving the pan, however, as it will heat up quite a bit! Cast iron skillets are great for a lot of things, and they have just the rustic feel you want when cooking over an outdoor fire.
How Many BTUs Do I Need to Cook?
One advantage of the gas fire pit is that it’s a bit easier to control the size, temperature, and other aspects of the flame with gas. The average gas fire pit ranges from about 30,000 to 150,000 BTU. A BTU or British Thermal Unit is a measurement of thermal energy.
A simple way to think about it is that this is how much heat is being provided. For cooking, the amount of heat provided by a gas fire is usually plenty! On the subject of cost, one thing to keep in mind is that while a gas fire pit may cost more upfront, they do tend to pay for themselves pretty quickly.
Propane is cheaper than other fuels and with the right care, a gas fire pit can provide family fun for a long time to come. While different materials can burn hotter (and provide more heat), another advantage of propane is that it’s a relatively cheap fuel per BTU.
So you can get your fire up to the needed temperature for cooking accurately and easily with gas. This is one reason why gas grills are so popular. It’s a more precise operation than using charcoal or wood.
Gas Fire Pit Venting
While it’s perfectly safe to cook over a gas fire pit, it’s important to pay attention to potential risks as well as safety features and procedures. In particular, you’ll want to make sure your gas fire pit has proper ventilation before using it for anything.
This helps with cooking in particular because potentially dangerous chemicals need to be vented off of any fire. It’s easy with a wood fire on the ground to make sure there’s proper airflow and ventilation, but gas fires can be a bit trickier as they’re often integrated into other outdoor features and are built to take up less space.
Not only can improper ventilation be dangerous for you and your family, but it can also damage the materials around the fire pit. Plus, with insufficient airflow, it’s hard to get a flame big and hot enough to cook on. After all, fire needs oxygen to keep burning.
The way to make sure your gas fire pit has proper ventilation is to have it installed by a professional. There are versions that you can install yourself, but with gas especially, it’s good to have a professional eye on hand. You can also ask about ventilation during the installation and talk to your technician before the install to identify a good place for the pit. Placement will be crucial to maintaining proper ventilation and airflow.
Cleaning A Gas Fire Pit
So as you’ve probably guessed, it’s important to know how to clean and maintain your gas fire pit. Of course, it’s best to avoid messes in the first place as they can be a real pain to clean. Unlike wood fire pits, you can’t just hose down the inside of a gas fire pit.
It takes a little more precision, and there are some components that you shouldn’t disassemble or try to clean at all. If you do run into a situation where your gas line is clogged or you have a major, burned-on mess, it’s best to call a professional for help.
However, there are some very basic cleaning tasks that you can and should do on your own. You can use water and a little bit of soap to wipe down the interior. Make sure to remove the gas pit media first (lava rocks, glass, etc.), and be sure to fully dry the interior when you’re done.
You should also take care not to jostle or move anything too much. Gas fire pits are integrated units, so it can cause major problems if you jostle the gas line for instance. When in doubt, ask a professional.
How to Roast Marshmallows with Gas
One thing to remember is that, unlike grills, gas fire pits are not rated for cooking. So, while it’s generally safe, you’ll want to be careful you aren’t violating warranty conditions or using your gas fire pit in a way that will cause permanent damage.
You should also be aware of any local laws or regulations to be sure you’re operating within legal guidelines when cooking on a gas fire pit. The main thing you can do while roasting marshmallows to avoid this fallout is to invest in secure roasting sticks.
You can always use regular skewers in a pinch, but purpose-made roasting sticks are a good idea if you’re roasting on a gas flame. You’ll also want to be conservative with how long you roast them. While some people like the taste of a burnt marshmallow, they’re not only not great for your health, they’re risky in a gas pit.
It’s simple physics. As a marshmallow heats up, the gelatin inside breaks down, giving us that wonderful, gooey texture. If it breaks down too much though, the marshmallow will fall off the stick and into your fire pit. It’s a huge mess to clean and can damage your fire pit permanently, so be careful not to leave your marshmallows on too long.
How to Make S’mores
With all this talk of marshmallows and s’mores, we should briefly look at how to construct a s’more. It’s a very simple and classic campfire treat. Most Americans probably know how to make one already, but if not, here’s what to do:
- Gather your ingredients. You’ll need graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars. Hershey’s is a classic choice.
- Then, take your mallow and place it at the end of a secure, purpose-made roasting stick. Hold it over the flame and toast it until it’s golden brown on most sides. Again, some people like them burned, but this is risky with a gas fire pit.
- When your marshmallow is fully roasted, place a few squares of chocolate bar on one graham cracker.
- Finally, squish the roasted marshmallow between this cracker and another, with the chocolate on the inside.
- The heat of the roasted mallow will melt the chocolate a bit, making for a gooey, messy, but delicious treat.
It’s a summertime classic, and there’s no reason to skip it just because you have a gas fire pit. Just be careful to avoid spills and drips, and make sure to clean your fire pit thoroughly if you do have a marshmallow fall in.
Gas fire pits can be perfectly safe for cooking, as long as you keep some key safety and cleaning parameters in mind. Make sure you have proper ventilation, a way to prevent grease and other food waste from getting into the components, and a solid understanding of how to operate your gas pit.
From there you should be ready to roast marshmallows, cook a hot dog, or even get into more serious campfire cooking! Remember, if you do want to get serious about cooking on a gas flame, a burner pan or cast iron pan is your best friend. Bon appetit!
Bonus tip: Check out this great video on someone who forges their own roasting sticks!