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How to Stack Charcoal (the Right Way)

flame-933074_960_720Cooking with charcoal is generally preferred over wood for several reasons: it produces more heat, burns for longer, and it’s readily available.   Yet, you still can’t beat wood for flavor and wood will always be our number one choice.

But whether you’re cooking on a grill or fire pit, you’ll need to stack your charcoal in the correct manner to achieve these results. Some people assume that it’s best to lay a flat and even “layer” of charcoal, but this isn’t necessarily true. To learn more about charcoal and how to create the perfect stack for grilling, keep reading.

The Pyramid Stack

There are several ways to stack charcoal, though one of the most effective is the pyramid stack. This lives up to its namesake by mimicking the appearance of a pyramid. By creating this shape, air can flow through the charcoal more easily, intensifying the heat and overall cooking power. The pyramid stack also minimizes smoke, which is another reason why it’s preferred.

Some grills come with a special charcoal stacker that you can use to create a pyramid (or near pyramid) shape. Dump your charcoal into the stacker, light the bottom, and you’re good to go! However, you don’t need this or any other item to create a pyramid stack. Regardless of the type and shape of your charcoal, you should be able to arrange it in the shape of a pyramid.

Light It

With your charcoal stacked in a pyramid shape, it’s time to light it. Strike your match and carefully hold it in the center of the stack, under the pyramid. Assuming the charcoal is dry, it should light with little effort. Lightly blowing on the match — just enough to encourage airflow — can also help it ignite.

If it’s not lighting, try lighting a piece of newspaper and then sticking the newspaper in the charcoal stack. Alternatively, you can use a long “grill lighter,” which are designed specifically for this purpose. Once you get the bottom of your charcoal pyramid lit, the rest should ignite. You can then sit back and wait as your charcoal heats up.

Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of how to stack charcoal for grilling. The key thing to remember is that you should create a pyramid shape for your charcoal when lighting it.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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Fire Pits 101: How to Build a Better Fire

IMG_7541Looking to build a better fire? Here are some tips to help.

Use Dry Firewood

Don’t underestimate the importance of using dry, seasoned firewood in your fire. The presence of moisture inhibits the combustion process, resulting in less fire and more smoke. While all firewood will have at least some moisture, you should avoid wood that’s noticeably damp or wet. Instead, choose firewood that’s been properly stored and seasoned over time.

Wind Break

Whether you’re building a campfire on the ground or in a fire pit, you should choose a location that’s protected from the wind. Even minor gusts of wind can make it difficult to start a fire — or keep a fire going. If you’re using a fire pit, for instance, perhaps you can set it up next to your house (just keep far enough away to prevent property damage). If you’re building a campfire in the wilderness, try creating your fire next to a ridge. The bottom line is that you need some type of wind break to protect the fire from wind.

Start with Tinder

A good campfire begins with tinder. It gets the fire burning hot more quickly, at which point you can add larger pieces of firewood. Some excellent tinger includes dry leaves, bark, wood shaving, grass and pine needles. Alternatively, you can bring your own tinder from home, such as dryer lint. The key thing to remember is that tinder should be small and exceptionally dry; otherwise, it’s not going to catch well (or at all). Alongside your tinder, you should also include some twigs and small sticks (kindling). The combination of tinder and kindling is guaranteed to get your fire burning hot.

Allow for Airflow

Fire needs three key components to burn: heat, fuel (e.g. wood) and oxygen. As such, you need to create your fire in a manner that encourages airflow. You should still protect your fire from wind gusts via a wind break, but you should also design it with an open configuration so that air can flow through the fire. A teepee-style campfire is a popular choice for this very reason. Propping up the firewood in the shape of a teepee allows air to flow through the center, helping to fuel the fire and keep it burning hot.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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5 Common Grilling Myths Debunked or Not?

Rib Eyes Cooking03There’s nothing that compares the delicious flavor or grilled food. Whether it’s a steak, hamburger, hot dog or practically any other food, there’s something about grilling that makes it taste better. However, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about grilling, some of which we’re going to debunk.

#1) Grilling Leaves Food Dry

One all-too-common myth is that grilling leaves food dry. When done incorrectly, it can certainly release the internal juices of pork, steaks and beef patties. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening, such as charring the outside at a high temperature or wrapping the meat in aluminum foil.

#2) Gas Grills are Better than Charcoal

On the contrary, most chefs will agree that grilled food cooked over charcoal tastes better than its gas-grilled counterpart. This is because charcoal has a unique smokey flavor that’s not achieved through gas grills. The only advantage of cooking food over a gas grill is the even distribution of heat, though you can achieve the same effects with a charcoal grill by properly stacking and igniting your charcoal prior to cooking.

#3) You Should Flip Steaks Only Once

A third myth that many people seem to believe is that you should only flip steaks once when grilling them. Some people believe that flipping steaks and other meat too many times causes the juices to release. Assuming you cook it properly and don’t pierce the meat beforehand, though, this shouldn’t happen. Flipping meat multiple times actually allows for a more even and thorough cooking, preventing certain areas from being under-cooked and/or overcooked.

#4) Should You Let Steaks ‘Sit’ Before Grilling

Do you let your steaks sit on the counter until they reach room temperature before grilling? It’s a common assumption that doing so helps them cook faster. After all, conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that a steak at room temperature will cook faster than a cold steak. With that said, allowing your steaks to sit before cooking does only one real benefit and that is it keeps the internal part of the steak from being cold.  If you like thick cut steaks rare or medium rare, which is preferred, You don’t want a nice sear with a cold inside.

#5) Salt Makes Grilled Steaks Tough

Too much of anything is bad for grilled steaks, and salt is no exception. But a small amount of salt, pepper and your preferred seasoning can vastly improve the flavor of a grilled steak while also helping you achieve a charred outside.  We say the only spices you need if stranded are salt, pepper and cayenne.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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Creating the Perfect Area for a Fire Pit

IMG_1090No outdoor living space is complete without a fire pit. It opens the doors to a whole new world of possibilities, allowing homeowners to host parties, backyard barbecues, or simply enjoy a relaxing evening by the fire. But it’s important to create the right area for your fire pit, which is something we’re going to discuss in this blog post.

10′ Clearance from Flammable Structures

When choosing a location for your fire pit, a good rule of thumb is to keep it at least 10 feet away from your house and any other flammable structures, both natural and man-made. Even if the fire doesn’t reach these structures, a stray ember could float over to it, causing a fire.

Accessibility

You should also consider accessibility when choosing a location for your fire pit. If it’s a quarter-mile away from your home, you probably wont use much. Keep your fire pit relatively close — but not too close — to your home so you and guests can easily travel back and forth.

Clean the Ground

Whether you place your fire pit directly on the ground, a concrete/paved area, or a wooden deck, you should clean it. Remove all leaves and debris before adding your fire pit. Once clean, you can then move your fire pit into place, preparing it for use.

Protect Your Deck

Assuming you choose to place your fire pit on a wooden deck, you’ll need to place something underneath it to protect the wood. Some strategically placed brick pavers should do the job, or you can buy a special fireproof mat that’s designed to resistant heat. Either way, it’s important to place something underneath your fire pit to protect your wooden deck from the heat; our rule is to be smart.

Seating

Of course, you should also add seating around your fire pit. When you get ready to use your fire pit, you’ll probably want to sit down, relax and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere it creates. There are dozens of different seating options from which to choose, including chaise lounge chairs, foldout “camping” style chairs, benches, Adirondack chairs, teak chairs, plastic chairs, swings, or even hammocks. The great thing about seating is that you can easily add and remove new seats as you please. If you aren’t happy with your current fire pit seating, replace it with something else.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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Kick Off Summer with a Fire Pit

IMG_8098The warm weather and colorful plant life can only mean one thing: summer is almost here. June 21 marks the first official day of summer, offering homeowners the perfect opportunity to upgrade their outdoor living space with a new fire pit. So, why should you invest in a fire pit this summer?

You’ll Cook More Meals

Let’s face it, eating out night after night isn’t exactly good for your health — and “sit down” restaurants are no better, either. In fact, one study found that eating out at sit-down restaurants was just was bad as picking up fast food. If you have a fire pit, however, you’ll probably spend more time making and preparing your own meals, which is certainly a healthier option for you and your family.

You’ll Spend More Time Outdoors

In addition to making your own meals, a fire pit will also encourage you to spend more time outdoors. The summer isn’t here for long, so why not go outdoors and enjoy out? We suggest a “summer time fire”, which is not going to be as big but still provide ambiance, but less heat. Unfortunately, far too many people stay cooped up indoors all-year long. But if there’s something that draws you outside, such as a fire pit, you’ll find yourself spending more time under the sun.

It’s Portable

Assuming you buy your fire pit from us here at S&S Fire Pit, you can take it with you wherever you go. Whether you’re going tailgating, camping, or headed to a friend’s house, bring your fire pit. One of the great things about having a portable fire pit is the near-limitless options it provides. Of course, you can always use it in your own backyard, but you can also take it to other places.

It’s a Social Activity

While you can use a fire pit solo, it’s typically a social activity in which multiple people participate. This makes it ideal for hosting backyard parties and barbecues. When everything is gathered around your patio or outdoor living space, you can spark up for the fire pit to set the mood.

I guess the better question is why shouldn’t you get a fire pit for the summer? These are just a few of the countless reasons why a fire pit is a smart investment for the summer.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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Should I Grill with Charcoal or Hardwood?

abstract-219735_960_720If you plan on cooking food over fire, you’ll need some type of fuel. The most common fuel sources used for this purpose include hardwood and charcoal. While you can use both to cook everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to smores and vegetables we prefer real hardwood when it makes sense, but there are some stark differences between the two that you should be aware of. So, should you grill with charcoal or real hardwood?

Smoke

One of the biggest difference between charcoal and wood — when used for cooking — is the amount of smoke produced. Because wood contains more moisture than its charcoal counterpart, it naturally produces more smoke when burning. Some people actually prefer the rich smokey flavor of charcoal-grilled food, but others prefer the more traditional flavor of smoke-grilled food.

Heat

With an average energy value of 29 MJ/kg, charcoal tends to burn hotter than wood. So, if you want to cook food in the shortest amount of time possible, it’s best to stick with charcoal. With that said, insufficient airflow and/or the absence of flames may cause inefficient heat transfer; thus, making cooking difficult. You can overcome this problem by ensuring your coals are exposed to air (grills and fire pits often have vents that you can open and close).

Transport

While there are certain exceptions, charcoal is usually easier to transport than wood. If you’re going camping with some friends, you may want to carry charcoal for this reason. Of course, you can always scavenge native firewood at your campsite, but bringing charcoal ensures you have the necessary fuel supply for cooking, but once again we like the real wood when feasible.

Cost

There’s also the issue of cost. Natural, locally sourced firewood is typically free, whereas charcoal often costs up to $10 per bag.

The bottom line is that there’s no clear winner in the battle between wood and charcoal. Wood burns more slowly while releasing a distinct smokey flavor, but charcoal cooks food more quickly and easier to transport. Think about when and how you’ll be cooking and choose the fuel that’s best suited for the job.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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Top 5 Benefits of Grilling Your Own Food

meat-1440105_960_72011Grilling your own food offers several benefits, some of which we’re going to discuss in today’s blog post.

#1) Grilling is a Social Activity

While there are always exceptions to this, grilling is typically a social activity in which multiple people participate. Even if it’s just sitting around the grill or fire pit, it offers the perfect opportunity to converse with friends and family.

#2) Grilled Food Tastes Better

Whether it’s a burger, steak, hot dogs, pork chops, etc., there’s just something about grilled food that makes it taste better. According to an article published by Business Insider, grilled food scientifically tastes better because of a specific compound found in charcoal. Known as guaiacol, this compound is responsible for the distinct smokey flavor of grilled food.

#3) Soak up The Sun

Since grilling is done outdoors, it allows you to soak up the sun. If you work a traditional 9 to 5 job in the office, you may not get many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Grilling food for lunch and/or dinner, however, is a window during which you can go outside and get some sunshine. As a side benefit, the increased sun exposure from grilling outdoors will trigger vitamin D production in your body, helping to prevent vitamin D deficiency — an-all-too common condition from which millions of men and women suffer.

#4) You’ll Use Less Butter

When you sauté or pan-fry food over the stove, you’ll typically need to add a decent amount of butter or oil; otherwise, the food will burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. Grilling, however, doesn’t require an excessive amount of butter or oil. You can coat the grate in a butter or substitute to prevent food from sticking, but that’s all that’s really needed. As such, grilling can be a healthier way to cook and prepare food

#5) Keeps Your Kitchen Clean

Let’s face it, one of the downsides to cooking food in the kitchen is the simple fact that it gets messy. You’ll have pans and utensils strewn all over the place — something that discourages many people from cooking in the first place. Grilling, on the other hand, keeps your kitchen a little cleaner.

These are just a few reasons why you should grill your own food. And with summer right around the corner, the weather is perfect for outdoor grilling.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/

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How to Keep Your Campfire Burning Through the Night

lake-sara-1892494_960_720It’s frustrating when you finally get that damp wood lit, only for your campfire to go out in the middle of the night. While you can always stay up to stoke it and add more wood, most people prefer sleeping at night, especially after a long day of hiking. So, how can you keep your campfire burning through the night?

The 1/2-Inch Rule

What is the 1/2-inch rule? Basically, for every 1/2 inch of firewood, your campfire will burn for about an hour. If you have a 6-inch piece of firewood, you can expect it to burn for six hours. Or if you have an even larger 8-inch piece of firewood, it will burn for about eight hours. Of course, this is just a general rule, as some wood burns faster and others burn slower. With that said, you can still follow this rule to choose the right-sized firewood to keep your campfire burning through the night and well into the morning.

Tipi Campfire

For the purpose of heat retention, it’s recommended that you build a tipi-style campfire. As the name suggests, this type of campfire is characterized by its shape resembling that of a Native American tipi. Firewood is arranged in a standing cone-like design around a bundle of kindling and tinder. Once the inside kindling and tinder is lit, the heat rises to the exterior firewood. The tipi-style campfire is one of the easiest to build, and it’s also one of the most efficient.

Place Ash Over the Campfire

Another trick that can keep your campfire burning longer is to place ash over the top of it. Ash makes the wood burn more slowly, which should keep the campfire going for a little longer.  The only downside to this method is that you’ll need ash — and that requires a campfire.

Place Rocks Inside

Some outdoor enthusiasts recommend placing rocks inside the campfire. The general idea is to allow the rocks to absorb the heat, at which point it should keep your fire going a little longer. Rocks hold heat incredibly well, which is why people have used hot rocks them for therapeutic purposes for centuries.

These are just a few tips to keep your campfire burning through the night.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/