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Recipe for the Perfect Fourth of July Backyard Bash

sparklers-923029_960_720The Fourth of July is right around the corner, offering the perfect opportunity for homeowners to host backyard parties and get-togethers. Being that it’s a federal holiday, everyone who works for the government or a government-run service gets the day off work. And even many privately run companies are closed to celebrate Independence Day. So, if you’re planning to host a backyard bash this Fourth of July, here are some tips to make it a success.

Prepare Your Backyard

One of the first steps towards planning the perfect Fourth of July backyard bash is to prepare the area in which you will host the party. Whether it’s your patio, garden or even the driveway, you need to clean and prepare it before inviting friends over. This means mowing the lawn to ensure the grass isn’t overgrown, edging sidewalks and walking paths, and sweeping or blowing any standing debris.

You can also use this time to prepare seating for your guests. Think about how many people you intend to invite, and use this number to determine how many seats you need. It’s a good idea to “overshoot” your seating, however. If you plan on inviting 12 people, set up 15 or so chairs. It’s always better to have more chairs than not enough.

Choosing Your Fourth of July Foods

No Fourth of July party is complete without plenty of delicious food and beverages. Statistics show that Americans consume approximately 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day weekend. Of course, this shouldn’t come a surprise given that Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is held during this time of year. When most people thing of Independence Day foods, they immediately envision hot dogs. They are delicious, inexpensive, and can be prepared any number of different ways.

While hot dogs are always a great choice for the Fourth of July, there are other foods from which to choose as well.

Some popular grilled food ideas for the Fourth of July include:

  • Hamburgers
  • Hotdogs
  • Steaks
  • Chicken
  • Corn on the cob
  • Pork chops
  • Bratwurst

To keep your beverages cold, you may want to prepare a cooler (or several). If you’re hosting the party in your backyard, and it’s a long walking distance to your home, a cooler will allow guests to retrieve ice-cold beverages without walking up to your home. Be warned, though, many gas stations and convenience stores sell out of ice early on the Fourth of July weekend, so buy it ahead of time.

Dishware and Cutlery

You’ll also need dishware and cutlery to kick off your Fourth of July backyard bash. Rather than using your own plates, dishes, cups, etc., consider using disposable ones. No one wants to spend hours washing dishes after hosting a party, which is why disposable dishware is preferred. Guests can grab their own plates and cups, and they can dispose of them when they are finished (keep a trash can near the food and eating area).

An alternative to plastic is compostable dishware and cutlery. As the name suggests, compostable dishware and cutlery turns to compost after a short period of time, breaking down into nutrient-rich food for plants. Assuming you have a compost bin, you can ask guests to place their compostable dishware and cutlery into your compost bin. This eliminates waste while creating fertilizer for your plants and flowers in the process. The only downside is that compostable dishware and cutlery tends to cost more than traditional plastic dishware and cutlery.

Send Invitations

Don’t wait until the last minute to send your invitations. With Independence Day fast approaching, you should get them in the mail ASAP. You can create basic invitations using card stock paper, or you can buy pre-made invitations. In your invitations, let guests know where the party is taking place (e.g. your backyard, with a street address), how long it will last, whether food will be served, and what they need to bring (if anything). You can include your phone number on the invitations in case guests have trouble finding your home.

In addition to an actual invitation, you should also call and invite guests over the phone. This ensures they get the message regardless of whether the invitation arrives in their mailbox.

Fireworks Safety 101

burgers-1839090_960_720If you plan on shooting fireworks off this Independence Day, you should follow some basic safety tips to protect against injury and property damage. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 230 people receive medical treatment at hospital emergency rooms every year on Independence Day for fireworks injuries.

Here are some fireworks safety tips to protect against injury and property damage:

  • Follow all local and state laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Never attempt to relight a “dud” firework.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Only light one firework at a time.
  • Do not shoot fireworks from bottles or buckets.
  • Beware of sparklers, as they can burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep a bucket of water of garden hose nearby in case of an incidental fire.

Following the tips listed here will help make your Fourth of July backyard bash one to remember.

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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3 Safety Rules to Follow When Disposing of Fire Pit Ash

1280px-Leave_No_Trace_FireA fire pit is the perfect addition to any patio or outdoor living space. It introduces new style, while also allowing you and your family to enjoy the warm ambiance of a fire. Perhaps this is why fire pits consistently rank as one of the top additions to outdoor living spaces.

But if you plan on owning a fire pit, you’ll need to know how to properly dispose of the ashes. Allowing ash to sit in your fire pit isn’t recommended, as it encourages rust and corrosion. By following the tips below, you can safely dispose of your ash while preserving the integrity of your fire pit.

#1) Wait 24 Hours Before Touching

A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours after your fire has been extinguished before attempting to touch or otherwise move the ashes. Even if they look cool, ashes may contain enough heat to spark a fire long after the original fire has gone out. This is why it’s best to wait at least one full day before touching the ash.

#2) Use an Ash Shovel

After the ash has thoroughly cooled, you can use a shovel to remove it. It’s best to use a metallic shovel designed specifically for ash removal, just in case the ash is still hot. Ash shovels are inexpensive and readily available at most home goods stores. Simply scoop the ash out of the bottom of the fire pit, at which point you can transfer it to an approved container.

#3) Place in an Ash Bucket

And when removing the ash, be sure to transfer it into a dedicated ash bucket. Never attempt to dispose of fire pit ash in a trash can, as this may cause an unwanted fire. Instead, use a designated ash bucket that’s made of metal. If any ash is still hot, you don’t have to worry about it sparking a second fire.

If you’re looking for things to do with your fire pit ash, check out this previous post published here. We reveal the top 10 uses for wood ash, some of which may surprise you.

Following the tips listed here will allow you to safely dispose of your fire pit ash.

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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Why (and How) to Oil Your Grill Grate

IMG_0948Whether you cook over a fire pit or a charcoal/gas grill, you should oil the grate before adding the food. It only takes a few minutes, but doing so offers several key benefits, some of which we’re going to discuss.

Protects Grate from Rusting

Grill grates — like all metallic objects containing iron — have a tendency to rust. This isn’t something that happens overnight. Rather, it takes months or years for them to develop any noticeable rust. Once this occurs, however, the corrosion can eat its way through the metal if left unchecked.

There are ways to protect your grate from rusting, one of which is covering your fire pit or grill so it’s not exposed to the rain and elements. Rust occurs when iron “oxidizes” with oxygen or moisture. So, covering your grate is an simple and effective way to prevent this from occurring. Furthermore, you can protect your grate from rusting by applying oil to it. Oil acts as a barrier between the metal within the grate and the moisture in the air.

Prevents Food from Sticking

In addition to protecting your grate from rusting, applying oil also keeps food from sticking. As any backyard barbecuer knows, food shouldn’t stick to the grate when grilling. If it does, the outer layer — along with all of the delicious seasoning — will be ripped off. The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to oil your grate before adding the food. With a coating of oil over the grate, there’s a significantly lower risk of your food sticking.

How to Oil Your Grill Grate

Before we begin, it’s important to note that you should only oil the grate before starting the fire. Do not attempt to oil it if the coals are burning, as some cooking oils are flammable.

Assuming your grill is cool, you can oil your grill in one of several ways: one of the easiest is to apply a spray-based cooking oil. Simply spray the oil over the grate, after which you can add your food. Alternatively, you can brush the oil over the grate using a cooking brush. You don’t need a lot of oil. Place a small amount in a bowl, dip the brush into the bowl, and rub it across the grate until there’s a nice, even coating throughout.

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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What’s the Best Wood to Burn in a Campfire?

bonfire-1835829_960_720111This is a question many campers ask. While all North American wood can burn, some is better than others. Choosing the right type of wood is important because it allows for a hotter, more efficient campfire that’s less likely to go out. So, which type of wood should you use?

Oak

Arguably, one of the best wood types to burn in a campfire is oak. Assuming it’s dry, oak produces substantial heat while burning slow and steady. Oak is also readily available throughout much of the country, making it easy for campers to find. According to Wikipedia, North America has the largest number of oak species, followed by  Mexico.

Hickory

Hickory firewood is one of the best woods for burning. Hickory is even hotter burning than oak, maple and other popular hardwoods.  Hickory is a dense hardwood that can be tough to split, but holds little moisture and burns very well.  Hickory is also very popular for cooking.

Ash

Fraxinus, or what’s more commonly known as ash, is a genus of trees in the Oleaceae family. There are about 50 different species, some of which are evergreen while others are deciduous. Ash wood is known as some of the best firewood in the world. It burns easily, retains minimal moisture, and doesn’t produce a lot of smoke. These characteristics make it ideal for use in a campfire. And unlike other wood types, ash will even burn when green. If you find some ash wood lying around your campsite, try burning it.

Cedar

If you’re building a campfire to stay warm, look for cedar wood to burn. It doesn’t produce as large of a flame as some of the other wood types mentioned, but what it lacks in flame size it makes up in heat. Cedar produces excellent heat, making it the perfect choice for firewood to burn on an otherwise chilly night. Furthermore, cedar has a unique and pleasing aroma that’s not found elsewhere. It’s a subtle yet distinct aroma that most people enjoy. Of course, this is why some furniture polish and other consumer products feature the cedar scent.

Some of the wood types that you should avoid burning in your campfire include the following:

  • Poplar
  • Spruce
  • Willow
  • Alder

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 Make the Perfect Grilled Chicken

grilled-923097_960_720Chicken is one of the most delicious and versatile meats on the planet. It’s low in fat, loaded in protein, and you can prepare it hundreds of different ways. While baked chicken can be delicious, it pales in comparison to the distinct smokey flavor or grilling it. However, there are a few things you should know to make the perfect grilled chicken.

Thaw Before Grilling

If you want to grill frozen chicken, let it thaw before tossing it on the grill. Cooking frozen chicken will release a substantial amount of moisture, and it also prevents the meat from cooking evenly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t grill frozen chicken to a safe temperature, but rather it won’t turn out as delicious as grilling thawed chicken.

Marinate Chicken Before Grilling

One of the biggest problems home chefs encounter when grilling chicken is having it come out to dry. This isn’t limited strictly to chicken; grilling many types of meats causes dryness. You can keep your chicken moist, however, by marinating it beforehand. To do this, fill a large Ziplock bag with 1-2 tablespoons of olive olive, 2 tablespoons of water, salt, paper, garlic and any other seasonings you prefer. Place your chicken inside and let it sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator, after which you can toss it on the grill. The marinade will soak into the chicken, making it nice and moist when it’s done grilling.

Wait for the Grill to Get Hot

Whether you’re grilling over charcoal or a gas grill, wait for it to get hot before adding your chicken. This allows the outside of the chicken to char, essentially “locking” in the juices. If your grill is still warming up, it may make your chicken dry. So, wait for it to get fully hot to ensure moist, delicious chicken.

Scrub the Grate

It’s also a good idea to scrub your grill grate before adding your chicken. If there’s any old food or debris on the grate, it may cause the chicken to stick — and that’s never something you want to see happen when grilling. When chicken sticks to the grate, the outer skin will likely tear, along with all of the seasoning. Scrub your grate before adding the chicken and lubricate it with cooking it to prevent this from happening.

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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Turn Your Fire Pit Into an Outdoor Focal Point

36 on split rim

36 on split rimMore and more homeowners are upgrading their patios and outdoor living spaces. While there are dozens of ways to upgrade an outdoor living space, one of the most effective and versatile solutions is a portable fire pit. Using a portable fire pit, you can create a more relaxing atmosphere that’s perfect for parties and gatherings. However, it’s recommended that you turn your fire pit into an outdoor focal point by following the tips listed below.

Choose the Right Location

The first step towards turning your fire pit into an outdoor focal point is choosing the right location. Conventional wisdom should tell you that fire pits should not be placed right against the side of a home, shed or any other structure that may ignite. Instead, place it in an open area with at least 10 feet of clearance on all sides. An open area also provides plenty of room for seating, which is another key element to consider when designing your outdoor living space.

Arrange Seating Around the Fire Pit

Once you’ve chosen the right location for your fire pit, you should surround it with comfortable seating. The term “focal point” refers to a specific area where people look by default. When guests enter your outdoor living space, you want them to look at your fire pit — a task that’s easily accomplished through comfortable seating.

There are countless seating options available for outdoor living spaces, some of which include Adirondack chairs, chaise lounge chairs, hammocks, swings and lawn chairs. Just remember to arrange them around the fire pit, pointing towards the fire pit instead of away.

Place Fire Pit Eye Level

It’s also a good idea to place your fire pit at eye level. Upon sitting down, guests should immediately fixate their attention on the fire pit. Placing it eye level helps you achieve this goal by naturally drawing attention to the fire pit. Furthermore, placing your fire pit at this height provides optimal warmth, which is particularly important during the late fall and winter months.

Some fire pits are tall enough to achieve eye level without any assistance. Others, however, are shorter and require the use of an elevated surface, such as brick pavers.

These are just a few tips to turn your fire pit into an outdoor focal point.

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 Build a Campfire with Wet Wood

fire-1725843_960_720When it comes to building campfires, the drier the wood the better. Regardless of variety, all wood is highly porous with thousands upon thousands of small holes. These “pores” absorb or release moisture depending on the surrounding atmosphere. If the atmosphere is humid, wood will absorb moisture, making it difficult to burn. So, how do you build a campfire with wet wood such as this?

Find Dry Tinder

Even if the firewood is wet, you may still be able to light it using — but you’ll need dry tinder first. If it’s been raining, it’s probably best to bring your own tinder, such as newspaper, wood shavings, or even pocket lint. Assuming it’s dry, tinder such as this should easily ignite. If it’s wet, try placing it in direct sunlight for a few hours, allowing the moisture to evaporate.

Find Dry Kindling

Next, you’ll need to find dry kindling. Kindling is bigger than tinder, though still smaller than conventional firewood. It consists of small twigs and branches of relative size. To determine if kindling is dry enough to use in your campfire, try breaking it in half. If the kindling is dry, you should hear a loud “snap,” indicating that it’s not too moist. If the kindling doesn’t make this “snap” sound, you should find a different source that’s drier and more suitable for use in your campfire. You’ll need dry tinder and kindling to build a campfire using wet wood.

Find the Driest Firewood Possible

Just because firewood is wet doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t burn. However, it’s best to find the driest firewood possible. If you’re searching for firewood in the woods, look under sheltered areas where there’s natural protection from the rain. Underneath a large tree canopy, for instance, is a great place to find semi-dry firewood. The tree canopy acts as a shield, blocking a significant amount of rain from reaching the ground. Any fallen logs here should be drier than logs in exposed areas of the forest.

Create Your Fire

When creating your campfire, arrange the logs in the shape of a teepee, while placing the tinder and kindling underneath. After lighting the tinder, place the kindling over the flame. And once it’s lit, gently blow on the flame to help spread it to the firewood. It may take a little nurturing, but this should get your campfire up and goinf.

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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Grilling Tips for Kebabs

barbecue-84671_960_720Kebabs are the perfect food for grilling. Whether they are chicken, steak, veggies, shrimp or a combination thereof, there’s nothing quite like the smokey flavor of grilled kebabs. If you’re thinking about grilling some kebabs, however, you should consider the following tips.

Use Metal Skewers… or Soak Bamboo Skewers

One of the problems many people encounter when attempting to grill kebabs is burning their skewers. If you use wooden or bamboo skewers, there’s a good chance they’ll burn, especially when placed in close proximity to the flame. To prevent this from happening, try using metal skewers instead. Not only are they burn-proof, but they are also reusable.

Alternatively, you can soak bamboo skewers in water before placing them on the grill. By soaking them in water, they are less likely to burn. They may still “char,” but they shouldn’t burn all the way through.

Coat the Grate

Kebabs have a tendency to stick to the grate when grilled. When this happens, the outside of the food will harden to the grate, forcing you to rip it off. And in doing so, you’ll remove the seasoned exterior of the food, making it less palatable.

You can coat the grate in vegetable or olive oil beforehand to prevent kebabs from sticking. Using a brush, apply a small but thorough amount of cooking oil to the grate before lighting the coals. Once the oil has been evenly distributed, you can light the coals and add the kebabs. In addition to preventing your kebabs from sticking, the oil also helps to lock in the flavor.

Cut and Prepare Food Proportionately

Another common mistake you’ll want to avoid when grilling kebabs is preparing your food in different sizes. If you have a large steak medallion next to several small pieces of onion, conventional wisdom should tell you that the onion will cook faster. And assuming they are on the skewer, you won’t be able to remove the onion when it’s done; thus, resulting in burned onion and/or an underdone steak medallion.

To prevent this from happening, cut and prepare your food proportionately. As long as the skewered food is about the same size, it should cook at roughly the same pace. There may still be some nuances regarding cooking times, but it shouldn’t cause any major issues.

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/