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How to Prevent Flare-Ups When Grilling

Flare-ups are a common problem when grilling food, especially meats. Whether it’s beef, pork, lamb, chicken or fish, meat has a tendency to flare up when grilled. When this occurs, the red-hot coals turn into a tall flame, essentially charring the meat. While a single, small flare-up shouldn’t hurt your food, consistent flare ups can burn the exterior while also making it dry and less juicy. So, how can you can prevent flare-ups when grilling?

Choose Lean Meats

Normally, flare-ups are triggered by excess animal fat dripping down onto the hot coals. When the fat reaches the hot coals, it ignites; thus, causing a tall but short-lived flame known as a flare-up. You can often prevent flare-ups, however, by choosing lean meats. If you’re making hamburgers, for instance, choose ground beef that’s 90% lean and 10% fat. Or if you’re grilling steaks, stick with lean cuts like filet mignon and sirloin instead of a New York strip or ribeye.

Cut Back on the Oil

In addition to choosing lean meats, you can also reduce the risk of flare-ups when grilling by using less oil. Cooking oil is often applied either to the meat being grilled or the grill itself. When applied to the meat, it helps the seasoning stick while also creating a non-stick surface. When applied to the grill grate, it further prevents the meat from sticking. Unfortunately, however, oil has a similar effect as animal fat when exposed to hot coals. As the oil drips down onto the coals, it triggers a flare-up. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop using oil when grilling. Rather, try using less oil.

When it comes to oiling a grill grate or meat, follow the “less is more” approach. Use a brush to apply a small, thin layer of oil on the surface of your grill grate or meat. As long as there’s no excess oil that’s dripping, it shouldn’t cause a flare-up.

Trim the Fat

A third tip for preventing flare-ups is to trim fat from your meat before grilling it. Even if you choose lean cuts, it probably still has some fat — and that’s okay. Rather than allowing this fat to burn on the grill — and cause a flareup — consider trimming it. Using a sharp knife and cutting board, slice away the excess fat.

Open the Lid

Should you grill with the lid open or closed? Grilling with the lid closed creates more heat, whereas grilling with the lid open creates less heat. The latter, also known as “grill roasting,” reduces the risk of flare-ups by exposing your food to lower temperatures and less direct heat. With that said, however, grilling with the lid open doesn’t cook food as thoroughly and evenly as grilling with the lid closed, so you really need to consider what you are grilling. As long as it’s not too thick and doesn’t require significant heat, an open-lid grill should suffice.

Clean Your Grill

Don’t underestimate the importance of cleaning your grill, either before or after every use. Failure to clean your grill will result in the accumulation of fat and oil drippings, which can flare up the next time you use it. Additionally, it contributes to rust and corrosion by holding moisture. These problems are easily prevented by using a wire brush and paper towels to clean this debris. So, try to get into the habit of cleaning your grill before or every after use. Even if you only use it to grill a couple burgers, you should still clean it to prevent flare-ups and protect against rusting.

Grill Away from the Wind

Another contributing factor to flare-ups when grilling is wind. Going back to the basics of firemaking 101, wind intensifies flames by fueling it with oxygen. As wind pushes through the flame, the additional oxygen causes it to flare up. While you can’t necessarily control mother nature, you can choose an area to grill that’s protected from the wind. Before lighting your grill, find an area with a wind break. Grilling on your front porch instead of back — or vise-versa — is another idea that can protect your grill from the wind.

Don’t Extinguish with Water!

If a flare-up occurs when you are grilling, don’t attempt to extinguish it with water. Conventional wisdom may lead you to believe that spraying the grill with a water bottle with extinguish the flare-up. Like a grease fire in the kitchen, however, water is ineffective for this purpose. Furthermore, spraying your grill may cause wet ash to reach your food. If you notice your grill flaring up, open the lid and wait for it to burn out. Because flare-ups are caused by excess fat or oil, they usually burn out after just a few seconds.

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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How to Safely Extinguish and Cool a Campfire

campfire-1031162_960_720More than 100,000 wildfires burn 4-5 million acres of land every year in the United States, according to an article published by National Geographic. While lightning strikes are a common cause of wildfires, extinguished campfires are also responsible for many wildfires. So, if you’re planning to camp in the near future, you’ll want to fully extinguish and cool your campfire before leaving.

Beware of Hot Embers Underneath Ash

Just because you see a pile of ashes left at the bottom of your fire ring doesn’t necessarily mean that your campfire has been extinguished. Ash is an excellent insulator of thermal energy, meaning it can keep embers hot enough to ignite a fire for up to 24 hours.

Some people assume that their campfire is out because they see ash at the bottom, but you really need to take additional steps to ensure it’s extinguished. Hot embers buried under the ash could reignite the following day to create a wildfire. So, how do you prevent this from happening?

Drown with Water

The only “sure-fire” way to extinguish a campfire is to drown it with water. While keeping a safe distance, slowly pour water over the campfire and its embers, even if those embers are not bright red. You’ll probably hear a hissing noise when doing so, which occurs from the water’s reaction to the heat. You’ll know the fire is extinguished when the hissing noise stops.

Stir with a Stick

In addition to drowning your campfire with water, you should also stir it with a stick (after drowning it with water). The purpose of this is to ensure the water has penetrated all layers of the fire. If there’s still a hot later, you may hear the hissing noise again when stirring the fire with a stick.

Here are some other safety tips to follow when building campfires in the wilderness:

  • When possible, use an existing fire ring to build your campfire instead of creating a new one.
  • Only burn wood in your campfire, not trash or debris.
  • Keep water nearby in case your campfire burns uncontrollably.
  • Consider the direction in which the wind is blowing when choosing a location for your campfire.
  • When camping in parks, check to see if there’s a fire ban in place or other restrictions for creating campfires.

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 Prevent Your Firewood from Rotting

axe-1705787_960_720With prices upwards of $100 to $200 for a full cord (depending on where you live), firewood isn’t cheap. If you burn it on a regular basis — for warmth, fire pits, campfires, cooking, etc — you can spend quite a fortune. But even cutting and harvesting your own firewood is no easy task, which is why it’s important to protect your firewood from rotting.

Whether you buy it or harvest it yourself, it’s frustrating when you discover a pile of rotten firewood. It doesn’t burn as well (if at all), and it’s likely harboring colonies of insects and pests.

The 4 Elements Needed for Rot

In order for wood to rot, it needs four things: moisture, wood, oxygen and warmth. Being that moisture, oxygen and warmth are all around us, it’s easy to see why rot is such a problem. There’s practically no way to prevent natural, unprocessed wood from the rotting. Thankfully, though, there are a few steps you can take to slow down the process and prolong the life of your firewood.

Store it Off the Ground

One of the most common mistakes made when storing firewood is placing it directly on the ground. Why is this a problem? Well, there’s lots of moisture sitting in the soil. And when you place firewood directly on the ground, some of that moisture seeps up and into the wood. Furthermore, storing firewood directly on the ground increases the risk of termites, which can be equally as destructive.

How do you keep firewood off the ground? There are several solutions, one of which is to build a square-shaped perimeter using some pressure-treated 4×4 lumber. Another idea is to place a wooden pallet underneath your firewood stack. As long as it’s not sitting directly on the ground, it shouldn’t absorb moisture from the soil.

Increase Airflow

You can also prolong the life of your firewood and discourage rotting by storing it in a well-ventilated area. If you have a shed, for instance, crack a window so air doesn’t become stagnant. The increased airflow helps to dry firewood, protecting it from rot.

Cover it with a Tarp

In addition to storing it off the ground and in a ventilated area, cover your firewood with a tarp. Something as simple as a cheap fiberglass tarp can make a world of difference in prolonging the life of your firewood.

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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Choosing the Right Area to Build a Campfire

fire-1633352_960_720No camping experience is complete without a fire. Campfires bring people together, promote a social environment, provide warmth, and they offer a means of cooking food. However, you should carefully choose the right location to build a campfire, which is something we’re going to discuss in today’s blog post.

Overhanging Limbs and Brush

When choosing a location to build a campfire, make sure there are no overhanging tree limbs, branches or brush. Even if the flame doesn’t reach the height of an overhanging tree limb, it may produce enough heat to ignite it — or a stray ember could float into the air and reach the overhanging branch.

Check Fire Restrictions

It’s always a good idea to research the local and state fire restrictions before camping. Even if it’s legal to build a fire in your backyard, perhaps the park or forest where you intend to camp prohibits campfires due to the risk of a wildfire. Some parks allow campfires, but only in designated camping areas. Failure to follow these rules could cost you big bucks in fines, so find out if there are any fire restrictions beforehand.

Existing Fire Rings

Depending on where exactly you are camping, there may be existing fire rings around. Other campers often build and leave circular-shaped arrangements of rocks in which to build campfires. If you discover one of these fire rings, consider building your campfire here.

Don’t Build at Base of Hills

You should also avoid building campfires at the base of a hill. If your campfire grows out of control, it can travel uphill fast. This is because heat rises, so fires naturally gravitate upwards. Ideally, you should build your fire either on top of a hill or on a flat and even surface, either of which is a safer solution than building it at the bottom of a hill.

Beware of Duff

What is duff and why should you avoid when building a campfire? Duff is the layer of rotting, decomposing material between the ground soil and pine needles. To an unsuspecting camper, duff may appear to be nothing more than dirt. However, it often contains dry wood and plant material, providing enough fuel to turn a small ember into a smoldering brush fire. Choose a location for your campfire that’s away from duff.

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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Tips to Follow When Cooking on a Fire Pit

Smoking on pitFire pits aren’t used strictly for their visual appeal; they can also be used for cooking. And with summer right around the corner, there’s no better time than the present to get outside and grill. However, there are a few things you should know about cooking on a fire pit.

Keep Your Grate Oiled

Try to get into the habit of oiling your cooking grate each time you use it.  Treat your grate just like cast iron.  We make a habit of spraying or brushing the cooking grate before each time we cook on it.  You don’t need to clean it with soap or water either, just use a grill brush and oil it.  Also, don’t leave your cooking grate outside in the elements.  Put it in a covered area once you are done cooking.  The more you cook on your cooking grate the more seasoned it will become.

Control Your Fire

Always start your fire early when you plan to cook over the pit.  We recommend starting a good sized fire 1 1/2 – 2 hours before you cook.  This will allow for you to get a good bed of coals in your fire pit.  Then depending on what you are cooking will determine the amount of heat you need.  For example if cooking 1/4 chickens or wings you want to cook those slow and low.  This will allow you to build up the crust as well as cook the inside of the chicken.  If you put chicken on a hot grill you will do nothing but burn the skin leaving the inside raw.  When cooking steaks bring the temp up depending on how thick and what desired internal temperature you want.  One last tip is try and find or if you have an old Weber lid, you can drop that right on top of your cooking grate to work just like a covered grill.

Experiment with Different Wood Varieties

Don’t underestimate the importance of using the right wood when cooking on a fire pit. There are several different varieties of wood that can be used when cooking on a fire pit, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Hickory, for instance, is a hot, slow-burning variety that produces a strong and sweet flavor. These characteristics make it ideal for cooking and smoking ribs or pork tenderloins. Oak is another popular choice, also burning slow and hot while producing medium flavor.

Regardless of which wood you use, make sure it is NOT Pine or pressure-treated Pine. Pressure-treated lumber contains harsh chemicals and toxins that could seep into your food.

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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Choosing the Right Wood for Your Fire Pit

fire-227291_960_720After purchasing and setting up your fire pit, you may feel inclined to give it a “test run.” Before doing so, however, you should first check to make sure you have the appropriate wood. Some people assume that all wood is the same, but this isn’t entirely true. Subtle nuances in the species/variety,  moisture content, added chemicals, etc. can yield big differences in a fire pit. So, how do you know which wood is best suited for your fire pit?

Don’t Use Pine

Even if it’s readily available in your surroundings, it’s best to avoid burning pine in your fire pit. Pine burns significantly faster and hotter than many other varieties of lumber, making it a poor choice for fire pits.

Don’t Use Treated Lumber

Under no circumstances should you attempt to burn treated lumber or wood in a fire pit. While this may seem harmless enough, it can place you and your family at risk for illness. Pressure-treated lumber is often blasted with chromated copper arsenate, which is essentially a type of poison. Upon burning treated lumber, it will release toxic fumes into the surrounding environment. Steer clear of treated lumber and look for a different source of fuel for your fire pit.

Do Use Native Wood

Ideally, you should stick with a dried wood, native wood that grows naturally in your respective region. In Georgia, for instance, oak and hickory are often used in fire pits because they are native here. Oak and hickory are both excellent choices, as they burn slow, emit a moderate amount of heat, and are easy to store.

Don’t worry if you are unable to harvest the wood yourself, as most suppliers will gladly deliver and stack it for you.

Full Cord vs Face Cord: What’s the Difference?

You’ll probably hear the terms “full cord” and “face cord” being used to describe wood for sale. A full cord is wood that is 4’x4’x8′, whereas a face cord is one stack of wood measuring 4′ tall and 8′ long.

Tip: when storing wood to use in a fire pit, it’s recommended that you keep it covered and off the ground. When wood is stored directly on the ground, it becomes susceptible to rot, termites and other pests. Covering and storing your wood just a couple inches off the ground, however, will keep it safe and dry.

If you have any questions regarding Fire Pits, steel vs stone, give us a call; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/