When my family and I were at my mom’s house, we had a fire out on her patio around her gas fire pit.
My kids asked if we could roast some marshmallows, and I said “No” out of an abundance of caution.
Later, when we were using a small propane fire pit while camping, they asked the same thing, but this time I hesitated. Was there was a way to do this safely?
Can you roast marshmallows over a gas fire pit?
Roasting marshmallows and cooking a gas fire pit is safe if you take simple precautions. If the propane fire pit is rated for cooking, then it’s good to go. If it’s listed as a decorative appliance, you’ll need to clean the burners well to remove chemicals. Remove the lava rocks if your gas fire pit comes with them too.
Keep reading for more concerns and tips for cooking over a gas fire pit.
Avoid all cooking problems by getting a portable propane fire pit made specifically for camping. Click the link to check out our picks for the best ones.
Is It Safe To Roast Marshmallows Over Lava Rocks?
It is generally safe to roast marshmallows over lava rocks. They heat well and retain energy for a long time, making for an effective cooking medium. However, the porous nature of the rocks tends to absorb fat drippings and attract bacteria, so more and more grillers are avoiding them.
Most of the time, portable fire pits won’t use lava rocks when camping, but for those using them on their decks or patio, lava rocks are a common addition.
They’re perfect for making the most of the heater’s BTU production.
(BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measure of heat production.)
Learn our detailed answer to the question: Is 40,000 BTU good for a fire pit?
Lava rocks absorb and retain heat, preventing the heat from simply dissipating into the air.
Unfortunately, some people are worried about how it will affect food, and for a good reason.
Some companies treat the lava rocks as part of the whole manufacturing process to ensure they “look nice” if it’s a decorative one.
In this case, a combination of cleaning and burning will remove the coating and sanitize the rocks for cleaning.
Fill a large bucket with hot water and one cup of bleach.
Soak the rocks. Wait 24 hours and rinse the lava rocks well.
Then, put them over a fire or grill at high heat for 30 minutes to burn and boil the water out.
This is also what you should do if you’ve cooked using the lava rocks, and they have food bits and grease trapped inside.
Warning! Never use a bristle brush to scrape at them. This won’t work to get the bacteria trapped inside the pores of the rocks.
So can you roast marshmallows on a propane fire pit with lava rocks?
Yes, but it’s a lot of work.
Warning! Make sure the rocks are real lava rocks and not artificial material.
These could release toxins into your food if you’re not careful.
Read the instructions for your specific product to find out what exactly they are, and if you can’t figure it out, err on the side of caution and don’t use them.
Can You Cook On A Fire Pit Table?
Cooking on a fire pit table is safe if you clean the burners off. Decorative propane fire pit tables will often finish their tables with a chemical to keep them looking nice. As long as the chemicals are there, you shouldn’t cook on it, but once it’s clean, it’s safe, though it won’t work as well as a grill.
Fortunately, cleaning burners is a simple matter for most fire pits.
First, remove any rocks or decorative pieces to allow for access to the entire surface.
Now, close the valve on your propane tank (if using a 20 lb one) and remove the gas.
Take a bucket of hot water with some normal dish soap and a sponge with a rougher edge.
Scrub down the entirety of the fire pit surface, paying particular attention to the burners.
Don’t press too hard on the sensitive metal parts around the burner for fear of breaking it.
Using a bucket of non-soapy water and a washcloth, wipe down to the same fire pit to remove soapy residue.
Dry it off with a towel and let air dry.
The next time you turn everything on, let it run on hot for about 15 minutes before cooking anything on it.
While it’s safe to cook at this point, you may not have much success beyond simple hot dogs and marshmallows.
Gas fire pits don’t produce as much heat as grills or wood firepits, so it’ll take longer to cook.
Avoid cooking any kind of uncooked meat over a decorative gas fire pit and use a grill or wood fire instead.
Find out how much gas a fire pit uses in our article with helpful tables.
Can You Roast Hot Dogs On A Gas Fire Pit?
It’s safe and easy to roast hot dogs over a gas fire pit. If the fire pit is designed for decorative purposes, simply make sure you clean off the burners before cooking by using a washcloth and soapy water.
Hot dogs are precooked meat and perfect for camping trips and outdoor snacks.
They don’t need high levels of heat to cook because all they need is to warm up.
My kids will even eat cold hot dogs right out of the fridge (gross, I know, but kids are kids!).
Just find a stick or hot dog poker and turn the heat on.
Depending on the overall heat output, you may need to get your hot dog closer to the flame and wait longer, but it’s completely doable.
Worries About Cooking Over A Propane Fire Pit
People often worry about cooking over a propane fire pit, and as I mentioned before, I was too.
But if you think about it, these fears are unfounded; we cook over gas grills all the time, after all.
There are four main areas to address, and reading this may help you feel more comfortable with this idea.
Impact On Health
The biggest concern is the impact on health.
Will a gas fire pit make you sick? Many of them aren’t designed for cooking after all.
The biggest concerns here are easily taken care of.
Clean the burners, clean the lava rocks, remove other decorative elements, and it’s good to go.
Just keep the lava rocks and fire pit cleaned of droppings to avoid bacteria buildup.
Chemical And Propane Taste
While propane (LPG gas) does give off an odor, this odor is completely gone when burned.
Most gas grills use it, and natural gas used to heat homes isn’t far off from this either.
Your food won’t taste anything like propane when cooking over this fire.
However, if you do smell a gas smell while cooking, turn the fire off and stop right away.
When first hooking up a tank, you might smell some at first, and then it’ll dissipate.
It shouldn’t stick around more than a minute.
If it does, there’s something wrong, and it’s leaking.
Check where the tank screws onto the hose or into the fire pit itself.
Make sure it’s not cross-thread and take it off and reattach it to see if it helps.
If it doesn’t, then check the regulator and consider getting a new hose.
Warning! Don’t use a fire pit at all when you smell gas. Wait 15 minutes for the smell to disappear.
Damaging The Fire Pit
Decorative fire pits aren’t designed for cooking. Will cooking over it hurt the pit itself?
Usually no. The biggest issue comes from droppings of the marshmallow or grease.
If these get on the burner parts, it could block some of the gas.
Be sure to clean off the fire pit regularly if you cook on it often.
The biggest concern with cooking is the lack of heat.
Gas fire pits for decoration don’t produce as much concentrated heat as a grill or wood fire.
There’s no way to raise this, so just accept it’s only good for making precooked things.
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