Roasting Marshmallows WITHOUT an Open Fire
September 7, 2016 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm putting together a fall-themed event at my kids' school later this month, and would love for toasting marshmallows/making s'mores to be part of the event. But...not really comfortable with the idea of a bonfire on school property (and neither is the principal). Help me come up with a way that the kiddos can toast marshmallows without open flames, preferably also without spending too much money and, ideally, something I can pull some bales of straw around to get that bonfire feeling.
posted by jferg to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
How about a hot plate? Should work perfectly.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:36 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Marshmallows are such a weird beast that your options are going to be limited. You could use an electric burner of some sort, or a toaster oven or microwave, all of which are going to be too slow for more than about 6 total kids to get a s'more before giving up and wandering off.

Now you could pre-roast en masse in batches in the oven and bring those. They are not quite the same as molten-hot fresh-from-the-fire marshmallows, and they won't soften your chocolate, but they are still pretty good and kids are unlikely to quibble. (You could also make the entire s'more in the oven and bring in.)

Otherwise I might punt to apple slices and a crock pot of caramel sauce.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:44 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Growing up, we often toasted marshmallows over a stove burner, so the hot plate would work well. Or, you could arm an adult or two with those butane torches used for creme brulees.
posted by umwhat at 8:48 AM on September 7, 2016

Or, you could have an adult get the coals going in a Weber grill - not quite as dangerous as a bonfire...
posted by umwhat at 8:50 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

If small, non-bonfire flames are OK, you could try Sterno cans. Otherwise, maybe a space heater would work. From a geek perspective, I think the best tool for a perfect s'more is a heat gun--there's nothing else that warms through your marshmallow to gooey perfection while leaving it intact more effectively, or allows you to control the crust level with such precision--but it definitely misses the atmosphere and pageantry of a fire.

The Kitchn suggests small hibachi and charcoal grills. You could probably make something festive out of that.
posted by spelunkingplato at 8:50 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

The beauty of fires is that kids screw up, and when they do the burnt marshmallows can just be dropped into the fire. Same with a stick that dipped into the fire during a period of inattention.

All those other options are likely to result with a burnt sugar mess (and potentially a kid hurling a stick on fire into a hay bale).

The charcoal grill sounds like a great idea as does caramel and apples.

Good luck!
posted by raccoon409 at 9:13 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I once used a toaster oven to make smores at a Girl Scout meeting - the marshmallows puff up and brown nicely. Two at a time; place the bottom graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow on a square of foil; watch carefully; remove and top with second cracker. Not much campfire ambience, but they were very tasty!
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:36 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Amazon is replete with Smores making machines for $30-ish that are pretty safe to use for young'ns and those pretty well all have very safe marshmallow toasting options. I realize this scores poorly on the "can still surround it with bales of hay" front, but it pretty well redlines the "safe for kids/school property" meter.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:39 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Our school PTO did s'mores for fall festival over a charcoal webber grill.
#hippieschool #yourmileagemayvary
posted by anastasiav at 9:45 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Amazon is replete with Smores making machines
Somewhere, Alton screams.

Some sort of charcoal grill would hit all the notes of letting kids roast their own marshmallows on sticks while not having uncontrolled fire.
posted by stevis23 at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh I did a campfire theme when teaching summer school.

We took one of those big orange storage bins and covered a lantern/flashlight inside. Then we made some paper "flames" and pasted them outside the bin --it was a cool fake campfire for the kids to sit around.

You can always microwave s'mores.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:48 AM on September 7, 2016

I suggest you opt in this case for ice cream. Creating a group activity around marshmallows has too many health and safety risks. The other option, if the school gives you access to an oven, is to do chocolate bananas. Give each kid a banana, chocolate chips, a plastic knife and a tinfoil rectangle. Show them how to cut into the banana peel and the banana using the plastic knife, filling the cavity with chocolate, and then wrapping it all up in foil. Some kids will just eat the banana so you have to make it perfectly clear that kids who eat the banana or chocolate now will have to sit quietly when everyone else is enjoying theirs later. Good learning experience, although I don't know the size of the group. This could be done with staged delivery as well and might be enough for an individual lesson plan.
posted by parmanparman at 10:05 AM on September 7, 2016

Is the objection to an open bonfire (which I interpret as a big campfire with wood on the ground), or just to fire in general? There are plenty of fire pits that keep fires contained and off the ground. Might be a much safer alternative.
posted by jhope71 at 10:13 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I remember a restaurant that offered a s'more platter for dessert. I believe they used a Sterno can for the fire.
posted by tman99 at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

If open flames are OK, you can roast marshmallows even on small candles.
posted by xmts at 3:33 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does anyone (or their older aunt from a certain generation) have a chocolate fountain? That could be used as the center piece to gather around and sticks used to 'dip' the marshmallows (and other healthier bits too) into chocolate instead of toasting them?
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2016

You can wheel in a whole gas grill or use a small camp stove, but open flames are never as good for roasting as hot coals, they tend to just light the marshmallows on fire without letting you get a nice golden brown. I've done it with brulee torches but same deal. As a kid I used a lighter once, but a candle or series of candles sounds suboptimal for sure.

+1 for the charcoal grill idea because hot coals are the best thing period (with a traditional campfire you get the best smores 45 minutes into the fire where hot coals are created), or even just bring a firepit and a chimney starter full of coals and use that to have a more spread-out "fire."
posted by aydeejones at 10:13 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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