I was well into my 30s before I had the opportunity to make a proper fire-roasted s’more. I grew up in Brooklyn, where setting fires is severely discouraged and our people are bred to fear nature. We’re essentially held captive within the city walls by a well-coordinated army of rats and pigeons. We don’t need to know what’s out there in the woods.
I’ve made s'mores in a toaster. I’ve made them to put into cakes and pies and puddings, but never one out in the wild where they belong. This changed a few summers ago, when my family was invited to spend a weekend at my aunt’s beach house. As a professional chef, I was able to pick up a lot of details that the average camper wouldn’t when it comes to the technique that will lead you to a perfect s’more. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Don’t go to the beach
There’s sand everywhere! It’s terrible! It gets into your eyes, sticks to the marshmallows, then the marshmallows stick to your hands, and you get even more sand on them, then you try to wipe the sand out of your eyes but just end up putting more in. Now you’ve blinded yourself, and somewhere close by there is a deep hole full of fire. These are extraordinary conditions to expose yourself to for the sake of a cookie.
Bring a gigantic flashlight
Fire doesn’t give you enough light. In fact, all I was able to see in the vastness of the pitch black was the fire itself. Essentially I was completely blind, trying to put these things together using only my sense of touch, then holding my hands out into an open flame and praying the marshmallows would divert the flames from my innocent flesh. Speaking of the darkness…
Lock your children in the car
Since all you’ll be able to see is the fire, you’re really going to need to be hoping for the best when it comes to your children's whereabouts. They could be heading into the ocean, wandering off into the woods, running straight toward the fire at top speed. You can concentrate on their safety, or you can concentrate on making these damn s’mores come together. You can send for them when you need them.
Don’t gather roasting sticks from the wild
This part of the experience was actually really fun — strolling through nature, searching for the perfect sticks upon which to skewer marshmallows. It was a simple scavenger hunt the entire family could enjoy. Then later, I watched a whole bunch of dogs messing around in that same area and realized I was covered in marshmallows, sand and animal urine.
Know what? Screw the wilderness altogether
It’s way too much work. Get a friend with a fire pit. I suppose you could get a fire pit yourself, but it looks like a lot of maintenance for something I’m going to use maybe twice. Find the guy in your neighborhood with a pool and a fire pit, and start sucking up.
Don’t buy specialty s’mores equipment
As difficult as it is to make s’mores, knowing you’re the person who needed to waste $20 for a specialized device to make one solitary item is infinitely worse than some silly third-degree burns. If you want easy s'mores, you can make them in the oven. You can put them on the grill over a waxed paper-lined sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. There are so many ways to do it the half-assed way that there is no need to be buying useless garbage to assist you in it.
If you’re bothering with an attempt at Open Fire Pit Roasted Danger S'mores, you roll up your sleeve, get in there and make some goddamn Danger S'mores — that is, in the safety of your friend’s backyard, where any problems will be covered by their homeowner's insurance.
Find the sweet spot of roasting coals
Initially I found two options when toasting a marshmallow: Either hold it over the flame and look at it quizzically, wondering if it’s toasting at all, or repeatedly set it on fire and blow it out. While I’ve grown to love the taste of burning marshmallow, the optimal toast is a rich, golden brown. Remember: Marshmallows are practically pure sugar. You’re looking to create a fluffy pillow of caramel.
After many disastrous attempts, I discovered my mistake: Marshmallows are not meant to be roasted over a fire. They are meant to be roasted over the embers of a fire once the main meal has been cooked and the fire is dying. Find a spot off to the side where you see glowing coals, then hold your marshmallow a few inches over, and rotate the marshmallow slowly, like a rotisserie chicken. Keep doing this until it becomes the perfect darkness for your liking.
Get a partner
I find that s’mores work best when there are two people involved. One person toasts, the other is on standby. Once you’re at toasted perfection, have your partner grab onto the marshmallow using the graham crackers and chocolate. Then you slide out the stick, twisting as you go, and voilà! Perfect s'moreage. Start passing them around while you get back to toasting. With this assembly line method, you can actually make a few at a time instead of waiting forever for your turn at ooey, gooey goodness.
Break with tradition
Who says you need to be doing the same thing over and over? Try swapping out the chocolate bars for fun-size bars of your favorite candies (I’m a sucker for Snickers). Spread peanut butter on your graham crackers. Or do away with the graham crackers entirely — use homemade chocolate chip cookies, Oreos or Hawaiian rolls stuffed with Nutella. Clear out the junk food aisle at the supermarket, and go crazy. It’s summertime, and we’re setting things on fire! There are no rules!
And if this is all too much work
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, throw on some graham crackers, top them with chocolate and a marshmallow, and then bake at 400 degrees F for five minutes. Smoosh another cracker on top, and there you go — s’mores for 20 in no time flat. Everyone is happy, and your skin and your corneas live to see another day. Summer safely, my friends.
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