The crackle, the woodsy aroma, the flickering light. Nothing is quite the same as an open wood fire.
All of a sudden, it’s September. Where did the summer go? No worries. A lot of outdoor enjoyment is still in your future. It’s time to get cracking on upping your fireplace game. Here are a few accessories that go beyond the pokers and long-armed shovels that come in a standard fireplace toolkit. Consider a few to help you build that warmth and inviting atmosphere safely and with panache.
This isn’t the most glamorous choice but it is a necessary safety addition. Embers can burn for many, many hours after the fire seems extinguished, and they can ignite plastic and paper bags easily. While it is important to discard ashes before they get blown around your patio, it is more important to make sure the embers are totally extinguished or safely contained. An ash bucket is a fireproof metal container for ashes. The safest bet it to choose one with a lid to prevent the accidental spread of lit embers or dusty ashes. Your ashes can be used as fertilizer in the garden or in your compost pile. Choose a good sized, metal ash bucket with a carrying handle and a lid. Bonus features: a dumping handle (near the bottom of the bucket to help empty it) and an accompanying shovel.
Pie Iron and Cast Iron Skillet
Cooking over an open fire feels historical, like walking in our forefathers’ footsteps. Or perhaps it’s just plain fun. Hot dogs and marshmallows aside, cooking a real meal over a fire isn’t an activity most of us have experienced. There are two pieces of equipment that can fix this: a cast iron pie iron and a cast iron skillet. The pie iron looks a bit like a waffle iron with long handles. It opens wide and lies flat as you put the ingredients in the sides. When closed, the pie iron works as a small oven by containing the heat and cooking the food inside. Flipping the pie iron will ensure the food is thoroughly cooked. Pie irons come in all sizes. Some are just big enough to make a grilled cheese sandwich, others can hold a casserole. Perhaps start small and work your way up. Cast iron skillets are making a comeback in indoor cuisine, but they’ve always been an open-fire favorite. These workhorse skillets require “seasoning” before the first use. A fan community has built up around cast iron, so turn to them when it comes to hints and tricks. Check online for different recipes and cooking times, and with any cast iron cookware, follow directions to “season” the surfaces before first use.
Fatwood is a funny term for easily-ignitable pine sticks, sourced from non-endangered pine tree species. When making food over a fire, it is essential to use food safe wood, i.e., wood left untreated by fire-starting chemicals. The chemicals found on certain wood products can make people sick if the chemicals transfer to the food. Even if you are using a pie iron or other container, you must use food safe wood when starting and maintaining your cooking fire. Fatwood sticks are a good way to ignite bigger, untreated dry wood logs. Look for “all natural” Fatwood like these sticks from L.L.Bean.
Everyone has their camping tricks for making coffee, but not many of those solutions are the ones you want to try out on your patio. A stylish percolator brings that fresh coffee aroma outside. Even if you’re just making decaf to go with your pie iron apple pie, a bit of coffee made outdoors will invigorate and comfort at the same time. If you’ve never had coffee made in one of these, you’re missing out. There’s no rule saying that morning coffee must be made indoors. What better way to start a fall workday than grabbing a blanket and having your coffee by the fire? L.L. Bean comes to the rescue again with this stainless steel pot that will look great as it is getting your brew ready.
Sometimes those marshmallows get a bit more toasted than we expected! Keeping a set of camping plates outside near the fireplace accessories doesn’t sound like a traditional practice, but having something to set a hot s’more on is always a good idea. Primus camping plates bring back memories of the mess kits of yore. Doubling as both a plate and a bowl, these stainless steel plates can take the rough and tumble life of an outdoors patio man (i.e., they won’t break if they are dropped on the pavers!). They also won’t blow down the walkway or into the fire when a gust of fall wind sweeps through the backyard. Keep a few on hand to share.
When it comes to fireplace accessories, we can fall down a rabbit hole of products. But concentrating your focus on safety and fun will help you collect the ones that will let you feel the luxury a lovely wood fireplace can bring to your life.