Roasting marshmallows over a campfire is one of my fondest memories. In addition to the end result of getting to eat a delicious snack, it was always fun to be allowed to poke something into the fire and to cook my own food. What wasn’t fun, was when the marshmallow would get covered in ash or catch fire and burn to a crisp. Over the years, however, I’ve learned and have been taught a few tricks for roasting a delicious marshmallow.
While it’s possible to roast marshmallows in an oven or over a stove, the best way to do it is over a campfire. More specifically, over the coals of the campfire. You can roast yours over dancing flames, but the problem is that the heat produced by the flames isn’t constant which makes it difficult to predict how the marshmallow will cook and thereby difficult to produce the nice golden brown marshmallow.
The best place to find constant, predictable heat is in the coals of the fire. Once the fire has started to burn out a bit, you’ll see ashy white and glowing coals in the bottom of the fire. These coals are still very hot but they give off a steady, even heat that makes roasting marshmallows much more predictable.
You can buy pre-made metal roasting sticks with slick wooden or synthetic handles, but all you really need is a two foot piece of wood that is about as thick as a pen or pencil. When I go camping with a bunch of kids, I prefer to use the metal sticks as it’s easier to manage, but when I go with just my kids, I have them hunt for just the right stick and whittle it to a point so that they can be a part of the whole process. Metal sticks also have difficulty gripping the inside of the marshmallow when it gets hot which makes it difficult to rotate over the fire.
If you use a stick that you whittle, you should be sure to find one that isn’t rotting or hollow. It can have a lot of curves or knots as long as it’s also solid and sturdy. A straight stick is easier to rotate so I’d recommend choosing the straightest stick you can find, but it’s by no means a requirement.
Once you’ve selected your stick, whittle the narrow end down to a point and shave about three inches of bark off from the pointed tip. The point should look like the tip of a freshly sharpened pencil. The shaved area behind the point is where the marshmallow will rest while you’re cooking it.
Before you start roasting your marshmallow, you should set up your S’mores so that all you have to do is pull the roasted marshmallow out of the fire, place it on the cracker and pull it off the stick. Trying to pull the cracker and the chocolate out of their packaging while holding or balancing the stick is not recommended.
On a flat surface, lay out half of the cracker and place two pieces of chocolate on it. The goal is to have the chocolate cover as much of the cracker as possible without extending over the edge. Then place the other half of the cracker nearby so that it’s easy to grab when you’re ready.
In my opinion, the regular sized marshmallows are the best for roasting over a campfire. The little ones that you often find in hot cocoa are far too small and the large ones, often labeled “campfire marshmallows”, are just too big are very difficult to eat once you’ve roasted them.
Once you’ve got your stick ready and the fire has burned down a bit so that there are coals, it’s time to skewer your marshmallows. Run the pointed end of the stick through the middle of the marshmallow. I recommend against stacking multiple marshmallows on one point as this can make it difficult to cook them evenly. The one at the end of the stick will cook much faster than the ones closest to the handle.
Now you’re ready to roast your marshmallow. Hold your stick so that the marshmallow is close to the coals, but far enough away that the small wiggles and bounces of the stick don’t cause the marshmallow to come in contact with the coals.
You should be constantly rotating your stick so that the marshmallow also rotates evenly over the coal. Keep in mind that although you are rotating the sides of the marshmallow evenly, the side of the marshmallow that is facing the fire is being constantly exposed to the heat while the side facing you isn’t so don’t depend on that side to determine how cooked the marshmallow is getting.
Pull the stick out of the fire regularly to inspect the sides and front of the marshmallow. If you see that one side is getting more well done than another, be sure to adjust your rotation so that part of the marshmallow is exposed less than the rest.
It may take a while before the marshmallow begins to turn a nice golden brown. This means that you’re doing it right. Once the outside of the marshmallow begins to turn brown, it is very close to being ready and you should keep a close eye on it as it will quickly go from brown to black if you’re not paying attention.
Once you’re satisfied that the marshmallow has been roasted, pull it out of the fire and use it to place the marshmallow on the chocolate and cracker stack that you prepared earlier. Pick up the other half of the cracker and press it down on top of the marshmallow to pinch it against the chocolate piece and pull the stick out.
You have just made a S’more.
While you’re roasting the marshmallow, there are a few things to look out for that might impede your attempt at creating a delicious S’more. None of these things are life-shattering, and you can always try again. Practice makes perfect and mistakes often still result in a delicious snack.
If the fire has produced a lot of ash, it can get blown around by the wind or your stick can dip so that the marshmallow gets coated in ash. If this happens, don’t try to save the marshmallow, just scrape it off into the fire and try again.
It’s also common to have your marshmallow catch fire and burn. I’ve heard many kids claim that they like theirs burnt after pulling it out of the fire and blowing out the flames, but then when offered a golden brown marshmallow, they devour it like a starving jackal.
If your marshmallow catches fire, resist the urge to shake it to put out the fire. Waving your stick back and forth can result in launching the sticky flaming marshmallow in an unexpected direction. While it's an impressive sight, it can also be dangerous.