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8 Fireplace Safety Tips
By Jennifer Whipple
10/14/2014 4:37:00 PM  


With the rising cost of fuel prices, you may be looking to your fireplace to help cut your home-heating bills. To make the most of your hearth, here are some tips for fireplace cleaning and fireplace maintenance that will help keep your fireplace working efficiently and, even more importantly, safely:


  1. Get the chimney in order. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be swept at least once a year at the beginning of the winter to remove soot and debris. If you burn more than three cords of wood a year, you should have your chimney cleaned twice annually (a cord is 4'H x 8'L). In addition to cleaning, a chimney sweep will also inspect your chimney and chimney liner for cracks, loose bricks or missing mortar. (Find a certified sweep in your area through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.


  2. Cap off the chimney. Install a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to keep out rain, snow, birds, squirrels and debris from entering the chimney. Repair a cap that is damaged or replace one that is missing.

    Chimney Cap

  3. Test your smoke alarms. If you don’t have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, install them near the fireplace and your bedroom areas. Be sure to change the batteries and test them regularly.

  4. Use a spark guard. Guard against flying embers and shooting sparks with a fireplace screen or spark guard. A guard in front of an open flame is especially important when the room is unoccupied. Fireplace screens and spark guards are also a great way to enhance your décor – read our tips on choosing the perfect fire screen and take a look at our entire selection of fireplace screens here.

    fireplace screen

  5. Keep the heat in. Be sure to close the damper when not using your fireplace to prevent warm indoor air from escaping through the chimney and raising your heating bill.

    Close Damper DiagramDiagram heat escaping fireplace
  6. Burn only dry, seasoned hardwoods. Use dry, dense hardwoods like oak or hickory that have been cured (i.e. split, stacked and dried for 6-12 months) as opposed to green, resinous softwoods (like pine or spruce) that result in more creosote buildup. Using the right wood will also help keep your fire going longer.

  7. Start small. A fire that’s too large can wind up cracking your chimney, so keep it small. Smaller fires also generate less smoke, which means less creosote buildup. To burn a fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. Keep the fireplace damper all the way open to increase draw in the early stages, and use kindling (like our popular Fatwood) to start the fire. Place the logs at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate.


  8. Burn only firewood. The fireplace might seem like a tempting place to dispose of crates, painted wood, scrap wood and lumber, but those treated woods will release chemicals into the air in your home, affecting your air quality.


With these simple guidelines for fireplace cleaning and fireplace maintenance, you’ll be ready to enjoy your fireplace burning brightly, efficiently and safely!



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Tags: fireplace safety, fireplace cleaning, fireplace maintenance
Categories: Hearth
How to Clean a Fireplace
By Elise White
9/12/2014 9:10:00 AM  

The warm glimmer of a blazing fireplace inspires cozy holiday bliss in all of us. Even crooning Christmas legends have roasted chestnuts and hung stockings around the fire in beloved verse.


Nonetheless, while a toasty fire presents a practical way to warm up the wintertime chill, a neglected fireplace may spark a flame you can’t control. When soot condenses from continuous use, a highly combustible substance called creosote accumulates, leaving you one match away from a house fire.


Thus, to maintain a safe domestic blaze, let’s prepare for some holiday hearth action with an annual cleaning. As the hearth is the center of your home, protect your haven with these easy steps.


You will need:

  • Hearth Utility Gloves
  • Newspaper/tarp
  • Trash bags
  • Shovel and ash bucket
  • Chimney Sweep Brush
  • Bucket of warm water
  • Scrubber
  • Detergent (optional)
  • Ash vac (optional)


1. Manage the mayhem


First thing’s first. Has it been one day? For this undertaking, it’s important that you wait 24 hours since the last lit fire.


Slip on our exclusive suede hearth utility gloves and make sure you’re dressed for the occasion – old clothing is great for fireplace cleaning.


Place newspaper or tarp on the fireplace floor to catch the soot and cover close furniture with old sheets or cloth. Trash bags are also helpful to have nearby to dispose of waste.


2. Detection Perfection


Open the flue and peer into your chimney. With a little skylight, you can inspect soot and possibly metallic hardened deposits of creosote. Let’s get to work!


3. Brush, Brush and Away!


Begin by using your handy dandy shovel to remove ashes and debris piled in the fireplace.


Next, take a chimney sweep brush and brush away! Our round poly brushes do a thorough job without scratching up the flue. Pair with a fiberglass extension rod and make sure to brush each wall top to bottom. Shovel the ashes into a pan and dump the wreckage into your standby trash bags or a sturdy ash bucket or scuttle.


Next, take a scrubber brush and a bucket of warm water and begin a deep cleansing. To make it more effective, add a squirt or two of detergent in the pale. Rinse with a sponge and wipe dry with an old towel.


4. Throw it in the bag!


Pick up your protective newspaper or tarp, full of soot and deposits, and throw it in the bag! The trash bag, obviously. Relax while the walls dry and savor that awesome feeling of do-it-yourself accomplishment. Close the flue and we’re back in business!




Now, you’re ready to rekindle another winter of yuletide bliss before the fireplace.  Who needs lengthy footage of a burning log? You’ve got your own safe, efficient, slow-burning beauty at the ready.


For maximum ease and efficiency in cleaning your fireplace, visit our Fireplace Cleaning & Maintenance collection.

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Tags: fireplace cleaning, hearth, fireplace, how to clean your fireplace
Categories: Hearth
Measuring Your Fireplace For A Fireplace Screen
By Plow & Hearth
2/19/2014 3:33:00 PM  

There are no standard sizes of fireplace openings in the US, so it’s important to measure your opening size carefully to achieve a proper fit. Here are some tips for finding the right sized screen for your fireplace.


For Square Fireplaces:


Step 1.

Measure the width of the opening from inside the face of the opening at both the top and bottom.

Step 1

Step 2.

Measure the height from the hearth surface (where the screen will sit) to the top of the opening at both the left and right sides of the fireplace.


Step 2


If the measurements are different, go by the largest number to be sure the screen will cover the opening completely.


TIP: Measure the distance between any trim at the sides and top of the opening to be sure the screen will cover the opening, but not run into or overlap the trim pieces.


For Arched Fireplaces:


Step 1.

For an arched fireplace opening, measure the height of the opening at the center as well as at both sides of the arch to get a clear idea of how the screen will cover the opening.


Step 3


Step 2.

To ensure you have about an inch or more of overlap for the screen at the face of the fireplace opening, choose a screen that is at least one inch taller than the height and two inches wider than the width of the fireplace opening for a safe, attractive fit.


Step 3.

The two screen sizes most commonly available are 39” wide by 31” high and 44” wide by 33” high.  If your fireplace opening will not fit in the range of those two sizes, you may consider getting a custom screen made to precisely fit your opening.


TIP: Keep in mind that measuring for your fireplace screen will depend on whether you want a single or multi-paneled fireplace screen. Single panel fireplace screens should match the measurements of your fireplace’s firebox, with an additional 1 to 3 inches added to the total height, to ensure total coverage. Multi-panel fireplace screens need extra length to create the decorative, curved effect, so you should add an additional 10 to 12 inches to the total length and 3 to 5 inches to the total height when measuring the firebox.


Need help, or would like to review custom screen options? Visit or call 1-800-866-6072 for further information or to place an order. For help measuring your fireplace, visit your nearest Plow & Hearth Retail Store.


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Select Fireplace Tools
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:54:00 PM  
fire tools

Moved into a new house with a fireplace to decorate? Or maybe you have used an inexpensive fireplace tool set for a couple of years and it’s already falling apart. A quality tool set is both an essential part of a working hearth and a strong decorative element in the room. For working fireplaces and stoves, a tool set becomes an everyday companion for helping with fire tending, cleaning up and safety. Even if you have a gas fireplace or an unused hearth, a tool set still helps give your hearth a traditional, finished look.

Here are a few tips to guide you when buying new fireplace tools. We'll look at both decorative and functional considerations to help you make your choice.

Types of Tools

The most common fireplace tools include the following pieces:

• Brush. Brushes are often constructed of broom straw or Tampico bristles so they won’t melt when they’re near heat.

• Shovel. Good, quality fireplace shovels are strong enough to use as pokers and deep enough to move plenty of ash.

• Poker. Used for stirring up logs or coals in a stove, pokers are normally crafted with a solid steel shaft that has welded tips for strength.

• Tongs. A top-notch pair of tongs are built will have a solid steel riveted hinge and be strong enough to let you pick up a log and move it around easily and safely in the fire.

fireplace tool set
Fireplace Tool Set

Benefits Of Purchasing A Complete Set

If you use your fireplace infrequently, you may decide to buy only the individual tools that you use most with hooks for hanging at fireside (such as a poker, generally the most popular tool). If you use your fireplace a lot, a set can be a much better choice. Tool sets usually include three or four tools (shovel, broom, poker and, sometimes, tongs) plus a stand. Often, the handles and tool shafts are solid steel so they won’t bend or wear out with use.

• In addition to a stand, three-piece sets include a poker for adjusting logs in the fire, and a shovel and broom for cleanup. If you use your fireplace a lot, look for a shovel with a larger scoop and a broom with a full set of stiff bristles to make ash removal easier.

• Four-piece sets include those found in a 3-piece set, plus a pair of log tongs for folks who really like to play with the fire. The grabbing end of the tongs has either two or three points of contact with the log. While the two- point tong is more traditional, the three-point style makes log moving a little easier.

Keep A Grip on Your Tools

Functional concerns include how the handles and tips attach to the tool shafts, and the design of the tools. Considering how you intend to use the tools will increase your long-term satisfaction with your choice.

One of the most common complaints from people looking for new tool sets at Plow & Hearth's retail stores concerns tools whose handles loosen up in use. Tools have either swedged (also called press-fitted) or threaded handles. Forced on with tons of pressure, swedged handles will not come loose, as will handles that are threaded. To check a tool, grab the handle and the other end and twist. You won't be able to budge a swedged handle.

                                                                                Slate Tile Fire Pit

Slate Tile Fire Pit

Combining Form With Function

On the decorative side you need to consider the set's materials and style. By far the most common materials for toolsets are brass or iron, which you will find alone or combined to make sets from casual to very formal.

Traditional Brass Tools. Solid brass sets tend to be more traditional and formal looking. Brass sets have a variety of finial treatments from simple ball to elaborately turned tops, to suit a range of decorating styles.

• The most expensive sets tend to be made from solid brass. The rich color, satisfying heft, and brilliant finish of a well-made solid brass set can be truly beguiling. Sometimes, to increase strength and to cut costs, solid brass sets have tools shafts made from steel sheathed with solid brass tubing.

• Brass tool sets in the middle price range are usually a little lighter weight and have less hand finishing than the most expensive sets. The better ones are hard to distinguish from the most expensive sets. They represent a good value and can last a lifetime.

Brass-plated steel toolsets. At the lowest price level are brass plated steel sets. They are often used as promotional sets and are generally not suited for regular heavy use. They may be practical, however, as a decorative accent for a fireplace that is not used frequently.

Iron Tool Sets. Iron tool sets have gained popularity along with more casual trends in decorating. Just because they are more casual does not mean that they cannot be decorative, however. Handmade wrought iron sets can be decorated with scrollwork, leaves, and other details. Even machine-made sets can have stamped accents and gracefully curved handles. Some iron sets combine the beauty of brass handles with the durability of steel shafts and tool ends.

The Perfect Fireplace Fit

When choosing a tool set, remember to keep in mind the style of the fireplace screen, hearth and the overall style of the room in your tool set decision. Many tool sets are designed to match or complement the look of specific screens and log holders, so you can build a matching set of hearth accessories that also fits into the decorative feel of the room.

Here are some helpful hints for selecting the right tool set for your setting:

• Be sure to match the height of the tools to the size of the fireplace. Tools and stands range in sizes from 30" to 35" tall, from shorter sets designed for woodstoves to extra-long sets suitable for a massive stone fireplace in a great room with high ceilings. (Shorter tools may require using fire gloves to protect yourself from the heat when working a blazing fire.)

• Many tool sets are available in a variety of finishes like black, bronze and copper.

• Your tool stand is a key component in creating the look you want around your hearth. Tool stands are available in round or space-saving flat designs, and some tool sets even have log holders built in.

• Look for tools and tool stands that are finished with hammering, bending or decorative elements so there is no unfinished, cut off steel.

When possible, factor in both the decorative and functional aspects of your new fireplace tool set by seeing it in person before you buy it. Take a picture of your fireplace, write down its measurements and bring both along with you to your nearest Plow & Hearth store. That way, you can gauge in person how our high-quality tools compare to your fireplace in size and style.

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Categories: Hearth
Tips for Starting Fires
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:53:00 PM  
Super Fatwood

Although it seems so easy to strike a match, turning a stack of wood into a cheerful blaze can be a frustrating challenge for a novice. For those of you new to the joys of wood burning, here are a few tips from the fireplace and woodstove professionals at Plow & Hearth, your Hearth Headquarters®.

Getting Prepared:

Dry Wood A Must
The #1 tip is to start with dry firewood. In order for wood to burn, it must reach a temperature of 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The moisture in damp wood will boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it into steam which takes heat away from the wood. Until enough water has escaped, the wood will not burn.

Green wood weighs 30% to 250% more than dry wood because of excess water. As you can imagine, it takes lots of energy to dry wet wood out. Also, the extra water vapor and smoke created by trying to burn green wood condenses more easily on chimney walls, creating a thick, hard-to-remove creosote which increases your chance of a chimney fire. So, whatever else you do, try to start with good, dry wood.

Boy Scout Firebuilding
The classic way to start a fire is to use several sheets of crumpled newspaper, pile on some twigs or kindling split to approximately 1/4" diameter, then use increasingly larger pieces of split wood stacked loosely in a crisscross or teepee-shaped fashion. A match lights the paper, which gets the smallest pieces going, which in turn get the larger pieces going. Soon you have a nice bed of hot coals, which allows you to add full, un-split pieces from the woodpile.

If you have a woodstove, build the pile close to where the air comes into the stove. More air will get into the stack and cause it to catch faster. Bellows can help direct air to your firestarting efforts in either a stove or fireplace.

Firebuilding Shortcuts:

Fortunately, you do not have to find twigs or split kindling every time you start a fire – nor do you have to resort to rubbing two sticks together! Once you have built up a bed of hot coals, you just keep adding whole pieces of wood to the fire. Even more fortunately, there are firestarting aids that bypass using paper and small kindling altogether. Here are some of our favorite fire-building shortcuts:

Green wood weighs 30% to 250% more than dry wood because of excess water. As you can imagine, it takes lots of energy to dry wet wood out. Also, the extra water vapor and smoke created by trying to burn green wood condenses more easily on chimney walls, creating a thick, hard-to-remove creosote which increases your chance of a chimney fire. So, whatever else you do, try to start with good, dry wood.

Boy Scout Firebuilding
The classic way to start a fire is to use several sheets of crumpled newspaper, pile on some twigs or kindling split to approximately 1/4" diameter, then use increasingly larger pieces of split wood stacked loosely in a crisscross or teepee-shaped fashion. A match lights the paper, which gets the smallest pieces going, which in turn get the larger pieces going. Soon you have a nice bed of hot coals, which allows you to add full, un-split pieces from the woodpile.

If you have a woodstove, build the pile close to where the air comes into the stove. More air will get into the stack and cause it to catch faster. Bellows can help direct air to your firestarting efforts in either a stove or fireplace.

The Natural Solution
The most popular firestarting aid with Plow & Hearth employees and customers alike is Fatwood. What is Fatwood? It’s a natural byproduct of logging that comes from the stump of a pine tree that is harvested several years after the tree has been cut. During this time the root system keeps pushing pitch up into the stump, which fills the cells in the stump wood.

Cut into pieces approximately 8"L x 1/2" diameter and boxed in 10, 12, 25 or 35 pound packages, a piece lights with a match and burns with a hot fire for about twenty minutes. A couple of pieces of Fatwood can turn small seasoned logs (or pile of charcoal for grilling) into a blaze quickly.

Being a natural product, Fatwood can be used to start fires in woodstoves, even the new models with catalytic converters that can be harmed using other types of starters.

Resin Rich Fatwood

Lamp Oil Burners                                   
Two traditional firestarting methods rely on lamp oil or kerosene to start a fire without kindling. The Cape Cod Firepot holds oil and a porous ceramic ball on a handle by the hearth. When starting a fire, you place the ball under some kindling and small logs and light it. The lamp oil burns long enough to get the fire going.

A fire tray works in essentially the same manner as the Cape Cod Firepot. You just pour oil in a cast iron tray with a porous ceramic insert, put the tray under your firewood and light it.

Compressed Sawdust Starters
The most widely available fire starters, this type is similar to the artificial fire logs. They are made of highly flammable sawdust that is molded with a flammable binder. They light easily and will provide enough heat to create a fire.

Replica Dynamite Fire Starters
                                                                                                        Replica Dynamite Fire Starters

Practice Makes Perfect
Starting fires is definitely a learned skill. The more fires you start, the better your technique gets. Whatever method you choose, don't get frustrated if it doesn't work the first time. Just use some smaller pieces of wood until you get it right!

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Choosing The Right Electric Fireplace Or Stove
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:51:00 PM  
Electric Fireplace

For tens of thousands of years, the flickering flames and warmth of a fire on the hearth has been an integral part of daily human life. We can all identify with the calm and peaceful feeling of looking into the heart of an open fire. But, the advent of modern heating and cooking appliances has taken the open flame out of most of our homes. Electric stoves and fireplaces are an easy way to introduce the realistic and satisfying effect of burning wood into any room while providing safe, clean and efficient heat.

How They Work:

There are two basic functions to an electric stove or fireplace: the flame effect and the electric heater. Realistic open fire flames are created by the light from small bulbs or LEDs shining onto a random pattern of rotating, polished metal fingers that reflect the light onto a glass screen to create an ever changing three-dimensional flame effect. These “flames” can be so realistic that you hesitate to reach out to the surface, even though it’s cool to the touch. The built in heater works by having electrical current pass through metal coils that heat up. The radiant heat that is produced is moved out of the stove with a built-in, super-quiet fan, creating warm air that circulates through the room.

The Benefits Of Faux Fire:

• All of the units just plug into any electrical outlet.
• All surfaces stay cool and safe, so they can be placed against a wall or cabinet on a wood floor or carpeting.
• Unlike a gas or wood appliances there are no emissions, so no chimney or venting is required.
• They are completely safe around children or pets. (Dogs and cats usually stake out a warm spot right in front of the heater)
• The built in electric heater uses approximately 1500 watts, with a 4-5,000 btu output. Enough to heat around 400 square feet.
• All of the stoves and fireplaces have built in thermostats or variable heat output controls, as well as brightness control for the flames.
• The flame effect and heater can be operated independently, so you can have the flames without the heat being on. Many models also come with a remote control.
• Save energy by zone heating in the room you are using, instead of heating the whole house with a central system.

Form, Function And Fit:

With the knowledge of electric fireplace functionality and benefits under your belt, you can now begin your process of selecting the size and style that’s right for your living quarters—whether it’s a home, apartment, condo or cottage. Electric fireplaces and stoves come in so many shapes and sizes, there’s sure to be a style to suit your space.

Electric Fireplaces—From Mantels To Entertainment Centers:

Electric fireplaces are available in a variety of styles designed to fit into any home décor. You can choose from simple compact designs, traditional fireplace surrounds and mantels, or entertainment centers to hold a wide screen TV.

Surrounds and mantels for the electric fireplaces are all wood construction with real veneers that are fine furniture quality and available in a variety of stained finishes, as well as basic black and stone. The fireplace surrounds are easy to assemble and the electric fireplace units come assembled, ready to plug in. If you’re looking for something that provides more of a traditional fireplace feel or would like to create ambiance in extra rooms, mantels and surrounds offer the perfect solution.

The combination electric fireplace/entertainment center option is great for someone who has limited space and wants more out of their fireplace than just heat and good looks. This choice also makes a nice focal point for a room and has great potential for storage.

Electric Fireplace Inserts:

Fireplace insert units are designed to fit right into any existing fireplace to provide the warmth and ambiance of a real fire without the maintenance and mess. Electric inserts are easily portable and come assembled and ready to plug in. When using an electric fireplace  inserts you can keep the damper closed since they produce no smoke or emissions.

Electric Stoves:

Featuring the same realistic flame patterns and efficient electric heater as the fireplaces, electric stoves can go anywhere, living room, basement, garage, kitchen or bedroom. Patterned after classic European cast iron wood burning stove designs, they add a warm, traditional feeling to any room, even before you turn the flames on. Available in compact or full size models, basic black or colors, they are lightweight, durable, and can be easily moved from room to room.

Wall-Mounted Fireplaces:

Wall Mount Electric Fireplaces take flames and heat to a new place in the home. Wall mount fireplaces have all the same features of the electric stoves, but take up no floor space. They come with wall mounting hardware and can be placed on virtually any wall in the house. Since the flames and heat can be operated independently, imagine adding the look of a cheerful fire to a room anytime of year. Like a piece of wall art, they are framed in real wood with a choice of finishes.

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Choose the right fireplace screen for your fireplace
By Plow & Hearth
2/6/2013 12:51:00 PM  
Choose the Right Screen for your fireplace

For generations families have been gathering around fireplaces during cold weather, and while technological advances have given us many alternatives to heating our homes with an open flame, nothing quite replaces it. There’s just something about the crackling of the logs, the glow of the embers, and the ever-changing flickering of the flames that fire up imaginations, draw us in, and encourage us to dream. No matter how high-end your TV might be, the fireplace is still the focal point of the family room.

Naturally, if you have a fireplace, you should have a fireplace screen. The most important reason is safety – fireplace screens not only help keep children and pets away from the flames, they also prevent sparks and embers from getting onto your carpet or floor.

Choosing A Style

Any good-quality, properly fitted screen will help protect your hearth, so concentrate on finding a one that will complement your room’s décor. As far as looks go, the sky’s the limit: fireplace screens come in many designs and finishes, from simple to ornate. Before you start shopping, think about how often you use your fireplace, what kind of protection you need (Do you have kids? Pets?), and what look you’re going for.

There are two basic types of fireplace screens:

  Flat guard or spark guard

Flat Guard or Spark Guard Screens. 
Flat guard or spark guard style screens have a solid mesh panel that fits against the face of the fireplace and completely covers the fireplace opening. These screens afford the greatest degree of safety and an unobstructed view of the fire. This style screen must be moved aside to tend the fire or gain access to the firebox. Flat guard or spark guard screens are ideal for homes with smaller children and curious pets.

  Screens with doors

Screens with Doors. 
Screens with doors fit snugly against the face of the fireplace for safety. The doors have magnetic closures and open without having to move the whole screen to gain access to the firebox. This makes it easier to replenish the fuel or clear away the ashes. Screens with doors are a good choice for homes with older children and homes where the fireplace sees a lot of use.


Once you have chosen the screen, you can further complement the overall look and function of your hearth by adding matching fireplace tools and wood holders.

Measuring Your Fireplace For A Screen

There are no standard sizes of fireplace openings in the US, so it’s important to measure your opening size carefully to achieve a proper fit. Here are some tips for finding the right sized screen for your fireplace: Measuring Your Fireplace For A Fireplace Screen.

To review the custom screen options, visit or call 1-800-866-6072 for further information or to place an order. For help measuring your fireplace, visit your nearest Plow & Hearth Retail Store.

With the right fireplace screen in place, you can relax and enjoy beauty and warmth of a crackling fire on your hearth.

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Cook In Your Fireplace or Wood Stove
By Plow & Hearth
2/6/2013 12:50:00 PM  
Cooking in the Fireplace

A useful skill to know when the power goes out from a winter storm, cooking on the woodstove or in the fireplace is also just plain fun. Wood fire dishes range from roasted hot dogs to whole meals—including bread.

Long Handles: A Must

Although the Dutch Oven, which we will discuss later, is the most versatile of fireplace cooking utensils, there are several specialty items for fun fireplace cooking. Each serves a different purpose, but they all have long handles to keep your food just the right distance from the fire.

The most basic implement is the Roasting Fork. Just skewer a hot dog or marshmallows on the fork and you'll be ready for a cookout indoors. They are available in a variety of styles from simple to ornate wrought iron.

Corn Poppers and Chestnut Roasters have wire or sheet metal baskets at the business end of the handles. Just fill the basket, hold it over a bed of coals, and you'll have a delicious warm snack in minutes. Long-handled baskets are also great for cooking kebobs or s’mores over the hearth coals.

Pie Irons are used for grilling sandwiches. Each of their two handles has a steel or aluminum plate at the end. The plates hinge together, allowing you press a sandwich and hold it over the fire until it is toasted. In addition, the irons can be used for light baking or the plates can be used separately like small skillets. A bit of butter or cooking spray will help keep your food from sticking to the iron.

Use a Portable Grill to cook anything from steaks to vegetables over the coals in the fireplace, just like you would on a charcoal grill. Vary the height of the grill and rake coals around under the grill to control the heat. Remember to let the fire die down to a bed of hot coals to achieve an even temperature for grilling or baking.

The Dutch Oven

For meal preparation, the cast iron Dutch Oven has held the place of honor on the hearth for centuries. Cast iron has the ability to absorb and distribute heat evenly across its surface. This feature makes it less likely to develop hot spots that can burn your meal.

Dutch Ovens are divided into "kitchen" and "camp" styles. Both are available in many different sizes and include a cast iron lid and a heavy wire bail for lifting or hanging the oven above a fire. The camp style has three legs that make it more stable when set on coals and a flatter lid with a rim to hold coals. Using coals on top and underneath lets you bake breads and pies in your oven.

If you become serious about Dutch Oven cooking, consider installing a fireplace crane. This hinged hook bolts to your fireplace wall, and the arm lets you swing the Dutch Oven easily into and out of the fire.

Basic Fire Tips

Learning to judge the readiness of a fire takes a bit of practice. Wait 30-45 minutes after starting it for the fire to reach the point suitable for cooking. The early stage of a fire, with its leaping flames, has widely varying temperatures that can burn your food or leave it uncooked. You have to wait for the flames to die down and a bed of coals to develop to get the even heat needed to cook.

Once you have a good bed of coals, you can use a fireplace shovel or rake to distribute the coals. Not surprisingly, the more coals you put under (and on top of the camp Dutch Oven's lid) the hotter the interior will be. With experience you'll be able to judge how many coals are needed for anything from a simmer to a full boil. Don't forget you need to add more coals occasionally to keep the temperature constant.

Ready to try your hand at wood fire cooking? Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Pie Iron Instructions And Recipes

Place a buttered slice of bread, butter side down, on lower half of cooker. Spoon fruit, meat, or other filling on center of bread (see recipes). Place a second slice of bread, butter side up, on top of fillings. Latch handles and trim off excess bread, if necessary. Toast over campfire, stove, fireplace or charcoal until golden brown on both sides. You'll have a delicious hot meal in just 3 to 6 minutes.

Reuben Sandwich - Between pumpernickel bread slices, place cooked corn beef, canned sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Grill over low heat until bread is toasted.

Sloppy Joes - Use canned, pre-cooked sloppy joe mix or make your own mix with hamburger, barbecue sauce and onion. (Meat must be precooked.) Place mix between buttered bread and cook over low heat until hot and toasty. Try with ground turkey for a healthier taste treat.

Bacon and Tomato Special - Fill whole wheat bread with sliced tomatoes, crisp bacon, lettuce and mayonnaise. Toast sandwich for 3 to 4 minutes in pie iron.

Eggs - Open cooker and use as two skillets, placing one egg in each side of cooker. Or use cooker in closed position for scrambled eggs; just add onion, cheese, pepper, and mushrooms for omelettes.

Cornbread - Prepare cornbread mix according to direction on package. Into a well-greased cooker, fill cavity about one third with mix. Close, latch handles and bake over very low heat until done.

Fruit Pie - Use any canned pie filling; apple, cherry, and peach are delicious. Place filling between your choice of bread as per our basic directions. Grill until golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar and serve.

Dutch Oven Recipes

Lemon Fried Chicken

Using a 12" Dutch oven on top of 14 charcoal briquets or the equivalent amount of wood coals, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in oven. Mince 2 cloves of garlic, add and brown.

Rinse and drain on paper towels 6 chicken breasts and 6 thighs. When garlic is lightly browned, add chicken. Fry until golden. Add 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook 25 minutes or until tender. Remove chicken from oven and set aside.

Stir 2 10-oz. cans of chicken broth into Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Mix 1/4 cup of cornstarch with 1 cup of water and add to broth and lemon mixture. Stir and cook until thickened. Serve chicken over hot rice and spoon lemon sauce over both.

Tasty Tangy Vegetables & Rice

Use a 12" Dutch oven, greased. Provide bottom heat with 9 or 10 briquets. In a large bowl mix 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper and 1 teaspoon of hot sauce. Add and mix gently until coated: 1 peeled and diced eggplant, 1 peeled and diced potato, 1 diced green pepper, 1 diced red pepper, 1 diced zucchini squash, 2 peeled and sliced carrots, 1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms, 1 chopped onion and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Chop 4 large tomatoes. Layer the tomatoes in the oven and cover with half of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of uncooked white rice. Add the remaining vegetables.

Mix 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Pour over the top of the vegetables and place oven over heat. Steam on low heat, without stirring, for 1/2 hour or until vegetables and rice are tender.

Fireplace Fruit Cobbler

For this recipe, use a 12" foil-lined camp Dutch oven and both top and bottom heat (coals or briquets both below and piled on lid). Mix and place into foil-lined oven: 2 29-oz. cans of sliced peaches with juice, 1 cup of crushed pineapple with juice and 1/2 cup of instant tapioca. Sprinkle over the top of fruit mixture 1 yellow or white cake mix. Top cake mix with 1cup brown sugar and 8 tablespoons of butter, thinly sliced. Do not stir.

Bake for 20 minutes with top and bottom heat. Then remove from bottom heat and continue cooking with top heat for 5-10 minutes until fruit is bubbling and crust is golden. Serve hot straight from Dutch oven or garnish with ice cream or whipped cream.

The preceding recipes were provided courtesy of Rome Industries and Lodge Manufacturing companies.

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