Good Question: How Can We Toast Marshmallows Without a Campfire?

Here's a question from Alana on a creative idea for a beachside wedding.

My fiance and I are getting married beachside in June. Originally we were going to have scattered fire pits along the beach for everyone to curl up around after the festivities, but now that's not going to happen (logistics). I wanted to serve gourmet marshmallows (chocolate, pumpkin, cinnamon, etc.) for folks to toast while they sipped their bubbly and would like to keep that aspect if we still can.

Is there a simple way to equip 8 outdoor tables with the ability to toast marshmallows? Won't candles make them taste funny? I certainly doubt Sterno is a good way to go because of the chemicals...or am I wrong? Any ideas?

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Alana, congratulations! And great idea - the flavored marshmallows sound delicious. As far as tabletop toasting goes, yes, there are some options that we have seen out there.

First, let's talk about Sterno. We are slightly confused about Sterno, since most of the tabletop grills and mini S'Mores makers we've seen actually use Sterno or another gel fuel. The Sterno website has a consumer FAQ that seems to imply that Sterno is fine for cooking. They just caution you against cooking directly over a Sterno flame because dripping food can cause flareups.

We are not very knowledgeable on this subject, but we know that some commercial charcoal has harmful chemicals too, so we think it's a tossup between Sterno and charcoal. We would try to find an option that takes good natural charcoal with no additives - the taste of charcoal-grilled food is so delicious.

Having established that, here are a few ideas. The tiny S'Mores maker at the top of the page was made by Casa Moda and it does not appear to still be available in retail. If you can still find one they take Sterno cans. But we think they were overpriced and they look flimsy and one-use.

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A better option is a mini Hibachi grill, one that is more flexible for tabletop use - you can use it again after the wedding or send them home as gifts with people who helped out at the wedding. Also, these take Sterno, charcoal, or a candle. We think that an unscented tealight candle might do fine for toasting, but it won't be as powerful as a charcoal flame.

Mini Hibachi Grill - $23.85

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You can also get these with a handsome wooden platter - we like these a lot, but they might be a bit too pricey.

Mini Hibachi and Pu Pu Platter Set, $39.95

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And then you can also opt for just a basic tabletop grill. These are larger, but if you check your hardware store you might find smaller versions. These are very economical, too.

Anytime/Anywhere Charcoal Grill, Ace Hardware, $4.29

And finally, you could build small tabletop grills out of ceramic or terra cotta flowerpots. Put a heat diffuser grate over top and voila, you have a homemade marshmallow grill. You can't let these get too hot, but you could do enough in them to toast marshmallows.

Outside Cooking: Build Your Own Grill

Along those same lines, we just saw this incredibly cute little Mini S'Mores Grill at Instructables, via Seropis Eats. This might be the best option yet.

More ideas for Alana?

(Images: Cordua Restaurant; Amazon; Amazon; Amazon; )

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