Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips

Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips

Use these fire pit cooking how to tips and techniques to double the enjoyment of your fire pit or fire ring. Let your snacks, dinner, or dessert cook before your eyes as you enjoy the beauty and camaraderie of your outdoor fire. Here’s how to cook on your fire pit

  • with skewers,
  • with a grill grate,
  • with or without foil in the coal bed, and
  • in cast iron pots.

Kebab Skewers Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips

Cook in a Fire Pit with Kababs

The step up from roasting individual marshmallows or hot dogs on a stick over an open fire is to cook over the fire pit using skewers.  This provides the advantage of cooking multiple pieces of food – even a whole meal – on the same stick.

It’s not difficult to find 22 inch to 28 inch long reusable metal skewers.  And 36 inch bamboo skewers are available online.


  • Let your fire die down to very low flames or to a coal bed before cooking on skewers.
  • If you are using bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in water while you prepare the food that will go on them.
  • Cut the vegetables, fish, meat or firm fruits into uniform sized pieces.
  • Put the skewers through the center (as opposed to the edges) of the food.
  • Marinating the kebabs before cooking keeps them moist and flavorful.
  • Set the distance between bricks or other supports depending on the length of your skewers.
  • Turn the skewers from time to time to cook all sides evenly.
  • When turning or removing the skewers, protect your hands from the heat of the fire and the hot skewers.

Grilling over a Fire Pit

Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips: Cook in a Fire Pit on a Grill

Some fire pit come with a grill, such as the ones below.

It’s not a problem if your fire pit did not come with a grill. Grills are made to retrofit fire pits.

If needed, use bricks on each end to elevate the fire pit cooking grill.

Consider the “meat to heat” distance. A hard wood coal bed generates roughly 1,000 degrees of heat.  Something you want cooked with a high, quick heating, such as a steak, might be placed only an inch above the coals. If a meat calls for a low and slow cooking, such as a pork butt or venison roast,  elevate the grill a foot above the coal bed.  For a moderate heat and a moderate speed, such as for chicken or pork chops, elevate the grill about 6 inches above the coal bed.


  • When using your fire pit for grilling, start the fire well ahead of time. When coals form, use a shovel to move them to one side and feed the firewood on the other side of the grill.
  • From time to time, refurbish the coal bed as needed from the coals on the fire side of the fire pit.
  • Be aware that your coal bed will inevitably have some hotter spots, so either move the food or use tongs to move the coals around.

Hot Coals Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips

Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips: How to Cook in a Fire Pit in the Hot Coals

There are choices for fire pit hot coals cooking: cooking in the coals or near the coals and wrapping foods in foil or leaving them unwrapped.


  • Foods that have an outer layer that you won’t be eating anyhow, such as corn in the husk, thick skinned winter squash, unpeeled onions, peanuts and bananas, will do fine cooking unwrapped in or near the coals.
  • If you will be eating the outer layer of the food, such as apples, potatoes or fish, wrapping in foil is recommended.
  • See how-to instructions for outdoor cooking of corn on the cob in foil and in-the-husk.

Pots and Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips

Fire Pit Cooking How to Tips: How to Cook in a Fire Pit with Pots in the Coals

Cast iron pots and cast iron frying pans turn a fire pit into a cook stove.  The ideal style cast iron fire pit pot has three short legs on the bottom to elevate it above the coals, a bail by which you can lift the pot, and a lid designed to hold hot coals on top.

But any cast iron pot in good condition will work.


  • Cook over a coal bed, not flaming wood.
  • If possible, elevate the pot on brick chunks so it is level and so there is space beneath the pot where coals can fit.  Renew the coal bed as needed.
  • Although bread can be baked in a cast iron pot in your fire pit, you will probably want to start with dishes that contain a liquid broth such as baked beans, stews, chili, or chowders.
  • Your dish will cook more quickly if it is lidded. But from time to time, remove the lid and stir.

There’s no need to spend time stuck in the kitchen while family and friends gather around the fire pit. Instead, let the unmatched process of cooking snacks, meals or dessert with your fire pit be part of the fun.

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How to Get a Bird Out of a Fireplace

How to Get a Bird Out of a Fireplace

It can be very upsetting when a bird falls into your fireplace, escapes from the fireplace into your room, or builds a nest in your chimney.  You don’t want the bird to get hurt.  You don’t want it to die and decompose in the fireplace.  You’re not sure you want to touch it.  Now is the time to plan a rescue process and prepare to take deliberate action.  Here are three scenarios for how to get a bird out of a fireplace along with suggestions for each:


Scenario 1: How to get a bird out of a fireplace if the bird is in the fireplace or chimney

How to get bird out of fireplace with a flashlight and box.

  • If the bird is in the fireplace or up in the chimney, put a lighted flashlight in a cardboard box that is nearly as tall as the fireplace, leaving enough room to slide a cardboard cover over the box.If the bird is in the chimney, put the box in the fireplace and open the damper.  If the bird is in the fireplace, remove the fireplace screen (or open the glass doors) and push the open side of the box flat up against the fireplace opening.  When the bird falls or flies into the box, slide the cardboard cover over the box and take the bird outside.


  • Cover the fireplace opening, blocking out all light, and give the bird a chance to fly up the chimney toward the light and escape.  Make sure the damper is open.


  • Open the damper and allow the bird to enter the fireplace. (If the bird is already in the fireplace, close the damper to keep if from going back up the chimney.)  Throw a towel over the bird.  Gently bundle it in the towel.  Take the towel by its two ends outdoors and release the bird.


  • Tape a very thin plastic drop cloth over the fireplace opening, leaving lots of slack to form a pocket.  Shine a light on the pocket.  When the bird flies into the pocket, bunch the drop cloth up around it and release it outdoors.


Scenario 2:  How to get a bird out of the fireplace if the bird escapes into the room

  • Turn off all lights.  Close off the room by closing doors or tacking a bed sheet over any openings without doors.  Open windows and exterior doors and ‘herd’ the bird outside with a broom or, better yet, with a bed sheet held high between two people.

Scenario 3: How to get a bird out of a fireplace if there’s a nest

  • If possible, wait for any baby birds to fledge and leave the nest.  Remember, chimney swifts are a protected species.
  • Don’t light a fire.  If a nest catches fire it can ignite any creosote deposits that may be in the chimney, causing a chimney fire.
  • Tape a plastic drop cloth over the fireplace opening and push the nest down the chimney with a chimney cleaning brush or other suitable implement.  If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, call a chimney sweep.


  • Light a fire.  You would not want someone to light a fire under you.
  • Panic the bird with fast or aggressive movements.
  • Be afraid of the bird; move slowly and decisively.


  • Install a chimney cap to keep birds and other animals out of the chimney.
    A chimney cap will keep birds out of a chimney and fireplace.
  • Take a shower after the bird is out of the house to get rid of any spores or mites the bird has shed.
  • If the bird has left droppings in your fireplace, take extra care removing them.

Use these directions for how to get a bird out of a fireplace and both you and the bird will safely live through the event.  Remember, no matter how stressful it may be to you, the bird is in even more distress.

Photo credit for image at top of page:



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The Best Fireplace Apps

Best Fireplace Apps

Have a fireplace in the palm of your hand.

Sure, a real fireplace fire, complete with its sounds, light show, woodland smells and cozy warmth, is just right for so many times.  But there are occasions when we can’t be by the fireplace but nevertheless would like that experience.  Fireplace Apps allow you to take a virtual version of the fireplace experience with you even to those places without a fireplace.

Some Apps even allow you to display the fire on your television; great for homes or rooms without a fireplace.

Fireplace Apps reach their height of popularity in the winter, needless to say.  But they are also popular during warm weather when all the sensations of a fireplace – except the heat – continue to have allure.

Here are some times and places fireplace App users employ their virtual fires to set a mood or create a relaxing environment:

  • Add holiday cheer and atmosphere for Christmas and other winter holidays
  • “Warm up” a chilly night
  • Add romance to any setting
  • Create a soothing  background sound and/or visual experience to settings such as the office
  • Use as a night light and “white noise” at night
  • Enjoy as a relaxation or meditation aid
  • Mesmerize a bored toddler

The Best Fireplace Apps for iOS and for Android Devices

Fireplace Apps for iOS Devices:

1.     A Very Cozy Fireplace HD      Cost: $0.99

A Very Cozy Fireplace

You (and apparently everyone else) loved it on YouTube, because it was originally the most popular fireplace video there.  Now it’s the #1 fireplace App!

Shot in HD, this App seamlessly loops the video and provides the realism of the crackling fire sounds.  Or pick a song from you iPod library as the soundtrack.

2.     Fireplace HD+     Cost $ $0.99

Fireplace HD+

This easy-to-navigate looks great on the iPhone, an iPad and iPod Touch. With a choice of traditional fires or modern fireplaces, it gives you options for audio backgrounds of piano music including Christmas and non-Christmas songs, crackling fire sound, and even a selection of radio channels.

For those who want to fall asleep to the soothing sights and sounds of a fire, you’ll appreciate the ability to set the video and audio on a timer.

3.     FirePlace     Cost $0.99

FirePlaceThis Universal App (works on all iOS devices) is enhanced for both Landscape and Portrait viewing.   Stream to your AirPlace enabled device with the tap of your finger to have the roaring fire on your TV.

Comes with seasonal music selections or access your personal music library to select a different background audio.

4.     Fireplace 3D Lite     Cost: FREE

Fireplace 3D Lite

Fireplace 3D Lite is the most popular free fireplace app.  That said, some think its graphics are not as great as those available in Apps that aren’t free.

It includes a zoom option and the natural sounds of a burning fire.

5.     Intimate Fireplace     Cost: FREE

Intimate FireplaceIntimate Fireplace is the second most popular free fireplace App.  But if the music background tracks are as important to you as the visuals, this is probably not the App for you.

Spring for the full version of this App by Game Scorpion Inc. and you can select from 10 different fireplaces (Victorian, modern, etc.), each with its roaring fire.

Fireplace Apps for Android Devices

6.     Virtual Fireplace     Cost:  FREE

Virtual FireplaceThis favorite fireplace app for Android devices has no annoying ads, always a plus when a relaxing or romantic mood is the priority.  A unique feature of the Virtual Fireplace is that it allows you to adjust the speed of the fireplace flames.

There is a sleep timer, too, which allows you to fall asleep to the ambient sounds of your fireplace.

Many find it worth the $0.99 to unlock the additional features.

7.     Fireplace and Campfires     Cost: FREE

Fireplace and CampfireThe appeal of this android app is that you get a campfire and a bonfire in addition to the standard fireplace fire.  The disadvantages are the annoying ads and short looping.



Since they have not yet invented scratch-and-sniff Apps, you’ll miss the aroma of a real fireplace with an App.  And, of course, you’ll have to do without the physical warmth.  But there are times when the closest you can come to the fireplace experience is an App.  For those time, check out these best fireplace Apps.

Posted in General

Dangers of Bird Droppings in Chimney

Dangers of bird droppings in chimney and fireplace

Birds that perch on open chimney flues have a tendency to leave behind unwelcome calling cards: disease-bearing bird droppings in chimney or fireplace. Whether those droppings fall all the way to the floor of your fireplace or remain stuck to the inside walls of your chimney, that bird poop (and any disease-causing spores or bacteria within it) is contaminating the air you breathe.

A chimney cap not only keeps birds out of your chimney, but it also keeps your chimney and fireplace bird-droppings free.

Bird droppings and bat droppings carry a number of dangerous diseases.  If there is an accumulation of bird droppings in chimney, attic or storage shed, it’s best to call in a professional who has the equipment necessary for safely removing the droppings.

Paradoxically, homeowners are most at risk from bat and bird droppings when they try to clean them out themselves. The transmission of diseases happens when spores or bacteria from the droppings become airborne, which inevitably happens during the cleaning process.  Let’s summarize some the main disease hazards.

Bird droppings in fireplace

Diseases Caused by Bird Droppings in Chimney

Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease that primarily attacks the lungs, resulting in a cough that may worsen over time, although mild cases clear up in about a month.  It can also affect the eyes.  If it becomes disseminated throughout the body, it can be fatal.  It is especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.  The fungus is endemic in soils along the Ohio River and the lower Mississippi River, but it is common throughout the eastern and central US.  Because cave explorers sometimes contract the disease, it is also called “Spelunker’s Disease.”  Folk singer Bob Dylan was hospitalized with heart symptoms caused by histoplasmosis for two weeks in 1997*.

Cryptococcosis is also a fungal disease found in the droppings of birds, especially pigeons and starlings.  It is found world-wide.  Anyone can contract the disease, but generally it infects only people with weakened immune systems, like people living with AIDS, develop symptoms.  Symptoms may include coughing blood, chest pain, skin lesions, and infections of the nervous system, including the brain.  It is often fatal for patients living with HIV/AIDS.

Psittacosis, often called ‘Parrot Fever’ is a bacterial infection carried by members of the parrot family, including macaws and budgerigars.  When the disease is carried by other birds, such as chickens or ducks, it is called ornithosis.  In the first week after infection, the disease mimics typhoid fever.  Patients may have debilitating fevers, nose bleeds, diarrhea, and depressed white cell counts.  In the second week, the disease resembles pneumonia.  While very unpleasant, Psittacosis is rarely fatal because it can be successfully treated with antibiotics.  A serious outbreak in 1929 led to the establishment of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Salmonellosis, sometimes called food poisoning, is caused by a bacterium that can live in foods such as eggs, but it is also carried by reptiles, baby chicks, ducklings and small rodents like hamsters.  Children and adults should wash their hands carefully after handling these animals.  There can be salmonella bacteria anywhere bird droppings accumulate. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and cramps lasting 4-7 days.  Infants, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease.

These four diseases may be found wherever there are deposits of bird poo or bat guano.  If you find material of these sorts, avoid disturbing it and causing particles to become airborne.   Don’t take a chance on cleaning it up bird droppings in chimney yourself.  Call in someone who is equipped to remove the material without risk to you and your family.  

*  LA Times, May 29, 1997

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