Category Archives: Outdoor Entertaining

Planning a party or other event outside? Aside from the weather, there’s plenty of things to consider. Love Your Yard’s tips and tricks will help you make sure your guests are comfortable, the yard looks great and the shindig goes off without a hitch.

Groundhog

Groundhog says there’s more winter — but should we trust him?

You may have heard the news, but in case you didn’t — good old Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. That means that he’s returned to his burrow to hunker down for another six weeks of winter.

According to the weather-forecasting rodent, you can expect Spring to unofficially arrive around March 16. Sure that’s a little earlier than what the calendar says, but we don’t really mind — we’ll take it when we can, even if Phil could have made it even earlier.

Stay warm in the winter with a fire pit

Keep those hats and gloves out. Winter is sticking around — at least that’s what Punxsutawney Phil says.

The Groundhog Day tradition is a holdover from a centuries old Christian tradition called Candlemas. During that ceremony, priests bless the candles that would be used throughout the year. That holiday also coincided with more ancient traditions that suggested a sacred bear or badger could predict the changing of the seasons.

When those traditions migrated to North America, the Germans that settled in Pennsylvania appointed the groundhog as their weatherman.

This tradition has been in the Americas since at least the mid-1800s. By 1887, Punxsutawney Phil was making his predictions and gaining fame. He’s missed at least one year along the way — 1943 — because of World War II.

So just how accurate has Phil been over the years? According to one study that looked at his predictions, he’s only been correct 37% of the time in more than 100 attempts.

He’s not exactly beating the odds. With that in mind, it might be best to start planning your garden now.

At our website, you can find plenty of help for your gardening, outdoor decor and outdoor entertaining needs with our How-To section and, of course, this very blog.

Clean a fire pit

Fire Pit Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

You’ve used your fire pit a few times – marshmallows with your kids, an evening under the stars with your significant other, and that party where your whole family came by for the night.

Your fire pit is proving itself to be a real workhorse. It’s been a great centerpiece to your outdoor décor. Just load it with firewood, light it and relax.

With all that use, you also need to perform a little maintenance to extend the lifespan of your fire pit.

Fire pit in use

REMOVE ASH AND SAND

In some fire pits, it’s recommended that you put down a layer of sand in your fire bowl to protect the metal from extreme heat. Sand absorbs and distributes the heat evenly throughout the entire base of your fire pit. Depending on the fire pit, a one- or two-inch-thick layer of sand is recommended.  Consult your assembly instructions to determine if you should put sand in your fire pit.

It’s not required to change the sand regularly, the heat from a typical campfire isn’t going to change the composition of sand. Regular fires will also keep the sand moisture free, which helps battle against rust. Be sure to cover your fire pit when it is not in use.

Leave the sand in as long as you feel appropriate. For basic maintenance, sift through the sand and pull out any large, unburnt cinders and debris and dispose of them.

Whether or not your fire pit requires sand, you’ll accumulate a layer of ash after any wood fire.

You should scoop or pour the ash out on a regular basis – but only after it has cooled to air temperature. Hot embers can pose a fire hazard, so it’s very important to make sure they are no longer a danger.

If a fire pit only burns untreated wood and paper, there’s an added bonus – the ash can be used as a fertilizer supplement. Learn more about the process here.

Otherwise, dispose of cooled ash in any trash receptacle.

For ash mixed with sand, simply skim the top level of the mixture with a finely slotted scoop or shovel. The sand, which is heavier, will slip through the slats, while the ash stays in the scoop.

Clean a fire pit with a hose

CLEAN YOUR FIRE BOWL

Steel Fire Pits

Steel fire pit bowls are the easiest to clean. Once any ash has been removed, simply spray it clean with a hose and then lightly wipe it with a soap and water mixture. After you’re through wiping the bowl, tip it upside down and allow it drip-dry.

Buy a Steel Fire Pit

Cast Iron Fire Pits

Cleaning cast iron fire pits is slightly more difficult than steel. You should remove debris from the fire bowl in the same fashion, however you may need a few extra steps to return it to its original finish. When exposed to water, cast iron naturally forms a top layer of rust. Unlike steel, this will not harm the structural integrity of your fire bowl, and can be removed by gently scrubbing with steel wool. Rinse and dry with a soft rag when complete.

Buy a Cast Iron Fire Pit

Copper Fire Pits

Copper patina

Your copper fire bowl will develop a patina with each fire and exposure to the elements.

CobraCo copper fire pits are shipped with a coating of coconut oil to prevent oxidation during shipment – this ensures they arrive patina-free. After its first use, your fire pit will accumulate a layer of soot and develop a natural patina over time.

To help remove soot between fires, simply spray with a hose and clean with soap and water. This kind of light washing won’t damage the patina.

Before any cleaning, remove all ash from your fire bowl. There are chemical cleaners available that will allow you to easily remove tarnish, soot, and patina. For a natural cleaning option, prepare a salt and vinegar mixture of 1 cup salt to 1 gallon vinegar. From there, dampen a cloth in the mixture and scrub the copper vigorously. The mixture will eventually break down the green patina.

Buy a Copper Fire Pit

MAINTAINING YOUR FIRE PIT

Whenever a fire pit is emptied and cleaned, it’s a good idea to check its support structure. Do the fire pit’s bolts need to be tightened? Is anything bent? Are its legs loose? Is there any damage to the bowl? Is the spark screen torn?

If your fire bowl comes with a heat-resistant paint coating, it may begin to chip and crack over time. Temperature resistant paint is available at your local hardware store and re-coating every season will extend the life of your fire pit.

We also suggest that at least once a season you clean your spark cover with a wire brush and coat it with a heat resistant paint.

If you have any questions or are in need of replacement parts, don’t hesitate to contact CobraCo. Our customer service team is always happy to help you.

 

blazing logs in a fire pit

What to Look for When Picking Out Your Next Fire Pit

With our years of experience creating fire pit designs, CobraCo has developed a few tips on what to consider when choosing your fire pit.

Copper Fire Pit

The copper fire pits from CobraCo are built to last.

When deciding to offer a fire pit, CobraCo considers a number of points. These same points can help you when you’re shopping for the best fire pit for your backyard.

A quality fire pit should have the following features:

  • Durable Metal – Fire pits can be made from a variety of materials. Metal is the best option when you aren’t looking to create a permanent structure. CobraCo offers — copper, steel or cast iron.
  • Quality Finish – Whether it’s polished metal, a high-temp paint or a specialized design, the finishes on fire pits matter. They need to look great but also resist the effects of heat, weather and anything else that comes with regular use of a fire pit.
  •  Proven Stability – CobraCo fire pits are built to hold a lot of firewood. As such, they need to be stable and resist tipping over.
  • Portability – While cast iron, copper and steel are all sturdy materials, each CobraCo design allows you to remove your fire bowl from the base. This enables you to easily move the structure and re-design your outdoor living space.
  • Safety Features – Every CobraCo fire pit comes with a spark screen and, when needed, a screen removal tool. The screen stops embers from flying out and keeps your fire contained. The screen removal tool helps you move the spark screen when it’s hot to the touch.
  • Pleasing Appearance – There’s a reason we don’t just have an old oil drum out back to use as a fire pit – it would just be too ugly. CobraCo fire pits are designed to look great and become a focal point for backyard entertaining.
  • Helpful Accessories & Add-Ons – Inside the box of every CobraCo fire pit is an all-weather cover to shield it from the elements. Looking for more? Check out our fire pit benches and s’mores forks.

Ready to explore the fire pits available from Avant Garden Decor? Take a look at CobraCo’s great selection!

 

Use your fire pit all year

How Do I Use My Fire Pit in the Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall?

When people think of fire pits, they usually associate this backyard centerpiece with a summer evening. A fire pit offers you a night off. A time of relaxation. A chance to watch the flames dance and listen to the sounds of nature around you. Then you add in the marshmallows, shish kebabs and hot dogs. When it all comes together, it turns into to a night of magic.

But those warm summer nights aren’t the only time for a fire pit. If you have a CobraCo fire pit, then you’ve got the right tool to enjoy a backyard fire throughout every season.

Snack at the fire pit

PERKS OF USING YOUR FIRE PIT THIS SUMMER

The summer was made for cooking out and enjoying the outdoors, and adding a fire pit makes the experience all the better.

Your fire pit helps you build memories and creates a focal point within your yard. Fire pits make it easy to start a pleasant campfire. No matter the size or shape of your fire pit, it provides a great gathering place for your favorite summer activities.

  • MAKING SNACKS – One of the best parts about owning a fire pit is that you can use it to make your favorite campfire snack without all the hassle of a campfire. No need to dig a hole, create a ring of rocks or crawl on the ground to get it lighted. Instead, you can get to the fun stuff right away – making s’mores, toasting marshmallows and roasting hot dogs.
  • DETERRING PESTS – It’s definitely one of the least pleasant things about being outside at night – the mosquitoes. Your fire pit can act as a natural deterrent to mosquitoes. They don’t like the heat or the hint of smoke twisting off your fire pit.
  • ON THE ROAD – Heading out for a weekend at the cabin by the lake? Or even over to your uncle’s for a family get-together? Your CobraCo fire pit can go with you – they’re sturdy, durable and very portable. Don’t hesitate to take the fire pit experience with you.

BEST WAYS TO USE YOUR FIRE PIT THIS FALL

You’ve spent all day raking leaves, packing up your summer furniture, and cleaning out brush. While you do that, there’s a nagging voice in the back of your head. It’s telling you to put away your fire pit, too. It’s saying “stow it away for the winter.” But don’t do it. There’s a wealth of experiences ahead for you and your family.

  • FOOTBALL RALLY – The big game is coming up. The whole family is excited and you’re eager to keep them that way. That’s where the fire pit comes in to play. Use it as you host your very own backyard tailgate party. Start a mini bonfire, sing some fight songs, and chow down before you settle in for kick-off.
  • BRUSH REMOVAL – Remember all that brush you’ve been cleaning up? Well, your fire pit is the perfect place to get rid of it all. No need to bundle it up for the garbage men to haul away. Instead, trim it down and add it to the woodpile for later. If you use your fire pit to its full potential, you’re going to need all that. It makes perfect kindling.

Stay warm in the winter with a fire pit

HOW DO I USE MY FIRE PIT IN THE WINTER?

Now that you’ve decided to keep your fire pit out in the yard through the fall, go one step farther and keep it out through the winter too. Sure, it will might  get snowed on if you live up north, but that’s why CobraCo gives you a weather-resistant cover. Leave that cover on when your fire pit is not in use — but don’t shy away from using the fire pit when the snow’s flying.

  • CELEBRATE THE SEASON –  A holiday celebration is extra special around a backyard fire pit. Maybe you’ll sing some carols and exchange gifts around the roaring fire or toast the New Year as the countdown begins. Celebrating around your fire pit will make it especially memorable and warm.
  • AFTER THE FIRST SNOW – When the first snow flies, you know it’s time to get back outside. Warm up a cup of hot chocolate and take a few minutes to watch the landscape around you transform into a winter wonderland.

PREPARE FOR SPRING WITH YOUR FIRE PIT

Your fire pit has been outside for almost a year now. You’ve been a fan since you first assembled it last summer, and then used it through the fall and winter. Now the outdoor world is waking up again, and you are too. You’ve got gardening to do. There’s a lawn to revive, and your fire pit can be part of that.

  • HELPING YOUR PLANTS – If you’re careful what you burn – be sure not to use pressure treated wood – you’ll find you’ve actually created a beneficial mixture for your plants. This ash, which is high in potassium, can go into your flower and plant beds and will help fuel a season’s worth of growth. Just wait for it to cool and then scatter it into the soil.
  • COOKING DINNER – Your ash mixture can help you cultivate a wide variety of vegetables to compliment any springtime dinner. You can use your fire pit – just follow this guide to build a barbecue grate.  It works best with these copper fire tubs, and this steel fire pit. From there, you’re ready to make a complete meal.

You can find a reason in every season to spark up a fire!

Consider safety concerns and entertainment needs when picking the right place for your fire pit.

Choosing the best place for a fire pit

Fire pits are a fun and useful addition to your patio or backyard. It instantly becomes a place in your backyard to gather and make memories.

Before you get your new fire pit home, there are a number of points to consider – the most important being location. Where you place your outdoor fire pit should be considered carefully, as it’s important to both your safety and your enjoyment of your new backyard feature.

IDEAL FIRE PIT LOCATIONS

Here’s a guide to choosing the position for your new outdoor fire pit.

  • WHAT’S THE LAW? Check your local ordinances. Many communities require a minimum distance of 10 feet from a building. Depending on the municipality, you may also need an inspection from local fire officials to ensure your location is safe.
  • WATCH THE DRIFT: You will need a large open space to make sure that flames and floating embers will not drift into any plants, trees, branches, sheds or combustible materials.
  • PLAN THE SPACE: Consider the size of your fire pit. Use tape or chalk to mark where the fire pit will be. Make sure chairs are able to fit around the entire perimeter so the fire pit can be enjoyed from all sides.
  • SUITABLE SURFACE: Portable fire pits can be set on natural surfaces such as concrete, stone or gravel. Do not place a fire pit on a wooden deck. A permanent fire pit is commonly built on a base of gravel
  • FLAT SURFACE: The fire pit must rest on a level surface.
  • ENTERTAINING: For your own convenience, you will want to place your fire pit near or adjacent to other social areas such as a hot tub, patio or grill area.
  • FIRE CONCERNS: It’s also best to have your fire pit located within reach of a water hose. If it’s too far from a hose, have a bucket of sand nearby that can be used to extinguish the fire in an emergency.

 Extra tip: You may wish to install outdoor lighting near the fire pit to create the right ambieance. Unless you use solar-powered lighting, you should consider how close your fire pit is to an electrical source.

For more information and tips for enjoying your backyard more than ever before, sign up for our e-newsletter. Be among the first to know about expert advice, new products, enhanced services, exclusive sales and special offers. Plus, get 10% off all your online purchases.

Your fire pit should be placed on a flat surface. It's best to put a fire pit on concrete.

Your fire pit should be placed on a flat surface. It’s best to put a fire pit on concrete.

 

Fireside Fun - Cooking S'mores

Fireside Activities For a Spooky Night of Fun

3 Lists of Fireside Activities For a Spooky Night of Fun

It’s hard to beat spending time with friends and family by a warming fire on a fall night! So, why not extend the frightful fun and gather round a crackling fire? If it happens to be Halloween, then that’s even better. No matter, if you bring the kids together, tell them a creepy story or two and listen to the howling wind, it’s guaranteed to be one spooky night!

We’ve collected a few of our favorite sources for “around the fire pit” activities. You’ll find a variety of spooky fire-light stories, laughter inducing games, and delicious campfire treats that you can enjoy right in your backyard. Enjoy!

STORIES
Fireside Chat: How to Tell a Good Ghost Story
Scary Campfire Stories
13 Creepy Stories to Tell After Dark
7 Weird Stories (that may or may not be true) to Tell Your Kids

GAMES
Campfire Games
10 Campfire Games You Have to Play
Fun Campfire Games for Kids

EATS
27 Delicious Recipes To Try On Your Next Camping Trip
Step Up the S’more: 7 Ideas for Campfire Treats
Kids Favorite Campfire Recipes
• And Don’t forget the classic s’more!

Please Use Caution Around Fire!
Every time you light a fire, remember that basic safety precautions can prevent a tragedy. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your fire pit safely and with peace-of-mind.
Fire Pit Safety

In Need Of A Fire Pit?
Fire Pits are great for bringing the campfire to your backyard! These fire pits are perfect for any style patio and they’re built to last, offering many years of fun Halloween and Fall nights by the fire!
Fire Pits On Sale!
OR Learn more about the different types of fire pits.

 

crescentdogs

Fire Pit Cook Top Recipes!

An easy and fun way to cook on your  fire pit cook top is to use the “foil pack” method. You can prepare them at home, freeze them for transportation, and then keep them in the cooler until you’re ready to cook. Try this easy foil pack recipe via AllRecipes.com:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 small potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large bowl, or a large zip-top bag, combine the chicken, onion, mushrooms, yellow pepper, red pepper, garlic, and potatoes. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice, then mix well.
2. Evenly divide the mixture between 4 large sheets of aluminum foil. Top each with another sheet of foil, and roll up the edges tightly. Wrap each packet again, securely in another sheet of foil to double wrap.
3. Cook in the hot coals of a CobraCo™ Fire Pit until the chicken is opaque and the potatoes are tender, around 40 minutes.

Breakfast lovers will appreciate this simple donut recipe via ThoreausDaughter.com!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can of buttermilk biscuits
  • vegetable oil for frying pan
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Heat about two inches of oil in a large pot.  Separate the biscuits on a cutting board and cut a hole from the center of each.
  2. Fry the dough in about two inches of oil.
  3. Flip with tongs after a minute or two.
  4. Place the cooked donuts in a paper bag with cinnamon and toss for a tasty and sweet covering
  5. Serve with coffee

Campfire Crescent Dogs are a quick way to satisfy your kids hunger while dining in the great outdoors! This recipe from Tablespoon is simple and easy!

Ingredients:

  1. One tube Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  2. 8 hot dogs
  3. Ketchup & mustard

Directions

  1. On a flat surface, open the tube of crescent rolls and unroll dough. Separate into triangles along perforations.
  2. Place the hot dog on the edge of the crescent roll and begin rolling so the majority of hot dog is covered by the crescent dough. Make sure the crescent dough overlaps at the end, otherwise it will fall apart.
  3. Skewer your crescent dog on a CobraCo® S’mores Fork and roast it over the fire until golden brown. (Tip: Roasting away from the flames, but in a spot that is still quite hot, gives a nice even roasting.)
  4. Serve immediately with ketchup and mustard as desired.
skillets

Cast Iron Skillet Campfire Cooking

Go “old-school” and use a cast iron skillet to cook on your outdoor fire this summer! There are a few basics to know for better cast iron skillet cooking and they are cleaning and seasoning.

Seasoning your cast iron skillet forms its nonstick surface. Coat the skillet with cooking oil and bake it in a 350 degree oven for an hour. After removing the skillet, dry it with paper towels. Season your cast iron skillet as often as you’d like to reinforce its nonstick surface.

To keep your skillet performing for years you’ll need to employ the proper cleaning techniques. Immediately after cooking you should rinse your skillet with hot water. To remove stuck-on food, grease, etc., use a non-abrasive treatment like course salt and a non-metal brush. Sparingly use a few drops of mild dishwashing soap.  Before storing, dry thoroughly with paper towels, apply a light coating of cooking oil, and cover with a paper towel to protect from dust.

With all this work to maintain a cast iron skillet you may wonder why we suggest using one. Cast iron skillets, although they take longer to heat up, retain heat very well and disperse it very evenly, which is ideal in an uneven cooking surface like live fires. Food’s iron content is increased when cooking with a cast iron skillet.

Next time you’re cooking outdoors, stretch your capabilities by bringing along a cast iron skillet and the ingredients needed for this easy recipe!

Campfire Breakfast Potatoes:

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 lbs (about 6) russet potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil, about 2 tablespoons, and place the pan over the coals of your campfire, on a grate.
  2. Add the onion and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, peppers, and another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to coat.
  4. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes, until potatoes start to brown.
  5. Add a few tablespoons of water, and cover with foil to steam for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add seasonings, continue to stir occasionally until fully browned, crispy, and tender in the middle.
  7. Serve alongside your favorite other breakfast items.
BurgerMeatThermometer

Outdoor Food Safety Tips to Avoid Foodborne Illness

Protecting your family from food-borne illness is crucial when cooking outdoors. Warmer temperatures and limited chilling resources create obstacles for cooking outside, although the right steps and precautions can make these situations manageable.

Transport your food properly. Until you begin cooking you’ll want to place cold foods on ice or frozen gel packs to be chilled at 40 degrees or below. Meat can be transported frozen so it thaws over time and stays colder longer. Keep meats wrapped separately and make sure their juices don’t leak to other foods. Cross-contamination is one of the quickest ways to spread food-borne illness.

If you’re marinating your food for grilling, make sure to do so in a refrigerated environment. Do not reuse marinade for flavoring cooked foods. Reserve a portion of the marinade before adding to the meat and use the separated amount later in cooking.

Cooking temperatures and thorough cooking greatly reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Keep a food thermometer on hand to make sure grilled foods reach their proper temperatures. The FDA suggests the following temperatures for your foods:

Food Temperature
Steaks and roasts 145°F
Fish 145°F
Pork 145°F
Ground beef 160°F
Egg dishes 160°F
Chicken breasts 165°F
Whole poultry 165°F
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs cook until pearly and opaque
Clams, oysters, and mussels cook until the shells are open

When it comes to serving your food your focus should be maintaining the proper temperature. The FDA urges that “the key is to never let your picnic food remain in the “Danger Zone” – between 40° F and 140° F – for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to foodborne illness.”

Using these FDA appointed guidelines will help you to have an enjoyable and fun outdoor dining experience without the side effects associated with poor food preparation.

59b95262-3caf-49ca-9da1-b03331ebd208_300

Turn Your Fire Pit into a Cook Top

Take your fire pit experience to the next level by using it as a cooking station! Follow these simple steps to create a cook top for your fire pit!

  1. Take accurate measurements of your CobraCo™ Fire Pit and head to your local hardware store.
  2. Purchase steel mesh with about a quarter to a half-inch fabrication to allow enough heat access to cook your food. Typically this is sold in sheets, so you may have to purchase more than one to fully cover your fire pit.
  3. Lay the sheets over your fire pit and trace the fire pit’s circumference. You’ll want the mesh to extend about an inch outside the fire pit. Using wire cutters and gloves, carefully cut the mesh.
  4. If you need to use two pieces to expand the width of the fire pit you can overlap the two pieces by a half inch. Using steel wire you’ll wrap the two pieces together for the length of the overlap.
  5. When cooking, you’ll want to place two steel rods across the cook top and then place the mesh over. This will support the center of the cook top when food has been placed on it.

Just like that, you’ve got an open flame cook top where you and your family can grill up a ton of delicious meals and create a ton of fantastic memories!