Filed Under:

Summer Science: The Perfectly Toasted Marshmallow

Play associated audio

It's the epic quest of campers everywhere: How do you get the perfectly toasted marshmallow? In our inaugural installment of NPR's Summer Science series, we gave some guidance on the first key ingredient: how to build the campfire. (Later this summer, we'll attempt to answer the vexing question of how to stave off brain freeze.)

For the marshmallow-toasting tips, science correspondent Joe Palca again turned to Daniel Madryzkowski, a fire protection engineer from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Madryzkowski explains that there are two kinds of heat coming from the fire — the hot gases coming off the fire as flame (that's convective heat) and the radiant heat coming from the hot coals.

"You want to stay a little to the side of the flames, and also over an area where you see glowing coals," Madrzykowski says. The reason: It's hard to stay in the sweet spot of the dancing flames. "If you want to get it nice and toasted, you typically rely on radiant energy."

But even with Madryzkowski's supervision and pro tips, Joe still managed to torch his marshmallow. That led him to another crucial question: Why do they burn so well?

To find out, and to hear more from their camping adventure, click on the audio link above.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


From A Weirdo Nerd To A Guy Who Plays One On TV

NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with the actor Rainn Wilson about his new memoir, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy.

How Long Can Florida's Citrus Industry Survive?

The USDA recently stunned growers when it projected the smallest orange harvest for Florida in more than 50 years. The culprit: A tiny insect that's killing off the state's trees — and industry.

Snapshots 2016: Trump's Message Resonates With A Master Cabinet Maker

From time to time during this election season we'll be introducing you to ordinary people that our reporters meet out on the campaign trail. Today: a snapshot from a Donald Trump rally in New Hampshire.

Someday A Helicopter Drone May Fly Over Mars And Help A Rover

NASA is building a 2-pound helicopter drone that would help guide the vehicle on the Red Planet's surface. That way, the rover wouldn't need to wander as much to find its way around.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.