Consider the exterior.
Bake a batch of medium size chewy chocolate chip cookies (to achieve chewy, use light brown sugar). Use these as the base instead of graham crackers. —Henriette H.
Off-brand graham crackers don’t hold up to the weight of an appropriately stuffed s’more. Splurge on the real thing for an easier mallow-to-cracker transition. —Chef Luke Owens of the soon-to-open Native Fine Diner in Greenville, North Carolina
Homemade graham crackers take s’mores to the next level—I love a good whole wheat flour and local honey combo. —Hilary Lamont, pastry chef at Asheville Proper in Asheville, North Carolina
Make your own marshmallows. They are actually very easy to make, and you can add all different types of flavors and spices—cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla bean, almond, or peppermint. —Kristen Farmer Hall, executive pastry chef and co-owner of The Essential and Bandit Pâtisserie in Birmingham, Alabama
It takes a little more work but as a chef, my ultimate s’mores hack is replacing the marshmallow with Italian meringue. It provides a richer sweetness and chars more evenly. —Quincy Randolph, owner/chef of RND in Roanoke, Virginia
Get a high-quality vanilla flavored marshmallow. —Katsuji Tanabe of A’Verde Cocina and Tequila Library in Cary, North Carolina
Experiment with chocolate.
Growing up, we always did a very classic graham cracker, milk chocolate, and marshmallow combo. These days I like dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel for a little something unexpected. —Julia Knetzer, G&G art director
I always use a Reese’s peanut butter cup instead of regular chocolate. It smooshes a lot easier between your graham crackers, melts quickly from the marshmallow heat, and hello… peanut butter. —Ally Sloway, G&G social media editor
The secret is using Milky Way Spread rather than chocolate bars. Nutella is also good. —Martha M.
Our household uses Ghirardelli chocolate squares as the chocolate for our s’mores. (Caramel is the best!) Our last name is Sweet, so I think we know what we’re talking about with this one. —Olivia S.
Get a higher quality chocolate with either sea salt or a little bit of spice from chiles. Or, add a sprinkle of sea salt to bring out more of the chocolate flavor. —Katsuji Tanabe of A’Verde Cocina and Tequila Library in Cary, North Carolina
Add a little something extra.
Near the end of your marshmallow roasting process, carefully place a piece of caramel on the end of your roasting stick. Warm the caramel ever so slightly, and then as you slide your toasted marshmallow onto your graham cracker, the caramel will pop inside for a rich, gooey surprise. —CJ Lotz, G&G senior editor
Add a piece of crispy bacon. The richness from the bacon will provide a salty, meaty flare that will push your s’mores into the outer realm of flavor. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and sea salt to finish. —Jake Wood, chef/owner of the recently opened Lawrence BBQ in Durham, North Carolina
Or perhaps reinvent the whole thing.
I create an open-faced version and add a few unexpected kicks. I spread a thin layer of Tabasco pepper jelly on a graham cracker. I pile on a perfectly charred marshmallow and finish it with a drizzle of melted bourbon chocolate and a sprinkle of toasted pecans. —Jeff Mattia, chef/owner at Pyre Provisions in Covington, Louisiana
The Pearl in Bluffton, South Carolina, serves it in a mason jar and layers the crushed graham crackers with a dollop of marshmallow fluff and then chocolate chips. Repeated for two layers and heated… lights out, crazy good. —Michael H.
Check out this book, which has tons of ideas. —Maggie Kennedy, G&G photography and visuals director
Perfect your toasting technique.
Don’t mess with the basics of a classic recipe. It is a classic for a reason. The key is in the execution. The perfect s’more depends on a lightly bronzed marshmallow with a lava-like center. —Ashton C.
Hold your marshmallow at the base of the fire at the embers to begin, and then move it towards the flames to create the char. — Anne White of Oak Steakhouse at Skyline Lodge in Highlands, North Carolina
The only way to evenly cook a marshmallow is to use the long fork that comes with a BBQ set. This keeps the marshmallow from flopping down to one side and burning. —Sally M.
When in dire straits and caught without means to construct a campfire, one can use a long-reach butane lighter (stand over the sink). Be sure the marshmallow catches fire and burns equally on all sides by gently turning it. Use a Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar and the freshest graham crackers you can get. If you are super desperate, you can use dark chocolate chips…ten seconds in the microwave before you add the marshmallow. —Hollyn M.
Dropping them by the campfire adds to their flavor! The umami of the ashes, the char of the dying coals—downright addictive. —E.B. A.
Position your marshmallow over glowing coals and rotate it periodically until it is golden brown and drooping, nearly falling off the stick. I cannot relate to the “catch your marshmallow on fire” crowd. —Judy R.
I like to set up a warming station close enough to the fire so that I can warm the chocolate, marshmallow, and cracker slightly before toasting the marshmallow. The chocolate is soft instead of hard and cold, the marshmallow is warm all the way through, and the cracker is just better when a little warm. Most backyard firepits have a flat lip that runs the circumference of the fire pit. In this case, that lip would act as your warming station. Sea Island Forge pits have the lip. —Chef Rob McDaniel of Helen in Birmingham, Alabama
The only way to improve s’mores is to find a way to add bourbon, and I haven’t gotten a handle on that yet. —Charles R.
Soak the marshmallows in bourbon for about five minutes. Paper towel them dry and proceed with the “adult” version. And don’t you dare throw away the bourbon. —J. F. Calhoun