What is a Chiminea?
What is a Chiminea? – A chiminea is a century’s old cooking and heating device that originated in Mexico. Today they are popular outdoor fireplaces because of their portability and decorative qualities. You will find them in gardens and on patios all around the world.
Despite their design becoming more intricate in recent years, the conventional chiminea will have a pot-bellied base that will rise to finish in a chimney. Nowadays designs can be altered to suit a variety of different decorative styles and the traditional clay chimineas remain popular. Cast iron, brass, stainless steel and even aluminum chimineas are now available, as clay versions are not as well suited to colder areas of the globe.
Find out more about our fantastic range of chimineas.
As we mentioned previously, the chiminea originated in Mexico and has kept its traditional clay design for thousands of years. Originally Mexican tribesmen used these devices to cook, bake, and provide heat for their families. They’re designed in the fashion to allow firewood to produce heat while offering protection from the rain.
Mexico traditionally has very little rainfall and so the need to seal the chiminea wasn’t necessary. This meant that they could comfortably produce a low glow and heat for a long period of time. Also, traditional chimineas were not really treated with anything to prevent damage from the rain. This, therefore, made them less suitable for more northern countries where rain was more common.
What are they made of?
Traditional chimeneas were designed for cooking and heating and were made from fired clay. Today you will find terracotta, ceramic, cast iron, and even aluminum Chimeneas available for purchase.
They’re usually meant to provide an alternative outdoor fireplace to be used during the summer and stored during the winter especially if you have a terracotta or clay chiminea. This is because clay and terracotta chimineas were never really designed to withstand the harsh cold winter temperatures, especially if you build a fire inside.
If you do buy a clay or terracotta chiminea you need to make sure you protect it from the weather by either putting it away in the shed or garage for the winter or by putting a suitable chiminea cover on it.
The great thing about cast iron chimineas is that you should not have to worry about it cracking. But if neglected, it will easily rust into an unusable state, especially if you don’t prevent it from being exposed to sleet or snow. Again a suitable chiminea cover will prevent water damage and rust.
Although you can pick up a chiminea for a relatively small price, depending on the size and the materials used we would always advise you to store it safely indoors or inside a storage shed during the winter if at all possible.
How do you use a chiminea?
Despite what you might think, chimineas are designed to be very easy to use once you get them burning. The task of maintaining them is not as daunting as first seemed.
They can easily heat for anything up to 12 hours and if you follow this simple guide below it will help you get the chiminea fired up and providing comfort and warmth for any garden event.
#1 Where to install your Chiminea
Before you even purchase a chiminea you need to have a safe place to position it on a flat surface and a permanent outdoor location. High-quality chimineas can be heavy so once you have it in place you really don’t want to move it too often. They’re also susceptible to cracking should you drop them.
#2 Pre-fire preppartion
Before you start a fire in your chiminea for the first time you need to ensure that you have seasoned it. When lighting your chiminea you need to pour at least four to five inches of gravel or sand into the base of the chiminea. This will help retain the heat whilst preventing smoke from exiting the hole when it is lit. Before you start any additional fires you should always remove old ash or debris and clean it out.
#3 How to safely light a Chiminea
The best way to safely light a chiminea is to place two pieces of dried softwood in the centre of the base and place small bundles of newspaper between the wood with a firelighter. Then simply light the firelighter and paper in different locations.
Add an additional pyramid of kindling about the fire to help it keep burning. Never use any accelerant like petrol as this can be dangerous. If you want to be more environmentally friendly you can buy some natural firelighters that have been designed to use a natural type of flammable resin to help you light the fire more easily.
The intention is not to smother the fire with too much wood. Initially, the fire will smoke a bit especially if it’s facing prevailing wind but it should die down after an hour allowing you to add larger pieces of seasoned wood. But you should build up from using small kindling to smaller logs and eventually adding larger pieces as the fire turns to embers
You can find out more about lighting a chiminea by reading our how to light a chiminea safely article.
#4 How to keep the Chiminea burning
After allowing the initial fire to burn for around an hour, you should be left with hot embers. Stoking these embers will encourage airflow and keep the heat at a maximum, adding some additional logs when needed will help your chiminea to continue to produce heat and burn for over 12 hours. These can last throughout the day and into the night, once you’re finished just let it burn out, cool down, and clean it ready for the next time you want to use it.
Chiminea or a Fire pit
What’s best a chiminea or a fire pit? Well, the key difference between the two is their shape and size. Chimeneas have less diameter and they have chimneys to help contain the fire and reduce smoke.
Fire pits are more open, have no chimney, and will allow you to build much larger fires. For some people, the aesthetics offered by 360-degree view of a fire pit are appealing. However, a chimeneas main benefit is that it is easier to maintain the heat and they are much more economical on fuel and, create much less smoke.
If you have animals or younger children, obviously a chiminea is a much safer option than an open fire, however, if you want a more impressive centerpiece in your patio a fire pit makes it an impressive statement
The amount of space you have is going to be a key consideration. Smaller patios will be better served with a chiminea where a larger garden area might be a better setting for a fire pit.
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