What is a Traditional Mexican Clay Chiminea?
You may have one in your garden or on your patio but have you ever wondered What is a Traditional Mexican Clay Chiminea?
A traditional Mexican clay chiminea is made from clay or terracotta. They are raised above the ground by a metal stand and consist of an open bulbous firebox with a chimney on top. Chiminea is the Mexican word for a chimney which is where its name originates.
Where do Chimineas come from?
The first chimineas were thought to have been used during the 17th century around 400 to 500 years ago. Although chimineas are now the perfect addition to any garden or outdoor space, they were once a necessity and served a domestic purpose.
Unlike today’s clay and terracotta chimineas, which are both useful and highly decorative, chimineas of the past were made purely for cooking and heating on a daily basis. They were also more traditionally used indoors. Commonly next to a window or an opening in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. It is only in more modern times that they have transformed into a patio or garden essential for parties and gatherings.
How are Traditional Mexican Clay Chimineas Made?
Traditional Mexican chimineas were originally made from either terracotta, clay, or “Barro” which is the Spanish word for mud. The wet clay was moulded by hand in two parts, the chimney and the belly. They were allowed to dry naturally for a period of time before being joined together prior to being kiln-dried.
The initial drying process prior to kiln drying would help to prevent the clay and terracotta from failing in the extreme heat of the kiln.
As the years have gone by the manufacturing of chimineas has altered slightly as you would expect. The industry is still a thriving one and more so with the recent increased popularity of chimineas for gardens.
Nowadays, kilns can hold up to 100 traditional Mecixan chimineas at a time and they are fired in kilns at much higher temperatures than they were hundreds of years ago. This means that with the advance in some materials used, chimineas are much stronger than they once were.
What are Traditional Clay and Terracotta Chimineas Used for?
Traditional clay and terracotta chimineas not only look great on your patio or in your garden but are also perfect for both cooking and heating for parties with friends and family gatherings.
Traditional Chimineas for Looks
Without a doubt, traditional Mexican chimineas are both decorative and attractive and certainly add that extra touch of style to any patio. They are predominantly hand-painted, in bright and beautiful colours and designs to suit a whole range of tastes, styles, and garden designs. One of the nice things about them is that because many are hand-painted the shapes and colours may vary slightly which means that not every chiminea is the same.
Traditional Chimineas for Cooking
Cooking on a traditional chiminea is very easy as you can quite easily buy special BBQ grills for them. Other methods of cooking include cooking food wrapped in foil within the embers of the fire.
One of the best traditional Mexican chimineas for cooking is La Hacienda’s range of 2 piece clay chimeneas. They have the ability to remove the chimney section of the chiminea and come with a large grill. This means that you can easily use the chiminea as a BBQ with plenty of space, and then when you’ve finished simply pop the chimney back on to continue using it as a chiminea. These are some of the best types of chiminea to use for cooking.
Traditional Chimineas for Heating
Traditional clay and terracotta chimineas are the best types as their design has been perfected over centuries. Their large openings and bulbous bodies make them the easiest chimeneas to light and they are the most efficient too as when the clay becomes hot it radiates the heat perfectly.
Are Clay Chimineas Any Good?
Traditional clay chimineas are good but they do require more care than cast iron models to ensure that they last a long time. They are also considerably heavier than cast iron chimineas and are also less robust.
One of the main problems with clary chimineas is that they have a tendency to crack. Clay chimineas crack either when they are moved or due to changes in heat. When clay chimineas get wet and are not dried or stored properly, cold weather and frost can cause the water to freeze leading to cracking.
Caring for your Traditional Clay Chiminea
There are several ways in which you can care for your traditional clay chiminea. These include: reducing movement, keeping your chiminea covered, curing your chiminea, repairing your chiminea, and sealing your chiminea.
We’ve already mentioned that traditional chimineas are less durable than alternative cast iron versions. As they are made into pieces when moved frequently, there is a possibility that they can be damaged. They are also considerably heavier than cast iron chimineas which again means that frequent movement can cause issues. Once you have a suitable location for your chiminea you should move it as little as often.
Keeping Your Chiminea Covered
The most damage that can be caused to a traditional clay chiminea is likely to be done by the weather. The easiest way to protect your traditional clay chiminea from the weather is to keep it covered when not in use. Rain, snow, ice, and frost can all cause damage to it and so it’s essential that you get a decent quality and well-fitting cover to protect your chiminea from all weather.
Curing Your Chiminea
When it comes to curing your chimney are you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Curing a traditional clay chiminea will make it more durable and allow it to cope with changes in temperature.
Curing is a very simple process and generally involves lighting several small fires and letting them go out. This process is then repeated several times until your curing process is complete. Each manufacturer will have different advice in relation to the number of times this should be done before you can fully use it.
Repairing Your Chiminea
There is one simple rule when it comes to repairing a clay or terracotta chiminea and that is to do it as soon as you notice it. If you leave it damaged, it will generally only get worse and could cause it to fail altogether.
Repairing traditional clay chimineas is a fairly simple process depending upon the level of damage. Many manufacturers have details on how to repair minor cracks in their instructions. These can include methods such as filling the crack with fire cement. Originally the cracks would have just been filled with wet clay and then allowed to dry out.
Sealing your Chiminea
Sealing a clay chiminea is a simple process and helps to prevent it from cracking from the heat and also to help prevent damage from water.
Manufacturers will give you a guide on when to seal your chiminea but it should generally be done once a year. Sealing the chiminea basically involves cleaning the outside and then applying the sealer to the outside only. Once this is done, you allow the sealer to dry before curing the chiminea again over a couple of small burns.
Traditional Mexican clay chimineas are both attractive and useful and so if you’re looking to buy one, why not take a look at our online shop for more information.