I recently visited friends who served me a dinner of grilled salmon and baked potatoes, done to perfection in their chiminea. The sun was setting and it was cooling down but overall a wonderful summer evening. We wanted to converse and eventually, eat our meal outdoors. The bonus: the chiminea offered us warmth and the smoke kept some of the mosquitoes at bay (some still got us). I must say, as well as being a great evening, that was one of the most delicious pieces of salmon I’ve ever eaten.
Chimineas date back to 17th century Mexico, where they were used as ovens to bake bread, were for cooking and also a source of heat. The chiminea was usually placed near a window or in the center of the hut to allow smoke to escape. They were made of clay since it was the most readily available material in the area. Today cast iron, copper and cast aluminum are the materials of choice for most chimineas although you can still purchase ones made of clay.
What to consider when choosing a chiminea
Chimineas really are for outdoor use only. If you need a fireplace for indoors this is not a good choice. So where to start? Chimineas are tall and narrow and really make sense if you don’t have a large space but want an area for a fire. Don’t go too small on the fire area though, or you will be chopping your wood into bite-sized chimenea pieces to fit the opening. If don’t need portability you can go heavier and larger. You may also want to choose a model that has a grate that can be added or removed for cooking.
Some of the more popular patio and deck chimineas are made of cast iron. Choose from round, leaf, and designer cast iron chimineas designed for year round use. These cast iron fireplaces are designed to be sturdy and provide long lasting heat retention. Deck, patio and outdoor chimineas store easily and should be covered with a chiminea cover during the off season for protection. Copper and cast aluminum are also popular choices with the latter being the heaviest, most ornate and needing the least maintenance. See: http://www.outdoor-fireplaces-and-patio-heaters.com/chiminea.htm
Another consideration is the type of wood you burn. Best choice is pinon wood or other hardwoods. Pinon has the added advantage of helping to repel mosquitoes. Mesquite is also another option. Definitely stay away from pressure treated woods or anything that has been chemically treated – especially if you are planning to cook on the fire. Once you are ready to use your chiminea, start out with a small fire and build from there. And even if you don’t live in the more fire prone regions of the country it is always a good idea to have some water or a fire extinguisher nearby, especially if you are in a small backyard.
Outdoor chiminea fireplaces are great addition for the pool area, garden, deck, or patio where you will be kept warm outside to enjoy the immense pleasures of a fire as well as cooking outdoors with friends or family.