What is a Chiminea and How is it Used?

Chiminea-fireplacesChimenea is a Spanish word for chimney. It’s also referred to as chiminea. Both words are pronounced as che-meh-neh-yah and used interchangeably today. People with Spanish origin use the word chimenea, while most Americans these days use chiminea because that was how their ancestors spelled it based on how they heard the word years ago. Some prefer to use chimenea because it seems closer to its roots that way.

Chimineas or chimeneas have been around for centuries. They are seen and used widely in Mexico and the western states like Arizona and California. These earthenware outdoor fireplaces are mostly made of clay and hand-decorated. These can be functional fireplaces or you can opt to use it as garden art or accent pieces on the patio to achieve a rustic or southwestern ambiance.

History of Chimineas

Around the 16th or 17th century, chimeneas were first used as cooking vessels by chefs in the small villages of Mexico. As they cook food using a chimenea, families come together around it for warmth.

This wide-bottom, vase form earthenware was traditionally made of clay and had a vertical, narrow chimney for the smoke to channel through. The fire pit had a wide opening at the side to take in enough woods to produce a good fire. This design allowed the chimenea to be used in the rain.

Chimeneas are also similar with other stoves. It has similarities with the traditional potbelly stove. A potbelly stove is an old-fashioned, cast-iron wood-burning stove with a flat top for its fireplace for cooking food or heating water. Chimenea is also the same with kotao, a wood-burning stove used in Eastern European countries. Kotao is used with round and large cooking pans. The only difference is that potbelly stove and kotao both have a wider and more open fire pit, while chimenea has a confined fire pit.

How to Use a Chiminea

When you want to use a chiminea to cook food, load some woods in the fire pit and ignite fire into it. Generally, the wood will be in full burn within 15 minutes, which produces enough heat to cook food. Like other fireplaces, control the flame with wood. Several kinds woods can be used for chiminea but aromatic woods are the popular choice. These woods include cedar, mesquite, hickory, or pinon. However, in the advent of technology, some chimineas now run on gas or propane.

Things to Consider Before You Buy

Don’t fall victim to impulsive buying just because of the eye-catching motifs of the chiminea. Think of the following before you purchase the best Chiminea:

  • Material – Chimineas are mostly made of clay and terracotta. However, there are also chimineas that are made of steel, copper, cast iron, or cast aluminum.
  • Fireplace size – Check whether space is enough for standard-sized wood. You might end up buying special-sized wood for your chiminea.
  • Shape and design – Check the chimney thickness, how it stands, or if the shape and design are in harmony.
  • Your location – Go for a chiminea that runs on gas or propane if you reside in a place that prohibits the use of both indoor and outdoor wood-burning fireplaces.

Where to Place Your Chiminea

There are three things you need to think of when deciding where to put your chiminea: safety, position, and surface.

Think of your safety. You would want to put your chiminea at a place visible from inside your house. These locations include your patio, deck or courtyard.

The position of your chiminea could matter a bit. Even though it’s going to be hard to predict, position the back to face the breeze or the wind. But importantly, set it up straight and vertical as this position ensures sooting in the fireplace.

Check the surface of the location you want to place your chiminea. It should be fire-safe. If you want it placed on your wooden deck or terrace, you can place a 3 feet by 4 feet platform or patio hearth made of pavers or brick. It’s best to place it on concrete, brick, and stone patio surfaces.

Also, ensure that there is no overhead cover on the location such as eaves or patio roof.

How to Care for Your Chiminea

Like any earthenware, chimineas are prone to cracking. Being made of clay, chimineas have a low-fire glaze. It’s advisable to coat your new clay-made chiminea with an acrylic finish or sealer. This serves as your outdoor fireplace’s shield from water and moisture, thus, re-apply every 6 to 8 weeks. In connection with that, provide your chiminea with a cover.

During rainy or bad weather, store your chiminea in a basement, garage, or shed to prevent serious damage.

Maintaining the cleanliness of the fire pit could be a drag. But this will do the trick: Put sand, lava rock, pea gravel or fire glass in the fire pit. You can just rake out the ashes and turn over the sand. During cleaning, just put them in the bucket and hosed off with water. Then, set the sand mixture to dry before putting it back to the pit.

Not much is required of you to have a relaxing outdoor area with a chiminea. It just takes a presence of mind and safe behavior.

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