What is a Chimenea and Why You Should Buy One
I must admit that when I first heard someone say the word ‘chimenea’ I wondered what they we’re talking about and thought that they must be starting to sing a popular Mary Poppins song. It’s only when they showed me a picture of one that I knew what they were talking about; I’d known about the actual product for years but just didn’t call it by its real name. Luckily that was a while ago and I now know enough about chimeneas to know that they’re a brilliant type of outdoor fireplace that have actually been around for hundreds of years.
From primitive tribes to modern back gardens.
The original clay chimeneas were apparently from Mexcio, used by Mexican tribesmen to provide heat for their families but could also be used as a place to cook and bake food. The enclosed design was intended to keep rain from dousing the fire, with the fire able to be lit and continue burning with a few simply sticks. These days they are popular in back gardens across the USA and UK, and are commonly bought as garden ornaments. They’re ease of use is part of the reason why they’ve become so popular, a few small pieces of wood (commonly pinewood) or even paper can create a full burn in just 15 minutes.
The construct is a ball-shaped firebox that is raised off the ground, with a short smoke stack or chimney protruding from it. There is an opening at the top and in the firebox itself, air is drawn in at the bottom and drafted up the chimney to create an air flow that efficiently feeds the fire and produces less smoke. This method also means that you don’t end up getting any smoke in your eyes or breathing it in, as the smoke is distributed upwards and out above head level.
Clay or cast iron; the choice is yours.
When choosing what type of chimenea to buy customers do have a choice. They can opt for the more traditional clay chimenea, but there are also cast iron and modern contemporary steel designs available too. All of them, depending on your tastes, can be utilised as a gorgeous decorative garden ornament when you’re not using them to warm yourself outside.
Clay does look attractive, and is the traditional way that they would be built, but there are a few problems that become apparent after prolonged use. The more you use it the more the clay will weaken, develop cracks and eventually fall apart. As such it’s best to keep this type of chimenea away from wooden decking. Clay is also susceptible to the weather, although purchasing a rain cover will drastically reduce the impact. If you’re willing to replace it every few years then it’s not a big problem, and since the price typically doesn’t go above £70 – and as low as under £30 – it’s not like it’s an expensive waste of money for such an attractive looking design.
Cast iron versions are far more durable, with the ability to withstand extremely hot temperatures and enjoying a long-lasting life. The downside is that they’re pretty heavy, so you’ll want to put one in a place where you won’t need to move it often; plus you should be aware that they can stain the surface you put them on, so choose carefully. It will take a long while for a cast iron chimenea to develop rust, but you can extend it even further by painting it with stove paint from time to time.
Cooking up some grub
The added benefit of a chimenea is that they can be used to cook food. One benefit of doing this instead of using a barbecue is that you won’t be getting barbecue smoke in your eyes when you’re turning your sausages over. You need to get a removable grill for the food to rest on, although most modern chimeneas come with one included, but you’ll be getting meat with a tasty smoky flavour. There’s nothing better than cooking some great food on one, then sitting around the warm fire with family and friends later on – with an added bonus of toasting some marshmallows on the fire if you desire!
First off, wood is a renewable resource so burning that in a chimenea is the right way to go. You can burn coal if you desire, but obviously that’s not renewable and will work out more expensive. It’s also an excellent way to use up any debris you may have lying around the garden, such as fallen twigs that you can continue to feed the fire with. Any ash left over is also great to use as a fertiliser for your plants, so you really are coming full circle and contributing back to the environment.
With summer on the way it couldn’t be a more perfect time to buy a chimenea. Summer nights in the UK can sometimes get a little chilly, but with the heat continuing to be generated for over six hours you’ll have the perfect excuse to stay outside even longer and enjoy the company of friends and family (and probably a beer or two as well!).
Words by Ant Langston for and on behalf of BBQBarbecues.co.uk – your one stop Summer shop for all things barbecue related.