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Meet the chimenea – a versatile BBQ hybrid.

Two outdoor chimeneas made of brick stand tall against the English countryside

Hybrids. The world today is full of them. People just can’t get enough of those all-in-one, genre-twisting, package-deal composites – whether it’s a multifunctional entertainment device or an eco-friendly car. Hybrids are in, and they aren’t going anywhere…except into the future perhaps.

The world of BBQ is not at all unfamiliar territory for hybrids. In fact, BBQ would still be a primitive gathering around a wood fire, if not for the cross-pollination of techniques, technologies, and experimentations.  Today we’re looking at a hybrid tool that is growing in popularity throughout the UK. Is it an outdoor fireplace? Is it a chimney? Is it a bit of both? Well, kind of. It’s a chimenea! If you have never heard of the name before it’s no biggie. We’re here to get you up to speed on what’s turning up the heat in the world of BBQ. Let’s doooo this!

The chimenea is a freestanding front-loading fireplace or oven. It has a convex or bulging body, and usually, a vertical smoke vent or chimney. Yes fine, it’s not exactly the most recent of inventions, but what matters is that it has succeeded in stealthily navigating the tides of time to be back with a bang. The origins of the chimenea extend back to Mexico and Spain – where they have been used for more than 400 years. Zipping with a blink into the present, the recent COVID lockdowns and working from home phenomenon have triggered an evident resurgence in the chimenea. And life is the better for it, we say!

 

Wood fuel burns red hot in a chimenea cooking chamber See copy above for insertion point

 

Chimenea History 

Historical evidence shows that the Mayan tribes of southern Mexico were the first to use the basic design of the chimenea. The Mayans discovered that moulding and then burning clay, created a solid and robust cooking chamber that held and distributed heat evenly. These terracotta ovens made their way north, finding a home in the land in Mexico. Since the 17th century, the modern chimenea design became popular among city-dwelling Mexicans. These urban folk used chimneas as ovens, heaters and even insect repellents.

Today, chimeneas come in various forms, transcending the original terracotta design. We’re talking cast iron, steel, and cast aluminium to name a few. These metal cousins are found in homes as accent pieces, modernised fireplaces, and even pet beds. Let’s take a look into the different variations of the chimenea.

 

Clay Chimineas

Clay chimeneas are the closest to the original ancient Mayan chimeneas. The engineering is simple: each chimenea is fashioned out of wet clay, then kiln-dried to enhance structural integrity. This process has always made each clay chimenea radiate with its own unique character. Centuries ago, these clay chimeneas were used to bake bread and heat the surrounding area. But in modern times they could have a multitude of uses such as –

  • A source of warmth for an outdoor gathering on a cold evening.
  • Your mini-BBQ grill to quickly grill up some sausages or burgers.
  • Use it indoors to hold flowers, light a candle or even store books and magazines.
  • As a decorative ornament to beautify your terra-cotta patio.

Every good thing comes with a price and clay chimeneas are no different. They require regular maintenance and a pretty looking clay chimney doesn’t stay that way without a fair bit of upkeep. Make sure you protect the clay chimenea from the rain since it absorbs water or moisture. So always cover your chimenea with a tarp or similar covering. The clay could also shatter if heated to a very high temperature right at the outset, so always make sure to start not too hot and gradually season the clay chimenea before you muster up a raging flame.

If cracks emerge you could seal them and apply heat resistant sealant to the outside every once in a while. But if you’re one for some old school, rustic, elbow-grease kind of sentimentality, you could preserve your clay chimenea for many years with regular attention.

 

Wood is burning with an orange glow in a cast iron chimenea

 

Cast Iron Chimineas 

This ironclad sibling of the clay chimenea is as durable as it is brimming with a medieval kind of grit. Where the clay chimenea is perceived as frail, the cast iron chimenea is almost indestructible. These metal hunkers are heavy and not meant to be moved around at a whim. For all its weight, the cast iron chimenea has many utilities that make it a hot favourite.

  • It will not crack or shatter.
  • Can handle extreme temperatures and weather.
  • Radiates more heat for those extra cold nights.
  • Has a long life span of many decades – with the potential to outlast its owner.

For its many advantages, there are a few things to be mindful about when using a cast iron chimenea. The iron can get hot enough to cause serious burns if touched accidentally, so keep a safe distance where possible. Also keep in mind that cast iron will rust a little as time goes by. This might stain your deck or patio. Proper maintenance will stall this process and make your chimenea last for many decades.

 

Cast Aluminium Chimineas 

Known to be the all-rounder in the world of chimeneas, the cast aluminium chiminesa leave very little to complain about. This is an evolved version of the bulky traditional chimenea and it can be moved around much easier than its predecessors. Apart from also being a great addition to your indoor or outdoor space, here are a few advantages of owning a cast aluminium chimenea –

  • The flexibility of using gas or wood as fuel.
  • Will not shatter, rust or deteriorate while exposed to the elements.
  • Easy to assemble and often includes a compatible grill for BBQ.
  • Minimal maintenance compared to clay and cast iron.

 

A black cast-iron chimenea stands tall with the chimney rising into the air

 

Seasoning your Chiminea 

Hold your horses before you set your chimenea ablaze. Irrespective of the type of chimenea you choose, you will have to ease it into high temperature environments. This is done by lighting small fires and letting the chamber cool. Then simply repeat the process for a few days. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting you started to season your chimenea.

Fill the bottom of your chimenea with lave rock or sand (2 to 3 inches). This will come in between the fire and the bottom of your chimenea to protect it from extreme heat.

Lay down a row of bricks on the sand.

Collect 10 to 20 thin dry twigs about 6 inches in length and place them on the bricks. The idea here is to build the smallest fire. Throwing in a handful of Big K kiln dried kindling wood in there also does the trick with much aplomb.

Make sure you let your fire completely smoulder out and cool before you light your next small fire. Do this at least 5 to 6 times over a few days.

After you have taken these steps you could start to burn slightly bigger logs and enjoy your chimenea fully. If you love your chimenea, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it the best of the best. Big K’s kiln dried hardwood logs are the perfect partners for a little chimenea seasoned.

 

Take a Stand! 

Every chimenea must be placed on a stand. This is essential because the belly of the chimenea can get extremely hot, creating a potential fire hazard. Make sure to place your chimenea away from any organic matter such as wood or dry grass. The legs will elevate the chimenea off the ground and keep it burning hot inside and not outside. Make sure the legs are standing on a fireproof base such as concrete, terra cotta tiles, or sand. Do not erect the chimenea on an uneven surface since there is a serious risk of it falling over and troubling you with a problem that could be a little too hot to handle.

 

BBQ Away in Your Chimenea 

What’s the point of having an outdoor fireplace if cooking and grilling is not a part of it? Chimeneas can easily double up as a simple grill or even a semi-functional oven provided you have a cast iron pot with a lid. There are 2 main ways this is achieved.

You could place a grill inside of the fire bowl and cook inside of the unit. You could even use your cast iron pot to cook up a stew or a casserole.

Set up a grill on the top of the chimenea stack and grill away your burgers, sausages and small cuts of meats and veggies.

If you’re a coal or briquette kind of BBQ buff, fill your boots. Our coconut shell briquettes light up fast and keep the heat going for up to 3 hours, which is plenty of time for you to whip up a feast. Not a fan of smoke? Big K’s smokeless coal will give your respiratory system some much needed relief while helping you enjoy a flavourful BBQ experience.

By inserting a grill in the fire bowl, you can simulate the effects of an oven or Dutch oven, allowing you to bake a lasagne, make a stew or even finish a one-pot biryani.  Before you cook in your chimenea, make sure it is prepared to handle high heat over time. Seal off any cracks or damages before cooking and always use a grill grate to create an even cooking surface to avoid spillage and a fire hazard.

 

Logs burn with intense heat within a chimenea cooking chamber

 

Chiminea Margherita Pizza Recipe 

Baking a pizza in your chimenea from scratch is easier than you think. This simple pizza recipe will surely surprise anyone who thought your backyard chimenea was there only for ornamental purposes. You will need –

A Chiminea with a fitting fire bowl grill grate

1 pre-made pizza dough

1 can of pizza base tomato sauce

1 Ball of mozzarella cheese

4 Tablespoons of olive oil

Fresh basil leaves.

1 teaspoon of salt

BIG K Marabu charcoal

Woodies Natural Wood Wool Firelighters

Charcoal starter

Firstly, fill your charcoal starter with BIG K charcoal, toss a couple of wood wool firelighters in there, and fire it up from the bottom. Once the charcoals are red hot, spill them evenly into the fire bowl of the chimenea.

Place your pizza dough on your grill grate and spoon in the tomato sauce before you stick it in the chimenea. Take pieces of your choice of size from your mozzarella ball and place it around the pizza.

Drizzle the olive oil over the pizza, break the basil leaves on top and finish with a sprinkle of salt and place the grill in the fire pit of your chimenea.

Your pizza will cook depending on how much coal you have put in the fire pit, so be aware of not using too much or too little. Ideally, with a few handfuls of coal, you could keep your pizza cooking for 5 to 8 minutes and rotate it 180 degrees to cook until it’s done.

When your cheese has melted fully, that will be your sign to pull out the pizza and dig in!

 

Chiminea Safety Tips 

As with any appliance that works with fire, there are several simple but necessary safety measures you should always exercise in order to avoid being burned to a crisp.

Place your chimenea on a fireproof surface away from flammable objects. Be wary of your surroundings as heat and sparks are pushed upwards into the air through the smokestack.

Do not lean on or touch the chimenea while a fire is lit. This could result in serious burns..

Avoid making a big fire in your chimenea as it will make it more susceptible to cracks and shatter. Flames gushing out of the openings is a clear indication that you have built a fire that is too big.

Always remember a chimenea is an outdoor fire pit and should be treated with caution and should be enjoyed responsibly.

 

We’re in a day and age where society has embraced the concept of hybrids. Multifaceted and multi-purpose, Chimineas defo fit the hybrid label. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing in a design sense, they also give you the option of cooking up a pretty scrumptious BBQ – perfect for livening up the mood of any gathering in your home. If you’re an owner of a chimenea or entertaining the possibility of owning one in the near future, we hope this informative exposition will get you cooking up some chimenea fuelled good food and good times!