Though I have to confess holding at least a small candle of love for these awful chimineas, as with most things in life, they were not all created equal. The same applies to chimineas.
What makes a bad chiminea I hear you ask. Flimsy, easily broken, don’t hold heat, difficult to assemble, wrongly proportioned and plain ugly are just a few things to watch out for in a bad chiminea but I’ll take you through some more detail on what to avoid when buying your first chiminea.
What to Avoid When Buying a Chiminea
There are a few general things to watch out for when buying a chiminea. Fortunately, these are not all indicated by price alone. In fact, I bought a lovely wee simple clay chiminea last month and it’s been terrific! No messing around having to assemble it, I pre-ordered some lava stones for the bottom and got it up and running in no time. As soon as the sun shines here in Edinburgh for more than 5 minutes, I’ll be lighting it again.
Specifically, there are a few things to avoid when choosing a chiminea:
- Open fire bowl: this changes the science of the airflow of your chiminea and can make it difficult to light, keep lit and sen smoke flying in all directions.
- Too tall: When a chiminea is too tall and slim, it makes it much more unstable. This causes a hazard when it’s lit as it won’t take much to tip it over and also leaving it outside will be tricky as it’s likely to blow over – especially if you have a cover on.
- 4 legs: just asking for stability issues. The reason the traditional chiminea stand has 3 legs is that it creates a stable base for your chiminea which is essential. To be honest it still baffles me why all tables that could be built with three legs are not.
- Mesh fire bowl: there are a few exceptions to this but in general, don’t bother with the ‘360 view of fire’ enticement’ that a mesh fire bowl offers. It messes with the physics of a traditional chiminea shape and the minute it is windy, it’s smoke city. Your fire is not protected at all.
- Clay chimineas for cooking: unless a chiminea offers specially reinforced clay, if you want to cook with your chiminea, a metal chiminea is a better choice. This allows you to use charcoal which is much easier to cook with. Furthermore, metal chimineas sometimes come with built-in BBQ grills especially for cooking, taking the BBQ sirloin to a whole new level!
- Steel chimineas that claim to be cast iron: steel chimineas are by far the most common in online marketplaces as they are far more robust than clay for shipping, can be broken down into parts (easier for shipping) and are much lighter than cast iron – again, easier for shipping. However, many cheeky sellers will try and pull the wool over your eyes and tell you it’s cast iron when it’s actually steel. Steel is fine if you know you’re buying steel and expect it. Buyers are usually required to list the weight of an item and this is a good way to check. If it’s under 10kg then it’s likely mostly steel. Often sellers will justify this as one part of the chiminea is cast iron – it’s common for some steel chimineas to have cast iron legs as it gives them a bit more stability.
Chimineas I Would NOT Buy
To give you a better idea of some of the chimineas I would avoid, here are some examples for you. Please remember that I’m no expert and some of these may in fact suit your needs, but instead the idea is to give you food for thought when you are shopping around.
Deuba Gardebruk Fire Pit Pyramid
This little chiminea can seem really appealing to first-time chiminea buyers because it’s usually one of the cheapest available. I have not owned one of these myself but a friend had one and he had nothing but complaints… and I could see why. The problem is a combination of the 360 opening in the middle which means heat and smoke escape everywhere.
The pyramid-inspired shape is not good for heat retention. The heat that doesn’t escape from the 360 opening shoots up the chimney and away. When opening the door in the front to clean the ash just falls out and goes everywhere and there’s not much you can do to avoid this! On top of everything else, the fire in this chiminea will sit really close to the ground so get ready for anything underneath it to get super hot and whatever you do, DO NOT PUT IT ON A WOODEN DECK!
Furthermore, it comes in over 20 small parts that need to be assembled – a fiddly job especially not worth it when this is the final result. Despite is only costing about £40 I’d avoid this one like the plague.
La Hacienda Geometric 2 Piece Clay Chimenea
I love La Hacienda and in general, they make some great chimineas. however, unfortunately, this is not one of them.
This particular model has a terrible reputation for cracking and the experience is that it cracks in the first few uses regardless of how thorough your curing process is. Whether there is an intrinsic structural issue or a problem with how they are shipped that damages the structure it’s unclear.
The idea is terrific – the rustic charm of a clay chiminea that you can cook on is really appealing. However, I’d not go near this one either as they will not consider returns on this item even if it does crack in the first month of use.
Regardless of the cracking issues, I think attempting to do some proper cooking (so something other than toasting marshmallows) is a bad idea on a clay chiminea. You can only use wood for the fire and it’s tricky to cook over flames and the coals just won’t get as hot or for as long as charcoal – which you can’t use on clay chimineas as it will crack them.
Regardless of their size, unless a steel chiminea that you’re shopping for is a custom piece, it should not cost more than £100….and certainly not over $400! Everyone has to make money but this is example is, unfortunately, a common occurrence where sellers try to take advantage of uninformed buyers.
Always shop around when you’re searching for the right chiminea for you and your family as some of the prices are really ridiculous even when you account for shipping costs from China.
Oxford Barbecues Contemporary Steel Chiminea
Yes, I’m picking on Oxford for this example but there are many other companies who make similar chimineas…and they’re not great.
The space at the bottom is designed to hold wood but is really a big waste of space and is a bit of a fire hazard as super dry wood or kidding under there can easily catch light.
But it’s more than that. Like the other pyramid-shaped modern chim, they are just not good at retaining and radiating heat. The shape also is a far cry from the traditional chiminea shape and loses the convection effect because of the large opening, and holes in the chimney. It’s narrow and tricky to clean out, it has 4 legs and is only about 35cm across so real top-heavy.
This one is just asking to topple over – dangerous when lit and a nuisance when under a cover that gets blown over. In addition to all that it’s fiddly to assemble. Really not good value for money.
You now know the worst of the pitfalls that first-time buyers often fall victim to making their first outing into the chim world. I hope this article has been useful to give you some idea of things to look out for so you don’t get landed with a dud on your first chiminea purchase. Have you ever bought a bad chiminea? I’d love to hear from you.