Chiminea Cooking For Beginners – All The Basics For Getting Started

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Chiminea cooking – it’s one of the most unique ways to cook outdoors.

Everyone loves cooking and eating outdoors, don’t they? The downside of using a regular grill is that it doesn’t also put out heat and light and create a warm atmosphere. A grill is definitely better when you’ve got many mouths to feed, but when there are only a few of you, a chiminea is an excellent option.

People have been cooking with chiminea for centuries. It’s an effective and delicious way to barbeque, grill, roast, smoke, and more.

I want to answer the frequently asked questions about chiminea cooking here, and we’ll have some recipes coming later (once my new chiminea has arrived). If you were wanting some advice on what chiminea to buy for cooking, check out the Blue Rooster chiminea range – they’re all suitable for it!

Chiminea Cooker

chimineas cooking

If you’re new to all this, read our post on ‘what is chiminea’ before starting to learn about cooking on one!

However, to summarize, they originated in Mexico where tribesmen used them for both heating and baking (mostly bread).

These original chimineas were made of clay and were quite fragile. Unfortunately, the original ovens and modern clay chiminea are susceptible to rain which is why they always need to be covered when not in use.

If the rain comes while they are in use and hot, they will likely crack as a result of cooling too quickly.

You can still buy clay chiminea (I’ve just ordered a 2-piece clay chiminea, for example), but you’ll most often find them made out of cast iron or cast aluminum. Sometimes you can pick up terracotta chiminea as well, which are more durable and robust than clay.

Here are the most commonly asked questions about becoming a chiminea cook!

Which part of the chiminea do I cook on?

chiminea cook

You can cook inside the chiminea or on top of the chimney.

When cooking inside the oven you light a wood fire and built it up until there is a decent bed of hot coals. Once the fire has died down you can place your food on the grill.

Alternatively, you can cook on the top of the chimney using a trivet. This is mostly used for pots and casseroles.

Can I cook on any chiminea?

Generally speaking, yes you can. However, some are better suited for it than others.

A chiminea with a large mouth is usually easier to cook in. They simply allow for greater access for both a grill and for tending the food. It can be awkward cooking on one with a small mouth.

Some of these fires are better designed for cooking than others. You will notice some chiminea are more decorative and best used just for heating and creating an atmosphere.

What fuel do I cook with?

People most commonly use wood in their chiminea when cooking.

Using hardwood is usually better than using softwood in these outdoor cookers, but there are exceptions (pine being one of them). Beech, ash, and oak firewood are all good options. Also, other woods with nice aromas like applewood can be great for the transfer of flavor.

Whatever you do, don’t use treated wood for cooking! However, you can cook with charcoal in a chiminea.

Lastly, you will see some chiminea for sale that can be hooked up to burn propane or natural gas. These options are more efficient at cooking but it feels like cheating a bit, right?

What are the best pots for cooking on top?

Ideally, you want to use your oldest and least precious pots and pans for cooking in a chiminea!

When cooking on top of a chiminea it will become somewhat charred, black, and sooty. Therefore it’s best to use flame-proof pots. Cast iron is a good type of pot or pan to use for cooking in either way with a chiminea.

Can I control the temperature?

chiminea cooker

You can’t control the heat in a chiminea beyond adding more or less wood.

If you find that your food is getting burnt then you might be able to raise your grill – this will depend on the style of the cooker. You could put some small bricks to the side of the fire bowl and in so doing create a higher platform to cook on.

You can also move the hot coals to the sides of the chiminea so that they are not directly underneath the food. It’s all going to depend on how quickly or slowly you want your food to be cooked as well!

What are the different ways of cooking with a chiminea?

You can grill, roast, fry, slow-cook, bake, and smoke with a chiminea!

Basically, anything you can do on a regular indoor oven you can do with a chiminea – only more!

If you really wanted or needed to, you can also boil on a chiminea. It’s much faster and easier to do this inside on the oven though. You can’t really taste the difference between food boiled in or on a chiminea as opposed to boiled on a home oven.

Some people even use their chiminea for steaming food!

What type of food can be cooking in a chiminea?

how to use a chiminea for cooking

You can really cook anything in these traditional outdoor fireplaces.

Chiminea are most commonly used for cooking:

  • Pizza, bread, and pies
  • Steak, sausages, and chops
  • Chicken – either whole or part
  • Fish and other seafood – especially prawns
  • Vegetables like corn and bell peppers
  • Stews and casseroles
  • Desserts like fruit kebabs or baked bananas

And for roasting marshmallows of course!

How do I add extra fuel while cooking?

Adding extra fuel while cooking on the chimney is easy enough to do, but more difficult if you are cooking inside the chiminea.

The best thing is to have a grill that is held up in such a way that you still have access to the fire bed. Many are designed in this way. If your grill plate is sitting on top of the coals, you can really only remove it to add extra fuel and wait for it to die down again.

It’s best to ensure you have enough heat before you start cooking. If you are doing something that takes a longer time to cook, have a plan in place to ensure you’ve got enough heat.

Can you use a chiminea as a pizza oven?

Chimineas are great at cooking pizza as they come out with that incredible wood fire flavor.

It’s best to cook pizza in a chiminea using a pizza stone (or a piece of granite as in the video above) to ensure it’s cooked through in the right amount of time.

It’s also important to remember to rotate the pizza inside the chiminea as the back is always going to be hotter than the front.

However, if you are a huge pizza fan, I would check out the Ooni Pizza Oven range before choosing a chiminea. Ooni ovens are specially designed for cooking pizzas using either wood or gas and produce amazing results.

How do I avoid food falling through a grill rack?

If you are concerned about food breaking up once cooked, like chicken drumsticks, for example, think about cooking in a cast iron pan instead.

You will still get the same flavors simply from cooking inside the belly of the fire. Better to use a pan than to lose precious food into the coals!

What are the best chiminea cooking accessories?

chiminea cooking

You can get away with simply using your ordinary grilling utensils for cooking in a chiminea. There are, however, some special equipment you can splash out on if you like!

That includes:

  • Firepit tongs
  • Fire poker
  • A roasting hood
  • A cast-iron toastie oven
  • Chiminea cooking rack
  • Campfire popcorn poppers
  • Fireproof gloves
  • reusable marshmallow skewers

And for those who love having all the right accessories, you can get specially designed cookware for chimineas (and other outdoor fire cooking).

Coffee Rub Recipe For Chiminea

I recommended this coffee rub for roasting chicken breast in a chiminea.

The time required will depend upon your method of cooking, type of cookware, the heat from the wood you are burning, and so on. However, rather than cooking an entire roast chicken, it’s best to simply use chicken breast.

  • 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of a quality instant coffee (I recommend Moccona)
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon medium chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed coriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t want too much heat)

Serve with fresh coriander!

How To Use A Chiminea For Cooking

Now you should know how to use a chiminea for cooking!

As you can see, it’s very similar to cooking on or in other types of outdoor fireplaces. It’s just important to have a hot enough bed of embers to cook on and to take the right safety precautions. Be especially vigilant if there are children and pets around.

Chiminea cooking is an exciting and fresh way to cook, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Keep your eye out for some new recipes in the future.

Also, let us know if you have any more questions about cooking chiminea style, and we’ll answer them and add them to the post!


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6 thoughts on “Chiminea Cooking For Beginners – All The Basics For Getting Started”

  1. I’m particularly interested in cooking pizza outdoors, and a chemenea seemed like a cheap pizza oven. Looks like they can cook pizzas but could be tricky and results might be inconsistent.

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right. Chimineas aren’t the perfect outdoor pizza ovens, but once you get used to using them you can become more consistent with the results. It depends a bit on the type of wood fuel you’re using and the base you are cooking your pizza on.

  2. My chiminea is really awkward to cook on, it’s more ornamental than anything else. The only thing we cook on it is marshmallows now ?. I recommend getting a chiminea with a wide opening if you want to cook on it.

  3. I have a terracotta chiminea and a lot of experience with basic campfire cooking in cast iron. So I think cooking on the chiminea will be fairly easy and fun. One thing I want to try but cannot figure out how or find a good source about it- how can I smoke chicken or meat in the chiminea? Suspend it with wire inside the chimney?

    • Thanks for the comment Donna. You can get smokers that can be placed on top of the chiminea chimney which seems to be the best way to do it. Alternatively, you can put it on a wire, as you suggest, or if you can get a solid base inside you could put it on a stand. For some items, simply putting a grill over the top of the chimney would do the job.


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