How To Use A Chiminea: What To Put In The Bottom And How To Light!

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Figuring out how to use a chiminea isn’t hard – especially if you have experience with other types of fire.

I just got my first chiminea and setting it up and lighting it was a breeze. That’s because we have other fire pits and a wood-burning stove that we use year-round.

However, if you’re completely new to lighting fires – welcome.

Here’s how to set up and use a chiminea, including how to cook your first meal with one!

Using A Chiminea

using a chiminea

This is my new chiminea.

And by ‘new’ I mean ‘new to me’ – it was my brother’s and he was getting rid of it.

It’s a traditional chiminea made from Mexican clay as opposed to the many other types of chiminea made from steel, cast iron, and other clays.

I prefer the aesthetic of clay chimineas, though the Blue Rooster Chimineas are really nice as well!

To set up my chiminea, all I needed to do was get it into the perfect location on my property – away from trees and structures – and set it down in its metal stand.

Because I’m going to put down a good base in the bottom of the chiminea, I don’t need to worry about using my fire pit mat. Also, I’m only using it on the grass rather than on a wooden deck.

If you’re setting up your chiminea on a deck or other more vulnerable surface, you might want to consider using a good fire pit mat.

If you have a good layer of sand or stones in the bottom of your chiminea, it won’t transfer much (or any) heat down through the bottom to surfaces underneath.

What To Put In The Bottom Of A Chiminea

set up a chiminea

So, you shouldn’t just start your fire in the bare bottom of the chiminea.

Doing this will radiate a lot of heat through to the surface underneath and may cause a clay chiminea to crack.

Instead, fill up the bottom few inches with sand and/or stones.

You can see I have both in the bottom of my chiminea fire pit – sand from the beach and a few stone pebbles – plus there’s a bunch of ash mixed in there.

sand in chiminea

Then on top of the sand and stone I have these chiminea tiles.

They are half an inch thick and make a good surface for building a fire.

chiminea tiles

They are arranged in a sun shape and are specially designed for use in chimineas.

They are made from a type of clay brick and also get very hot when the fire’s on.

stones in bottom of chiminea

This is how I set up the bottom of my chiminea and it works really well.

You can see there is already a crack or two in this chiminea, but this good solid base of sand, stones, and chiminea fire bricks will help to protect it from further damage.

Now, let’s light the fire!

How To Light A Chiminea Fire Pit

lighting a fire pit

I light my chiminea the same way I light my wood-burning fire pit.

I start with a few handfuls of very dry leaves and scraps of wood that accumulate around my wood stacks.

Then I stack up 10 or so pieces of kindling in pyramid form around the dry material.

I’m using very dry gum firewood here, but you can really use anything that burns well. I also add a fire starter to help get things going.

Some people opt to use cheaper firewoods like poplar for their outdoor fires, and save the good stuff, like oak wood or walnut wood for the wood stove or fireplace.

Make sure you do not have a chiminea lid on top and then light the fire with matches or a lighter.

how to set up chemenia

Depending on the type of wood you’re burning it shouldn’t take long for the fire to start roaring.

There isn’t really any ‘best wood for burning in a chiminea’, just so long as it’s dry and well-seasoned.

If you’re wanting to cook on the chiminea, you might like to try more aromatic woods like cherry firewood or almond wood.

using a chiminea

Gum is a dense slow-burning wood so this took a bit longer to get going, but it was really nice to start seeing the smoke pumping out the chimney.

That’s one of the big benefits of a chiminea – they direct the smoke away from those sitting around it. Unlike most fire pits that will be blowing smoke in your face.

Smokeless fire pits are another option, but even they will smoke after you first light it.

Enjoying A Chiminea

sausages on chiminea

One of the big downsides of chiminea compared to my cast iron fire pit is you can’t keep warm with people sitting all around it.

A chiminea isn’t the best conversation centerpiece since there’s only a small window that’s releasing heat.

But they are really good for cooking – we just chucked some beef sausages on top of the chimney and they cooked perfectly.

roasting marshmallow chiminea

And then we roasted some marshmallows for dessert.

The kids love these sorts of things!

So this was my first time using a chiminea, and it’s so easy I can write this post on how to use a chiminea straight afterward.

As long as you have some experience with lighting fires it’s just the same.

Using A Chiminea FAQs

using a chiminea

Are chimineas warm?

Yes, all types of chiminea will get warm once they’ve been burning for 5 minutes.

The outside of my clay chiminea heats up so that it’s too hot to touch, and metal chiminea will get even hotter than this.

Do chimineas put off heat?

Yes, chimineas put off a lot of heat, however, it mostly comes out through the mouth or out the top of the chimney.

The back and sides of a closed chiminea do not radiate much heat at all.

You can buy chiminea with mesh sides which will put off heat all around.

What is a chiminea lid?

A chiminea lid goes on top of the chiminea to stop water going down into the fire bed when not in use.

You can also get chiminea covers that can do the same job and you will not need a lid.

Do you keep the chiminea lid on or off?

The chiminea lid should stay off when you’re using it and on once everything has cooled down.

You want to keep moisture out of the fire pit so that it’s not difficult to light next time, but you need to let the smoke out when it’s on.

Using the chiminea with the lid on will likely cause damage and the fire itself won’t burn well.

How do you keep a chiminea fire going?

Keep adding dry seasoned wood to the fire and it will keep burning.

Once you have a good bed of embers in the bottom of the fire you won’t need as much wood to keep it going and to keep it putting out plenty of warmth.

Do you have to put sand in the bottom of a chiminea?

You don’t have to do anything.

Sand is a really good option for the bottom of a chiminea, but you could use soil, stones, gravel, fire glass, fire rocks, or anything else like that.

You just want to keep the embers off the bottom of the fire pit (especially if it’s clay or terracotta) and have the fire burning at a similar level to the mouth of the chiminea.

Are chimineas better than fire pit?

I have both a chiminea and a few other fire pits and I think none is better than another – they each have their purpose.

If we were having guests over and I was going to light something, I would use a wood-burning fire pit or even a propane fire pit.

These are better to sit around and enjoy with others.

When it’s just the kids, the Mrs, and I, I’ll use the chiminea. We can all huddle around the opening of it without too much trouble, and it’s better for cooking (fire pit grills are another option).

And when I’m wanting to cook pizza, I’ll go with the Stoke Pizza Oven!

Chiminea Uses

Learning how to use a chiminea is very easy – take it from me!

And their uses are many:

  • Warming up outside
  • Cooking and roasting marshmallows
  • A design piece in the garden
  • Smoke helps keep away mosquitoes
  • Teaching kids how to light a fire safely

Everyone should have a good chiminea (in my opinion) – they’re easy to set up and use and are lots of fun.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below and if you enjoy outdoor cooking, check out the Solo Stove Grill next!


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