Ever since humans discovered that they could control fire, we have been using it for light, heat, and cooking. In fact, if you think about it, the first campfire was also the first BBQ, outdoor heater, and more!
That tradition of sitting around a fire is still alive and well today and is still an excellent way to socialize and spend time with the family, whether that is to spend time out of the tent while on a camping trip, or simply in the garden at home.
Like with everything these days, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying an open fire at home, but two of the most popular options are actually two of the most traditional- a fire pit and a chiminea.
Often people are torn between buying a fire pit or a chiminea, and they can both be very satisfying purchases, but there are some differences between the two of them. So. In the hopes of clearing things up a little, we have decided to dedicate this article to comparing chimineas to fire pits for cooking, staying warm, and a few other important things (like the best place to sink a bottle of vino 😉)-
On a happier note, it was a good wine and fire pit night. pic.twitter.com/pVQoZqxg7A
— Meghan 🥂⚓️ (@TraveleatloveMM) May 22, 2021
Let’s start off by explaining what each of these things is, just in case you’re completely in the dark.
What is a chiminea?
Originating in Spain some 4000 years or so ago, chimineas are a bit like a pot-bellied stove, with a large opening in the front where you can access the fire and a tall chimney in the top. They are shaped like large vases or some kind of decorative plant pot, and sometimes have short legs to stand on, although this isn’t always the case.
Originally formed out of clay, chimineas and similar creations were popular and widespread throughout the Mediterranean, and even in some eastern European countries, providing a source of heat and also a good place to cook traditional dishes.
In modern times, there are plenty of variations on the classic chiminea design, and you can find models made from cast iron and other materials, and some with quite intricate and eye-pleasing designs. They can be an interesting alternative to a charcoal BBQ
What Is a fire pit?
A fire pit is simply what it sounds like- a pit that is designed to contain a fire in one spot so that it doesn’t spread. Fire pits also have the purpose of creating a barrier to keep the wind from blowing out the flames, and for trapping heat.
People who have spent a fair bit of time camping will probably know all about fire pits and will have built their own from stones they’ve found around the campsite, or even just dug an actual pit to set a fire in.
Just like with chimineas, modern fire pits come in a wide range of designs and some of them look fantastic, providing a great focal point for your garden. There is also a lot of different sizes to choose from, and a variety of materials too. Check out this modern propane fire pit design-
I built a sitting area in my backyard and installed a propane tank for the first time in a fire pit, AND my hair is still intact! pic.twitter.com/uoo7wlItn1
— HeatherFroglear KFRG (@KFRGHeather) May 23, 2021
Comparing chimineas with fire pits
Now let’s take a look at chimineas and fire pits side by side, to see how they compare when it comes to all the things we look for in an outdoor fireplace.
Although both chimineas and fire pits produce heat and provide warmth for those sitting around them, most of the heat in a chiminea is actually trapped inside it and only people sitting close to the mouth of the chiminea will feel the real benefit, and they can’t really compare with good garden heaters.
A fire pit’s open design allows the heat to flow outwards in all directions, and so they are better for keeping larger groups of people warm on the patio. Because of their larger size, you can obviously build a larger fire and thus create much more heat.
If you’d like to know more about designing your garden to trap heat, you can check out our article on that very subject.
There might be some people who disagree with me, but in my opinion, a firepit only looks good if it is over a certain size, and that size is pretty big. If you have a smaller garden, a large fire pit will probably take up way too much space and end up taking over your garden rather than being a part of it as a whole. This is not usually the effect people are trying to achieve, so smaller gardens are best suited to chimineas.
On the other hand, if you have a large garden, with a lot of space, having just a chiminea there to provide heat and light can seem a little underwhelming. However, if the area in which you will house the chiminea is closed off in some way, you can still get a cozy atmosphere. A large garden gives you the opportunity to have a stunning fire pit, surrounded by some lovely garden furniture or scatter cushions though, so why not take advantage of it?
As you can see from this tweet, chiminneas do not require too much space-
Piñon wood in the chiminea and Crown Apple in my cup makes a great Saturday evening with my love❤️ pic.twitter.com/O02qclIITb
— Steven Ellison (@DadtoZandC) May 23, 2021
Chimineas are perfect for cooking in, thanks to their closed-off design. This really helps to trap a lot of heat inside and makes cooking things like pizzas and steaks really quick and easy. If you’re cooking for a larger group of people, you’ll probably have to shop for one of the bigger chimineas out there, but an average-sized one is fine for smaller groups.
Some fire pits come with a BBQ grilling grate included, but even if yours doesn’t, it is easy to buy one and set it up over your flames. With their larger size, it is easier to cook for a lot of people, but because the fire is mostly open, you won’t get the heat trapped as well as you do with a chiminea. They are still great for grilling pretty much anything though, especially when you use things like BBQ mats and fish baskets.
If you don’t like smelling of fire smoke, then a fire pit is probably not the best choice for you. The open nature of these products means that the smoke goes up and out wherever it decides to, and you don’t really have any control over that. Having said that, some of the more modern fire pits have design features to deal with this age-old problem.
Most of, if not all of, the smoke in a chiminea goes up through the chimney, but it can still blow towards people nearby or over towards the neighbours house, so they are not completely foolproof. However, they are much easier to deal with, smoke-wise, than most fire pits.
To be honest, both of these products look fantastic, giving a traditional, rustic look to your garden. Not only that but there are now all kinds of variations of the traditional designs, so you’re bound to find something you like, no matter which type of fireplace you go for. Just look at this beauty of a chiminea for example-
— Kathy R Jones (@kathyrjoness) May 19, 2021
Bear in mind though, that the size of your garden will play a part in how nice a chiminea or fire pit looks in there, as we already mentioned above. If you are going to place things like bean bags or other types of seating around any kind of fire, make sure it is fire retardant as sparks and hot ash will get blown by the wind, especially with an open fire pit.
It’s hard to choose between a chiminea and a fire pit, as they are both good investments. However, if you are looking for something to provide warmth to a lot of people, a fire pit is your best option. For smaller gatherings and gardens, a chiminea offers everything you need and does a better job of keeping the smoke and ash away from you too.