Written by Terry Smith
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UK’s best chiminea you can cook on too: cast iron, steel, clay
This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 6:42 am
Chiminea may sound like some kind of small animal or pet, but it is actually the name for a certain type of traditional oven that became popular in Mexico in the 1600s and is a quality alternative to a gas patio heater or electric patio heater for that matter. The name chiminea comes from the Spanish word for chimney and it is easy to see why the Mexicans chose that moniker as regardless of the overall style or material the Chiminea is made from, they all sport a chimney of some sort on top of a fire pit. And that’s how they differ from a fire pit primarily – a chimney extension.
Originally, chiminea were used inside Mexican homes, not only for cooking purposes similar to our charcoal bbq culture, but also to provide a warm place for the family to sit around. Fast forward to the present day and these once kitchen staples of the Mexicans are now popular garden features, being used mostly as a type of garden ornament/ heater but also with an optional barbecue feature in many models – you can learn more about that in the chiminea buyers guide.
One advantage of using a chiminea over a barbecue is that the design of these traditional ovens contains the flames inside the fire pit chamber much better and also the smoke is channeled through the long chimney and can often be directed away from people sitting nearby. This is much more difficult to do with a standard barbecue and your guests end up going home with clothes smelling like they themselves have been burned at the stake, unless you opt for a food smoker.
As these products become increasingly popular features in people’s gardens, we thought it was time we reviewed the best ones available to us in the United Kingdom. We have also added a buyer’s guide to chimineas after the reviews with some helpful tips.
UK’s best chiminea – editor picks
Best chiminea overall: Deuba Chiminea Patio Heater Cast Iron Garden Fire Pit – this is the best cast iron chiminea I can find at the moment.
Best steel chiminea: La Hacienda Extra Large Colorado 160cm Chiminea Outside Fireplace or the LIVIVO Chiminea
Heavy duty: Charles Bentley Open Bowl Mesh Cast Iron Chimney Patio Heater
Best clay chiminea: Floral Swirl Clay Chiminea
Budget pick: Deuba Pyramid Patio Heater
Chiminea Buyer’s Guide UK
Before you spend all your hard earned cash, it’s always a good idea to be armed with a little bit of knowledge regarding your intended purchase.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a decent chiminea.
If you’ve read our reviews above you will already know that chimineas come in many different materials. Cast iron is a very popular material as it is strong and durable and is good for handling intense heat. Steel is also very strong but has to be treated so it doesn’t rust. Clay and terracotta chimineas are the most traditional but might not have some features that metal ones have. Here’s a look at the popular ones in the UK:
Cast Iron chiminea
Cast iron chiminea styles retain most of the original feel – they look great, and they will last forever. the downside is all in the upfront effort getting it into your garden – they weigh a ton! If you’re not familiar with cast Iron, these chiminea’s can easily weigh 50kg. If you are familiar with cast iron, think half an old heavy bath tub! Here’s a look at the design – I love them if I am honest:
They can run extremely hot with absolutely no structural issues at all. Here’s a look at mine blaring on a cool evening. What I found was the it’s very nice to sit around all sides as the heat radiates outward:
On the downside they do rust – this is totally unavoidable and should be expected.
These are easily the most aesthetically contemporary of all the chiminea options available. And they really do suit a modern looking garden – particularly good on a sandstone patio for example:
The downside is the cheaper ones will twist a bit with the heat stress – you’ll notice not many with steel with a hatch or door – obviously doesn’t work well with the movement of steel under heat! Don’t be put off too much though, they still look fine after a few dozens uses:
One of my favourites is the classic and original design. As I mentioned these are essentially mud clay ovens that have developed from Mexico and now made to look aesthetically pleasing for the average UK garden. And in my mind some are a bit rustis but there’s also a some that are a balance of rugged nice looking:
You can of course pick more traditional and what you’ll find is these clay versions are often smaller as a result of not being so strong – the larger the clay chiminea, the easier it will break – that simple, so ideal for anyone looking for a little fire in the back garden.
These patio heaters come in a variety of sizes and it is important that you get one that suits the purposes you intend it for and also your garden environment. If you only have a small space in your garden it is not a great idea to buy the biggest chiminea you can find as the intense heat such a model would kick out would make it quite uncomfortable and might damage things nearby.
On the other hand, buying a small compact chiminea and placing it in a big garden to heat a large group of people is always going to fail as you won’t be able to get enough wood in them to create enough heat.
Heater or barbecue?
Traditionally chimineas were used to cook and some models come with an optional grill to cook on. However, often the grill is placed too low down and close to the flames so it can be hard to cook things without burning them. Either look for a model with an adjustable grill, or one that allows you to control the air flow from the bottom.
Some handy extra features to look out for are- a removable ash tray or an easy access to sweep out the ash, lockable or mesh doors to prevent sparks and ash flying out, removable chimney caps, adjustable air flow vents, and free fire hooks or pokers.
1. Deuba Chiminea Patio Heater Cast Iron Garden Fire Pit
One of the most popular chiminea models out there is this one from Dueba and two years ago this was my top pick – after extensive use, I still keep this top. Standing 112cm tall and having a striking, rustic aesthetic, this chimineas looks are no doubt a big part of the reason for its popularity. Made of solid cast iron and weighing in at just shy of 30kg, you might need someone to help you lift this out onto the patio, but once it’s out there you can be sure that it isn’t going anywhere as it sits very solidly and stable on the tripod of legs. It’s in direct competition with the Charles Bentley Open Bowl but when comparing them I feel this has the edge in aesthetics and quality. And here’s more reasons I prefer it:
This was reassuring for me as I have a playful golden retriever that likes to jump around and on to everything in sight, but with the weight and stability of the Deuba chiminea it was unlikely that it would get knocked over – what I found is it is really really solidly set.
This model features a large opening in the front which makes getting the fire going and removing and inserting the grill so much easier. Covering this opening is an equally large lockable door that has a sparks grid so you can sit close to the oven and enjoy the heat without fear of getting your clothes ruined.
Just under the door are three vents to regulate air flow. These can be adjusted easily to get just the right amount of air coming in for specific purposes such as increasing the heat or smoking meat. At the top of the unit is a large and wide chimney with a removable lid.
The grill that comes with this chiminea is in two halves, and once in place inside the oven they form a circular cooking platform. For me, I found that the height of the grill above the flames wasn’t quite high enough, so some care has to be taken when cooking or you might end up with charred food. I think sticking to burgers, hot dogs, flatbreads, and things of that nature would be best if you are going to use it as a barbecue alternative.
On the plus side, Dueba were thoughtful enough to include a removable ashtray which makes cleaning up all that much less hassle. What the Dueba chiminea works best at though is acting as an outdoor heater. I threw in some kindling wood and in no time at all it was throwing out warmth in a 4-6 metre area around it. I was sat at our garden table about 2.5 metres away on a fairly chilly night and I felt very toasty in just a shirt and jeans.
There are a few things I have to say when it comes to the cons of this Dueba chiminea, and although they are small gripes, I feel I must mention them. The first one is that it takes about an hour to assemble and if you tighten up any of the screws too much at first, you will probably find out, like I did, that some of the other nuts and bolts don’t align properly and you’ve got no ‘play’ to get them lined up. The instructions provided are vague to say the least and the images and writing are hard to read.
The other thing is that, at least at first, there is an odour that comes from the paint when it gets hot. This might only be a temporary thing, as it usually is with these kinds of products, and something that goes away over time, but it is still something that puts me off a little.
Apart from those minor flaws, this is an excellent product to use as a garden heater. It looks fantastic, provides good heat, and is priced very reasonably.
2. LIVIVO Chiminea Patio Heater for Wide Heat Output and Viewing Angle
More recent to my list than when I first wrote this article a few years ago, is the LIVIVO Chiminea Patio Heater is pretty much in direct competition with the La Hacienda Extra Large Colorado 160cm Chiminea but I can’t give it top steel chiminea and partially it’s due to the fact it’s newer but also I still slightly prefer some of the features on the La Hacienda.
One thing I will say before I get going though, is just how beautiful this unit really is. There’s nothing more contemporary yet still has a comfortable homely feel about it with lovely lovely on board log storage:
The thing about this unit that will annoy you is the safety grate. The paint turns pretty quickly and it’ll begin to rust, or at least that’s what I’ve found out. I have to say though, this happens to almost all units and of the three I have actually tested, they all end up this way.
However, the grate is both simultaneously it’s weakest attribute and strongest. Of all the units, this one has the best airflow and then on average smokes the least too as a result of the best combustion. The problem with that though (you may not find this a problem but I do) it burns far more logs more quickly. Obviously the result is far greater heat output.
And further to the logs burning up quick comment. Part of the reason is the size. If you compare this it’s 65 odd centimetres on my tape vs 44cc of the top pick. Diameter doesn’t work in a straight line, it isn’t 1.5 times more powerful on the burn, but actually twice as powerful.
Like I say, the main drawback on this unit is the rust – the size is a double edged sword, if you want heavy duty output then it’s a no brainer, if you want a steady heat and more efficient I would pike the cast iron chiminea rang instead. One thing is for sure though, out the box it looks the part.
3. La Hacienda Extra Large Colorado 160cm Chiminea Chimenea Chimnea Outside Fireplace
If old school, rustic charm just isn’t your thing and you are looking for something a bit more modern and stylish to compliment your garden furniture, there aren’t many better companies to turn to than La Hacienda.
This company has been providing us with beautifully eye catching products for years now, and with this chiminea they don’t show any signs of slowing down. Unlike a lot of chiminea products, this one does not double up as a grill and is solely intended as an attractive looking garden heater. Does it work? The answer to that is a definite yes! And then some.
The Hacienda stands very tall at 160cm, and a large part of that is the open fire pit, so you can pile in kindling and logs and really get a blazing fire going. We sat about 4 metres away and ended up having to move a little further back as the heat was quite intense. Lesson learned, the next time we tested it we put less wood in and it was far more comfortable.
The opening actually continues quite high up into the chimney section and this brings both pros and cons. The good thing about this is that the smoke goes straight up and out and away from the people nearby. The bad side is that when the fire is really burning, some flames can shoot out of the top of the chimney, so it’s best not to get too close when this is happening.
One thing I wasn’t too keen on were the thin metal legs at the bottom of the chiminea. Like I mentioned earlier about my silly dog, the solidity of the Dueba model was the main thing I liked about it, and while this La Hacienda product is far from unstable, the legs just didn’t bring me the same confidence as its rival.
Another thing that the Dueba has over this model is the removable ash tray. Considering this chiminea is much more expensive, I would have expected it to have had something similar to help keep it clean. Then again, the large opening in the front does make it quite easy to use a brush and pan to get the ashes out.
The heat resistant paint used on this La Hacienda chiminea is far superior though and there weren’t any bad smells emanating from the product even when it was blasting out a lot of heat. The steel construction is very well put together and should be quite durable (except for maybe the legs) but you will have to keep an eye out for rust after using it for a while and after it has been stored away for winter.
At just under 140 pounds, it isn’t the cheapest chiminea out there, and I wish it would have had some more features for the price, but for stylish looks and producing heat I give it 10 out of 10.
4. Charles Bentley Open Bowl Mesh Cast Iron Chimney Patio Heater
The Charles Bentley open bowl cast iron chimney heater is similar in both price and design to the Dueba chiminea from our first review only standing a little taller at 124cm and it pretty heavy duty still.
It is also made from the same material- cast iron and shares the stability of Dueba’s solid model too, despite being 10 kilograms lighter. But when compared to the Deuba I feel it’s just a bit behind overall, and here’s why: Unfortunately this model doesn’t have the adjustable air flow vents of the Dueba, but it does have a removable chimney lid and mesh door to protect you from sparks and ash. I have to say after using it a fair few times I have notices it rusts but you’re going to have to expect that of all chimineas:
This is a patio heater that can double up as a barbecue oven/grill but it works better as the former rather than the latter. That’s not to say you can’t cook on the grill, it’s just that it is hard to control the level of heat and size of the flames, and the grill sits close to the flames, so it’s not the most refined cooking method.
As a heat source, this model excels. After some very frustrating setting up, which I will go into soon, I loaded this chiminea up with some old fencing slats and chopped up wooden supports and boy did that fire erupt! Flames were shooting out of the top of the chimney and the heat that was kicked out was quite intense in a 360 degree arc.
We had originally intended to place this within 2 metres of some old plastic garden furniture chairs that we had stacked in the corner of the garden, thankfully we changed our minds though as I think they would have melted.
Placing your table and chairs about 4 metres away will be just about right to give you a comfortable level of warmth once the fire is large and burning.
Like its twin, the Dueba, this model also needs to be assembled and it too has horrible instructions. This seems to have become a growing trend in not just chimineas but nearly all gardening tools and products.
To make things worse, a few of the holes didn’t align with the others that they were meant to, but after my experience with the Dueba model, I knew not to tighten anything up until I had lined things up as best I could. Once it was all put together, it felt very solid and there wasn’t any unnecessary wobbling or moving of parts.
Overall this is a great heater, that produces an incredible amount of heat but it is let down by a few little things like the ‘heat proof paint’ melting off in some areas, and the aforementioned problems with assembly.
Still, for this price, I suppose you can forgive a few niggles.
5. Deuba Pyramid Patio Heater
So, we’ve had cast iron modern takes on the traditional chiminea design, simple classic clay models, and stylish modern versions so far. This one has taken the ancient shape of the pyramid and given it a contemporary modern twist to bring us a beautifully striking chiminea in a whole black finish. And I have to just put it out there what I found after a dozen uses is that it is still in remarkably good nick:
This is another large sized patio heater with a base that measures 35cm x 35cm (width and depth) and reaches up 102cm in height. The considerable size of the base and the lockable door allows you to load this chiminea up with a decent amount of solid fuel, be it logs, old pallet or fencing, or garden trimmings that you want disposed of, and really get a good sized fire going.
Assembly of this pyramid heater wasn’t as tricky as some of the other products we tried because the holes lined up fairly well, although I have to say there were a lot of parts.
At only 5 kilograms, this model is the lightest by a long way but with lightweight products, there is usually a trade off somewhere and with this it is that the steel is very thin and doesn’t feel like it will be all that durable or have too much longevity. I suppose at only 29.99 we can’t expect it to be made of the highest grade stainless steel though can we?
Despite its lack of weight, the pyramid structure keeps the chiminea stable in light winds. I didn’t get to test it in any other conditions, but I wouldn’t really be trying to use it in gales anyway and these metal products should never be left outside in winter if you want them to last.
Coming in the packaging is a free wooden handled fire hook for stirring up some more flames once the fire starts to die down, and to stop those flames dampening prematurely, there is a metal pyramid shaped ‘umbrella’ to stop rain entering the chimney while still allowing smoke and flames to be released out.
How would I sum this product up?
Well, it’s a budget chiminea that has a beautiful pyramid design that will catch people’s attention. It also produces enough heat to keep you warm.
However, the thin steel materials and build quality didn’t exactly leave me in awe and if I was looking for something practical rather than modern and stylish for a cheap price, I would probably go for the Flower Swirl Clay Chiminea or shell out a bit more for Dueba’s cast iron model instead.
If you really want a taste of that old world charm when it comes to your chiminea, you need to get one made of clay. Some people might get put off by clay chimineas, as they don’t usually have some of the features that more modern iron or steel options have, such as adjustable air flow control, but these traditional models have their own advantages.
To begin with, clay chimineas don’t have the same problems as cast iron ones when it comes to their paint stripping away under very high temperatures. Clay also doesn’t rust like steel and iron can so you can leave your chiminea outside in any weather without having to think about it.
Clay models are very durable, will not warp in the heat, and also bring with them the very important benefit of not having to assemble them. That means no screaming out profanities in your garden for all your neighbours to hear as you try to wrestle the mismatched holes into alignment that you often get with products these days.
This is quite a compact patio heater compared to others that we have reviewed measuring 72 cm tall. However, 11 cm of that is the three legged metal stand that the pot sits in, so the actual size of the chiminea is around 60cm.
Being much smaller, it doesn’t produce the kind of industrial strength heat that we saw with the Charles Bentley model, but that also kind of adds to the charm and traditional feel, and you can cozy up quite close to the heater without it being uncomfortable or have the fear of losing your eyebrows.
This is designed to solely provide heat and light to your garden area in those colder spring and summer nights and as such doesn’t come with a grill for cooking on, but that’s no big loss.
The floral swirl design and colour scheme on this clay unit looks really good and would suit someone who likes classic Mediterranean or central American styles or who has a colourful garden with bright painted walls or fencing.
One of the best things about this particular chiminea is the price. At under 45 pounds on Amazon, it is one of the cheapest of the models we reviewed here on this page, and with the money you save you could buy yourself a good priced barbecue to sit next to your beautifully bright and charming chiminea.
There’s a lot to like about the simplicity of traditional models like this and not a whole lot to dislike.