When youre choosing a steel or cast iron chiminea, there might seem to be a bewildering array of choice. Chimineas come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. If youre looking for a new chiminea to replace an old or damaged model, you might have a good idea of what youre looking for, but its still a good idea to look at the available options before making a decision since there are often new models available.
Appearance and Build
Performance and price are both major concerns when youre shopping for a new chiminea, but of course its vital to choose a chiminea which will fit the feel and atmosphere of your garden. Its going to be a major focal point, so its important to take your time choosing and make sure you pick one youll really love.
Cast iron chimineas are often inspired by the design of wood-burning stoves, with many having features such as a diagonal mesh over the flames, and decorative details to the feet, hinges and funnel. You can even find open-bowl chimineas which offer a 360 view of the fire. Steel chimineas tend to be more modern in design and generally come in either bronze or black, though you can find some really striking models which are definitely worth considering if youre not going for that traditional feel. Appearance aside, its worth noting that many steel chimineas have steel bodies with cast iron legs or other parts which need to withstand a lot of stress.
Moving Your Chiminea
If you think you might want to move your chiminea occasionally, it might be best to choose a steel chiminea as they are lighter and more resistant to bumps and knocks.
Cast iron chimineas will last longer than steel chimineas, but are extremely heavy. A large cast iron chiminea may weigh over 50kg, while a steel chiminea of the same size should be about half that. If your cast iron chiminea can be dismantled (and many can), its advisable to dismantle your chiminea before attempting to move it, and find a friend or family member to help.
Chimineas as Patio Heaters
If youre interested in using your chiminea as a patio or space heater, cast iron might be your first choice. Cast iron chimineas are excellent as outdoor heaters, due in part to the properties of the cast iron and partly due to the thickness of the construction, and have the slight edge over steel chimineas in this respect, but ultimately, the amount of heat you get out of your chiminea is dependent upon how much fuel you burn in it, and there isnt much to choose in terms of heat output between a steel and cast iron chiminea of equivalent bowl size.
If you live in a household with children or pets, it might be a good idea to purchase a chiminea guard to keep them away from hot surfaces. Remember that even a small chiminea can put out a surprising amount of heat, and the metal will remain hot for a long time after the fire has died down.
Chimineas as BBQs
For those who love to BBQ, a purpose-built BBQ is the way to go, but if youre only going to be doing a bit of occasional barbecuing, or if youre cooking for a small party, you can easily use a chiminea. Steel and cast iron chimineas generally come with an integral swing-out steel grill, and they make great impromptu pizza ovens. You can also find utensils that can be laid directly over the smouldering coals to cook a variety of foods from toasted sandwiches to burgers, and of course you can always toast a few marshmallows or roast some chestnuts over the flames!
Steel and cast iron chimineas tend to come with a charcoal grill and a drawer or latch near the bottom for easy ash removal, so they are generally pretty straightforward to keep clean and need little general maintenance. However, both steel and cast iron will rust, so its advisable to buy a waterproof cover to keep your chiminea protected from the changeable UK weather.
Chiminea paint is heat-resistant up to about 600C, but it will bubble at higher heats or after extended use, and unpainted metal is more vulnerable to rust. However, rust will not affect the performance of the chiminea and the loose paint can be removed easily with a stiff brush or sandpaper and these areas can be painted over.
If youre concerned about durability, you can buy enamel-coated steel chimineas. Enamel has much better heat resistant qualities than heat-resistant paint and should keep your chiminea in good condition for years, although you should still buy a cover to protect it from rain.
Steel or Cast Iron?
In short, steel chimineas are usually cheaper than cast iron models, but cast iron chimineas are more hard-wearing, will last longer, and tend to perform a little better as heaters. Steel chimineas tend to be more modern in design and are substantially lighter than cast iron chimineas. Whether you decide to choose a steel or cast iron chiminea is of course dependent upon what you want out of your new garden heater, but the design and the look of the chiminea is of paramount importance. Your new chiminea will be a talking point, an eco-friendly patio heater, and real focal point and feature in your garden, and, if looked after, should be lighting up your summer evenings for years to come.