Cast iron and steel chimineas usually come with an integral grill which makes them perfect for barbecues, but you can buy a removable grill if you've got a clay chiminea without an integral grill. Alternatively, place a few firebricks in the bowl of your chiminea before you add the fuel. Then you can put a grill or a large ceramic tile over the bricks to make a level cooking surface. Some clay chimineas have a relatively narrow mouth, so ensure you have enough room to get the grill or tile in and out.
You'll need some good-quality charcoal before you start cooking. You can use charcoal briquettes, but pure, or ‘lump', charcoal is better for cooking because briquettes are a mixture of charcoal, accelerants, binders, and - sometimes - ash colourants.
Charcoal burns too hot for most clay chimineas, but wood (preferably a non-resinous wood such as oak, apple, or cherry), or heat logs (made from compressed sawdust), are both good for clay chimineas. Bear in mind that you might need to increase your cooking times if you choose wood rather than charcoal. If you want, you can add a few smoke chips to the fuel for additional flavour.
Ensure your chiminea has been properly seasoned, or, if it's a cast iron or steel chiminea, that it's been fired up a few times before you use it for cooking, and never use accelerants in any chiminea.
Make a pile of the fuel of your choice in the centre of the chiminea bowl and light it. Once the charcoal has turned grey/white, or the fiercer flames have died down (if you're using wood), rake over the fuel and pile most of it off to the sides, while keeping an even layer directly under your cooking surface. You want an indirect heat underneath the grill to minimise the risk of flare-ups, so try to make sure any larger flames are off to the sides.
Pizza seems complicated at best of times, and making pizza in a chiminea may seem particularly daunting, but once you've found a way that works for you, it's surprisingly quick and easy. You can cook directly on the grill as long as you oil the outside of the dough beforehand with some good-quality olive oil. If you're concerned about the pizza sticking, you can lay down a sheet of foil cut to the same size as the pizza base. If you're using a pizza stone, please note that they are not designed to take direct heat, so wait until the flames have died down a little before you put the stone into the chiminea, and, once again, rake most of the fuel over to the sides of the chiminea bowl. Preheat the stone in the chiminea for about 15 minutes to ensure you get a lovely crispy base on your pizza.
To make the cooking quicker, have the sauce prepared and have your toppings pre-cooked and simply assemble the pizza just before you put it in your chiminea. Once a chiminea is up to heat, it cooks very quickly. The first pizza, for example, should take no more than a few minutes and should have that distinctive, delectable wood-fired taste. Check all food at 5 to 10 minute intervals, and always check all meat juices run clear, or use a meat thermometer. Subsequent pizzas or grills will take a little longer to cook.
If you need more cooking space, you can cook food in double foil-wrapped parcels nestled in the smouldering charcoal (but don't try this when you're cooking with wood!). However you choose to cook with your chiminea, follow a few basic safety instructions and you will enjoy all of the excitement of an old-fashioned BBQ at home.