Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Our Brick Oven

The brick oven was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever completed.  Having never laid a brick before in my life, I read up on basic masonry techniques.  I also received info from others who had previously built brick ovens.  Our oven is a hybrid pizza/bread oven.  Wood-fired pizza ovens tend to be round with less thermal mass (thinner walls and floor).  The main goal of a pizza oven is to heat up quickly and maintain 700 F temps with a live fire while cooking.  Wood-fired brick ovens intended for bread use were revived for bakery used in North America due, in large part from what I understand, to the work of Alan Scott and his bread oven design.  His ovens were rectangular with a vaulted ceiling with a lot of thermal mass (thick walls). 

We wanted an oven that would heat up quickly and be easy to use for pizza parties, but we also wanted it to hold its heat for as long as possible.  Long heat retention enables us to bake bread, and other dishes, once the fire from the pizza bake is extinquished and the coals removed.  I ended up building a rectangular oven with a vaulted celing that has 4.5” thick walls and 4” to 6” of insulation (think boiler insulation) all the way around the cooking chamber.  This allows the oven to reach 900 F in about two hours.  If we keep a fire in the oven for four hours the bricks saturate with heat and the oven retains its heat without a fire for three to four days.  On average this heat-up process uses 14 to 17 pieces of dried split wood.

All the material for the oven, except for the concrete, rebar, and some of the insulation, were reclaimed.  Craigslist, Habitat Restore, and friends with stuff lying around were the source of all the major materials.  It was exciting to build a nice looking outdoor oven and workspace that kept materials out of the landfill.