Wood burning pizza oven plans. How to build oven domes, hearths, flues and chimneys.
Wood burning ovens in general
For me, all this is about eating wonderful foods prepared by our selves and cooked using a little fire in a wood burning pizza-bread traditional oven. It's visually very pleasing, interesting, as well as efficient and economical. Your friends will be so impressed they will probably follow you by building something suspicious in their homes. Cook meats, roasts, casserole dishes, bake cakes and never have to clean the grease inside the oven → ever! It'll burn in the oven's hearth!
A wood burning pizza/bread oven is an oven made out of clay adobe,
refractory fire bricks or
refractory concrete (heat resistant mix made from ingredients that can withstand prolonged high heat conditions).
Traditionally, ovens were made using material that wasn't costly and was easy to obtain in nature. Nowadays, we have everything we need to build a wood oven readily available in most refractory and building store yards.
Traditional wood burning pizza-bread ovens and cooking using a gentle fire are simply 'the low TEC highly efficient technology'. So primitive and interesting, it will not let us down.
What do we actually do when we use a wood burning brick oven?
A fire is built inside the oven (now you may say: 'I know that, but what's next?' - just kidding). The fire burns, giving off the heat which the heavy oven walls absorb. When the dome chamber inside is heated to flat white-hot, the fire is allowed to die down or kept burning only very gently for longer. The embers can be swept out of the oven or left somewhere aside in the oven.
Video of MTo pizza oven / Ferrari design, by Jim (free hand-picked stones collected for the whole construction out in the nature surrounding his home.)
During the firing, the oven door is open and the flue at the chimney, if there is a chimney, is also left open. When we stop the fire and the embers are swept out of the oven, the door and/or the chimney are closed. The wood oven is then let to rest for a few minutes to allow the heat in the dome to even out, and for the temperature from the fire to drop down a bit. At first, the oven is around 800°F or 425°C perfect for making fast in 90 seconds thin and crispy pizzas, however very nice pizzas are being done also in 300°C - 572°F temp, but it's still too hot for bread. When the temperature has dropped to around 450°F or 230°C, then it is time to put big roasts and other large meals in. Bread goes in last so it doesn't bake too fast on the outside. If needed to convert temperature scales, etc., use the automatic calculators.
Pizza, bread, cakes, sausages, meat, cookies bake from the heat of the wood fire stored in the walls of the wood oven. Heat is spread around by radiating out of every heat source (it's a physical law called blackbody radiation, as in our sun or electric radiator). All of the radiant heat absorbed in by the oven floor and walls is now slowly radiating out, spreading around and working for us. And very efficiently actually, evenly. Just like with a floor heating at home the radient heat source from the heated floor and the whole vault and walls of the oven comes from everywhere, from an every square bit. Not just from a single one spot but from the whole surface area of the hot face. This heat is conducted and spreads around in the dense material evenly. Firebricks are excellent for this.
You can read more about the wall mass and the importance of a back up heat insulation later in these pages.
This depends on how well the dome of our wood oven is insulated on the outside, and also on how much wall mass the oven has, see(?), here you go. After heating up the very massive oven walls get hot enough to cook easily for a whole day. Traditionally, we cook with the oven's radiant heat, placing foods into the oven right as the temperature reaches the stage appropriate for the food. These ovens were traditionally used also to dry fruits, mushrooms, herbs or the firing wood for the next firing if it's fresh or too wet from the rain. They produce very useful low temperatures as well as the hot cooking environments for cooking the superb pizzas. My favorite activity is to cook or slow-roast all kinds of meats and to achieve very nice tenderness with the option for that lovely smoked flavour.
Wood ovens, particularly ovens made using firebricks, have domes that are only about 4 inches thick (10 cm). If well insulated on outside, then this is perfectly satisfactory for pizza oven and not as much for baking. But once you decide to build your own wood burning oven and after cooking pizzas you will prefer to do proper baking or roast large pieces of meats slow way at stable temperature, consider making the walls up to 6 inches (15 cm) thick by adding on 2 inches concrete cladding layer; such brick ovens will stay hot enough to cook for at least 6 hours using the heat energy generated at pizza making time (it's a worthy project and heaps of fun afterwards.) The extra dense mass is crucial. Your oven will be a lot more efficient and stronger. You may need to heat it up a little longer, but those 20 minutes and a few bucks extra for concrete gravel etc. will pay you well off and you will be more happy in the end. To be stable even every quality commercial pizza oven and Conveyor ovens must use dense layers on hot face.
In restaurants, we can watch the small fire inside a wood oven. They operate their ovens this way in order to maintain even temperature over a long period of time. You know how happy the owner is to use their wood burning oven; it changes the whole situation a lot for them. Basically, they operate wood oven the way a "modern" oven is operated except the fuel is a firewood and the shapes are different. Wood burning pizza ovens have temperatures normally higher in the ceiling above and the floor is normally cooler (another physical law, convection, says heat is inclined to go up). However when the oven gets closed for a couple of minutes both vault and floor become equal radiant in the heating sense, it's very quick. Pizza is done with the door opened and with ongoing fire or bulk of very hot red embers still radianting inside the oven. This cooks pizza in about 90 seconds, leaving it with no burnt edges or bottom of the pizza base.
It is impossibly expensive to maintain this temperature for a long periods of time in gas or electric ovens, and it's also not environmentally friendly to use modern conventional appliances*. Restaurant wood burning ovens are being used primarily for pizza and are being kept at a lower temperature because they keep the fire on and these ovens still cook fast. They are extremely easy to run, and guess what- They do not have to be cleaned from grease! Grease in the oven burns out on it's own. Now, if you have ever cleaned your busy oven at home, you know how this works.
* I will write in here also about wood naturally rotting when left on the ground produces as much of the same bad gases as burning it, and how much of this gas the actual tree absorbed in it's body when alive, the same amount that goes out in burning it. About burning a coal in power stations and it's carbon, or about controlled bush fires and sugar cane burning.
How do I fire my own wood burning oven at home?
If you are just going to bake bread, then you should operate your oven the traditional way, with embers left to die or swept out of the wood pizza bread oven. This is the only way you can build up the steam inside the oven to give you the ultimate crust. But if you are baking pizza and making foods for dinner, roasting a chicken, a leg of lamb, potatoes, baking a pie, etc., then I suggest keeping a small fire in the oven, as they do in restaurants. This makes it very easy. After that, put your breads in and close the wooden oven's door which has been soaked in a bucket of water. You may watch oven's temperature using an oven thermometer to see how hot you are. But you don't
really have to go into the expense of buying a thermometer. How to figure this out is easy, please read my tutorial on how to find out how hot your wood oven is, the traditional sure way as I used to do it. Now I don't really check the temperature any more, and you will not need too either after cooking for the third time.
How long does it take to heat up my wood fired pizza oven?
As per home ovens, the longest time I have seen is 2 hours for an oven being fired- it was a big family home oven holding heat comfortably for 40 breads surface area, whole lamb or 6 roasting pots with lids for big turkeys. Backyard or house wood burning ovens will be fully heated up in 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This is the aim. There is an early phase in the firing when the oven can smoke as you start it- it lacks fire kick start, it has thermal inertia. This is minimized by using dry wood, thin kindling, and blowing air into it. As the fire builds up in the temperature, the gasses given off by the burning wood will ignite and the whole oven will be filled with flames not smoke. It is important when you build the oven to make the flue and the chimney correctly as they draw off and direct the exhaust, and it is very important to calculate carefully the ratio of the entry door height to the inside dome vault height for proper burning. There are two types of thermometers owners of any wood burning oven can use; I absolutely prefer this self standing type however any digital oven thermometer will measure fine as well ... but invest into a digital thermometer only if you were interested to experiment or otherwise there's not extra benefit really.
Waste wood, old furniture, branches from trees, these are all sources of firing wood. You may want to split larger pieces, I do. But burn natural wood- don't burn wood that is painted or soaked with chemicals.
Can I build a wood burning pizza oven?
DIY building a wood oven can be simple or complex, depending on what
you would like to build. You can tend towards the simple side at first for testing the cooking or build proper oven right from start.
First wood burning oven may even be built using cleaned old solid red clay building bricks, one can get them for free or build such oven for less
than 150 bucks. But proper and lasting oven can be completed from around 750 bucks total very easily if you apply my single-simple-idea but logical one for the material gathering (well even 650.) We always do it as it'$ worthy! There is then a beauty saving generated for landscaping expenses and furniture if it's needed. Otherwise if no a special/expensive decorative material was used the total cost can reach 1500 easily. I placed here detailed workshop plans on cds full of information for building a few oven
designs: simple ones and more advanced, tutorials, and complete
instructions on diy and building your own chef cook wood ovens. Here is a first one: a good quality wood burning brick oven. I am working on it while building and taking
pictures of each stage as in my other tutorials here in this traditionaloven.com
site. Here is a next oven I call Masterly wood oven ® with a nice brick decorations technique for people
who never laid a brick before will find this very easy way (oven has special firebrick part) - its outside walls are calling
for imperfections visually effective - even for experienced bricklayers.
The oven has revolutionary dome design I put immense work into-
structurally high quality, spacious, easy to form into any desired size but
in contrast nearly no need for cutting firebricks!
If you'd like to own an oven like the one mentioned above or any other size or shape, but have no time to build by your self, make an offer and we can consult further.
I will be delighted to hear any wood oven building suggestions that you may have.