Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brick Oven Stoking

A wood-fired brick oven requires that we know how to stoke. 


  1. Add coal or other solid fuel to (a fire, furnace, or boiler).
  2. Encourage or incite (a strong emotion or tendency): "his composure had the effect of stoking her anger".
Let's choose number #1, shall we?
How much and how fast often stumps (no pun intended) the green (pun intended) user.
Firstly, seasoned (read: very dry) hardwood is most useful.

Crib or Log Cabin starter fire
Secondly, small and slow is better than roaring.  Wood can only release its BTU's (which are absorbed by the dome of the oven) in the presence of oxygen.  Over-stoking (read: rushing) simply produces smoke, soot, and wastes wood and BTU's.

A small log-cabin like stack of wood is placed under the throat.  Softwood kindling can be used here. When the fire is bright and clear, this log cabin can be pushed partway backwards because the flue is warm and will draw the smoke horizontally.

Larger hardwood can be placed on the fire at this point.  Now comes the easy but patient part.
Get the hardwood going but don't loiter around the oven (unless you have guests in which case you can enjoy the fireplace-like appearance of the oven at this stage).

Soon the fire will be quite hot and  you may roast or broil using the curling flames.
Periodically placing a couple of dry logs on the fire will keep the fire bright and heat the dome sufficiently.

At about 600 degrees F, carbon (soot) will burn off the dome interior.  Less wood is needed now because the temperature in the oven is forcing the release of a secondary volatile.


Black billows of smoke need not course out of the oven. That is an indicator of overstoking.
When the oven has reached the temperature you desire, you may push the coals to the rear of the oven, or spread them out to fully heat the walls.

A sophisticated method of evenly heating the oven was demonstrated to me by Michael Jubinsky of Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School in Lyman, Maine.

He arranges dry logs around the exterior of his large diameter oven, starts the fire as above and at some point (around an hour after starting) the logs around the perimeter catch.  The oven then is heated from all directions.  In smaller ovens this may be tricky but worth a try with smaller wood.

If your oven is stoked properly, you will use very little wood but get a very fast temperature rise.

If for any reason, you get stoked by another person's behavior, spend some time in front of your brick oven fire.  It's very calming.

1 comment:

  1. “If your oven is stoked properly, you will use very little wood but get a very fast temperature rise.” – This is one of the things that you must consider in making your own brick oven. Proper stoking of the oven will make it more efficient and allow you to maximize your wood. You can easily cook at ovens that readily heat and you can enjoy the good food that you’ll be making.

    -Nohemi Tutterrow-