Thursday, April 3, 2014

Brick Ovens, Pizza Ovens, Bakery Ovens

I have a habit of putting on the brakes or detouring on foot when I see a sign that advertises Wood-Fired Brick Oven stuff.

I'm always looking to learn just one more detail to make the brick ovens I build better.  I can find these details by looking at better ovens or worse ovens; they each have something to teach.

I find it remarkable, when I walk into a joint that advertises Brick Oven Pizza, to find an oven that is not made of brick!  They are often the cast refractory concrete shells surrounded by some walls, with perhaps a brick arch on the face.  This would be like someone putting a Ferrari sticker on their VW and calling the Bug a race car.  That said, brick ovens are ovens in which the interior dome or vault is made of true bricks.

Pizza ovens are a special breed.  Cast-refractory shells, especially residential models, are made to heat up quickly, get the pizza done, and then cool off relatively fast.  Their minimal shell thickness doesn't store a great amount of BTU's and often they are not super-insulated.  They can make great pizza.  Cob ovens, the clay, sand, straw mix that comprises a mud dome oven, work for pizza but transmit heat to the exterior rapidly.  They are the perfect solution for someone wanting a pizza oven at very low cost.  They aren't 'permanent'.

Bakery ovens need a lot of mass and, in my opinion, benefit from a lot of insulation.  If I want to produce hundreds of loaves of bread on one firing, I need to have an oven that can maintain my desired temperature for ten hours.
The bakery ovens I've built have 9" of mass in the dome, 5" in the floor, and 8" of high-temp insulation over all.  They lose an average of  100F per 16 hours.  Three days after firing, the oven is still hot enough for baking.
In addition to the mass and outer insulation of the bakery oven, an insulated inner door prevents loss of heat.

As always, we seek to match our oven to our needs, and often, our economics.  Therefore, a cheap cast oven that may last ten years is actually more expensive than a brick oven that can last 100 years or more.
An oven with a lot of mass, saves time and firewood.

In many ways, the bakery oven is the most versatile. 

1 comment:

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