Monday, February 15, 2016

Brick Oven FAQ

After over 300 posts, 130,000 blog visits, a lot of oven builds, and nine years, I will list here the ten most Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How much does it cost?
I've revised the post on Cost three times in the past few years due to both my best estimate of what a custom brick oven should cost you and in comparison to the manufactured cast-refractory ovens on the market.
It is the foremost concern for many.  In building custom 'true' brick ovens, my foremost concern is quality and function.  In comparison with manufactured brands, the pricing of my hand-built brick ovens is very competitive.  The additional cost gets you an oven that has more mass, more insulation, is better designed, AND looks like what it is meant to be, a traditional baking device of ancient origin.

2. Why doesn't my oven work?
I get emails from people who have either bought oversimplified plans or kits, have had a capable fireplace mason build an oven as if it were a fireplace, or and have built an oven themselves that isn't a functioning oven.  The fix for these is complicated and often means a tear-down and rebuild.   Occasionally, a simple draft problem is solvable.
Brick ovens aren't fireplaces.  They are completely different.  They aren't masonry heaters.  A brick oven is intended to contain heat, store it in the mass of the interior, and use it to cook food.  You can't both keep heat and give it away to the room.
The flue for a brick oven needs to exhaust the smoke perfectly.  This is easy with proper proportions (see at least ten posts on this).
Air for the fire comes from the face of the oven, or for indoor ovens, from makeup air chambers.
Over-stoking the fire is inefficient.  It takes very little wood to get to temperature.
My website: has a PDF owner's manual.

3.  How do I build one?
Anyone with care, time and a few tools can build one.  Most of my complete oven builds range from two to three weeks of time for me.  People who build their first oven should expect to take three times more time.
At least fifty posts on this blog describe in detail the process of building a brick oven, soup to nuts.  I have a CAD design for the dome that I sell but you don't necessarily need it.

4. How much wood, what other fuels?
Efficiently fired, a brick oven needs no more than a laundry basket of dry hardwood to achieve 750F.
A well insulated oven will keep the heat for three days, losing only 150F per day.
Some people have requested propane or natural gas preheat options.  A gas service provider can install the jets and safety apparatus.  However, once you learn to fire the oven with wood, it becomes no more arduous to bring the oven to temperature with wood than boiling an egg.  Other fuels will add considerable expense.

5. Where can I put the oven?
Depending on where you live, placing the oven has as much to do with your comfort as with what kind of cooking and entertaining you do.
Brick ovens are social magnets.  Give your family and friends space to watch and participate in the cooking.  In some places, bugs, snow, rain, traffic, and hungry neighbors may need to be kept from spoiling your baking experience.;postID=5860137508141460815;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=4;src=postname
Brick ovens can be built in the kitchen space, in a three-season room, under a shelter, or on a patio.  In cold climates, an indoor oven will be used 50 times more often than an outdoor one.
If you are a nomad, or a caterer, a portable oven can follow behind your vehicle.
My work as a landscape designer and stonemason can be brought into play when designing outdoor cooking spaces.  An herb garden enhances all the food that is cooked.

Look for five more FAQ's in future posts.  Or send questions as comments on this blog.

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