Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Future of Brick Ovens

The title of this blog suggests I know the future of brick ovens; I don't.  In the fourteen years I've been building traditional brick ovens, wood-fired ovens have become increasingly popular.  The result being that there are hundreds of 'models' to choose from; ranging from castable shells to lightweight steel fire chambers in a full range of prices.

It is fortunate that a small percentage of the people who want to cook in a wood-fired oven have chosen to build an actual brick oven, either themselves or by others.  And despite the nearly two years since my last post, I continue to get calls and emails seeking advice.  It has been the intent of this blog to provide the best information on building so that good, properly functioning brick ovens are made and enjoyed.

So I'll start with five points that anyone lighting a piece of wood that will fuel an oven should consider:

  • What will you cook?  If it's just pizza then an oven with enough space for the pizza of your dreams and the heat to cook it is sufficient.  More varied products like broiled vegetables, bread, roasts, pies, ribs, smoked meats or fish, or dehydrated fruits need an oven with more mass.
  • How much can you spend?  You can build a cob oven from clay, sand, and sawdust for very little.  I built an oven from Mexican adobes for a friend in Mexico for less than $100.  I recommend investing in some durable materials for the mouth and flue of even cob ovens (See Hybrid Ovens post coming soon).
  • Where will you build it?  Brick oven bakers want to use their oven all year.  This is only possible if either your climate is mild or the oven is in a moderated space where the weather won't prevent use.  Half of the forty-five ovens I've built are indoors. 
  • Where does the heat go?  Ideally, you want most of the BTU's from the wood you burn to stay in the oven.  This happens when the design is correct and the oven is insulated; otherwise, that heat is flying away and the oven cools soon after primary use.
  • Is wood-fired cooking easy?  Both firing up the oven and cooking in it will become relaxed and fun after the first few firings.  Brick ovens are social magnets and may be the only cooking device around which people want to gather to watch.

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