Backyard brick oven

Something kind of insane has gone up in our backyard:

This is a brick oven. Oh, I mean, A BRICK OVEN. It’s so gargantuan that you really have to say it in caps lock.

It uses wood as fuel, and you can use it to cook anything you’d cook in a regular oven. Roasts, stews, whole chickens (Zuni!!!), bread, dessert. The difference is that a brick oven gets much hotter than a regular oven — as in, 800° and up.

Which means it’s perfect for making…

Pizza! And that’s mainly what we’ve made in the oven so far.

We start by building a giant fire in the middle of the oven, which is dome-shaped inside:

Then, we knock down the fire with a long-handled pizza peel and push all of the charred logs and ash over to one side, revealing a super-hot oven floor that will cook pizzas in under two minutes. The pizzas rest right on the brick.

I thought I’d share some photos that show its insides and how it came together, since that seems to be one of the main things that people want to know, in addition to who built it (a mason), how long it took (about 3 months, as a side project for the mason), what plans we used (ours came from Forno Bravo), and would we be able to take it with us if we ever moved (No. We will obviously be living here forever now).

In mid-July, a lot of materials and equipment showed up in our backyard. Cinder blocks were used to make the frame of the base of the oven.

         

The cinder block base of the oven was wrapped in limestone and a row of red brick for some visual interest. (Did you know: Bricks are called “soldiers” when they are laid vertically.)

When you’re firing the oven, nothing actually happens in this base. The cut out area is for storage; we had a rolling cart built to fit it, and it holds pizza peels and other supplies.

On top of the base, fire bricks were laid in a special herringbone pattern to create the oven floor. Fire bricks can withstand high heat and retain it, so they’re essential to the oven.

The sides of the oven went up using the same fire bricks. The wooden door is a placeholder for the oven opening.

This part was fascinating because it was starting to look like an oven!

Up until this point, I understood how the oven would come together. I had learned the term “soldiers” and how to use it casually in a sentence, so I was feeling pretty good about my knowledge of masonry.

But then we got to the dome, and I thought: How is this going to happen?

Well, here’s how it happened:

           

       

And then the project finished up really quickly while we were out of town for a few days, so I don’t have photos. But, basically, limestone sides went up around the dome, some super heavy duty insulation was stuffed around the dome, and it was closed up with more limestone.

Isn’t it fascinating to see the oven’s guts? Some people work the dome shape into the oven’s final look, but we preferred to enclose it so that it would have clean lines.

Right now, we’re experimenting with pizza doughs to find two go-to recipes: One quick-rising dough that can be made and used the same day, and another that rises for two or more days, for the times when we can plan ahead.

If you have a favorite dough, please share!

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