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Building a homemade pizza oven? Anyone done it?


billyhill

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Thinking about trying something along the lines of this...

 

Build Your Own Wood-Fired Earth Oven – Mother Earth News

 

I have mechanically minded assistants (Son and my friend, his construction instructor), we just have to build him a forge in return. I am figuring the forge will serve to high temp sear...😁

 

On a teacher's salary, it will have to be on the cheap.

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My GF is keen to do this now that we're on an acreage. May or may not happen, of course, but I'll keep an eye on this thread.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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No knowledge of pizza ovens.

 

My experience in the area of starting large expensive projects and leaving them half finished - while remaining married - is unrivaled.

 

I would therefore like to make myself available for consultation as this thread progresses.

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I've heard from a couple of sources who've built their outdoor ovens that they're are really not practical because it takes an enormous of time to get them up to the proper temperature.  None of my own personal experience.

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25 minutes ago, lindag said:

I've heard from a couple of sources who've built their outdoor ovens that they're are really not practical

 

No experience either, but that was my first thought. If you are running such an oven making multiple pizzas a day, every day, then it would make sense. For home use, forget it.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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4 hours ago, lindag said:

I've heard from a couple of sources who've built their outdoor ovens that they're are really not practical because it takes an enormous of time to get them up to the proper temperature.

Exactly! For some reason, you never see people mention in their glowing reviews how much wood it takes to bring a pizza oven up to temp. It's fine if you have a whole day of cooking planned -- using the fading heat for pizza, then bread, then roasts, etc. But if you think you're going to pop outside and make a few pizzas on a weeknight, ha 😄

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So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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This may be built sooner, but is really a retirement thing . So, time would be available to plan the day around those activities.  I have a wood lot and a chainsaw and access to a pick up truck. I have friends with sawmills that can feed me hardwood stock not suitable for cut lumber.

 

3 years till retirement, if all goes well.

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If you build a pizza oven properly, insulate it sufficiently and have enough solid mass you can cook in the oven for a few days after it’s been heated up. So many fire them up make pizza, make high heat food, then slow cook overnight, bake multiple loads of bread, do baking and make breakfast. 
 

‘’it’s a way of cooking I’m super keen to explore and would be a lot of fun, but it’s going to be a learning curve and need preparation to fire it up and cook.

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Totally subscribe to all of the caveats above.   We built//installed an Italian pizza oven in the country.    Lots of free fuel.   Retired, supposedly lots of time.    I wanted it also for cooking large hunks of meat and baked stuffs.    It works a charm...but requires someone at attendance at all time.   You don't leave a fire burning at these temps.    It takes almost an hour to bring it up to temp.    Great if you are feeding a small crowd, but from my end, shaping and topping pizza for a crowd is a LOT of work.   Letting guests create their own is often a disaster as they overload and wind up with calzone.    For wildfire reasons, we don't use in on hot summer days, and manning it in the rain is equally impractical.    We've had it for around 16 years.    Husband says we've now got the cost per pizza down to under $100, plus ingredients, maybe.     I often make pizza on the floor of  my kitchen oven since no one at the end of the day has much stomach for several hours attention to the pizza oven.

 

Had the Ooni been available at the time we built, I'd have gone for it in a heartbeat.    

 

Our pizza oven is charming, for sure.    But it gets little use.   

 

1133665907_ScreenShot2022-12-05at7_53_09AM.thumb.png.36c1e8ce9e066067bf6c91516d59f25a.png

 

Husband, oven chef, adds you need at least 3 feet internal area to cook two pizzas at a time.

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Wish I had a driving factor to build a pizza oven.  Sadly, having to switch to gluten free years back, our home made pizzas are no longer (I tried many times to work that sticky glob of a mess they call dough, not happening).

 

So now I have shifted gears and am planning on building a Argentinian style wood grill, with adjustable height grill and a side section to burn wood/create embers to transfer.

 

 

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I did all the research, checked out many options, considered everything from total homespun DIY to cast shells + outer DIY masonry.

then . . . for the 'experience' I volunteered as a "fair" helper firing up, using a wood beehive oven.

 

omg.  takes 36 hours to get it heat soaked thru.

cannot just go like the dickens to get it hot - if you do, it cracks/etc from the rapid temp changes.

slow firing, constant attention - no, you do not take a nap or sleep overnight - slow fire, stoke regularly, constantly monitor.

 

totally completely utterly impractical to do pizza in a wood fired pizza oven in the back yard.

 

still love the idea, but a pizza stone and an oven that'll do 550'F at the push of a button . . .

 

in the 1960's spent a year in Germany.  small village, community bake oven.  same thing - a day+ to get it heated up and hot for a 'every Wednesday bread bake fest' session.  my biggest take away from that experience was the Flamekuechen - scraps of dough with savory toppings used to 'test' the wood fired bake oven temps.

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3 hours ago, lemniscate said:

 

Chefsteps did one on the cheap that looks like it works.

 

 

If you look at the comments on youtube, you'll see more than a handful of people have had this oven explode on them.  It's not a matter of IF Youtube and Chefsteps get sued, only a matter of when.

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On 12/3/2022 at 11:30 PM, billyhill said:

Thinking about trying something along the lines of this...

 

Build Your Own Wood-Fired Earth Oven – Mother Earth News

 

My entire life revolves around frugality.  It's really more of a sickness than a forte.  I've spend a good portion of my adult life trying to come up with a safe and inexpensive wood fired oven design.  If an Ooni is presently outside your budget, then, I'm sorry to have to tell you that a wood fired oven is outside your budget as well.  At least a safe one is.

That design you linked to... that thing is criminally dangerous.  Poorly designed ovens like these can easily explode, sending red hot projectiles towards you, your family, and guests.  It all boils down to the rapid expansion in volume when water converts into steam.  Basically, any porous material- masonry, stone, mud, bricks, if these materials are the slightest bit damp, when you expose them to fire, the water inside them rapidly converts to steam, expands and BOOM!!!!!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5FMPWzG63A

 

What this means is that, for any wood fired oven, the inner chamber being exposed to the fire has to be kept BONE DRY.  Since most inexpensive vapor barriers aren't suited to very high heat, this means that you have to have a layer of insulation between the oven chamber and your vapor barrier.

So the necessity for a dry oven chamber and the insulation/vapor barrier that entails is one thing that drives the price up.

The next thing is proper ceramic materials.  Red clay bricks are cheap, but they are not suited for high temp applications AT ALL. This is why fire bricks exist- because when you exposed regular bricks to heat, they spall/flake- and the LAST thing you want to do is have a piece of your oven end up in your pizza. I have a chipped tooth from this very phenomenon.  This means firebrick- for every exposed surface in your oven chamber. It also means expensive high temp refractory as mortar.

The next thing that drives up the price is internal real estate.  You can't successfully bake a pizza with it practically touching the fire.  You need a fire, and then a few inch buffer.  This means that if you want to do Neapolitan pizzas, you really need at least a 30 inch internal diameter.  

 

Another thing that you cannot skimp on is a chimney.  The chimney is the thermodynamic foundation of a WFO.  If the chimney doesn't draw air, you won't have proper combustion inside the oven chamber.  

By the time you spend the money on the firebricks, the insulation, the vapor proofing, a structure to protect the oven from the elements and a chimney, you're probably talking the cost of at least three Oonis.

If that isn't enough to dissuade you, consider one more thing.  The online communities (Forno Bravo, Pizzamaking.com)  have a lot of helpful information, but they don't spoonfeed you everything you need to know.  This involves a very extensive learning curve.  I know a LOT of smart pizza people- both home and pros. I've never met a single person who nailed their first home built oven.  Their second or third time around, sure, but never their first.  

The Ooni Koda 12 is $400.   It doesn't offer as much real estate as the $600 16, but, you can get some really good pies out of it.  If you really want a wood fired oven, I'd save up and invest in a kit.  If you shop carefully, I think a quality kit could be obtained for around $2K.  But shop super carefully- a huge number of kits/plans have designs that are horrible for pizza. One rule of thumb to follow is that the inner height of the oven should never be much taller than the radius of the inner floor.

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7 hours ago, scott123 said:

Poorly designed ovens like these can easily explode, sending red hot projectiles towards you, your family, and guests.  It all boils down to the rapid expansion in volume when water converts into steam.  Basically, any porous material- masonry, stone, mud, bricks, if these materials are the slightest bit damp, when you expose them to fire, the water inside them rapidly converts to steam, expands and BOOM!!!!!

 

I think this scenario is highly unlikely. The inside of the chamber will graduately heat up as the fire develops, the thermal mass of your oven will delay the process even more. Water will continously evaporate, not in an explosive fashion. If heated too fast I recognize the chance of cracking, but for a violent explosion (the "BOOM") triggered by pore-enclosed water in set-up for example as pictured above from @Margaret Pilgrim I see very little chance. 

 

 

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On 12/6/2022 at 9:16 AM, Duvel said:

 

I think this scenario is highly unlikely. The inside of the chamber will graduately heat up as the fire develops, the thermal mass of your oven will delay the process even more. Water will continously evaporate, not in an explosive fashion. If heated too fast I recognize the chance of cracking, but for a violent explosion (the "BOOM") triggered by pore-enclosed water in set-up for example as pictured above from @Margaret Pilgrim I see very little chance. 

 

Respectfully, I don't think you're grasping the porosity of these materials. Regardless of the amount of heat applied, it takes a very long time to drive the moisture completely out of a brick.  Every masonry oven kit that's sold comes with some residual moisture.   This is why curing instructions are always included.  It's a painstaking process that starts with small fires and takes at least 4 days  Even when following the instructions to a T, cracking frequently occurs.   A properly built fire (dry wood, kindling, basic understanding of how to arrange the wood) can drive the ceiling of a wood fired oven up to 1000F in as little as 20 minutes.  There's not a damp brick on the planet that's going to be able to release it's moisture in that time frame.  

Can I say that there's an X percentage chance a damp oven will explode? Of course not.  But the Chefsteps oven that @lemniscate posted can give us a very rough idea.  I haven't read the youtube comments in over a year, but, the last time I went through them, there were 4 reports of explosions.  It's a very popular video, but, I guarantee you, by that time, no more than 1000 people had attempted to build it. 1 in 250 isn't what I'd call "highly unlikely.'  If you look at the risk of frying a turkey, it's probably safer than that, but, it's still not something that, imo, anyone should knowingly do.

And, even if you think that's a risk you're willing to take, it's critical to understand that while an explosion isn't guaranteed, damage is.  So maybe your particular oven won't explode, but, when heated damp, it absolutely will crack, and if it drops a piece of the ceiling into the pizza as it's baking, there's a really good chance, if it's small, you won't see it.  As I type this, I'm running my tongue over a chipped tooth that was a result of a pebble from a pizza oven ceiling.  Can you imagine the humiliation of having one of your guests chip a tooth? Yeesh.  And even if THAT'S a risk your'e willing to take, a few firings with damp brick and your oven is done.  Red clay bricks are cheap, but they're not that cheap.  And even the barest bone setup is going to take a great deal of labor.

As I said in my previous post.  I cut corners on just about everything.  This isn't something where you can cut corners.

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Seriously, take @scott123’s advice - just get a 12 or 16” gas fired ooni. Second hand if need be. If the desire for DIY brickwork is still there build a nice counter to seat it on.  
 

I’ve cooked with wood fired ovens a few times on holiday in Italy - unless you’re feeding a couple of dozen people regularly they just aren’t usable. 

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19 minutes ago, scott123 said:

 

Respectfully, I don't think you're grasping the porosity of these materials. Regardless of the amount of heat applied, it takes a very long time to drive the moisture completely out of a brick.  Every masonry oven kit that's sold comes with some residual moisture.   This is why curing instructions are always included.  It's a painstaking process that starts with small fires and takes at least 4 days  Even when following the instructions to a T, cracking frequently occurs.   A properly built fire (dry wood, kindling, basic understanding of how to arrange the wood) can drive the ceiling of a wood fired oven up to 1000F in as little as 20 minutes.  There's not a damp brick on the planet that's going to be able to release it's moisture in that time frame.  

Can I say that there's an X percentage chance a damp oven will explode? Of course not.  But the Chefsteps oven that @lemniscate posted can give us a very rough idea.  I haven't read the youtube comments in over a year, but, the last time I went through them, there were 4 reports of explosions.  It's a very popular video, but, I guarantee you, by that time, no more than 1000 people had attempted to build it. 1 in 250 isn't what I'd call "highly unlikely.'  If you look at the risk of frying a turkey, it's probably safer than that, but, it's still not something that, imo, anyone should knowingly do.

And, even if you think that's a risk you're willing to take, it's critical to understand that while an explosion isn't guaranteed, damage is.  So maybe your particular oven won't explode, but, when heated damp, it absolutely will crack, and if it drops a piece of the ceiling into the pizza as it's baking, there's a really good chance, if it's small, you won't see it.  As I type this, I'm running my tongue over a chipped tooth that was a result of a pebble from a pizza oven ceiling.  Can you imagine the humiliation of having one of your guests chip a tooth? Yeesh.  And even if THAT'S a risk your'e willing to take, a few firings with damp brick and your oven is done.  Red clay bricks are cheap, but they're not that cheap.  And even the barest bone setup is going to take a great deal of labor.

As I said in my previous post.  I cut corners on just about everything.  This isn't something where you can cut corners.

Curing is exactly what you write.   There is a very precise curing procedure that, as I recall, required several heatings over time.   No maximum firing.   It took a week or so before oven could be used for pizza.

And one should also note that building an oven can nickel and dime you to death.    We bought an Italian masonry kit at no small price, and still had to provide cement block base, a cement base on top of that, chimney, roof, etc.    We could have bought a half dozen upper end Oonis for the final amount we were in.

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