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Brick oven cooking - plans and instructions


FornoBravo
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We have posted a set of free plans for building a traditional Italian brick pizza oven on our web site. The plans describe the round wood-burning oven that you see throughout Italy. It is called the Pompeii Oven, in honor of the great ovens uncovered in ancient Pompeii, and is built using fire brick and standard materials that you can find at Home Depot. There are complete instructions, including photos and materials lists, on the site. A number of them have already been built in the states, and there are said to be about one million of them in Italy. I'm an American living in Florence, and love these ovens.

The plans as free, we are supporting builders by email, and there is a user group on Yahoo! that discusses oven installation and brick oven cooking.

The site is a http://www.fornobravo.com. Click on the Pompeii Oven link to see the plans, and pictures of the ovens that have already been built. It's a great project.

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I am so happy to see this posted here. I have been considering adding a wood-fired oven to my kitchen for some time, but have not been able to decide on which type would be best for my purposes.

Thank you!

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Devin,

That's right. The there are two fundamentally different styles of Brick Oven -- the round Italian design, which is better for pizza and roasting, and the rectangular commerical bread oven described in Bread Builders. My first two brick ovens were the Bread Builders style, but they take a long time to heat up, and don't do a good job of pizza and fire-in-the-oven cooking. That's what led me to the Italian design (and in part why I'm in Italy). The round oven has less mass, so it heats faster, and the round dome is better shaped for back yard cooking and pizza. The difference is huge.

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Hi Scott,

There are a couple things I have seen.

1. With a round oven you have room on the side for your fire and food/pizza in the side on the back. It's all reachable. With my 32x36 rectangular oven, there isn't a good place for the fire. If you put it on the side, you have very little room on the side, and the back is lost. If you put it in the back, the fire doesn't reflect to the front of the oven. A 35" round gives you much more usable space than a 32x36.

2. The round, spherical dome does a better job of bouncing heat down to the cooking floor evenly. You can cook pizza everywhere (or roasts and veggies) in the oven, and it cooks evenly. That is how the high volume pizzerias cook all those pizzas. The rectangular oven has a barrel vault, which gives you hot and cool spots, depending where the fire it.

3. The round dome is self-standing (ala the Duomo in Florence!), so it does not need a lot of concrete clapping to hold it together. It is lighter and heats up much faster. A round oven will heat in an hour (or less depending on the type), where the heavier ovens take 2-3 hours, or more. That means you are burning more wood (which isn't good for the environment or your pocketbook). For me, the heat time is the difference between using my oven after work, or not.

There are also little things, like clean up.

The downside is that you can only bake around 25 loaves of bread from a single firing, not 75, but for a home oven, that works for me.

There are about a million pizza ovens in Italy, and I think this is why they are all round. Or as someone else said the other day, 60 million ancient Romans couldn't all be wrong. :-)

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The Washington Post had a lengthy article this week, either on Wednesday or Thursday, about homeowners installing wood-fired ovens in the kitchens or outside. Apparently it's quite a trend in home remodeling these days. www.washingtonpost.com is the website.

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  • 2 weeks later...

On the lone prairie of Nebraska, it's hard to come by a whole lotta hardwood to use in a wood-fired oven. Does anyone have experience using charcoal in such a beast?

My SO and I are in discussions of building a Pompeii style, but I'm curious about fuel flexibility.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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You can't get the heat you need from charcoal -- but there are bunch of classic ovens in NY and CT that burn real coal. I'm not that familiar with them, but I'm sure that some folks on this forum are, and maybe that can add more. All the Italian ovens here burn wood.

Also, one builder has fitted an LP burner for starting and backing up the fire -- sacrilege to Verace Pizza Napoletana, but convenient. :-)

You don't need hardwood. The ovens are pretty flexible on what they can use for fuel -- just not pine or fir. In fact, very hard woods tend to give you too much coals and not enough flame to heat the dome.

Any know about the coal ovens in CT?

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I've fired my brick bread oven with charcoal.

Charcoal gets much hotter than wood.

Works OK, but monsterously expensive, and with little wood smoke flavour.

Need maybe four large sacks per firing for a 3ft x 3ft oven. Need to keep the fire burning for four hours or so.

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No problem heating the dome: the charcoal gives off more than enough radiant heat and hot gas. Not much, if any flame.

When burning normal wood, most of it has turned to charcoal for the alst part of the burn anyway,

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Has anyone considered using pellitized wood in these ovens?

This company

has successfully used the wood pellets in their barbecues and smokers.

The dealer who sells pellitized wood heating/cooking stoves here in Lancaster is a friend and he sells a huge number of the pellet stoves (he has about 20 styles in his store at any one time) and they develop a lot of heat with much less fuel than the traditional wood stove.

He sells only the Energex wood pellets as there are no additives.

It seems to me that the pellets could be used to do the primary heating of the oven, then the residue raked out and regular wood added late in the heating time, perhaps burning in a different area of the oven, left in the oven to maintain the temperature.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Has anyone considered using pellitized wood in these ovens?

This company

has successfully used the wood pellets in their barbecues and smokers.

The dealer who sells pellitized wood heating/cooking stoves here in Lancaster is a friend and he sells a huge number of the pellet stoves (he has about 20 styles in his store at any one time) and they develop a lot of heat with much less fuel than the traditional wood stove. 

He sells only the Energex wood pellets as there are no additives.

It seems to me that the pellets could be used to do the primary heating of the oven, then the residue raked out and regular wood added late in the heating time, perhaps burning in a different area of the oven, left in the oven to maintain the temperature.

Traeger BBQ pits have a good reputation on the competition circuit although they are looked down on by some traditional "stick burners". I'm guessing you would need a rather custom installation with auger feed, induction fan, and burn chamber. Even so, you may not be able to produce a high enough temperature.

Shipping charges for pellets are another issue. The the more readily available ones designed for heating stoves are not rated food grade. The Energex pellets sound fine if they are locally available.

Jim

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There are some industrial ovens that use auger-fed pelletised wood. For example the Village Bakery at Melmerby in the UK uses one.

Frankly if you are going to bake continuously and heat indirectly, it doesn't really matter what fuel you use, and it makes sense to use the most economic in the area. Its one of the compromises that goes with volume production - Waitrose and other supermarkets sell their bread Its very hard to produce on an industrial scale without making such compromises, as well as additives, the proof time, and machine rather than hand moulding. The benefits are cost and consistency; the loss, a little at a time, is that which makes artisanal bread special.

Edited to say found the article, although the main site projects a less industrial image, with projects such as build your own earth oven. Note the picture towards the bottom of the page.

http://www.village-bakery.com/news/visit.htm

http://www.village-bakery.com/news/art/new-oven.jpg

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Jackal,

Great posting.

Alf Armstrong helped restore that oven, and built the one for Betty and Taylor's of Harrogate. We have a picture of that oven on our site:

http://www.fornobravo.com/FornoBravoUK/Intro.html

I think in a way this underscores the difference between bread and pizza ovens. Pizza ovens need a good fire in the oven to bounce heat down on your food and pizza for high heat cooking. As you say, continuous bake bread ovens cook with retained heat in the refractory. Horses for courses.

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Has anyone considered using pellitized wood in these ovens?

This company

has successfully used the wood pellets in their barbecues and smokers.

The dealer who sells pellitized wood heating/cooking stoves here in Lancaster is a friend and he sells a huge number of the pellet stoves (he has about 20 styles in his store at any one time) and they develop a lot of heat with much less fuel than the traditional wood stove. 

He sells only the Energex wood pellets as there are no additives.

It seems to me that the pellets could be used to do the primary heating of the oven, then the residue raked out and regular wood added late in the heating time, perhaps burning in a different area of the oven, left in the oven to maintain the temperature.

Traeger BBQ pits have a good reputation on the competition circuit although they are looked down on by some traditional "stick burners". I'm guessing you would need a rather custom installation with auger feed, induction fan, and burn chamber. Even so, you may not be able to produce a high enough temperature.

Shipping charges for pellets are another issue. The the more readily available ones designed for heating stoves are not rated food grade. The Energex pellets sound fine if they are locally available.

Jim

I was replying to the comment that firewood is not easy to come by in some areas, Nebraska was mentioned.

Sometime last year I went with friends to a restaurant somewhere on the way to San Diego and we had to park in back of the building. I noticed three pallets of the wood pellets outside the back door of the restaurant. It may have been in Carlsbad, but I don't recall exactly. Since I wasn't driving, (was talking to others in the motorhome and not paying any attention to where we were.)

It was one of those places where the cooking was done in a glassed-in area so the patrons could watch and they had several large grills going and also had pizza which cooked very rapidly. One of the party ordered one of the specialty pizza as an appetizer and it came to the table no more than 10-12 minutes after the server went off with the order.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I asked Alf about alternative fuels and bread ovens, and here is his input. Also, his ovens have a fire chamber below, where a pizza oven is fired in the oven.

+++++

I have several ovens running on alternative fuels other than timber. We have one running on pelletized wood waste; however, this is a commercial oven using a sophisticated control system to deliver forced draft to the combustion chamber. The other fuel we have in use and works very well are hardwood shaving and sawdust made into briquettes. This fuel delivers a very good heat and is much improved if you can mix it with a little amount of softwood sticks. The sticks seam to have the effect of drawing more oxygen through the briquettes and increasing the heat of the fire.

Briquettes unfortunately are very expensive and very a great deal in quality so if you need to use them make surd they are made from wood rather than paper / cardboard waste

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If you love fire, you will love a pizza oven.

The Pizza Napoletana specification says you should cook pizza at 900F for no more than 90 seconds. It really does work.

Most of us settle for about 725F, and a three minute pizza. The oven gets to pizza heat in about 45 minutes, which isn't much longer than Kingsford charcoal.

We translated the Italian Ministry of Agriculture's VPN spec they presented to the EU. It is good to read.

http://www.fornobravo.com/vera_pizza_napol...napoletana.html

James

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  • 11 months later...

Hi, everyone.

This is my first post to the EG forums. I have an outdoor, wood-fired pizza/bake oven which I built from scratch about three years ago. I used "The Bread Builders" and "The Bread Ovens of Quebec" as reference material. Mine is a rectangular oven, with a lot of mass. Mass is good. Always. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to reach 800-900 degrees F, and I have an infrared non-contact thermometer to verify that for myself. While heating, I roast veggies in a stainless roasting pan, using the reflected heat from the inner dome of the oven. The veggies roast really fast! If I am doing pizza, I periodically rake coals forward to super-heat the hearth in front of the fire. This gives me a very crispy pizza crust. While the pizzas cook I maintain a rather small fire in the back; too large and the tops burn by reflected heat. There is plenty of reflected heat beating down from the inside of the dome in my rectangular, Quebec-style oven. Later, my wife often cooks baked beans, after I do a batch of the best-that-can-be-imagined homemade bread. My pizzas average between 2.5 and 5 minutes each.

Keep in mind that pellet stoves use forced-air to burn the pellets, which would otherwise just smolder.

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