You Can Do It!
Having one’s own outdoor pizza oven is gaining popularity in the United States; and when one of these quaint add-ons to your patio is in place, it beckons people to socialize with one another. The rustic building materials, the warmth of the fire and the aromas from the food within create an inviting atmosphere that is actually soothing and therapeutic where the cares of the world are forgotten—even if just for a while!
A pizza oven can complement one’s BBQ area and adds the finishing touch to a charming outdoor- ambiance. In addition to a BBQ grill, a pizza oven expands your cooking options; and the dream of cooking in a wood-fired oven can easily become a reality by building your own pizza oven!
Pizza ovens are not restricted to pizzas; they can also cook meats, roasts, casserole dishes and even bake cakes—and, there’s no clean-up since any grease or spattering will burn up in the oven’s hearth! The embers can be swept out or left inside. The efficiency and ease of these types of ovens were appreciated as far back an ancient Rome and they have been used, unceasingly, throughout history!
Whether it’s commercial pizza ovens that one would find in the famed Grimaldi’s pizzeria near the Brooklyn Bridge or a pizza oven located in the privacy of your own backyard, having access to this ‘ancient technology’ whenever you feel like it, is delightful, indeed!
But let’s go over the basic steps involved with building your own pizza oven; and then you can start thinking about what foods on your personal menu will become ‘regulars’ for this type of old-world baking and cooking!
1: The Base:
Determine the dimensions of your oven and then take the figures to your local building-supply store. Through the use of impressive software tools, they will be able to determine the amount of each type of material you will be using. Ideally, you should construct your oven on top of a cement pad and make sure it is perfectly level.
You’ll begin by constructing the oven’s base and you’ll need to measure the outline for the base and set with cinder blocks or concrete blocks. One very simple method is to lay out four rows of cinder blocks so they end up forming a square-shape. Build the rows upward until they are about chest-high, spreading cement adhesive between each row. Continuously check to make sure everything is absolutely level. Allow the cement adhesive to set and dry for at least 3 hours.
It’s worth pointing out that the cinder blocks should be positioned so the holes on the blocks are exposed and facing upward so you can fill them with concrete. This will dramatically enhance the structural strength.
2. The Floor’s Foundation:
Saw grooves in the top level of cinder blocks (at the chest-high level) to accommodate the cut rebar that you will lay in a crisscross configuration. This area will serve as the foundation for the floor once the concrete is poured. Pour in 3 inches of sand, cover it with tar-paper and cover it with concrete.
3: The Facing:
Use thin-stone veneer to face the oven. The veneer is very easy to apply with mortar—just firmly press in place. This veneer is available as flat and corner pieces for user-friendly application.
4: The Arched Oven:
Once the floor is set, piece together the dome-shaped oven component. When jointing the pieces together, be sure to use heat-resistant mortar—all the mortar used in the entire project needs to be heat-resistant. Once the pieces are all jointed and once the oven’s chamber is sealed, you’ll insulate the oven.
The basic process is to wrap the oven, vent and chimney with an insulating blanket. Build a wire form to an igloo-shape you like—there are various igloo styles to choose from. Fill the wire frame with the insulating concrete—overlapping joints whenever possible. Ideally, you want the oven to retain sufficient heat to get up to at least 450 degrees and maintain that heat for a long enough time to cook pizzas. The thicker the walls of your oven are, the better the insulation and the longer the duration of retained heat.
A layer of stucco over the concrete insulation will define and finish the igloo shape.
5: The Roof:
If your oven style will have an actual 2-sided, angled roof, slate is an excellent choice and you’ll need to ‘center-punch’ to create holes in the slate which will be secured with copper nails.
This is just a general overview of what goes into the construction of a pizza oven, realizing that additional details need to be researched and understood before you would ever begin. This also assumes you have a general working knowledge of construction methods and materials.
A wood-fire pizza oven is a very basic structure with some impressive geo-physics that are an inherent part of how the oven works. Styles, sizes and materials will vary and each finished oven is unique in its right but with the same end result—baked pizza that takes on fabulous ‘old-world’ flavor and appearance that you just can’t achieve with a conventional oven, anywhere!