Monday, June 11, 2012

"You can blog about the oven if you want"

As you may recall, Bill finished his masonry oven a few weeks ago and we did a test burn. He found that he really liked it and yesterday he did a longer burn and some serious baking.

That's 4 pizzas, 6 loaves of bread, a dozen muffins (those were mine!) and some granola. Starting at about noon, Bill fired the oven for six hours, actively adding wood and keeping the flames going. Then he let it rest for an hour, without adding more wood, so the temperature could become more even throughout the oven.

The first thing to be cooked were the pizzas. They're done in about 3 minutes and can be cooked by both direct heat (from any remaining chunks of flaming wood) and the indirect heat that is radiating out from the very, very insulated oven walls.

Then he cooked the bread. I think it was done quicker than it is in our house oven, and the masonry oven has much higher capacity. 6 loaves were a piece of cake and Bill is confident he can probably double that comfortably. This is good because we like to eat bread!

The muffins went in next and then finally the granola.

As we were sitting there, daylight and oven heat fading, Bill said "you can blog about the oven tomorrow if you want." I'd been waiting to post an update about it in case he wanted to share his excitement with you. But, I think his mood is better captured in photos than in words. He's pretty proud of his work and glad to be reaping the rewards.

(That's an excited face. Not a creepy I-want-to-eat-your-head face. FYI. In case you were confused.)

The final stages of the process involved framing the dome in metal, plopping up some board stuff (the stuff that goes under your hearth - wonder board??), filing with vermiculite and adding a roof.

The very last bit is the decoration. Probably stucco on the top and bricks on the bottom.

Oh - and see that door? The wooden one?

Yeah, that caught fire.


  1. OMFG, does your insurance company know about this?

    When you had drawn it on a napkin, it absolutely did not convey the scale. I thought when you said you had a truck come in for the concrete you were just too dainty to mix a few bags by hand. I will withhold my comments about your mortar joints though out of new respect. Those pizzas sure look like the real deal, was there good char on the bottom?

    Can you fit a whole lamb in that thing? A cow? A whole face cord? How do you control the draft? Is there smoke in there while its cooking? If so can you taste it? What was the name of that book with the plans? Did you measure the internal temp?

    Is this really a still, and you are just providing an elaborate cover?

  2. Love the logo too - "PERMABASE" - really conjours that old mediteranean atmosphere.

  3. Yeah... My mortaring skills need a little work. When I started, I didn't realize that I could make all the mess I wanted and clean it up with muriatic acid when I finished. I will get an opportunity to practice my tuck-pointing at least...

    The internal cooking surface is about 32x36. A cut-up lamb would probably all fit. After letting the oven equilibrate, the surface temp of the hearth was probably ~about 700 F, and the temp at the outside of the cladding was ~ 250F. After the pizzas, the temp had rapidly evened out and dropped to ~ 350 F, but then held there for a good long while. Plenty of time to roast an entire cow, I'd say. Measured temps with a digital probe thermometers that crap out at 400F, estimating above that.

    No smoke while it is cooking bread, all the fire is removed and it cooks with retained heat. Too hot for significant smoke while cooking pizzas, despite a small flame and a few coals present still.

    First pizzas were definitely charred...! successive pizzas show much improvement, charring at more moderate levels. I detect no smoke flavor at all from food emanating from this oven.

    Draft controlled with the door... need a new door. There was no flame in the oven when that door burned, but the internal temp was probably ~ 1000 degrees. Perhaps I'll find a way to make my next one out of hay...

    The book is "The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens" by Alan Scott and Daniel Wing. Followed their design concept, but used all firebrick for the dome.

    Was going to stucco over "PERMABASE" before firing, but none of my local big box shops sell stucco mix, so I need to figure out how to mix my own.

    As to the concrete, between the hearth slab and the cladding, I mixed some 40-50 sacks of concrete by hand. Admittedly, I was too dainty to mix 72 sacks at one time necessary for the foundation slab! Love the nice folks at IMI.