For most foodies cooking is fun, but cooking on a naked flame in a wood oven can provide an altogether different experience, from otherwise cooking on a normal modular kitchen counter top. Wood ovens (also commonly known as wood-fire ovens) are ideal if you adore barbecued delicacies and baked dishes.
Building a wood oven can be exciting and engaging. Not to mention the joy of accomplishment, once it is built and sits right in front of you waiting for the first wood baked pizza to be thrown into the fire. Also, building a wood oven at your place is much easier than you would imagine, provided that you are really passionate about exploring different ways of cooking, and prepared to arrange everything that is needed to install one.
One of the best thing about a wood oven is that there is no need to clean it. It is traditionally made out of clay adobe, refractory concrete or refractory bricks, all of which are readily available nowadays. It is an easy task if you can follow the 6 crucial steps to building it. Let's begin..
One of the most important considerations for building a wood oven is selecting the location. The wood oven should be facing away from the wind. Also, it must be protected from frequent rains. Moreover, a wood-fire oven cannot be built at a place which is not easily accessible. If you intend to use it, it should be located somewhere that’s not too difficult to get to. The ground should be leveled to enable the oven to be placed on it properly. An oven can be built into the existing plan of your house if it is your permanent residence or you have no plans to move anytime soon. But if you are somebody who needs to change homes frequently, you can get yourself a portable wood oven too. Safety should be kept in mind while deciding the location. A good location would not only make cooking more effective but, also exciting.
This primitive way of cooking brings you a step closer to nature, in a time when advanced cooking appliances are fast changing kitchens around the world. Building a wood oven wouldn’t burn a whole in your pocket for sure. It can be a very affordable idea, provided you have planned it wisely. You can build a clay oven or go for a brick and marble oven. The budget would depend on the materials you choose. You can design your wood oven in innovative ways. But the basic idea being primitive-style cooking, its best to keep that essence intact in your design. The size of the oven is important, and depends on the amount of food you intend to cook on it. A smaller size oven would use less firewood. Laying the foundation is also important for the wood oven to have a proper grip on the ground. Once the foundation has been laid, the base would be built on it.
Next comes the base. If you intend to use the oven frequently, built the base at a higher level. You can use clay, logs, broken up concrete or even old metal barrels to build a higher base for your oven. A lower base would require you to bend over and work low, and if you don’t mind that, you can keep the base closer to the ground. The size of the oven floor would be determined by what you want to cook and in what quantity. However, 20-27 inches is an appropriate size for the oven floor. Make a smooth bed of sand, which is 4-6 inches deep and lay the floor by placing standard red bricks on it. Set the bricks in multiple levels by ensuring each brick has been laid firmly. A form should be built after this, with moist sand or loose topsoil. The form is generally slightly higher than half the width of the oven’s floor. The oven base shown in the picture above has an average height and will suit multiple needs simultaneously. It has been designed by The Braai Man, Garden and Landscape suppliers in South Molton, UK.
The burner is the main part as this is where the fire burns on fuel and the process of combustion takes place. The whole purpose of the oven is served by this part, and thus, it is required to be planned very carefully. Insulated secondary burn tube supplies fresh air to the burning wood and thus makes the process of combustion complete and produces more fire than smoke. The firewood should be put into the burner through the small opening or door at the floor of the oven. Initially, it could be difficult to start the fire. It will emit more smoke than you expected. You can light some paper and put it inside the burner to get it ignited. For safety reasons, it is important to build a wood-fired oven at a place where there are less chances of fire spreading.
The dome is the outer covering built around the burner that protects the fire from burning out. The dome can be built in clay or metal. To build the dome, you can mark the diameter of its base with a pencil. This will help you line out the shape and where to start building it from. The soil found underneath the topsoil is ideal for building ovens. You can use it as it is or mix it with sand if needed. Before you start building the mud walls, cover the sand with sheets of paper to prevent the mud from sticking to it. Building the dome would need patience. Make the mud layer 3-4 inches deep and take care to keep the depth uniform throughout. You can use your palm to smack at the clay dome to bring it into proper shape. When it dries out, you can add another layer and finish it off by using plaster.
After the dome is completed, you can attach a opening fixture to the structure. If the dome has a height of 18 inches, the door should be 65% of the height. The width of the opening should be half or one-third of the inner diameter of the dome. Make sure the mud wall is hard enough before pulling out the sand dome or the sand form. Use a spoon or a piece of wood to smoothen out the sides of the door until it attains the right size and height. You can add a chimney to your oven to allow the exhaust gases to make their way out of the inner chamber. To make a chimney, you will need to cut a round hole on top of the dome right above the burning chamber. After you have drilled out the whole, you can use more sand and a clay mixture to make the flue.
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