The popularity of homemade food is rising due to lockdown restrictions across the country and the desire for great tasting home cooked dishes. As this way of life continues, and the need for more self sufficiency heightens, home gardens become full of vegetables, fruits and herbs, and outdoor smokehouses or grills a rather common sight.
An increasing number of people also decide to put pizza ovens in their backyards. In this article I’ll talk about benefits of having your own wood fired pizza oven and how to build it yourself easily.
Table of Contents
- How does an outdoor pizza oven work?
- How to build a pizza oven in your garden
- Can a brick pizza oven cook anything else?
- Where to put a pizza oven?
- Build your own pizza oven or buy one — which is more cost-efficient?
How does an outdoor pizza oven work?
A pizza oven operates by creating and maintaining a high, even temperature for cooking delicious pizzas. First, a fire is built in the back of the oven to heat it up. The oven’s dome-shaped structure and materials efficiently store and radiate this heat, as does the oven’s base.
Once the oven reaches the desired temperature, any remaining ashes and embers are removed, creating a clean cooking surface. The prepared pizza dough is placed on this floor, and the oven’s door is closed. As the oven retains heat, it radiates from the walls and floor, cooking the pizza slowly and evenly.
The unique dome-shaped design allows the heat to concentrate at the center, ensuring thorough cooking from all sides, similar to the way sunlight spreads its rays. However, traditional cooking in a pizza oven can take some time.
To speed up the process, an alternate method involves leaving the embers and burning wood in the back of the oven while placing the pizza in the middle on a cleared floor. The oven door is kept open, and this method allows for much faster cooking, usually within a few minutes. Regular rotation of the pizza is required to achieve even baking.
Overall, a pizza oven’s ability to reach and maintain high temperatures, coupled with its dome-shaped design, makes it a perfect appliance for creating delicious, authentic pizzas with a crispy crust and evenly cooked toppings.
How to build a pizza oven in your garden
Putting up a DIY pizza oven might be a bit tricky, but it can bring a lot of satisfaction and joy to any building enthusiast. Below I have described how to build a pizza oven in my own words but it is a great idea to view these downloadable instructions for the best visual representation.
Here’s how to build a pizza oven made of clay and bricks:
Step 1 — The base
First, you’ll need to start with foundations. This can be fairly easily done by digging a right-sized hole (depending on the size of the planned oven) and pouring a slab of cement into and over it. When the cement is nice and solid, you can start building the base’s walls. This can be done using cement slabs or small lintels as flagstones. The second method simplifies creating a storage space for wood under the oven. You can achieve this by leaving two walls open, which allows for better airflow, keeping the wood dryer. To ensure efficient use of space, it is advisable to make an outline plan of the floor, helping you keep track of the required space for all the layers.
Once the outline walls are completed, the next crucial step is to create a proper insulation layer for the oven. This is essential for the oven’s effectiveness. You have two options: you can use professional insulation products, or if you prefer a DIY approach, wine bottles can be used.
To insulate the oven with wine bottles, lay them evenly within the walls, and then fill the gaps between the bottles with clay (adding sawdust can be beneficial). It’s important to leave some room for the bottles’ thermal expansion. For this, the clay should be prepared by soaking it overnight and mixed to a “double cream” consistency, which can be achieved with a plaster mixing drill attachment.
Step 3 — The oven floor
With the base and insulation prepared, you can now begin constructing the floor for your brick pizza oven. Before laying the first fire bricks, it’s essential to add a layer of build soil mix underneath them. This approach provides a solid base without the need for cement or clay. Start by placing the first and best-fitting bricks in the middle and gradually work your way outward from there. This method ensures a stable and well-constructed pizza oven floor.
Step 4 — The dome
The next step is, so to speak, the main course. Firstly, draw the outline of the dome on the floor bricks. Use a marker pen, so it can still be visible even if the bricks get wet. You should really stock up on clay before you start — a small oven (for one pizza at a time) will take at least 10-13 twelve-litre buckets.
Ensure you have an ample amount of sand available for mixing and shaping the dome of your pizza oven. When creating the sand form, measure the appropriate height in the middle to determine the dome’s required height. A simple stick can serve as an effective measuring tool. Compact and shape the form meticulously to create a well-formed dome, which may take some patience and skill.
Once the sand form is complete, cover it with dampened newspapers. This step will make it easier to remove the finished dome later.
Now, it’s time to prepare the clay-sand mixture. For the first layer, avoid adding straw, as it can create air gaps, which are undesirable at this stage. To make mixing more manageable, spread a couple of buckets of sand and clay on a large tarp. Cover the sand with broken clay pieces (roughly walnut-sized). Use your feet to thoroughly mix the sand and clay together. The tarp allows you to turn the mixture effortlessly. Once mixed well, continue to knead the mixture and add some water—enough to hold the mixture together, but not so much that it becomes too wet and splats when dropped from waist height.
Ensure you prepare a sufficient amount of the mixture for this step, as the first layer should be applied in one continuous go. This prevents any dry joints and ensures a strong bond between the materials.
The dome’s first layer should be 10 cm thick. How should you build it? Simply take a handful of the mixture, make a solid ball out of it and lay it one by one, starting from the bottom. Don’t worry much about the surface smoothness — you can even it out with a plastering trowel when it’s ready.
Step 5 — Drying and emptying
Once you have completed the first layer, allow it sufficient time to dry to the point where it won’t collapse. The drying period will vary based on weather conditions; sunny weather may take just a few days, while really wet weather could extend it to around 3 weeks. Remember to protect the oven under a tarpaulin if it rains.
Once the first layer is adequately dry, you can proceed to the next step, which involves cutting out the mouth hole and, if desired, a chimney hole. The door should ideally occupy about 63% of the total dome’s height. Many people choose to add an arch made of fire bricks to the oven’s mouth for added support and aesthetics.
Next, remove all the sand from the inside of the oven. It’s highly recommended to smooth out the inner dome walls for better cooking performance. This can be achieved easily using a bit of water and the back of a large spoon. With this step completed, your pizza oven will be closer to its final form, ready to serve up delicious homemade pizzas.
Step 6 — Finishing touches
To complete the insulation of the dome, you’ll need to add two more layers of sand and clay mixture, and this time you can include straw in the mix. The first layer should have a thickness of 10 cm, while the outermost layer doesn’t need to be thicker than 2.5 cm. Additionally, you can apply a final layer of clay to create a smooth surface.
Afterward, you have the option to add a door and a chimney, followed by a roof to complete your DIY pizza oven. Once the dome is properly dry, you can choose to cover it with bricks, leave it as it is, or even add decorative paint for a personalized touch.
By following these steps, your pizza oven will be fully constructed and ready to serve up delightful homemade pizzas in no time.
Hopefully, this guide has given you sufficient information to build your own pizza oven. I’d strongly recommend viewing some more of these amazing downloadable guides which provide detailed step-by-step instructions to build your own garden pizza oven.
Square pizza oven plans
Dome brick pizza oven plans
Now let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions with regards to building your own pizza ovens in your back garden.
Can a brick pizza oven cook anything else?
Of course it can! Despite being named after one dish, this kind of oven is very versatile and allows you to cook wide variety of food. Tarts, stews, fish, gratins, bread, skewers, barbecued meat, even toasts and meringues.
And that’s not even all — the accumulated heat can be used long after the main meal is ready. This can be used for anything from drying vegetables, mushrooms and fruits, to keeping your tea nice and warm.
Where to put a pizza oven?
When it comes to building a pizza oven, there’s plenty of flexibility and room for personal preferences. The primary consideration is access to a chimney, and beyond that, the placement is quite versatile. Pizza ovens can be constructed separately or integrated with existing grills or fireplaces. However, the most popular choice is to set them up outdoors on patios, terraces, or anywhere in the garden. Just remember to provide the oven with its own roof for protection.
Additionally, for added convenience, there are portable pizza ovens available for purchase, which can be easily set up almost anywhere.
As you set up your pizza oven, remember these essential rules:
- Ensure it is shielded from winds, especially strong ones, to maintain a stable and consistent cooking environment.
- Place the oven away from any storage of flammable materials to ensure safety and prevent potential hazards.
- Choose a level and sturdy surface: Ensure the area where you place the pizza oven is level and can support its weight. This will prevent any wobbling or instability during cooking.
- Maintain proper ventilation: Adequate ventilation around the pizza oven is crucial to prevent smoke buildup and ensure efficient heat circulation. Avoid placing the oven in enclosed or tight spaces to allow for proper airflow.
By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the process of building and using your pizza oven with confidence and satisfaction.
How hot can pizza ovens get?
This can vary due to materials used, but they can reach really high temperatures — 500℃ and up. Modern, professionally made ovens can withstand even up to 1000℃. Impressive as it might be, in most cases you won’t have to get them that hot — the most you’ll need is 430℃ for a quick (90 seconds) thin, crispy pizza. Less crispy pizza pies and barbecued meat can be done at 300℃. You can also get large roasts at 230℃ and bread/stew dishes at 200℃. As for the meringues mentioned earlier — they can be done long after the main dish, when the temperature drops to 100℃.
Build your own pizza oven or buy one — which is more cost-efficient?
When it comes to wood-fired ovens, the cost can vary depending on their size, ranging from approximately £700 to £3000 or even more. Surprisingly, when comparing the expenses, there’s not a substantial difference between building an oven from scratch and purchasing a pre-made one. So, why consider building when you can buy? Let’s explore the advantages of each option.
If you choose to build the pizza oven yourself, it can be an incredibly fulfilling and satisfying experience, especially if you have a penchant for DIY projects. The process of creating something with your own hands and customizing the design to fit your specific preferences can be immensely rewarding. Building the oven allows you to tap into your creativity, and the sense of accomplishment once it’s complete can be truly gratifying.
Check out this beautiful pizza oven from Robert Dyas at only £590 it’s a bargain!
On the other hand, not everyone is inclined towards construction or has the necessary skills, time, or resources to embark on a DIY project. If your primary goal is to make delicious pizza in the comfort of your backyard without the hassle of constructing the oven, buying a pre-made oven kit is an excellent option. These kits are designed to be user-friendly and easy to assemble, making them accessible to individuals who may not be “manual prodigies.” With a pre-made oven kit, you can quickly set it up and start enjoying wood-fired pizza in no time.
Ultimately, whether you decide to build or buy, having a wood-fired pizza oven in your backyard will bring a whole new dimension to your culinary adventures. It becomes a focal point for outdoor gatherings and allows you to create mouthwatering pizzas with that unmistakable wood-fired flavor. So, consider your preferences, skills, and goals, and choose the option that best aligns with your desires for a delectable and enjoyable pizza-making experience.
A brick pizza oven is a wonderful addition to any backyard, providing a delightful cooking experience for homemade food enthusiasts. Whether you choose to purchase a pre-built oven or embark on a DIY project to construct one, the costs are generally comparable, making the decision primarily a matter of personal preference.
Building a brick pizza oven yourself can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, allowing you to customize the design to suit your needs and preferences. On the other hand, opting for a pre-built oven offers convenience and a faster setup process.
Regardless of the route you choose, having a brick pizza oven in your backyard opens up a world of possibilities for creating delicious, wood-fired pizzas and other culinary delights that will impress your family and friends. So, whether you decide to build it yourself or purchase one, a brick pizza oven is sure to become a cherished centerpiece of your outdoor cooking area.