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Authentic pizza oven outdoors

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My hubby and I have done all the google searches and have bought books, but they are more aesthetic as opposed to authentic and functional. We are planning to build and outdoor pizza over where we can roast meats, make pizzas, and cook veggies in. We want an authentic Italian pizza oven so we can even bake bread to get that nice crust.
Questions:

1. We heard through word of mouth that you are supposed to pile the wood on one side (left?) because of heat or something, but there is a specific side. Anyone hear this?

2. Secondly, the opening should be small correct, or does that not really matter?

3. Anyone have pics or stories about theirs; advice, problems, suggestions?

4. We see those kits but ny husband who is an architect and works a lot supervising job sites wants to do this himself. Is this a D-I-Y project?

5. Could we attach and outdoor fireplace along side or should this be separate?

Sorry to ask so many questions, but this is being built under a large pergola and outdoor living area so it will be a focal point. His engineering mentality is plan, plan, plan and do it once but do it right. It has worked for us so far.

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  1. There are two fantastic resources that you need to know about:

    Alan Scott & Nick Scott's Ovencrafters:
    http://www.ovencrafters.net/

    Note the many picture galleries of ovens under construction.

    And Alan's Book:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1890...

    Background, baking and construction are all covered.

    3 Replies
    1. re: FuzzyT

      Thanks Fuzzy; do you have one and did you make it?

      1. re: itryalot

        I don't, but have been researching it. The resources cited above come from individuals who have been building and using these ovens for years. During the process of learning about these ovens, I keep running into references that lead back to them.

      2. re: FuzzyT

        BTW, interesting thread. We do have an oven, probably built a couple of centuries ago. It is quite big as it was used when people had large families and they would cook bread every week of forthnight. We have used it only a few times for cooking bread and pizza. I would not recommend using a large pizza oven just to cook a couple of pizzas...It takes too much time, work and wood. IMHO it's justified only for professional use.
        However, we did find an unexpected bonus: we use it as a barbecue! We burn wood and we cook steaks or whatever on the coals. Afterwards we just put the cover back on: no need to clean, dispose of ashes, etc. and very convenient in wintertime. We just sweep the ashes to the side ( the left side actually :-) )
        P.S. Actually, you don't burn wood on the left. That's done in the center. You push the ambers and ashes to the left because that's easier, at least for right-handed people. Try the opposite and you'll see... Lefties will probably want to do on the other side.

      3. Your best bet is to locate pizzerie that make good pies in wood-fired ovens ansd consult with the owners.

        Pile the wood on either side; don't think it makes a difference except to traditiopn (which is good enough reason to keep t on the left). Small opening in front, small smoke hole in the rear--the idea is to retain heat, yes? Hardwood only except maybe for small amount of kindling to start not pine, fir, whatever junk is found in watse piles. the skids (only) of many shipping pallets are oak--perfect. When the interior of the oven is white with ash and the fl;ames are dancing a slow waltz, then you can cook.

        1. last time I tried to post this link it got moofed, buy I'll try again.. or you can emailme (my emails in my tag line on my profile)

          My husband and I just recently built one.. well.. got one built...

          check out my blog at www.myspace.com/divinepurplegoddess

          Plenty of pics to get an understanding of the logistics of it...although, the way ours was built will probably appall your engineer husband....

          1 Reply
          1. re: purple goddess

            Loved it!!! Hahahahaha! Can't wait for another update. Plus, I am once again reminded that by buying ours preassembled and having it craned over the house, we may have saved our marriage!

            http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/inde...

          2. Here are a couple of places to look.

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/40450...

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31876...

            1. LOTS of info here! http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/inde...

              1. try this link
                www.williamrubel.com/

                1. I realize that this may be sacreligious, but a much much cheaper and easier alternative to building a wood fired oven that is actually more flexible in doing other types of cooking, but which does an excellent job of pizza and bread is the Great Big Green Egg with the baking stone attachment. The stone is a 1 1/2" thick firebrick slab that fits in the Egg and has a 28" diameter cooking surace. The Egg has the added advantage of having much greater temperature control, and can be heated to 800 degrees if desired. It can be built into a table or counter and is also a great smoker/grill that does a great job on everything from steaks to a slow smoked pork shoulder and about everything in between. I know that it sounds like you have made a decision about this, but I just thought that you might want to consider another alternative. The GBGE can be had with the stone and table fro about $1500, as opposed to the $5-7 K for a wood fired oven.

                  1. I am going to take the sacrilege one better -- consider skipping the construction project altogether. I have to admit that I looked online and found lots of cool sites, and the idea IS intriguing. But unless you are making multiple pizzas and bread every other night (firing up one of those monsters for just one pizza would be an incredible waste of time and good wood), it seems like the oven is less about getting good eats and more about impressing friends and neighbors.

                    We have done awesome pizzas outside on our plain vanilla gas grill. We have several stones that we use -- a couple small ones for individual sized pizzas (7") and a larger one for the family (14"). Crank the grill way up, get the stones nice and hot, and slide the pizzas on the stone. I suppose a Weber charcoal grill would do really well, with charcoals pushed out to the edges and the stone(s) in the middle.

                    We have also used with great success a 12" camp oven (cast iron Dutch oven with legs and flanged lid) for deep dish and stuffed pizzas. (I'm a Chicago boy -- living in Milwaukee, it is the only way to get my Uno's/Giordano's fix). The camp oven also works really well for no-knead bread, as the lid seals in the steam and produces awesome crust. It is fairly fuel efficient -- 25 charcoal briquettes (8 in a ring on the bottom, 17 scattered randomly on the lid) will give you 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

                    I realize that these are nowhere near as fun as having a full blown open hearth in your backyard, but my thinking is that you can buy lots of first class pizza ingredients with the money you save. Plus, when it comes time to sell your house, you can take it all with you.

                    Good luck!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MikeB3542

                      Just my 2 cents to MikeB3542,
                      I had a wood burning oven installed 2 years ago. It was not at all about impressing friends and neighbors as you say. It's about the primal experience of making a fire and cooking your food in it. Not just pizza and bread, but lasagna, chicken, pork, roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes with sausages, etc. If making a fire and "wasting good wood" (what else are you going to do with it?), the taste of food cooked in a wood fire, the nuances of cooking food in a wood oven don't appeal to you, then you are right, it's not for you. But one thing it is not about is impressing people.
                      And I know your point was about firing it up for one or two pizzas, which I do. But with some menu planning the same fire can be used the next day for lower temp cooking for some of the items I mentioned above, just by opening the door and throwing on another log or two because the oven will still be between 250 and 300 deg the next morning. Also making the fire is not a huge undertaking, and the oven comes to temp in under 2 hours for pizza.

                      But like I said, if none of this appeals to you, stick with the "vanilla" grill.

                      And, I'm not a realtor, but I think a well built wood oven on your patio would increase the value of your house.

                      1. re: MagnumWino

                        Mag; my thought was that a GBGE would be more flexible and serve the wood oven purpose nearly as well. It can also be built into an outdoor patio. the benefit is that it will also do a bucnh of stuff the wood fired cant do, like searing steaks and slow cooking/ smoking a shoulder, etc. I certainly understand the beauty of a wood oven, but I'm not sure that unless the housse is pretty high end, the addition of a wood fired oven on the patio will actually affect the price by anything near the cost of it.

                        1. re: chazzerking

                          chazz,
                          My comment about the house value was just an aside. I certainly didn't install an oven with an eye toward upping the value of my house. My point is I did it for me and for the style of cooking that I love, not to show up the Jonses next door or your best friends. I was trying to convey that a wood oven is way more than just pizza. And yes, you can cook steaks in a wood oven, just by placing a cast iron griddle in it and letting it get hot. All that said, I realize an oven is not for everybody, I was just a bit tweaked at the "showing off" comment and the narrow-minded view that unless you're doing a big pizza party a few times a week, it's not worth it. For me it's worth every penny I spent on it. But that's just me.

                    2. It is worth it. I just spent the summer building one and can't get over the quality of food that is achieved ever so easily.

                      Two main (and free) resources I used to get practically all the information I needed were:

                      1. Forno Bravo website and forum
                      2. Brick Oven group on Yahoo

                      Both are full of knowledgeable and helpful people. Forno Bravo also have free plans and recipes ...

                      I should add that my oven is fired on weekends only and it does not take longer than 90 minutes to get to pizza making temperature, using about 1/2 - 2/3 of a wheelbarrow of dry oak or other hardwood logs (bought from the local tree surgeon, so entirely sustainable). It is not the Ovencrafters design, but a very well insulated 10/D model from Forni di Fiore.

                      It holds heat remarkably well, still at nearly 200C the morning after, so there is scope for some serious "serial cooking"...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Wlodek

                        Hi Wlodek, great post, I'm so glad somebody else chimed in here who "gets" how wonderful an outdoor wood oven can be. And it's not nearly all the work some would have you believe.

                        Mangia bene!

                      2. Please go to this site!
                        http://brickoventampa.com/

                        Beautiful step by step photos, and great instructions. Good luck!

                        1. Of course, you can have one shipped over from Italy, like Mario did for his house in Michigan:

                          "Mr. Batali’s outdoor pizza oven was installed their second summer in the house (it was shipped from Italy) and soon after, an outdoor kitchen was added, complete with a Big Green Egg, a large oval ceramic smoker in which Mr. Batali makes, among other dishes, paella. “Since I can’t cook it over a fire of vine clippings like they do in Spain, I bought this,” he said."

                          Here's the whole NY Times article about his place in the woods.

                          http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/17/tra...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: applehome

                            This past weekend on Saturday, made four pizze. Then the next day with the temp in the oven holding at 250 deg., I goosed the embers a bit to get it just over 350 deg. and made a porchetta using a 9lb boneless, butterflied pork shoulder and along with that a pan of roasted garden tomatoes and hot italian sausages.