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Jul 18, 2012 06:11 AM

Contemplating wood burning outdoor oven at the cottage. Thoughts?

I do most of my entertaining and cooking at the cottage. I regularly make pizza in the oven, bake my own bread and barbecue on a gas or charcoal grill . I have this yearning for a wood burning oven outside but have hesitated, partly because of the cost and the lengthy start up time. Also, how do I choose one. I see models advertised in Italian cooking magazines. I also know a good mason nearby.
Some say the Green Egg barbecue/smoker might be a solution but my heart says go with the wood burning oven. Thoughts?

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  1. I would also like to have one. If you have done much looking I assume you are familiar with the Forno Bravo site.

    1. I've said it before, I'll say it again. DO IT. Best project EVER.

      FYI "start up time" for my handbuilt 36" is about 1.5-2 hours if I'm doing pizza. Everything else unless you just want to cook over an open flame or embers will use retained heat. Mine performs best for bread if it has had a really good, long heat soak vs. just getting it up to temp and letting it come right down.

      Choose one based on cost, size, reputation and design--do your homework and understand the differences in design and intended function.
      Regardless of design, the better insulated it is, the more versatile it will be. Baking bread or roasting anything depends on retained heat which depends on insulation.
      Size is important. If you're serious about bread, keep in mind that the best results come from a fully loaded oven. In my case that is 8-10 loaves. If you mostly want to do pizza, I've not ever seen a need to be cooking more than 2 or 3 pizzas at once, so unless you want to production bake bread, 30-40 inches seems to be the sweet spot, size wise. Based on my experience with 36" that fits a 20+# turkey, 40# of pork shoulder or 8 chickens with no problem.

      Consider your available space--the footprint will be a lot bigger than the oven diameter. Also firewood storage, availability and cost. I use my oven quite regularly except in winter. I go through about 1/2 a cord of wood a season. So far that has been from my own property. Paying for firewood can be a not insignificant factor depending on where you live.

      2 Replies
      1. re: splatgirl

        Thank you splat girl. You have given me the courage to go ahead. Aside from size (I will never make more than 3 loaves of bread at a time) do you have any other suggestions about what kind of wood burning oven? A previous post mentioned Forno Bravo which is available here in Canada.

        1. re: Judith Gorman

          First decide if you want to build one from bricks, buy a pre-fab oven (the guts) or an already assembled oven. Price would be the biggest difference here--it's a pretty straightforward labor vs. money thing. Keep in mind that about half the work is building the foundation and stand, although you can buy pre-fab stands, too.
          I like projects, so I built mine entirely from scratch using the downloadable plans available at Forno Bravo. They do sell pre-fab and assembled ovens as well. I have not cooked in any of those, but the FB owners are oven enthusiasts vs. just selling a product, and I think their reputation and customer service is very good. Their forum is great and endlessly useful whether you've already got an oven or are just considering one. It's a great place to start learning about WFO's and cooking in them.
          As I said before, do your homework about ovens in general and be clear about what you want from yours. I have read plenty of horror stories from people who built or bought "x" fly-by-night oven and whadda know, it doesn't work very well.

          As with my comments about labor vs cost, consider your climate and know that keeping the oven dry is the #1 priority for function and longevity. IMO a roofed enclosure is the only option for anywhere that experiences regular rain, snow or freezes no matter what anyone tells you about weatherproof stucco finishes. So unless you live in the desert SW, the enclosure is going to be a not insignificant part of the project.

      2. Depends... here in the west, a wood burning device has been banned because of all the fires this year. Check your area for any ordinances or other regulations before you go to the expense of building one.
        My folks have the green egg and they love it. Mom just baked bread in it a few days ago.