Italian restaurants often use brick ovens to bake their pizzas. In Italy, the dome-shaped brick pizza oven is used in both commercial establishments and private homes. The brick oven is comparable to the American barbecue grill for its ubiquitous place in the Italian lifestyle. Commercially, the dome-shaped brick oven is economical because of its quick heat-up time and its heating efficiency. It takes less wood to heat the oven, and the dome creates an even temperature throughout. The ideal temperature for baking pizzas is 371 degrees Celsius. Pizzas will bake in three minutes at this temperature.
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Things you need
- Concrete blocks
- 2 by 4 framing lumber
- 4 by 4 posts
- 1-inch thick plywood
- Masonry saw
- Plastic ties
- Fire clay
- Builders' sand
- Fire bricks
- Refractory mortar
- Cement backer board
Construct a platform for your brick oven. The outside of your platform should be made of concrete blocks. For masonry tools and masonry construction information, see Resources 3 and 4 respectively. The concrete block platform may be constructed with an opening in the front, so the hollow inside can be used for storage of firewood, if desired. Use angle iron to span the opening and lay concrete blocks above the opening to the desired height for your oven floor.
Frame up a wooden platform for the floor of your brick oven using 2 by 4 lumber. Center supports should be evenly spaced inside the frame, no more than 16 inches apart. Place the frame inside the concrete block platform. The centre supports should be supported by 4 by 4 posts spaced every 18 inches. Install a sheet of plywood that fits snugly on top of the wooden platform. The wooden platform should be four inches lower than the top of the concrete block platform.
Place two inches of insulating material on top of the plywood. Smooth to level. Vermiculite makes a good insulating material because it is lightweight and does not easily conduct heat.
Create a floating oven floor. With a masonry saw, cut grooves in concrete blocks and lay in rebar for extra strength. Nail together 2 by 4 lumber to create a frame that fits inside the concrete block platform on top of the plywood and insulation. At a point just below the centre of the right and the left four-inch wide framing boards, drill holes large enough for rebar to fit through. Drill matching holes in these opposite sides, making the first holes two inches from the inside of the frame. Subsequent holes should be made at approximately fourteen-inch intervals, with the last holes two inches from the inside of the frame on the opposite side. Drill holes in the remaining two framing boards. However, these matching holes should be drilled at a point just above the centre of the four-inch width of the board.
Slide rebar rods into the holes. Rebar should be long enough to extend 4 to 5 inches outside the wooden frame on the outside. These rebar rods will rest on the concrete block platform, holding the wooden frame approximately three inches above the platform. In places where rebar rods intersect, tie with plastic ties to hold them together.
Mix and pour concrete inside the wooden frame. (See Resources 5)
Mix builders' sand and fire clay in approximately equal parts. Pour a 1-inch thick layer of this mixture on top of the cured concrete slab. Level the mixture.
Lay fire bricks narrow side down, side by side, without mortar, to form the floor of your brick oven. Use a wooden or rubber mallet to level each brick. Use a builder's level to check the oven floor for evenness.
Build oven walls with fire bricks and refractory mortar. Mortar should be no more than 1/4-inch thick, to reduce shrinkage and possible cracking when the oven is heated.
Construct the oven dome with fire bricks and refractory mortar. Fill the oven walls with damp sand, heaped up to form an arch. Pat the sand firm. Cut an arch with the desired dimensions of your completed oven ceiling out of a piece of plywood. Use a helper on one side of the plywood and pull the arch form across the wet sand, to create a uniform mould. Build the brick ceiling. After the ceiling is thoroughly dry, scoop out the sand.
Construct the flue and chimney. Builders of brick ovens cite this stage of brick-oven-building as the most difficult step in the project. Matt Considine logs his flue and chimney building with documentation and photographs. (See Resources 6.) Considine followed the design of Daniel Wing and Alan Scott. (See References 1.)
Create walls around your commercial brick pizza oven with cement backer board. The walls should be placed five inches from the outside of the oven and should rise six inches higher than the top of the dome.
Fill the space between the cement backer board and the oven with vermiculite. Fill to the top. Cover the top with cement backer board. Complete construction around your oven as desired to complement the decor of your restaurant, as brick ovens are often located where customers can watch the pizzas being baked.
Tips and warnings
- Install thermocouples during the process of building your brick oven, or plan to use an infrared thermometer, which is hand-held and does not require installation.
- Allow the oven to dry for three weeks before building a fire in it. Begin with a small fire and keep the temperature low, to complete the drying process and reduce the possibility of a crack developing in the masonry work.
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- "The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens"; Daniel Wing and Alan Scott; 1999
- Forno Bravo: Why Build a Round Italian Brick Oven
- The Missouri Designed Masonry Stove
- Wood Fired Oven: Bread/ Pizza Oven Construction
- Forno Bravo: The Pompeii Oven: Free Brick Oven Plans
- Masonry Stove Builders: Malaspina University College Bake Oven Assembly Sequence