Brick ovens use two forms of heat to cook foods. One is directly from the fire and the other is the radiant heat stored in the brinks. This combination of heat allows food to be cooked evenly and quickly. Brick ovens have been in existence for more than 1,000 years. Brick ovens have been discovered in the ruins of Pompeii that would still work. During the 18th century, the brick oven underwent a change from the personal oven to a larger commercial oven.
Home Brick Oven
During the 18th century, personal brick ovens were maintained in the home or in a separate outbuilding. The fire was built directly inside of the oven and had to be monitored constantly so the bricks heated evenly. The ovens had no flumes, so the doors to the oven were left open to get air to the fire. It was the cook's job to maintain the fire. Once the fires turned to ash, the cook removed the ash and tested the temperature with their hands. If it was too hot, the cook waited until it had cooled down to start baking. If it was too cold, another fire would be made to bring the oven up to temperature.
Italian Brick Oven
Italian style brick ovens were rounded domes. The basis for pizza ovens were founded on this design. Italian brick ovens were owned by individual families and the oven was small enough that it fit into the home. Domed brick ovens remain in use throughout Italy.
The French or Scottish oven was created to mass produce bread for sale. This oven took the breadmaking process out of the home and into the marketplace. The Scottish oven had a low barrel vault, were rectangular in shape and kept the fire in a separate chamber. These ovens were also used by communities for daily baking needs. Each family would rotate operation of the oven to make their breads and cakes.