A serious outdoor entertainer surely fantasises about a showpiece outdoor oven that serves up perfect pizzas and succulent meats, making his summer parties the talk of the town. With free plans for many types of ovens and friends willing to work for food, you can have an outdoor, wood-fired oven with a weekend of labour. Let your imagination shine when it comes to cooking and decorating your hearth; you'll be sure to enjoy it for years to come.
There are three common types of outdoor ovens, ranging in cost for supplies and complexity. These main styles are adobe wood-burning oven, brick pizza-style oven and brick barbecue oven.
Sunset magazine offers comprehensive plans for an adobe-style oven. (See Resources below for the link.) Built from concrete, fire bricks and chicken wire, the adobe oven features a supportive base of cinder block and fire brick that gets covered in an adobe-and-cement sludge to form this oven's opening and frame. The project can be completed in a couple of days with assistance from friends, though the adobe takes about one week to dry.
The brick pizza-style oven is similar to the adobe model in size and shape but features a base and dome made entirely of brick. Forno Bravo offers free plans as well as brick oven kits for seasoned and novice do-it-yourselfers. (See Resources for the link.)
The simple brick barbecue oven plan from Gardeners' World is best for beginners. (It is linked below in Resources.) Shaped like a sideways 3, this plan offers a flat rack for grilling or smoking and a preparation area for cooking aides. You can customise a lid easily for this style of oven by bending a piece of metal into an L-shape and welding a handle to one side.
While prices vary on type of oven and equipment, expect to spend £325 to £520 in 2009 prices for materials for the larger ovens and £32 to £65 (also 2009) for the barbecue oven.
When choosing the type of oven best for you, think about its primary purpose. Brick ovens offer high-heat environments for unparalleled pizza or bread, but the construction and materials cost more. Adobe ovens cost less than brick ovens and offer many of the same benefits. A barbecue oven is best if you'll cook primarily meat.
Before you build, consider where to locate your oven. You need a flat spot of ground where an oven won't be in the way of children; clear the spot of grass before you begin construction. Also avoid locating your oven near a door or window that tends to be open in nice weather because oven smoke will blow right inside.
While a simple grill offers easy and tasty summer meat, and a reliable convection oven is a must for any home, there are some foods that really shine when cooked in a brick oven. Meats develop a rich, smoky flavour, and you can use different types of wood to play up different flavour notes. Pizza and bread crusts crisp and blister for a satisfying crunch.
Additionally, outdoor enhancements such as a wood-fired oven are sure to improve the value of your property. If done right, your wood oven may be a prime selling point if you relocate.