Errors and learning points

Overall we have been very pleased with the pizza oven and after building it as a temporary structure, it now has a permanent place in our garden. It is a focalpoint in a garden party and a novelty to any guests of the house.

If I started again, using the knowledge of hindsight I would have prepared the site a bit more. The existing sleepers on its right-hand side would have been replaced. I would expect the pizza oven to remain standing for many more years. Just a basic shelter gives it all the protection it needs.

I think the base worked out fine. It was an easy shape and required a minimum of brick cutting. There is no wood that might rot and the brickwork should last for ever. The breeze block top platform offers insulation, reducing downward heat loss and it was easy enough to use concrete precast lintels to prop up the top.

Size of Pizza Oven

Our pizza oven is probably over-size. I made it big enough to cook 3 x 10″ pizzas simultaneously. This is stupid because they cook so quickly that you could not possibly tend to three pizzas simultaneously. One at a time is plenty and it’s a social time, not an opportunity to mass feed the populous.

We have an internal diameter of 80cm – If I was doing it again, 60cm – 70cm would be plenty, allowing you to use substantially less wood as fuel.

I would keep the base dimensions the same for ease.

The Clay / Adobe

The clay I used was cheap enough and the mix with sand worked out fine. I can see no short cuts but I have seen someone else’s description of using an electric drill + attachment to mix the clay + sand in a bucket.

I should probably have smoothed off the inside of the inner chamber better to prevent leaks of heat through into layer 2. I have attemped this afterwards by lying down on a workbench and sliding myself into the pizza oven, head and one arm first. Wet clay doesn’t stick easily. It’s not like plastering a wall.

We have several cracks that open up to about 5mm width when the oven is hot. It is as if it expands a lot with heat. Luckily no smoke or heat leaks through. I have tried filling the cracks, but they just open up again next time. No point in stressing about the cracks!

The Shelter

This has been quite successful with only minor leaks leading to erosions that form. I have never been able to find a satisfactory flu cap and so still use a roof tile balance on the top.

The Fire

Don’t use pine wood! – This crackles and sparks and you end up with crunchy bits and pieces in your pizza. Hard wood keeps are more stable temperature during the cooking process. Pine’s ok to light the fire. you do need a lot of wood.

Pizza Oven Door

The door gets scorched, burnt and destroyed very quickly if made of wood, even if covered on the inside by foil insulation. Possibly an aluminium inner lining and a layer of insultion might help. You need a door if you are cooking overnight.

Cooking a Roast

We have had some nice successes here. The error was putting a tray with a leg of lamb in, while the oven was still way too hot and fire still alight. I rescued it by adding more water in the morning but it was quite “well-done”…. But still very tastey

The Dough

I am no expert with dough but have learnt that you must used the high protein ” strong” flour. Without this it just falls apart when you try to stretch out the dough and make bases. They then end up as a heap of mush inside the oven.

The same also seems to happen if the tomato base mix is too watery.

We use couscous or semolina sprinkled onto the pizza-peel as a lubricant.

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