Building A Brick Oven: Version 1

Sure, why not. Brick-oven, cast-iron, wood-fired brownies. Attack of the hyphens.

Step 1: Stack bricks

Ever since I started dreaming about owning my own place, having space and becoming more self-sufficient, I've planned to build a brick oven. Images of perfect pizzas, roasting chickens, homemade bread, all bounce around in my head. I imagine some sort of hobbit looking stove, a  big mound of dirt, something organic instead of an eyesore.

But whenever I build something, I tend to start with the worst and most basic version. I'm a learn-by-doing kind of guy, and all of this is new. I've made some genuinely ugly things, but it helps me see how they work, and I scale them up over time.


So how do you make a brick oven? Mostly, you stack bricks. 

I found a guy selling salvaged bricks on Craigslist for cheap, and picked up 120 of them. Stacking the initial "box" was simple enough, but how to support bricks for a roof? That required a trip down to the scrapyard for some angle iron. I got three pieces of 3-foot, quarter-inch iron for about $20.

Eventually, all of this will be stable and permanent, earth and concrete and stone and brick. For now, it's glued together with balance and gravity.

The chimney was just a piece of stovepipe I had laying around. I pulled out two bricks and wedged it down, and supported it in the back with another brick.  Inside the oven, I used a few firebricks. More on this in a moment.

1/4 inch angle iron supports the roof.

Did it work? Sort of.

First off, brick ovens are awesome because of how well they hold heat. A single layer of bricks with lots of gaps between them is never going to hold much heat. The oven still works, it just doesn't work particularly well. But I actually made it work worse than it could have.

Down the line, I'd like to have the entire internal box made of firebrick (it's just a bit costly). But I put a few bricks on the floor, thinking it would help get the bottom of a pizza crispy. Unfortunately, it worked too well. The bricks did their job, holding in heat. I'm guessing 600 degrees.  But the rest of the oven, being not much more than a porous box of hot air, was more like 350 degrees.

Pizza. Sadly, a bit burned on the bottom. Still delicious.

So by the time the top cooked, the bottom burned.

Lesson learned. The oven needs to be not just insulated, but evenly insulated. Also, a chimney is mostly pointless when the can air escape from ... everywhere. (Many brick ovens are built without chimneys, actually).

Next step is another layer of bricks, and firebrick on the inside. I'm going to use some concrete blocks to eventually raise the height up a bit as well, and then it's a matter of covering the thing with dirt, which I have plenty of.

Posted on February 27, 2016 and filed under Homesteading, Food.