Author Topic: oven for home use: pre-fab or site-built?  (Read 4343 times)

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Offline grafica

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oven for home use: pre-fab or site-built?
« on: February 11, 2006, 02:57:57 PM »
Hello! I am new to the pizza-making forum. I looove pizza and we are re-doing our kitchen and hope to include a wood-burning pizza oven. I have read with interest many of the posts. I decided to make a new thread only because the most recent one ("Wood burning pizza oven") seemed to be saying quite a lot and covering a lot of ground but I was hoping to focus on two or three questions.

I have room for a wood-burning oven in a place where we want to remove an existing fireplace. It wouldn't be outside, and would require knowledgeable hookups to the existing chimney, along with building permits (since we would have to break through a wall for the back of the oven to extend into another space). So for these reasons it wouldn't be a do-it-yourself project for us.

Options would be
1. (most common and I assume cheapest) having someone install the type of oven that comes as a shell made out of several pieces of pre-formed refractory cement. This would be the style of Mugnaini who I believe get their ovens from Valoriani, who are relatively close to us (we are in Sarteano (SI), Italy). There are also a number of local places that sell camini and also ferramenta that sell this kind of pre-fab oven at fairly low cost.

2.) purchase and have installed a pre-made brick oven (from Naples; most expensive solution, though we are in Italy, so shipping is less of an issue; I have seen sites referenced here such as Forno Napoletano, Acunto, and SF).

3.) hire local people to build a brick one (unsure of experience and materials in this case, although I'm sure we could arrange to get shipped to us material from Naples, if that's important; I notice the refractory brick website given by pizzanapoletana is located in Rome.)

I'm hoping someone on the forum can give us some guidance.

I have heard that the pre-formed cement ovens can lose their heat-retention capacities over time and need to be replaced. Is this a concern only for businesses that have the ovens going several hours a day, every day? We would probably use the oven no more than once or twice a week, let's say firing up Friday to use Friday and Saturday, but again, not to turn out 100 or 1000 pizzas, just a couple of pizzas and the week's baking. Never having had the luxury of a "real" oven, I haven't made many forays into bread baking, but I would like to. If anyone here has ever tried to choke down a piece of Tuscan bread (made rigorously without salt), they will understand why!  :'(

I have also heard that site-built brick ovens by anyone less-than-expert will be less efficient (use more fuel; lose more heat) than either pre-formed cement or pre-made brick ovens.

Do we need to take any of these things into consideration when planning for our indoor home oven?

I understand and sincerely respect the subtleties inherent in the "true Neapolitan pizza" arguments. I would like to hew as closely to that as possible without breaking the bank. Again, we're just domestic users, not a restaurant that wants or needs to have a certificate of authenticity.

Just for fun, I will attach pictures of the oven "that started it all". When we first moved to Italy, the only house available for rent in the area we were interested in was an ex-monastero built in 1630. The owners had enclosed the loggia, which had its own original (1630!) wood oven. One could see that since the owner's renovation no-one had used this oven. Being American, I needed to have a Thanksgiving turkey and decided that the wood oven was the way to go. I understood (fortunately) that I would need to get the oven up to speed and so we started fires in it two days in advance. I tried to use a regular oven thermometer to measure the progress each time. I'm sorry I don't have those figures at hand! On Thanksgiving day, we put the turkey in, after having arisen at an early hour to get the fire going really good. IT WAS THE BEST TURKEY EVER! The only sad part was that I had somehow thought I could cook some cakes as well. These were quickly blackened on the outside and I had to finish them in the small, normal, electric oven. I had also thought I could cook other side dishes while the turkey was 'resting' but it was not to be. After the turkey had spent its 3-4 hours in the oven, the temperature started to drop. It could have been the vast size of the oven and our own inexperience. The oven was easily four or five feet in diameter! And, being built into the structure of the building, it's anyone's guess what the "thermal mass" would have been.

Anyway, it left an indelible mark.

I can post again with a couple more photos if anyone is interested.

A proposito di niente I remember reading a local Italian magazine showing what we might call a "baker's rack" but with a very different purpose. Apparently, bread was so precious, and wood so hard to come by, families would store 10 or twelve loaves at a time in an open-air rack for comsumption over a long period of time. Even with the availability of wood-fired ovens (having nothing else), it was still a big deal to fire them up, and every ounce of heat was exploited to the maximum.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: oven for home use: pre-fab or site-built?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2006, 03:17:05 PM »
I have also heard that site-built brick ovens by anyone less-than-expert will be less efficient (use more fuel; lose more heat) than either pre-formed cement or pre-made brick ovens.


I built a "site-built" oven from a kit from Earthstone. Not only am I not an oven building expert, I had never before built anything even near this advanced. The main reason I went with the site-built option was for it's much lower cost. But even if cost hadn't been a factor,  building it myself gave me the opportunity to build-up the materials around the oven for better insulation and a greater thermal mass than recommended by the manufacturer. I bake pizzas and bread maybe 2-3 times per week with 3-4 pies/loaves per session. Once it reaches baking temp, a small fire to the side is all that is needed, mainly so I can see the progress of the pie and to help cook the top.

My oven is outdoors so I don't have as many restrictions or concerns as you do.


Offline JPY

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Re: oven for home use: pre-fab or site-built?
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2006, 03:30:18 AM »
If you get a Pre-fab model or have one built the most important thing is that you get a good person to do the work.  I have seen many so called oven builders who do poor work and charge top dollar.  Just like any part of construction, you can get contractors that do great work and some that do disastrous work.

Since you have a budget, like most people, there are ovens in all price ranges all around Italy.  Even the company that we have, which is outside of Italy, exports 1000's of ovens a year to Italy and other countries in Europe.  Most of them are economy models for the home.  We also have premium models that are for restaurants and the North American market. (both for restaurants and homes).  Basically these have more advanced refractories that will last for many years.  Some are used in pizza factories that make up to 50,000 pizzas a day. (of course in more than one oven)

Basically the ovens use a high alumina refractory, some are denser than others and use thicker cast pieces. Even many of the manufactures in Italy such as MAM, Ambrogi and some others use a LaFarge product to cast the pieces, which is originally from France.  The floor of the oven can be pressed firebricks or poured cast pieces. So there should be a difference between the floor and the oven shell. You do want some porosity in the floor. 

Have fun with it.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2006, 03:38:47 AM by JPY »

Offline Alf

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Re: oven for home use: pre-fab or site-built?
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2006, 07:16:49 AM »
I would agree with most of what JPY says above. I build bread and pizza ovens from fire bricks and also install the Forno Bravo ovens for both commercial use and home use. I like to build ovens using bricks, however, I have no problems with the prefab ovens, as they are faster to build and work well. In fact, I have several working well in the UK, US and shortly in Athens.

If you are going to install it your self study the installation pages of websites and use good materials and make a good job of the installation. Or employ a good oven builder


Offline 1pizzafan

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Re: oven for home use: pre-fab or site-built?
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2006, 02:42:13 PM »
I am new to this group

We installed a Mugnaini Medio last fall.  It makes a fantastic pie and is easy to use.  Our next door neighbor is so in love that they are having one installed inside their new kitchen.  We are big fans of Mugnaini.