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Author Topic: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven  (Read 647 times)

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Offline billmi

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Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« on: December 22, 2018, 09:10:58 PM »
My wife and I are in the early planning stages of a backyard kitchen/lounge area with a fireplace and wood fired pizza oven. So far it's all been a process of searching for and sucking up information, but we're still trying to figure out what the right type of oven will be for us.

Iíd like to build something that can get hot enough to do a proper neapolitan pie, though realistically anything that hits 600F+ will probably make us happy.

Here is some of what I think I know so far....

Typical use would be making a couple of pizzas in an evening, at least 12-inch pies - room for 14-inch would not be bad. Cooking one after the other, even with a little heat-up time between wonít be bad. ďHeavyĒ use would be 6-8 pies of the same size, one at a time. We arenít looking to crank out 30 in an hour. On the one hand I donít want to go so small that the oven doesnít heat well and evenly, or so large that it takes all day to heat for just a couple of pizzas. Iím also not worried about being able to bake bread with the residual heat for the next three days. Some meats and veggies might go in, but I think that would be more about "if it fits", than "build the oven to fit it." We don't need it sized to get a turduken through the door - the prime target it pizza.

Portable / metal ovens are not what we are after. We want a permanent, weatherproof fixture.

Performance wise, I think weíll be happier with a dome shaped interior rather than a half-barrel. My wife most definitely does not want something that looks like an Igloo - so a dome interior will need a surrounding structure.

We are leaning towards adhesive stacked tumbled concrete block for patio structures - fireplace, counter, low walls, etc. and will want to continue that look for the ovenís stand (even if that means build from cinderblock and face with the tumbled blocks) and surrounding structure so everything has a matching style.

Probably one of my first questions, is what size oven should we be looking for/at with the above in mind?

Are there any sort of ďgolden ratiosĒ or dimensions we should be considering, such as:
Floor width to desired pizza diameter?
Floor width to oven height?
Height limit to stay under in order to bring the heat for Neapolitan pizza?
Floorspace for food to floorspace for fuel/fire?
Dome interior height to flue vent height?

I have seen a range of dome radii from more oval shaped overall to cylindrical with vertical walls meeting a comparatively flat roof. Iím thinking that for a larger diameter oven, the flatter roof keeps it closer for better heat, but for smaller diameter oven the radius needs to be greater on the roof to keep enough elevation difference between the peak and the flue vent by the entrance so the heated air can get a good rolling convection pattern instead of all going straight out the flue. Am I right in this? In essence what is the more critical factor - wall angle or ceiling height?

I think one of the biggest things weíre weighing to start with, is to head towards building the interior structure from refractory brick and mortar, or a cast refractory body. What Iíve gathered so far:

Brick and mortar:
Con: More advanced bricklaying than either of us have done before, but not too intimidating to put us off.
Pro: Dimensions are what we want them to be, not just what is available.

Commercially Cast body:
Pro: Easier to build.
Pro: Lots of options to choose from.
Con: Soooo many options to choose from that itís not easy to see which are the stand-outs as a better choice.
Con: Dimensions are limited to what is commercially produced.

Am I missing anything there? Is there something else that should be swaying us one way or the other on brick vs. cast? Is one likely to cost radically higher than the other?

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2018, 07:36:08 AM »
Quote
Iíd like to build something that can get hot enough to do a proper neapolitan pie, though realistically anything that hits 600F+ will probably make us happy.

This statement is confusing. 600F is little more than a glorified home kitchen oven. It definitely will not bake anything even remotely resembling a Neapolitan pizza.

You've asked some good questions, unfortunately most don't have simple answers, and the answer to many is "it depends..." It's unlikely that you'll get the answers you need in a post like this. There are entire books written on these questions. There are several really good build threads here - including at least one where the builder made a big mistake because he didn't do enough research into the materials used and how they would affect a Neapolitan bake (his deck was too conductive).  I'd suggest doing a lot more research, and it's probably best to start with research on the pizza you want to make as it will drive some of the construction decisions.

Since you want a built-in oven, I'd suggest calling Antoine at Bread Stone Ovens.  https://www.breadstoneovens.com/  He's a member here and knows as much about home pizza ovens as anyone. Even if you don't buy and oven from him, he'll help you focus in on what you need. He's a great guy who has help many other members here.

"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
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Offline billmi

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2018, 11:09:35 AM »
This statement is confusing. 600F is little more than a glorified home kitchen oven. It definitely will not bake anything even remotely resembling a Neapolitan pizza.

I would be happy with an outdoor oven that could bake a credible pizza. My current electric oven tops at 450 degrees. Having had access to 600 degree commercial ovens for pizzamaking in the past, I know getting at least a couple hundred more degrees than I can with my indoor oven would be something I would like. Also importantly, my home kitchen oven does not have the ambiance and enjoyment of stoking a wood fire and feeling its warmth, with a glass of wine while lit by a sunset over the lake. I would enjoy an oven that had these things.

Having experienced Neapolitan pizza, I expect I'd be even happier with an outdoor oven had the above capabilities and could reach the temperatures and consistent heat delivery needed to bake a Neapolitan style pizza.

I don't think those are conflicting goals - just recognition that achieving the second means additional criteria to the first, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can about that criteria. I recognize that a lot of what I'd like in an outdoor woodfired oven doesn't mean needing to reach the higher temperatures. That said, I think I would like to be able to do that if it is practical unless there are other drawbacks to it that I have not learned about yet.

As noted, I am still researching, with much to go, and considering the benefits and limitations to different options. I don't know yet if there's even some reason I'd want to avoid a Neapolitan oven, thus my discussing it here, to get feedback from people more experienced with myself as to how different oven types might fit to the types of uses I value.

« Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 11:18:10 AM by billmi »

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2018, 11:48:04 AM »

Portable / metal ovens are not what we are after. We want a permanent, weatherproof fixture.


As part of your research, I would strongly suggest that you invest in one of the many fine portable/metal ovens as a way of learning a whole lot about what you need to know. I'd bet your list of questions and requirements would change considerably (unknown unknowns). A permanent, built-in oven is a major investment in time and money. Small, irreversible mistakes can have a big impact.   

Offline billmi

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2018, 11:59:12 AM »
That's a very good idea. Thank you.

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Offline Brent-r

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2019, 10:46:27 AM »
If you are still looking for an oven we have just gone through the process ...  again.  Our first WFO choice was the Fontana Forni Margherita as shown in the user profile picture to the left.  We just sold it looking for one with more room inside and more mass to give us better thermal stability.  We often have family cookouts with 6 to 8 pizzas.  The visitors love to go in the kitchen and dress their own. We bring them outside and they watch in amazement when they see what 750 degrees does to a pie in 90 seconds.  The problem we found was that we could not keep a decent fire going to cook one after another with the small inside dimensions of 24" x 24"  and the stone would drop in temp to 600 - 650 pretty quickly.  So we just sold it after 1 1/2 of fun and looked at every option we could find.  We finally decided on a Forno Venetzia.  The whole line made by these guys offers amazing bang for your buck.  The best pricing comes from Costco but they only offer a couple models from the great selection.  Lowes and Home Depot offer more of the models.  We decided on the Bellagio because I like the inside 32" x 36" and the 4 wheel cart so we can move it around the house out of the wind, enclosed wood store in the bottom, two side tables and a peel rack and not least a glass door.  The glass door turned ( or lack of it on our first oven) was a bigger deal than I thought it would be.  When cooking we left the door off so we could watch for the fast blister development and see when to turn.  That was part of the problem with the fast temperature drop. 
With the Venetzia the only downside .. made in China and none to be seen anywhere to kick the tires before pulling the trigger ... but exchanging emails with the distributor somewhat assured me they had their act together.   Check it out.  In a week or so Costco will deliver the new one and I'll post some hands on experience.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 10:59:03 AM by Brent-r »
Brent

Offline billg

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2019, 12:53:52 PM »
You may also want to re-consider the Fontana Forni ovens.  They now have the option to buy with Saputo stones for Neapolitan style Pies.  I have the Marinara with the stones that come with the oven but suggested the idea to them almost a year ago based on all the information here and sure enough that's exactly what they did.  As far a build quality is concerned, these things are great!!!!!  Just another option for you.

Offline jwltx

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2019, 12:26:49 AM »
Definitely give Forno Nardona a look. They have handcrafted ovens out of tile and stone, nothing is cast!  BJ can help steer you in the right direction.

Offline wotavidone

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2019, 03:34:02 AM »
Having built a few ovens now, I feel qualified to comment: See comments in red

My wife and I are in the early planning stages of a backyard kitchen/lounge area with a fireplace and wood fired pizza oven. So far it's all been a process of searching for and sucking up information, but we're still trying to figure out what the right type of oven will be for us.

Iíd like to build something that can get hot enough to do a proper neapolitan pie, though realistically anything that hits 600F+ will probably make us happy. Any half decent brick oven can be heated to 900 with the right operator.

Here is some of what I think I know so far....

Typical use would be making a couple of pizzas in an evening, at least 12-inch pies - room for 14-inch would not be bad. Cooking one after the other, even with a little heat-up time between wonít be bad. ďHeavyĒ use would be 6-8 pies of the same size, one at a time. We arenít looking to crank out 30 in an hour. On the one hand I donít want to go so small that the oven doesnít heat well and evenly, or so large that it takes all day to heat for just a couple of pizzas. Iím also not worried about being able to bake bread with the residual heat for the next three days. Some meats and veggies might go in, but I think that would be more about "if it fits", than "build the oven to fit it." We don't need it sized to get a turduken through the door - the prime target it pizza.
The bigger the wood oven is, the easier it is to operate. I've built 750, 850, and 900 mm. The 900m is by far the easiest to cook in. 900mm is just under 3 feet in diameter. I recomend 3 feet minimum diameter

Portable / metal ovens are not what we are after. We want a permanent, weatherproof fixture.

Performance wise, I think weíll be happier with a dome shaped interior rather than a half-barrel.
A half barrel is a bread oven that can cook a pizza. Dome is a pizza oven that can cook bread.
My wife most definitely does not want something that looks like an Igloo - so a dome interior will need a surrounding structure.
Can you build it under a patio/porch/verandah roof? Even if you enclose it a real roof is a very good thing.

We are leaning towards adhesive stacked tumbled concrete block for patio structures - fireplace, counter, low walls, etc. and will want to continue that look for the ovenís stand (even if that means build from cinderblock and face with the tumbled blocks) and surrounding structure so everything has a matching style.

Probably one of my first questions, is what size oven should we be looking for/at with the above in mind?
Minimum 3 feet internal diameter.

Are there any sort of ďgolden ratiosĒ or dimensions we should be considering, such as:
Floor width to desired pizza diameter?
You have to allow room for the fire, so at least 3 feet for a 12 to 14 inch pizza.
Floor width to oven height?
For a general purpose oven that will be used for roasts and breads as well as pizza, the internal shape is a hemisphere so the internal height is half the internal diameter.
Height limit to stay under in order to bring the heat for Neapolitan pizza?
For a dedicated Neapolitan oven, the internal height of the baking chamber is much lower than half the diameter.
Floorspace for food to floorspace for fuel/fire?
The diameter of the oven should be about twice the target diameter of the pizza.

Dome interior height to flue vent height?
This is where the golden ratio (1.62) comes in. Most people get it very slightly wrong and use 63%. i.e. the height of the opening into the dome should be 63% of the internal height of the dome. 63%-ish. Personally I think it varies depending whether your opening is an arch or a rectangle. I vote for arch and I reckon anything between 62 and 70% is fine..

I have seen a range of dome radii from more oval shaped overall to cylindrical with vertical walls meeting a comparatively flat roof. Iím thinking that for a larger diameter oven, the flatter roof keeps it closer for better heat, but for smaller diameter oven the radius needs to be greater on the roof to keep enough elevation difference between the peak and the flue vent by the entrance so the heated air can get a good rolling convection pattern instead of all going straight out the flue. Am I right in this? Yes you are. In essence what is the more critical factor - wall angle or ceiling height?
If you work on just using a hemispherical dome, with a front opening at 63% of the internal height, and the vent and flue outside this opening, you won't have an oven that is optimised for Neapolitan, but you will have an oven that is capable of pizza Napolitana and is also useful for many other cooking styles. Assuming you aren't building a 6 feet monster, that is. If you are certain that Neapolitan is priority #1 by a goodly margin, consider a low dome oven.

I think one of the biggest things weíre weighing to start with, is to head towards building the interior structure from refractory brick and mortar, real refractory brick is not the best thing for the floor of an oven built for Neapolitan pizza. See the number of people who go looking for Saputo biscotto, fired clay tile valued for its lower conductivity which allows you to throw a pizza into an insanely hot oven and cook it with 800-900 degrees assaulting the top without burning the bottom. . or a cast refractory body. What Iíve gathered so far:

Brick and mortar:
Con: More advanced bricklaying than either of us have done before, but not too intimidating to put us off.
Pro: Dimensions are what we want them to be, not just what is available.

Commercially Cast body:
Pro: Easier to build.
Pro: Lots of options to choose from.
Con: Soooo many options to choose from that itís not easy to see which are the stand-outs as a better choice.
Con: Dimensions are limited to what is commercially produced.

Am I missing anything there? Is there something else that should be swaying us one way or the other on brick vs. cast? Is one likely to cost radically higher than the other?
Building your own from brick is probably going to be cheaper. Whatever you decide to do, remember to insulate, insulate, insulate.
Sand is not insulation. Neither is glass. Neither is salt.

Having regard to the fact that you wish to build this oven into a larger work of art and need it to fit in, and complement, a substantial investment of time and money, may I recommend that you consider this oven?
https://www.fornobravo.com/product-series/artigiano-brick-pizza-ovens/

I yearn for this oven insert that is designed to be built into your outdoor entertainment area. Rolls Royce, in my humble opinion.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 04:19:31 AM by wotavidone »

Offline Brent-r

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Re: Trying to figure out what we want in a wood fired oven
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2019, 08:52:42 AM »
In the blizzard like mess we had here yesterday Costco delivered the Forno Venetzia.  We selected the biggest and compared to what I had before ( only 24" x 24" inside ) this will be wonderful.  It is warming gently in the driveway now with a small electric heater in it.   An attempt will be made to do a Valentines pizza this afternoon.

So far the construction looks good.  Nice paint job.  Rolls around pretty well on its wheels even at a total weight of about 900 lbs.  They even supplied a couple wooden ramps so you could roll it down off the skid.
We're pleased and excited so far.
Brent

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