Frequently Asked Oven Questions

If you can’t find an answer to your question here, in the book, or elsewhere on the site, please feel free to leave a question in the comment section and we’ll get back to you asap (please do scan the comments first, as you may well find your answer there).

If you get a useful answer to your question, please consider making a donation. I’m always delighted to hear from folks, and to help when I can, but any website takes time, effort, and love, not to mention answering questions. I’m also delighted at all the good stuff folks are doing and learning as a result of youtube and sharing, but like everyone else, I need a (small) income, and book sales are down. …

Build Your Own Earth Oven

More about Build Your Own Earth Oven:

purchase

This brand new, completely re-written edition features:

revised text: updated, expanded, and completely re-organized so as to simplify the making of a super-insulated design that holds heat longer and burns less fuel; as well as a simplified, 4-step recipe for making really good (wholegrain) sourdough bread – written by Hannah Field, a former professional baker who has worked in wood fired and organic bakeries on both sides of the Atlantic (also the author’s wife). Also: a foreword by Alan Scott, grandfather of wood-fired ovens and artisan bread, co-author (with Dan Wing) of The Bread Builders, and an inspiration to many aspiring artisans; an 8-page color gallery of beautiful ovens sculpted both by the author, as well as readers who wanted to share their work; innovations and variations, like mobile ovens, super-efficient “rocket” ovens, hay-box cookers, and more.…

ovens and efficiency

Dear Oven builders, mud teachers, bakers, and eaters:

I would like to talk to you about some of the claims being published about the efficiency of earthen ovens.

I think we need to be clear that any masonry oven, whether it’s made of unfired earth or fired brick, is not, by definition, a “fuel efficient appliance” – especially if it isn’t insulated.

There are more and less efficient ways to work with an oven, and some of them make quite good use of the wood burnt in them, but in my experience, those ways don’t apply to people who just want to cook a few pizzas, or a few loaves of bread, or perhaps a holiday turkey.…

Jumping bricks, or: inside out oven building

I built this oven for a local CSA farmstand restaurant (gathering together farm). We held a public workshop; folks came to make mud and learn and we built the basic oven in a weekend. BUT! (and this was my fault for not watching more closely), the dome came out a little flat. Usually, when it’s not quite right, I tell folks, “OK, time to tear down and rebuild.” This is a great way to conquer the fear of doing it wrong—

and it’s the only way to prove to folks the truth of my favorite oven-building adage: “the second time is easier and faster.” But I let myself be convinced that the dome was adequately curved.…

Noah Elbers on earth vs brick ovens

Noah is a working baker, builder, and farmer who has built and used earthen ovens, a classic Alan Scott oven, and now a very fancy Spanish Llopis oven. Here he provides very clear and detailed data on the differences in fuel consumption and food production between earth and (massive) brick. In short, he explains exactly why an Alan Scott oven may not be the best option for a home- or small-scale baker.

Elbers owns and runs The Orchard Hill Bakery in New Hampshire. He participates in the brickoven group on yahoogroups, which is where this comment came from, but as you can see from his website, he’s clearly spending more time baking and building than computing….HOORAY!…

Oven dome height for different size ovens

In the space of two days, I got two emails from people asking the exact same question. So here’s clarification, which I’ll have to include in the next printing! Thanks to those who wrote…

“Typical dome height” is 16” (p. 51). Some pizza ovens are lower because they’re used exclusively for pizza, which means they can have a low door without losing the 63% ratio of dome to door height — and they don’t have to worry about getting a turkey through the door.

The previous edition didn’t specify an ideal height, and in fact, a high domed oven will work — the traditional southwestern horno is typically quite high.…

new commercial oven at CSA farm

Here’s a new commercial oven at Gathering Together Farm, a small farm/CSA restaurant in Philomath, Oregon, with cooks JC and Lisa posing with tools. This is a super-insulated design, with an external basket frame covered w/clay-slip-soaked burlap and insulating (sawdust-clay) plaster. When dry, the open cavity was filled w/loose perlite for insulation. The thermal layer is the standard clay/sand mix, covered with a cardboard expansion gap/thermal break (see the oven-fuel-firing-times-and-insulation post), and a layer of sawdust-clay insulation. Then about a 6″ space, and the final covered frame. The base is a stout metal box. Less well insulated ovens are typically barely warm on the outside after hours of firing, so I’m expecting this one to hold its heat really well.…

oven journal: details of fire & food

My oven journal, such as it is, follows. It includes how we went about preparing several big holiday meals, as well as other details that may be of interest if you’ve just built an oven and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. Or maybe it will all read like so much unintelligible shorthand. (If so, please accept apologies. I’ve posted a summary of what I learned as a separate item, under the title “oven fuel, firing times, & insulation.”)

Of course, once you realize that your oven will cook anything, the best inspiration will be in your garden, pantry, farmer’s market, or grocery store.…

oven fuel, firing times, and insulation

A couple of years ago, I decided to try and keep a bit better track of my oven’s performance. In particular, I was interested in seeing how much wood I was burning compared to how much bread and other cooking we were getting out of it. My data is neither consistent nor precise, but the exercise has been useful, if only as a good excuse to focus my attention on what I was seeing and doing.

I’ve posted my “oven journal” separately; it includes specifics of each oven firing, including how much fuel I used, how long I fired, what we cooked, and how long the oven held the temps, but being as I was always doing several other things on bake day, the records didn’t have enough hard data to be useful in any scientific way.…

cob ovens on trailers

“I was wondering if you might have any info or resources for cob oven on trailers?”

Here’s my thoughts and experience, over and above what’s already in Build Your Own Earth Oven:

I wouldn’t try to put a cob or earthen oven on a trailer myself. I do know of one guy who did but he had to do repairs on the oven before the year was out but I haven’t heard from him since, so don’t know the whole story of his oven. Maybe it’s doing just fine. It’s hard to imagine that unfired earth would be able to withstand prolonged exposure to road vibration without serious cracking and ultimate failures.…