Build your own PIZZA OVEN
Sharpen up your DIY skills and create your own pizza oven.
The beauty of a pizza oven is its versatility. It allows you to produce an array of delicious food, it provides warmth and the visual appeal of an open fire.
Ten years ago I followed a DIY guide and built an oven single-handedly. With a few minor improvements over time, such as increasing the height of the flue, it’s still doing a good job of cooking beautiful food.
Before you begin Check your local council bylaws and regulations regarding outdoor fires.
Most councils provide guidance on the lighting of outdoor fires to manage fire risk and air pollution. Outdoor fires are generally allowed for cooking (pizza ovens, barbecues, hangi and umu) and heating ( fire pits, braziers and fireplaces).
During a total fire ban, councils can temporarily prohibit the use of any outdoor fires. Check with your council on fire bans in your area, particularly in summer. Location, location Choose the location of your oven carefully. Don’t place it where it’s likely to cause a nuisance with smoke or ash floating over your neighbour’s (or your) home.
The fire and cooking process requires almost constant attention. The oven needs to be a convenient distance from where you, family and guests gather outdoors.
Pizza ovens take up a large amount of space. Once completed, this oven is about 1.2m wide. If you want bench space either side, which is advisable for ease of use, you will need more space. Corner locations are space-efficient. Not all wood is created equal Burning the right wood in a pizza oven is crucial. Seasoned wood produces pleasant, trouble-free heat that minimises air pollution. Softwoods such as fir or pine can be dry enough in a year to burn. Hardwoods need to be stored in a dry place for longer.
Pine is a good all-rounder; manuka and kanuka are hot and long-burning; macrocarpa is easy to ignite and gives a medium heat; poplar is light when dry and fast burning.
Compressed, recycled eco logs and briquettes are dry and dense and burn well for a decent length of time.
Basic principles Wood-fired pizza ovens are designed to trap and radiate heat. Their dome shape reflects heat evenly across the cooking surface. This oven has a large volume within the fire chamber, and the air space above the door holds additional heat. It can be used for pizzas, and other dishes such as roasts.
Fireplaces usually have the chimney at the back, but pizza ovens have the chimney at the front of the fire chamber. The oven draws in cold air and expels hot air out through the top half of the oven door. Smoke is vented out the chimney.
Outdoor ovens often have a short chimney. However, the higher the chimney, the further away it will carry the smoke. Base notes There are a range of options for creating the oven’s support base. It must be strong enough to carry the weight of the oven, which can weigh from 1-2 tonnes.
It’s essential to have support at the sides and through the middle of the base to carry the oven’s weight. If in doubt, get some help from an expert in determining the design of the base.
The slab it sits on needs to be a nonflammable material. This could be chunky timber posts, new or recycled bricks, or concrete blocks.
All these options will need a fibrecement board or plywood base and a concrete, steel-reinforced slab on top.
A pizza oven can weigh one to two tonnes and needs to sit on a strong base.