Build your own PIZZA OVEN

Sharpen up your DIY skills and cre­ate your own pizza oven.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Front Page - Words and il­lus­tra­tions Renée Davies Pho­tos Sally Tagg and Alex Bur­ton Video Alex Bur­ton

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.

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