Brick ovens are a great way to make all your summer favorites. Wood burning ovens, however, are different from electric or gas ones. Here are some great tips about building and cooking with a brick oven.
Use the right materials suited for brick ovens
Your brick oven needs to be made of materials that will provide the right kind of heat. Medium duty fire brick is ideal for the floor as well as the dome, as it is rated for the most common temperatures wood burning ovens reach. You will also need to use fire-rated mortar (NOT normal bricklayer’s mortar).
Follow the right technique
Get your design plan from a reputable source, and follow instructions to the letter. Unless you have significant experience working with fire-rated materials, you don’t want to “wing it” when you’re building something intended to hold flammable materials. You don’t want your oven exploding or setting your house on fire.
Allow enough room for the kind of cooking you want to do
When working with your brick oven, you’re going to need to push coals out of the way before you start cooking the food. Most good oven designs will allow for this. Don’t “scale down” your design, or you could end up with an oven too small for you to work with.
Allow things to cure for the right amount of time
As with all brick projects, you’ll need to allow your materials to cure before you start using your oven. Don’t cut corners here, or your oven could crack and you’ll have to start repairing. Your patience will be rewarded. Properly built, a brick wood burning oven can last for years.
Do the proper prep
Cooking with a brick oven isn’t like cooking with your kitchen oven; it needs a significantly longer “preheat” as you’ll need to let your fuel burn long enough to heat the oven and to (in some cases) reduce to coals. Follow reliable recipes when you’re just getting started.
Prepare the fire correctly
Take the time to lay your fire correctly. Don’t be tempted to rush with flammable materials; these can leave a residue on your oven you might not want getting into your food.
Allow it to heat for long enough based on what you want to cook
Again, follow reliable recipes. Proper heating time for wood burning ovens is critical to avoiding hot and cold spots that can make your food cook unevenly.
Push fuel to sides and use a fireproof brush to avoid getting ashes in food
When you’re (finally!) ready to cook, use a fireproof brush to remove all ashes from your cooking surface. Skipping this step means you might end up with ashes in your food.
Keep an eye on the cooking process
Because wood-burning ovens often get much hotter than conventional ovens, you’ll want to keep any eye on the cooking process until you figure out how long your favorite recipes take.
Consider using an oven thermometer
Using an oven thermometer is a great idea; make sure you get one that can handle up to at least 1000 degrees F.
If cooking meat, use a meat thermometer
Using a meat thermometer ensures your food reaches safe temps without overcooking. Again, use one that can handle high temperatures.
Allow the fire to go out completely before removing ashes
This helps protect against burns and fire risks.
Drown your ashes
Ashes can smolder for days after cooking. Drowning them in water helps prevent sparks from starting fires.
Clean properly after use
Finally this will ensure you can enjoy your oven for years to come. Follow cleaning instructions every time.