Thursday, July 11, 2013

Site assembled brick oven

Wouldn't camping with a thousand of your closest friends be more fun with an on-site assembled oven? Of course it would, as I found out last weekend.

The design is based off directions for a backyard pizza oven found on You Tube, with added angle iron structure for more stability. Wonderboard is placed on saw horses for the base. Then one layer of 12 fire bricks make up the bed of the oven. Then courses of ordinary red clay bricks, not cement brick , are built up with angle irons to hold everything in place.

Courses across the top are supported by angle irons. Extra pieces of wonderboard serve as wind screens, a top, and a door.

On the first day our baker, Flidais ni Eitigen, used walnut (a hardwood) to build the fire, but never manage to get the fire hot enough. The next day she tried a 20 pound bag of lump hardwood charcoal which filled the oven. This seemed to be overkill.

Next Time:

A 10 pound bag of lump hardwood charcoal is probably the way to go. Though perhaps some more experimenting with the hardwood firewood is in order.

Build a fire with a 10 lb. bag of hardwood charcoal lumps.

Once the coals have started to burn down and the the oven is good and hot, push the coals to the back.
One dish we made in the oven was an erbolat (a gluten-free medieval frittata). At the point we tried it, the oven wasn't quite hot enough so we finished it over coals (for which service the plucky ceramic dish gave its all and, alas, is no more). 

It set up nicely, almost as if it had a little gelatin in it. Starting on a low heat might have been a happy accident.

Next Time:

Maybe we could start it on top of the oven and then move it inside to brown.
With the whey leftover from the lemon curdled fresh cheese made the night before, our intrepid baker made up a batch of sourdough bread the developed overnight. Once the oven was good and hot (this time with the 20-lb bag of hardwood charcoal) in went the dough on parchment paper.

Next Time:

As it turns out the oven was a wee bit too hot and we should have put some meat dish in first to take advantage of the crazy high heat.

Quite brown but not quite cooked through the bread was removed and careful carving rendered those parts fit for service, which were delightful. Especially with the aforementioned lemon curdled cheese. Whey and curd united again.


I loved having an oven in camp. It was great fun experimenting with building and managing the fire. I used a blowing tube to help draw the fire deeper into the chamber.

I wonder if some sort of structure in the bottom could improve the draw passively. Maybe a piece of angle iron running down the length of the bottom to provide a path for air. I also wonder if trying to build the fire all at once is the way to go. You could imagine starting a smaller fire and push it to the back and adding fuel until you have developed a full chamber.


  1. A vent on top in the back would help immensely. It doesn't need to be big just enough to allow air flow to allow the fire to burn better. The one I have used for demos at events had such a vent.

    1. We tried to simulate a rear vent by moving the wonderboard on top so it only covered the front half while we were building the fire. There was enough smoke leaking between the bricks that we thought that would simulate a vent.

      Do you leave the vent open all the time or only while you are building the fire?

  2. oh my gosh...I WANT ONE! Come on over, I'll buy the beer, and supply two dudes for cheap labor. :)