How to Build a Temporary Wood-fired Brick Pizza Oven with Cheap, Easy to Find Materials

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If you like DIY projects (and pizza projects), check out my site, and follow me on twitter @msenese

This pizza oven is just about as simple to build as stacking blocks, but creates a highly effective wood fired oven with an arched roof that can reach the 800-900 degree temperatures needed to make mindblowing pizza.

Originally posted on my site: 
How to Build a Temporary Wood-fired Brick Pizza Oven with Cheap, Easy to Find Materials
Tips, Notes and Photos from a Reader’s Temporary Pizza Oven Build

(in which DOIT reader Tom Niccum builds his own temporary pizza oven following the original writeup my site, and graciously supplied many very helpful tips, supply lists, and info. Thanks Tom!!)

This is a great, low-cost project for someone who wants to test out the ins-and-outs of brick oven cooking. Super fast and easy to build, and with minor modifications, it can be assembled semi-permanently and get you through a season of baking delicious breads and pizzas.

I attended a fantastic pizza making event at Machine Project (instructor: Michael O’Malley) that included the construction and firing of a DIY temporary brick pizza oven – the ultimate in pizza cooking. Hugely educational and inspiring, even for a committed pizza fanatic such as myself. The oven, built, fired up, and torn down over the course of an afternoon, worked amazingly well – I cooked the best pizza I’ve ever made, by far.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed

Picture of Tools and Materials Needed
1. I used 190 Firebricks (one sacrificed to make “shards” for roof shimming. (about $1.80/ea)
2. Used 1 50# bag of refractory clay and 1 bag of sand.3. 60 concrete blocks ($1 each)
4. 5 48″ angle iron5. 4 48″ threaded rod
6. 4×4 durock
7. 4×4 IsoBoard (expensive! $12/sf) (at Machine Project we used 16 1' pavers as we built this on a solid metal tabletop)
8. 8.5×8.5x 24″ Clay flue liner

Tools that came in handy:
1. Angle grinder with cutoff blade (threaded rods, angle iron)
2. Circular saw with diamond blade (Durock, Jig legs)
3. Skill saw (jigsaw) – Jig form

mommywoman7 months ago
This is really nice. You could make it permanent by using something (like mortar ?) to adhere the bricks. Your title says cheap. I'm sorry, but I don't think of this cheap. I tried to calculate the cost of the supplies and I came up with a figure in the several hundred dollar range. With a somewhat limited budget that's a lot of money to me, maybe not to other people and I'm sure it must be cheaper than hiring someone to make it. It is very nice though.
apopivker10 months ago

Can this be built as a permanent oven? What modifications could be made? Thanks!

mikejs (author)  apopivker10 months ago
Yes, in fact I know of one person in Minnesota that has done just that. Simply replace the clay with refractory cement and affix the bricks permanently. An external housing will help protect from the elements.

Info about his build here:

Let me know if you build one!
apopivker mikejs9 months ago

Ready to cook!

leovalk2 years ago
This looks like something I can try, but where did the durock go? it is listed in the materials but I can't see it and there is no reference to it on in the text.
andyk754 years ago
Hey, very good description of the oven! In the last step, did you put a closed beer can in the chicken, or was it an empty one? Andy
Its an open, full beer can I believe. A full one would explode and no one wants shrapnel in their chicken. Nice instructable btw. I have been wanting to make a brick oven/grill and I might take a few cues from this.
We always mix half can of beer and half can of BBQ sauce together and insert the open end of the can into the chicken. It not only gives the bird a little more flavor, but it comes out real moist.
Originally called "Beer Butt Chicken".
if you put a closed can in the chicken you'll be picking aluminium shards from your dinner all night long. Your meant to pour yourself a glass and put the opened can up the chicken. LOVELY JUBLY!!!
themarkd4 years ago
Very cool. May give it a try. But, at just shy of $700 bucks it ain't cheap, and (around here) firebrick isn't "easy" to come by. With some mods, could cinder block replack some non heat conductive portions? If there are any.
mikejs (author)  themarkd4 years ago
Yeah, firebrick is definitely a lot pricier than the generic type - but keep your eyes open on Craigslist and other places, I've heard stories of used refractory (fire) brick being given away. The instructor/guide on this project, Michael O'Malley, told me that it should be fine to use standard red bricks if there is no long-term intent for the oven. Eventually the heat should cause them to crack and degrade, but I have a feeling you could get at least a few firings out of it. If you test it out, leave a note to let us know how it goes.
shortw mikejs4 years ago
I like your instructable, it is wonderful.
Back to your red bricks.
I have a wood stove that has been lined with red patio bricks ( 1 1/2'' thick ) for 3 years now. Out of 10 bricks only one cracked so far, this wood stove is our main heat source in the winter to heat the whole house.
Firebricks are impossible to find in our area anymore.
I did not see any difference using fire bricks or red bricks in the wood stove.
Cracking of the bricks in the wood stove is mostly caused by a log falling down when burning and hitting the side of the brick.
I would say if you stack the red bricks and have even pressure point on them, they could last for a while for your pizza oven.
themarkd mikejs4 years ago
Roger that, thanks, Mike.
shortw4 years ago
Be careful heating wet bricks. Wet bricks can explode if to much heat is applied to fast.
Like mikejs said, start with a small, little fire and take your time before you increase the fire.
pizza in belly = pizza en panza ;-)
very cool! I mean Hot!
Morpheus4 years ago
Have you thought about using a scissor or hydrualic jack (like one from an old (or new) car ie the one you tow the trailer with, to lower the arch jig instead of knocking out the shims? Just put the jack on a piece of plywood in the centre of each course of bricks. Next, wind it up to the correct height, then lower away when you are finished placing the bricks on the jig. Should be a lot easier and no collapsing/jarring etc. to worry about.
Wazzupdoc4 years ago
Great Instructable and very inspiring. Here's an idea: why not use a small hydraulic bottle jack to hold up the arch during construction. You could then lower it gently and make any adjustments to the arch along the way. I like the project. It's something I've been thinking about for a long time.
Beekeeper4 years ago
I've always wanted to make an outdoor oven for bread making using clay and straw mixed but it is a slow process compared with this. One thing I would like to point out is the difference between lie and lay. Lay is a verb of action like chickens laying eggs or laying the bricks on the cement blocks. But when the bricks are in a nice straight row they lie side by side. My neighbour always said to her dog, 'lay down' to which I replied 'even eider ducks cannot lay down (eider down)', but she never got it. Nevertheless, an interesting instructable. Thanks for doing it.
mikejs (author)  Beekeeper4 years ago
Yikes... corrections coming. Thanks for the tip.
Eiswulf mikejs4 years ago
As long as we are making grammatical corrections you might want to change buy to by in the same area that prompted the above corrections. Otherwise this looks like a project to add to my to do list. Thanks for the 'structable.
mikejs (author)  Eiswulf4 years ago
Double yikes. Corrections have been made, thank you for lending an editor's eye.
Ace9184 years ago
Nice Inst. But at over $700.00, for a temporary, I could sample a lot of store bought Pizzas and find the one I like best. Craigs List is at best a hit or miss proposition unless you live in a highly Urban area.
mikejs (author)  Ace9184 years ago
That's true, $700 will get you a lot of pizzas (35 of them, at an average of $20/a pie) – but there really is no store bought pizza that can compare to a good one from a wood fired oven. And good point, CL is pretty limited once you leave one of the big areas. There are other options for finding good deals too – Pennysaver, bulletin boards, word of mouth. CL is just one suggestion.
HollyHarken4 years ago
I’m curious, why would you make this pizza oven temporary? It seems like an awful lot of work for something that isn’t permanent. Or is it permanent? The heading on the instructable say How to build a Temporary pizza oven. I’m just wondering.
mikejs (author)  HollyHarken4 years ago
Holly, Good questions. Compared to the process of building a proper "permanent" oven (which can take a few weeks of work), this build is amazingly quick and painless – there aren't many oven designs that let you go from nothing to cooking in a few hours as this one will let you do. And in the case of the course I took at Machine Project, when we were done cooking, the whole thing was hosed down with water, disassembled brick by brick (they were still warm) and packed into the trailer. Pretty cool if you want to throw something together for a special event, or don't have the space for a permanent installation. Does that make sense? Maybe I should add some of the disassembly info to the writeup.
winterfresh4 years ago
Sir, you are a genius. Five stars! Would it be possible to build this on grass or sand? Or could it sink and tip? If so, how would that be resolved?
mikejs (author)  winterfresh4 years ago
Oh, and two other things: 1. Thanks for the compliment and the stars 2. I am more than happy to redirect any credit for this to Michael O'Malley, who guided the course that it was built in at Machine Project.
mikejs (author)  winterfresh4 years ago
Depending on what you use as a base for the oven to sit on, you should be just fine in grass or sand. It is not lightweight - there are a few hundred pounds of brick used, not to mention the other components that are involved. But a base with a wide footprint should keep things stable and resist sinking in soft soil. Try to make sure that the base is fairly level and sturdy – it's no fun when a pile of red hot bricks fall over onto someone who carelessly leaned against the side of a wobbly table that's holding something like this up.
mikejs (author) 4 years ago
Anyone else noticing that the embedded YouTube videos aren't playing? Is there a reason/solution for this?
canida4 years ago
Wow, that's great! I love it.
Scupper4 years ago
fantastic job making the pizza oven. great job with the instructions
mikejs (author)  Scupper4 years ago
Thanks Scupper! Your feedback is encouraging.
davedave124 years ago
Awesome instructable. At first glance, it looked as if this oven was on a small trailer. that got me very interested. Do you think this 'ible would hold up to the bumps of light trailering? Would be an awesome thing to take to a beach or camp site.. or even friends house or park. perhaps if you poured some more of the refractory clay over the top of the whole thing.. or some more flexible clay material that would help? Any comment would be helpful
mikejs (author)  davedave124 years ago
Dave, Not sure this would be a good one for trailering - the construction is pretty simple and doesn't have much that locks the bricks in place. The options to make it trailer-able would be to give it a good slathering of mortar and let it set, to try to cement it together firmly (which I'm not convinced would work), or to bring it in pieces and assemble it on site. Which is pretty much what the instructor, Michael O'Malley, did for the course he taught us at Machine Project. For him and for Thomas Niccum, who followed the writeups on my site, it only took a couple hours to pop it together. I bet you could assemble it even faster if you had some pieces pre-set.