Introduction: Outdoor Pizza Oven

A couple of years ago, my mom started pushing me to build her a wood fired pizza oven in the backyard. And I being the good son that I am took up the project not realizing how big of a challenge it will be. But after almost a yeah and a half, I am happy to say that it is finally complete and she is very happy with how it turned out.

I am aware that there are literally hundreds of DIY outdoor oven guides on the internet and most of them are on instructables but I wanted to give you insight into my approach. I had very little experience with outdoor builds or builds involving the use of cement and bricks so I might have tips for beginners who feel like this build requires some mad skills. The main part of the oven is the dome and that is what people might think would be the hardest to build but I will show you a way which makes that the easiest part of the build and hence reducing the difficulty level altogether.

So stick with me as I take you through the entire process from idea to a prepared pizza. And please vote for me if you consider me worthy of such an honor. Each vote helps encourage me to keep on posting my work on instructables.

Step 1: Brainstorming the Design

So before we started anything on ground, my mom and I did loads of research on every outdoor oven design out there. We looked at all the DIY techniques and the ready made solutions. After our initial research we brainstormed on the basic requirements for our design. The following were the key highlights on the requirements.

  • Simple enough to construct
  • Use of local materials
  • Big enough to cook at least one 12 inch pizza with ease
  • Effective enough to evenly cook the pizza

With these we first started to shortlist the basic shape of the oven. We looked at many designs including dome, semi cylindrical and rectangular. We decided on the dome shaped as we felt like it would result in the best convectional heat transfer throughout the oven.

We then started thinking about how to build it. The oven had to be at eye level so I decided to build a sturdy base for it. We decided to use baked bricks which are widely used in Pakistan. We looked at many ideas on how to make the dome of the oven. All of the methods used some sort of a inner mold on which the bricks could be laid out in a dome shape. We saw molds made out of clay or newspapers etc but we found a very sturdy dome shaped wire cage. It was the perfect size and shape for our purposes.

Step 2: Diagram

As per user requests, this is a diagram including dimensions of the oven I made.

Step 3: Materials Required

So the materials will vary for every individual build. You might not need to build a base if you already have one. And some of the materials might not be available in different countries so you might have to improvise the best local solution.

Material Required

  1. 4x4 Wood Posts (Length depends on your design)
  2. Concrete Slabs
  3. 5 inch Screws
  4. 3/4 inch Screw Rods
  5. Cement
  6. Sand
  7. Gravel
  8. Flat Bricks (2x4x8)
  9. Standard Bricks (3x4x8)
  10. Wire Dome
  11. Plastic Sheet
  12. Mud
  13. Straw
  14. Cow Dung

Step 4: Building the Base

The base construction will depend on your location and case. In my case I had to build a base on which the oven could be constructed. I had one side supported by an indent in the wall. I used 4x4 post wood from old electrical poles. This wood was weathered but very strong. I also got some screw rods to join them. I found them in the junk yard so I didn't have to buy it.

I cut up 2 4' lengths and one 6' length. I drilled holes in them and connected them with the screw rod. I then partially screwed some 5 inch screws to the bottom ends of both the 4' posts. I dug holes for the vertical posts. The posts were secured in the holes temporarily with the concrete slabs. I made sure they were level using a water level. I then made some concrete using cement, sand and gravel. I used them in equal proportions but you should follow you particular brand instructions. I filled the holes and let it dry. I then put three slabs of concrete and screwed them in place.

I finished the base with an overlay of red bricks. I put down a 1/2 inch thick even layer of mortar and covered it with red bricks to give the base a nice smooth, even finish.

Step 5: Prepping the Dome

For the dome I used a wire mesh dome. I covered it with a plastic sheet and used tape to secure it. I placed it on the base closer to the back to optimize usage of space.

Step 6: Dome Construction

I mixed some mortar and used standard sized baked bricks. They are 3x4x8 in size. I put down the first two layers using the full sized bricks on their longer side. I filled the inside gaps with mortar to make the inside surface smooth. Make sure to put down a thick layer of mortar below the first layer and be generous in your use of mortar. If it is too thin, add some sand to make it more solid. You can look at the pictures for a better idea. I made a 13 inch wide opening in the front but yours will depend on the size you go with.

I let the first two layers dry for a day so that I wouldn't have the dome moving around as an issue. For the rest of the dome, i broke down the bricks in half and placed them with their smooth side on the inside surface. Follow the curvature of the dome as you lay down the bricks but don't worry about leaving some gaps too much. If you add the mortar at an angle on the bottom, you can place your bricks so that they are tilted downwards as opposed to being horizontal. Fill in the gaps between the dome and bricks completely with mortar as you build the layers.

I decided to keep the opening 4 layers high as it seemed right. I built support with bricks and then using some cement rich mortar, I placed a layer on top of the support. I used sand to keep it from binding to the support. It was a bit tricky to get the support right but I made it work. I let it set for a bit so that I can work on the top easily.

I layered down a couple of more layers. They were curved inwards to follow the curvature. Don't worry about the outside surface as it really doesn't matter too much. I capped the top with two whole bricks and a lot of mortar filling. I also filled in major gaps from the out side with mortar best i can. I let it dry for a few days.

After it was fully dry, I cut the dome from the inside and extracted it to reveal the smooth inside surface.

Step 7: Mud Mixture

Due to popular demand I will share more details about the mud mixture used in my oven construction. Two different recipes were used. One for the inner binding/coating and one for the outer coating.

Inner Binding/Coating

  • Proportion : 2 Mud : 1 Cow Dung : 1 Straw
  • Mud should be free from stones and pebbles
  • Cow Dung should be fresh
  • Straw should be coarse
  • Mix and use water to get a thick sticky even consistency
  • Use freshly mixed
  • Apply a thick coat

Outer Coating

  • Proportion : 3 Mud : 1 Cow Dung : 1 Straw
  • Mud should be free from stones and pebbles
  • Cow Dung should be fresh
  • Straw should be fine
  • Mix and use water to get a smooth even consistency
  • Cover and leave over night
  • Apply a thin coat and smooth with a flat surface
  • Use water to make it easier to smooth.

Step 8: Head Construction

Once the dome is complete, the basic part of the oven is done. The head is just to retain the heat inside the dome and to allow for smoke to escape.

This was the part that my mom did with some help but it isn't really anything complicated. Basically she used bricks to build the side walls of the head along the curvature of the dome. She placed a cross support on top of the sides and then put some bricks on the top. She also used a empty tin can as a exhaust. The head was build using a mixture of mud, straw and cow dung. It makes for a very strong binding agent. I personally would have used mortar to make it but the mud mixture turned out to be pretty strong. She used the same mud mixture to cover the dome from the outside. This would act a insulating layer and a base layer for the final finish.

I apologize for not having good pictures for this step, I was not present during this part of the build.

Step 9: Mud Covering

The final finish was done in a fine mud mixture. This is a local recipe used in the villages of Pakistan to plaster houses. It gives a smooth weather proof finish. You can use mortar for the finish or any other idea that you might have. You can also experiment with adding more insulating layers but we just wanted to keep it simple and get it done so we didn't pursue the complicated insulation techniques.

Step 10: First Heat Up

Once the mud was all dried, it was time for the first heat up. It important to heat it up gradually at first. I lit a small fire in there and kept it going for about 4 hours. Then I increased the intensity of the fire. The oven withstood without any issues.We made the very first pizza in our newly build oven and it went great. The pizza had the perfect smoked texture to it. It was all worth it.

Step 11: Conclusion

We were very happy with the final product. The oven turned out way better than we expected. It is working perfectly without any issues of cracking or lack of heat. We were actually glad that we didn't make it any bigger as heat up would take a very long time. We are still getting used to the handling but the pizzas turn out great.

I hope you enjoyed my journey of building my outdoor pizza oven. It took oven an year due to the fact that I was in America for 9 months but I still got it done. Thanks for following along and please vote for me. It would really mean a lot. I have more upcoming projects so it would be a great motivation to get them done as soon as possible.

Once again if you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate.

Comments

author
megg (author)2017-09-08

Great instructible, thanks for sharing. That pizza looks delicious! I've been thinking about making one of these for my husband as our kitchen oven is too small for pizza.

One question: why did you put the exhaust on the head and not on the dome?

author
bjkayani (author)megg2017-09-14

Exhaust is meant to be there. Inside the dome, the hot air moves in convection currents. If there was a dome in the top, those would be affected. The dome on the head ensures that heat will stay in but smoke will escape.

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megg (author)bjkayani2017-09-14

Ah, I knew there was a reason, thanks! Makes sense that the heat would pour out the chimney if it was in the main chamber. :)

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mcmasterp (author)2017-09-13

Do you have a pic of the inside of the finished dome? I'd like to see how it looks. Thank you

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bjkayani (author)mcmasterp2017-09-14

It is attached with Step 6.

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rcpluto (author)2017-09-11

This was a really nice Instructable. I appreciate the fact that you are from Pakistan and you were able to craft something like this with the resources you have at hand. That is what instructables is all about!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for the ideas, the well done instructions and the responses you gave to questions. Well Done!

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bjkayani (author)rcpluto2017-09-14

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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daveandlaurac (author)2017-09-07

This plan is ok, you need to use firebricks and refractory mortar. This design lacks thermal mass as well. If your going to build get the book , The Bread Builders! It is very informative!

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bjkayani (author)daveandlaurac2017-09-08

I works great and the bricks + mud act as a thermal mass. It retains heat well enough to cook potatoes over night.

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daveandlaurac (author)bjkayani2017-09-08

In theory it's a good design, but materials are where there is s difference. The bricks used are not designed for that kind of heating and cooling cycles. Then there is spalling, air pockets that can explode due to heat. Ask any masonary expert and they will tell you the same thing. If you are going to build one spend a little extra so it will last longer and be safer.

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dart70ca (author)daveandlaurac2017-09-09

You might not have noticed he is is Pakistan. No refractory, no food requiring the long cooking times and high fuel usage of big thermal mass. They do not bake western style bread, roast beef or huge turkeys. You do not need thermal mass for pizza., naan, kababs and fish.

The mud bricks are fired in a kiln where they get, literally, bright-orange hot. I doubt they will spall in a twig fire. Same for the mud, dung and straw; once the organics burn off, you are left with something resembling lava rock; very porous and insensitive to heat. Not scientifically refractory, but good enough to have got the job done for millions of households for the last several thousand years. Before pizza was invented.

You have a very nice outdoor kitchen :)

author
bjkayani (author)dart70ca2017-09-14

Exactly. I has held up up til now to pretty hot fires and cooks perfectly. Having a big thermal mass can be a disadvantage since we dont need to store that amount of heat for our purpose. Thank you for the praise.

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bjkayani (author)daveandlaurac2017-09-08

And where do you suggest i get the firebricks and refractory mortar from?

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boocat (author)daveandlaurac2017-09-07

Thermal mass?

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daveandlaurac (author)boocat2017-09-08

How well it holds its heat

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ikayak2 (author)daveandlaurac2017-09-08

why ? His works fine

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daveandlaurac (author)ikayak22017-09-08

Without fire brick there is a risk of spalling due to heat. Refractory mortar will help it hold together better. I used heat stop50. What he has is ac cool design but it probably won't last or will have issues.'

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bjkayani (author)daveandlaurac2017-09-07

Well I didnt have access to firebricks or refractory mortar. So I used what i could get my hands on. The bricks i used are made from clay and baked. And the mud covering acts as a thermal mass. Maybe no perfect, but gets the job done fairly well.

author
Chorophilia (author)bjkayani2017-09-07

Agreed. Thank you for sharing your build. The instructions and materials are simple and more easily available. Cost and complexity of most plans has held me back from building my own so I really appreciate your sharing your design and results. Happy pizza making :-)

author
dart70ca (author)2017-09-09

Terrific Instructable. Well written and not not too long. Reading through the comments, no mention of the benefit of the cow dung. What I have read in the past is that it helps as an insulator. Cows don't digest their food very completely so there is a high proportion of grass and stuff in the dung. It acts as a reinforcing agent when dry and burns away as the oven is used creating insulating pockets in the shell. The oven should get more insulative as you use it. I expect any dung from a ruminant animal will work.

What you may not notice (living in Pakistan :)) is the magical smell the dung gives off as it heats up. Simply wonderful. Like smoldering sweet grass. Visited India a few years ago and it was a very pleasant surprise, as was the long slow burn from a properly prepared dung-patty.

The bricks you mention are handmade mud bricks fired in a coal-fired kiln, if I understand you correctly. Very proprietary and vary in makeup according to region.

Could you find the recipe for the mud coating on the outside? Every detail helps.

I will figure out how to vote and certainly give you a big thumbs-up on this one.

author
bjkayani (author)dart70ca2017-09-14

Thank you so much. We have some traditional all mud, vertical ovens too for naan and they work so well. This mud recipe has been used for many centuries and its good to see its still being used.

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caroljav (author)2017-09-08

Love this tutorial. I hope t someday build my own.

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misterxp (author)2017-09-07

Great job. I made a similar dome shape for a bbq but yours is better. I did not know wire mesh domes existed!

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bjkayani (author)misterxp2017-09-07

Thanks. They do in some countries. But there are many good alternatives too.

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misterxp (author)bjkayani2017-09-07

I voted you too because of he good instructable and particular construction method. Very good.

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Soogle (author)2017-09-07

1. Your mom is awesome.

2. What are the proportions of mud, straw and dung? I guess it depends on what kind of mud you have handy, but what texture should the resultant mix have?

3. I don't have access to cow dung, but I have a friend who works with horses. Will horse dung work?

author
bjkayani (author)Soogle2017-09-07

Thanks. I will post the details soon. I think that will work too.

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OneBirdieMa (author)2017-09-07

This is absolutely terrific! However, I am getting the greatest, suburban-American-farm-girl-wanna-be laugh out of seeing 'cow dung' listed on the ingredients! Bravo! But since that's not something regularly available here in suburbia (NoVA, to be precise) can someone suggest a reasonable substitute? Perhaps requiring a change in the straw/dung/mud ratio? Since I have mud that is probably 2/3 clay perhaps I won't have to worry about it . . . . Terrific enough that I may give it a try. I found a buried patio in my yard last spring, so I have bricks to spare . . ..

author
bjkayani (author)OneBirdieMa2017-09-07

Well the cow dung is the main ingredient. Not because of the quantity but because of its function. And it has to be fresh. Only then will it work right. I am in the process of documenting the exact recipe for the mixture and will have it posted soon.

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OneBirdieMa (author)bjkayani2017-09-07

Thanks for your reply. I will be curious to see if there are any all-american suggestions for substitution. Am I correct in assuming that the requirement that the dung be fresh is because of the moisture that is lost as part of aging? I'm glad I'm old enough not to be scared silly by the very idea of fresh cow dung, but folks younger than me who've never had farm or rural experience -- whoa! they are going to be reeling! I'll keep an eye out for the mixture recipe, and also do a little research on mortar and such from alternatively-sourced ingredients and see what I come up with . . . .

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ChrisB886 made it! (author)2017-09-07

Here's mine. I made 2 of them. Here's a link to some pics. https://photos.app.goo.gl/I4Kqdo72SP71owDs2

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DebbieJ47 (author)ChrisB8862017-09-07

That's amazing! I'm a minimalist, though, and I'm fine with getting a good pizza or bread with an oven that "anyone" can make. The simpler the better for me. But I loved watching the process in your photos. Wow. :0)

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bjkayani (author)ChrisB8862017-09-07

Damn that looks good. You did a way better job than I ever could. :)

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bjm1950 (author)2017-09-07

Well done mate!

On my return to Thailand, I will try to make one.

I have seen a few designs, and would like to suggest making the dome support from split or small diameter bamboo while still green. It bends easily and will burn away very cleanly.

The bricks in Thailand are also a lot smaller, so a good curve should be easy to accomplish. Another thought, is to get some cheap mosaic tiles, usually in 300X300 mm squares, lay them over the mould and apply mortar over the mesh backing and then lay the bricks directly onto them in a good mortar bed.

Thanks for sharing

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bjm1950 (author)bjm19502017-09-07

Is that mold or mould?

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misterxp (author)bjm19502017-09-07

Mold is American spelling and mould is English. Same thing.

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bjm1950 (author)misterxp2017-09-07

Spelling was never my strong point! He He!

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bjkayani (author)bjm19502017-09-07

Love those ideas. Would love to see them implemented.

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boocat (author)2017-09-07

Wonderful job!

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BrandenH (author)2017-09-07

Nice work. Many oven plans can get very technical and exacting with specific ratios of dome height to width and and chimney volume to opening size... Like you, I hummed and hawed while doing research for several months, then one weekend i just said hell with it and went for it with materials i had around. 6 years later, it still works fine. Essentially the only function that matters is the ability to hold heat and radiate it back.

One note i see worth mentioning is that you might want some knee braces on your leg to cross member connections -- those corners carry a lot of weight with all that cementitious materials you do not want those corners to splay / pivot out over time and drop the whole show. I also would build a brace accross the back, despite the connection to the wall ledge, a free standing 4 legged table design would be a bit safer for that weight bearing table, especially if you live in an area where plate tectonics ever comes into play...everywhere that is....a bit of shaking and that shallow lip on the back might lose it's purchase.

Happy Pizza! ps My Fav recipe has been a bit of BBQ sauce and touch of peanut butter mixed with the tomato sauce and topped with grilled chicken slices red onion and mozzarella, then i put fresh minced basil on top right when it comes out of the oven... A little Thailand meets Mediterranean happiness.

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AndrewM582 (author)2017-09-07

This is a wonderful Instructable with its easy-to-read, conversational-style explanations, simple and concise directions, excellent photo documentation of the steps. I've added this to the list of projects I actually want to do. Rock on!

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bjkayani (author)AndrewM5822017-09-07

Thank you so much!!

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Sandeep V Menon (author)2017-09-07

Could you put a plan or something similar so we could build scaled (small or large) version of the same.?

PS:- beautiful "Cave" like design

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bjkayani (author)Sandeep V Menon2017-09-07

I am on it. You can expect a schematic soon.

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MsCenturio (author)2017-09-07

My husband and I are 2nd century Roman re-enactors, and have built several bread ovens over the years. Your form is very effective, and should hold up very well over time. If you haven't thought about it, this oven will bake amazing bread, if you don't build a huge fire. Ours have been used to bake fish, chicken, bread, pizza, of course, assorted pies and casseroles. Very nice Instructable!

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bjkayani (author)MsCenturio2017-09-07

That is actually a great idea. We will try those as soon as we get the chance and post the results.

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DebbieJ47 (author)2017-09-07

I would love to know your mother's ratio of clay:straw:dung. Also her recipe for the finishing mud. This is such an interesting part of your construction! We have a lot to learn about basic things that are done in other parts of the Globe!

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bjkayani (author)DebbieJ472017-09-07

I am already on it. I will post the exact details of the mud mixture soon. I am so glad to see such a positive response for my methods. I didnt think people would be really interested in these traditional techniques.

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mcduff-205 (author)2017-09-07

I like your design and the incredible ingenuity that you showed throughout the design process. Kudos to you and your mother!

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bjkayani (author)mcduff-2052017-09-07

Thank you so much for the kind words. Much appreciated.

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