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.
- 4x4 Wood Posts (Length depends on your design)
- Concrete Slabs
- 5 inch Screws
- 3/4 inch Screw Rods
- Flat Bricks (2x4x8)
- Standard Bricks (3x4x8)
- Wire Dome
- Plastic Sheet
- 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.
- 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
- 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.