Outdoor Pizza Oven

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Introduction: Outdoor Pizza Oven

About: I am a 21 year old DIY ist and Tinkerer with a deep interest in the field of robotics, electronic and cooking. I am skilled in wood and metal work as well. I work in my basement workshop and i am mostly scra...

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.

Outdoor Structures

Second Prize in the
Outdoor Structures

Outdoor Cooking Contest 2017

First Prize in the
Outdoor Cooking Contest 2017

Outside Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Outside Contest 2017

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78 Discussions

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!

image.jpeg
12 replies

Ehem ... someone from yet another end of the world here.

No need for firebricks and refractory mortar. In my part of the world, traditional bread ovens are pretty much unchanged since Roman antiquity: a heavy build of regular fired bricks and clay - no cement. The clay is left to dry for months, after the oven is built, then, upon the first firing, the heating is slow and progressive, until the oven, in spite of its thick walls (up to 16"/40cm) can't be touched. The inside becomes a compact mass of low-fire ceramics, the outside hardens just enough to resist wear. The only way to damage such an oven, besides a bulldozer, is to throw a bucket of water into the fireplace when the oven is glowing hot. (And it bakes like no modern oven does.)

My point: if the oven in this ible survived its first firing, the mud probably partially became low fire ceramics, and the oven is now pretty much safe to use. Just make sure it's dry before firing it, or heat it up slowly, so humidity can leave the oven walls without cracking them.

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

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.

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 :)

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.

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.'

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.

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 :-)

0
user
megg

10 months ago

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?

2 replies

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.

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. :)

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

1 reply

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!