A good pizza requires you to use the right components and preparation method. However, no matter how much love you put into making a pizza, it all comes to naught if you don’t cook it properly. And that’s where the pizza oven comes in.
A pizza oven is specially designed to hold and distribute heat evenly for the perfect crusty and bubbly pizza. Some of these ovens tend to be a little on the expensive side, which can put you off when looking for one.
Luckily, you can make your own pizza oven. All you need is a number of materials and determination, and in no time, you will have a pizza oven in your backyard.
Where to Start
The first thing you need to do is decide on the type and shape of the oven. Your pizza oven should be able to:
- Reach temperatures around 750˚ Fahrenheit/ 400˚ Celsius, higher than most kitchen ovens attain.
- Retain heat through the thermal insulation and its design.
- Circulate heat through air convention.
These are the basics requirements of any pizza oven, and they are not hard to achieve. You won’t even have to strain your pocket to attain them, and while the oven may take some time to complete, it will be well worth it.
There are two main pizza oven designs: the traditional dome-shaped oven and the simple brick square oven. Your first step is to decide which type you want depending on how easy you want the designing process to be. The domed oven takes a lot more work than the square oven, but don’t be discouraged, it can also be seamlessly done, and we’ll see how.
A Square Oven
You will need bricks and pavers which you can find at any building and materials shop. The beauty of the square oven is that it is quick to assemble and disassemble, making it a temporary installation. You can, therefore, take it on the road to cookouts or campsites.
Although it is easier to make and is highly portable, this oven doesn’t offer the same level of performance as a dome oven. It is also less pleasing to look at since it’s just a simple structure. It is, however, a great option if you’re in a hurry or just need a temporary oven.
A Dome Oven
You can make your DIY domed pizza oven using a mix of perlite or vermiculite and a wooden rig covered with concrete for the domed shape. You then remove the wooden rig once the concrete mix dries.
The dome-shaped oven is durable and traps heat better than the square oven thanks to its small firebox and thick walls. These two work together to trap the heat and keep temperatures high efficiently. The dome shape also works by reflecting the heat to the top of the pizza, while the opening and chimney promote good air convection.
The dome oven is a more permanent and low-cost pizza oven that you can build in your backyard on your own. The downside to this oven is that it takes longer to make, and needs a more hands-on approach than the square. Curing it takes around five to seven weeks, and it doesn’t have the portability the square oven possesses.
Things to Consider
After deciding on the shape and design you want, what next? Below are additional factors you need to take into attention before you start.
1. Space and Time
You need to take into account the amount of space you have for the oven. A domed oven, made from vermiculite or perlite, requires a lot of room to work in. It takes around five to seven weeks to cure fully and needs no interference while it does, so a wide, low-traffic area is advisable.
You will also need to consider the amount of time you have on your hands. All ovens need a resting time before usage, especially the dome oven. Using it before it fully cures or exposing it to extremes of temperature before it dries can crack it, resulting in a waste of time and energy.
Find an ample, unused space that you can access for long periods when constructing a dome oven if you want it to come out as expected. If you neither have access to that nor enough time, a square brick oven is a better choice for you.
2. DIY Ability
This goes hand in hand with the type of oven you want to make. A brick oven takes very little time and doesn’t need a lot of skills to create. All you need is to know how to stack bricks on top of others, and you’re done.
On the other hand, a dome oven takes a lot more time, tools, effort, and skill. If you’re determined to learn and can devote your time to constructing one, then go ahead and do it. However, if you’re not sure you can create a wooden rig for the shape or have no experience in mixing and layering concrete, then you might want to start with a simple brick oven. You can take time to learn all these skills in the meantime and move on to the more complicated structure once you hone your skills.
3. Tools and Equipment
Making a brick oven needs just bricks, and you’re done. The more complex domed oven, on the other hand, needs a lot more. You will need access to woodworking tools, and the knowledge of how to cut shapes from materials like plywood.
You will also need building supplies, such as:
• Grey or white Portland cement
A necessary bonding agent, cement is a staple in your list of tools. Grey and white Portland cement are available in building merchants, on amazon, and in most hardware stores. You will need to decide on the color cement you will use between the white and grey cement. There is no structural difference between these two, but white cement gives a different finish. It doesn’t have any chromium oxide, iron, or manganese, which provides a slightly more refined and paler finish than the grey.
• Perlite or vermiculite
Vermiculite is a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral used in agriculture and construction. Perlite is an amorphous volcanic glass with similar uses and properties as vermiculite. They are both available in most hardware stores, or anywhere you find cement, and they are both excellent options for creating a domed oven.
The big difference between the two is that perlite creates a more solid structure and is more expensive than vermiculite. It is, therefore, more durable than vermiculite, although the results are pretty much the same.
How to Construct
Now that you have determined the design you want and chosen what fits your allocated space, time, and skillset, let’s see how you can make your own pizza oven in simple, easy steps.
Vermiculite or Perlite Domed Oven
Our first method is the more complex domed oven.
You will need:
• Woodworking tools, including a jigsaw
• Screws and casters for the trolley
• A mixing bucket
• A bag of grey or white cement
• Plywood and 2×4’s
• A bag of fine vermiculite or perlite
• A bag of coarse vermiculite or perlite
• A Swiss ball or 60cm inflatable fit ball
• Flexible plastic sheeting
• Industrial plastic wrap
• Silicone sealant
• Vesuvius refractory mortar
• An empty 20 oz. soda bottle
• A stainless steel chimney flue
• 60mm strip Corex/Corflute
Creating the Base
We’re going to start by building the foundation, the form that you put your cement and perlite or vermiculite mix over. First, measure the circumference of the bottom third of your ball. This is going to determine the size of the hole to cut in a sheet of plywood. The plywood sheet needs to be at least 12inches wider than the fit ball to allow for the cement walls. It should also be 36inches longer at the front, allowing space for the dome shape/arch.
Add four 12-inch pieces of the 2×4 to the bottom of the base. These are going to act as its legs and raise it from the floor. Now inflate your ball and put it in the circular hole you made. Ensure the inflation point of the ball faces the floor.
Create the Arch
The arch is a semicircular shape that acts as the opening to the front of the oven. Here’s how to make it: cut the plywood into a circle. The diameter should be two-thirds the dome’s height created by the section of the Swiss ball above the base. Create a second copy of the plywood circle and save it; you will later use it to make the door.
Cut the plywood circle in half to create a semicircle and fix it with three 10-inch sections of the 2×4, two for the bottom and one below the arch’s apex.
Then, cut another plywood circle that is about 4-inches bigger than the one making the arch. Cut it in half and screw to one end of the arch. This creates a lip that creates a hard-edged opening in the perlite or vermiculite and cement outer shell.
Cut the plastic sheet, making it wider and longer than the arch. Bend it over the arch to cover the open part between the smaller semi-circles and butts against the larger semicircle at the front. Fix the sheet in place using nails, and trim it so that it is about an inch longer and the same width as the arch (ensure it rests flat to the base).
Seat the arch flush with the ball dome and use a section of off-cut plywood flush at its front to secure it. Next, use the silicone to seal the gap between the larger plywood semicircle at the front and the plastic sheet.
Add a Chimney
Fill your 20 oz. soda bottle with water to help it maintain its shape. Wrap it using a plastic sheet, cut to the same length. Next, cut out a plywood section with the same width as the plastic-wrapped bottle and the same length as the arch. Cut a semicircle at the short ends to put the bottle in and ensure it stays upright. Glue the bottle to secure it.
Attach a second plywood section to the front of the arch and connect the plywood and bottle combination to the short end. You should now have an inverted L-shape that holds the makeshift chimney in place without disturbing the cement placement.
Build the Shell
Mix 5 parts perlite or vermiculite (2 parts fine, 3 parts coarse) with 1 part cement and 2 parts water to create the outer wall mixture. Stir the mixture until entirely combined. Wear your gloves, so you don’t damage your hands.
Completely cover the form with industrial plastic wrap. Now, cover the structure all the way to the lip at the arch’s front with the mixture. Use your hands for better results. Start from the foundation and work your way to the top.
Try and maintain a consistent minimum thickness of about 20mm/ .78inches. The size of the oven you build will determine the thickness of the walls to ensure it stays stable: a larger oven requires thicker walls to remain stable.
Leave the mixture for five to seven weeks for it to completely cure.
Make the Trolley
This is the easiest part to make. Make a simple and steady square frame using 2x4s. It needs to be larger than the form you just covered with concrete and about waist high. Use your casters to cover one end and a sheet of plywood to cover the other end.
Create the Floor
Start by measuring out a square of plywood, 1-inch larger than the oven’s length and width. Use nails and 60mm stip Corflute or Corex to line the outer edges of the plywood to make a mold for the floor.
Mix 5 parts coarse perlite/vermiculite, 1 part cement, and 2 parts water and use it to fill the mold. Leave it for six to eight weeks for the mixture to dry sufficiently.
Remove the Form
After the cement dome dries completely, deflate the Swiss ball and lift the dome from the base. The plastic you used to wrap the structure should enable you to quickly flip the dome and remove the structure’s wooden parts. Ensure you remove all the plastic wrap and the wooden parts.
Once everything is fully dry, put the dome on top of the floor. Use Vesuvius refractory mortar to cover the gap left. Use cardboard and wooden blocks to seal the chimney hole – this keeps the flue steady and prevents mortar from dripping through. Place the flue and fill the surrounding area with Vesuvius. Let the Vesuvius dry entirely before lighting a fire.
Enjoy Your Pizza
After everything has thoroughly dried and all the pieces put together, you can now light your first fire. You can use a few smaller test fires to see how your dome performs and check its integrity. If everything works okay, you can now cook your pizza in your homemade pizza oven!
Simple Brick Pizza Oven
If you can’t spend your time building a dome oven, a brick one is your next best option. It’s easier to build and takes a short time.
You will need:
• 47 stone bricks
• A bag of gravel
• Two concrete paving slabs. They should be as thick as the bricks and as wide as three bricks.
• A spirit level
• An infrared thermometer
• A pizza stone
Level the Base
Find a nice space that can handle fire, then use your spirit level and gravel to level it out.
Build the Oven
Once you level the ground, use three bricks on each side to create an open-ended U-shape square/ three-sided square. Layer the bricks on top of each other. Alternate the placing for even laying until you’re four layers up. Add the first paving slab.
Build an additional three layers on top of the paving slab, but don’t alternate the placing this time. Offset the three bricks at the back by around 2-inches to create a rudimentary chimney.
Place the final paving slab on top of the structure.
Enjoy your Pizza
And just like that, you’ve built a square brick oven. Light your fire and place your pizza on top of the paving slab once the temperatures reach 750˚F/ 400˚C. Cook your pizza.
There you go! Two ways of making your pizza oven, each with its own degree of difficulty but with tasty pizza as the end result. Whether you choose the 30-minute brick pizza or the eight-week dome pizza, you can be sure of incredible pizza in the end. The effect is much better than what you would get from a standard kitchen pizza.