The oven floor looses high temp relatively quickly. How do you keep it up to temp.
Hi Birddog, and welcome to the BrickWood forum.
It would help us to know a little more about your oven: how long since you finished it, how many fires, what are you cooking, things like that.
In general it takes about an hour to get a properly built oven up to a blazing 800 degrees on the oven floor (it will be up to 200 degrees hotter above). Maintaining that heat requires white hot embers and, for pizza, a roaring flame and an open door.
All of the ovens are designed to heat the insulated hearth when the flames arch up and across the ceiling of the lined space. If you aren’t getting that kind of flame for pizza, or roasting, then the floor temperature will drop. It doesn’t have to look like an inferno, though:
Please tell us more about your oven and how you’re using it, and definitely pictures will help if you have them.
Fair enough. I cured the oven over a two week time frame. Small fires each day, gradually making a bit larger. I’ve fired it up to cooking temps 4-5 times. Right now I’m cooking only pizzas. It has taken about 3 hrs to get temps of between 550 and 700 depending on area of the oven. Once I cook a pizza the oven floor temp drops significantly. By the time I do a third one it takes several minutes to cook. About my fire, I build it in the middle of the oven and over time move some embers to other parts of the oven. When I’m about to cook, I move wood and embers to the right side of the oven. I have an andiron placed there to keep new wood with plenty of air surrounding it so it can burn more efficiently. The flames do lap the oven roof as I cook. I usually place a new piece of wood or two on the fire as I start to cook. I generally will place a piece or two of wood on the other side of the oven so it can warm up and fire up as soon as I put on on the fire. No lag time. I see here you put your fire to the rear of the oven. Do the flames heat the roof ok that way?
The entire project time was a couple months. Weather delays. So it’s had time to cure naturally as well. Thoughts?
First of all, that’s a drop-dead gorgeous build. Thanks for being thorough with your photos!
But, you want heat.
It does seem like it’s heating up pretty slowly. (1 to 1½ hours is much more typical.) I think you’re on the right track with building fires, but maybe modify a couple of things:
- Start in the center as you are doing. Every time you add wood, add 3 pieces and push the whole stack a bit more toward the rear. Don’t give the flames a chance to die down.
- The last time you add, make sure the ember pile is up against the back of the oven, then add 3 pieces and allow the flames to get roaring hot. Now that your oven is cured, it can take the heat. Sweep the hearth floor with your brush to ensure that the hearth is fully exposed to the flame (no ash insulating it).
- You should get about 2 batches baked before you have to add more wood.
- You asked about the fire being to the back: yes, that’s the place for pizza-ready flames. The design of a barrel oven encourages us to do this for pizza. In my photo you see a white-hot concentrated bed of embers, 2 to 3 flaming logs…and notice how the light from the fire (which equals infrared heat) is distributed equally to either side. The heat goes straight up and forward, with the exhaust gas from the flames being drawn forward toward the chimney opening at the front. In this particular photo the floor is between 650° and 700°F where the pizzas are baking.
If your fire still takes a long time to warm up the oven after trying this, I would suspect the wood you are using. Not knowing anything about your wood supply, I’ll just repeat the general advice: split in 6ths for best results, well-dried, and always hardwood.
I’ve heard of other ovens, including my own, where the first few cooking fires seemed to take a long time to reach temperature. The curing fires are required because the high-temperature mortar needs flame to cure fully. (Ambient temperatures will solidify it, but firing is what transforms it into a rock-hard medium.) They are also a good start in driving out the moisture, but it seems to take a few “production” fires beyond that before the oven performs as intended.
My advice would be to try out some different techniques and keep at it. Thanks again for sharing those amazing photos!
@bikerbudmatt gives some really good tips. The thing to keep in mind is that the oven floor acts like a battery. The more charge (heat) you put into it, the longer it will take to discharge (cool). The floor fills with heat at a very set rate, so if you want to cook more pies before reheating the floor, you need to start your fire earlier.
If I’m having a pizza party, I will often start my fire as much as 5 hours in advance, and spend my firewood to keep the fire blazing until about an hour beforehand, then push the coals to the back and check the floor temp. I usually add another log or two about ten minutes before the first pie goes in, to get a nice flame that curves up and over the cook surface.
Yes, it does take a lot of firewood to do things this way, but I have the remnants of three large trees that had to come down about 5 years ago.
Thanks for the info. In fact she’s cranking now so I’ll give your advice a try. The dough is resting till room temp. I’ll keep the fire blaring till ready to cook. I have an andiron that I’ll push the embers under and keep the new wood on top.
Thanks for the kind words on the build. It was quite the project. Never did any masonry work before. I have one later fire brick, ceramic blanket, three layers stucco and then finished it with stone as you can see. So add another layer of mortar and stone. I’m not concerned I don’t have enough insulation factor. If you want more pics just let me know.
Have to say I can’t even begin to count the trips to the stone yard or Home