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Whether you want an innovative new way to cook restaurant-quality food at home or you’re simply interested in increasing your home’s value for sale, installing a pizza oven is a great choice. You can add a DIY pizza oven to your yard fairly easily with a few simple tools and supplies. There are ample opportunities for customization with this project, so you can create an oven that’s perfectly sized for your cooking projects and uniquely designed to complement your space.
How Pizza Ovens Work
Pizza ovens are heated with fire. It usually takes about two hours for this type of oven to heat properly, so you’ll need to plan your pizza parties well in advance to make sure everyone is fed on time. Build the fire directly inside the pizza oven to begin warming this insulated space. Pizza ovens typically have a chimney to vent the smoke, but some designs eliminate this feature and simply allow the smoke to come out through the front of the oven.
Once the oven has reached the proper temperature (which is about 370 degrees for a thawed pizza), you can either remove the fire or push it to the back of the oven. If you remove the fire completely, it will take longer for the pizza to cook but you can leave it in the oven untended for that time. If you leave the fire in the back, you’ll have a freshly baked pizza in a matter of minutes, but you’ll need to pay attention and rotate the pizza during those precious minutes.
You can also use a pizza oven to cook calzones, garlic bread, meats, and other items. Keep the oven clean and well-maintained so it’s always ready for use.
Designing Your Oven
There are many ways to design a DIY pizza oven. The beauty of this type of project is that you can customize it to meet your needs. Consider the space available in your yard when determining the size, shape, and location of the pizza oven. This is a heavy installation that you can’t move, so make sure you choose a location that’s convenient yet set apart from anything flammable. You may want to add a counter or other elements of an outdoor kitchen near your pizza oven to create a versatile cooking space.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on igloo-style pizza ovens. However, you can also create a barrel-shaped oven. Consider who you’ll be cooking for when you select the size. General recommendations are:
- Small family: 34″ diameter.
- Large family: 42″ diameter.
- Restaurant or party-size: 50″ diameter.
Preparing the Foundation
Your pizza oven needs a solid concrete foundation to support the weight of the oven. Dig out the base for your foundation and begin with a layer of gravel topped with a rebar grid. This will give extra strength and support to the concrete. Pour your concrete on top of the grid, level it, and wait until the foundation is completely dry. The drying time will vary based on your climate.
You will probably want to add a counter or other base on top of the cement foundation to raise the height of the pizza oven so you can comfortably reach it. The simplest way to do this is by creating a rectangular counter from cinder blocks with the holes facing upward. Pour concrete into the exterior blocks for stability. Top the base with a countertop.
For a DIY countertop, lay plywood on top of the cinder blocks and add a frame of exterior-grade lumber or iron. Place a rebar grid inside the frame and pour concrete on top for a simple, stable countertop.
Building the Pizza Oven
You can expect a DIY brick pizza oven to take about 4-10 days to build from start to finish. Each layer takes time to dry, and there are many steps involved in this process. Using a pizza oven kit for your build will cut the time down to roughly 2-4 days because the materials are already prepared.
There are many possible variations on your pizza oven project, but these basic steps will get you started.
- Stack fire bricks on either side of your planned opening. Top these with an arch of bricks supported by foam, cardboard, or chipboard. The opening should be about 2/3 of the total height of the oven.
- Place the first layer of the dome in a circular shape extending outward from the opening, setting your bricks as close as possible to one another.
- Lay a piece of plastic inside the circle of bricks and fill it with sand. This will add support to your dome as you’re building it.
- Cement the first layer of bricks in place.
- Add subsequent layers of bricks, filling with sand and cementing as you go until you have a filled dome. Include an opening for a chimney if desired. A bucket can act as a placeholder for the chimney opening as you build around it.
- Spread a layer of concrete over the outside of the completed dome.
- Allow the concrete to dry completely. Pull the supports, sand, and plastic sheeting from the interior of the pizza oven to prepare it for use.
Using Your Pizza Oven
The first time you fire up your pizza oven, you should let the fire go for a few extra hours before you start cooking. This will help dry out the materials. Use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oven. Some handy guidelines for pizza oven cooking are:
- Crispy pizzas: 800 degrees to finish in under two minutes.
- Barbecued meat and regular pizzas: 575 degrees, pizzas will finish in a few minutes.
- Roasts: 450 degrees.
- Breads: 400 degrees.
A backyard pizza oven provides a great opportunity to make your own pizza pies. However, when you don’t feel like cooking, you can always grab a fresh hot pizza from Pequod’s Pizza as well. We make sure it’s always quick and easy to satisfy your pizza cravings.