Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mud Versus Brick

Many people ask if they should be constructing a wood-fired oven out of mud or brick, and that's not a simple question to answer, especially since both types of ovens can bake equally well.
After building both types, I think that for beginners, it's easier to construct a brick oven.
Firebrick and mortar. That's basically all you need to build a brick oven.
As much as I love working with mud, the problem with it is its variability. The proportion of sand to clay has to be right, and it needs the right amount of water. Okay, if you're using bagged fire clay, then I like 2 parts sand to 1 part fire clay. That's easy, but how much water? Now it becomes problematic. The mud needs to be wet enough to hold together, but not so wet that your oven will slump as you build it.
This became abundantly clear today while working with a couple of friends who had never built a mud oven. Yes, there were instructions in the book they were reading, but it was not quite enough. If you're constructing your first earth oven, try to get some hands on help from someone who has already built an earth oven.
Interestingly, the couple building their first earth oven created a beautiful brick arch (their first one) to protect the front of the oven so they already knew how to work with brick and could easily have constructed a brick oven. See the photos below.

You don't need to be a mason to work with brick

                                                                                                photo Diane Dudda

                                                                                                photo Diane Dudda

Had they continued with the arches by linking them together, their oven would have looked something like the ones in the photos below.

                                                              completed brick oven

                                                          another simple brick oven

                                                     and yet another brick oven

                        But they really wanted an earth oven like the one shown below, and yes, that's my favorite as well.



Monday, July 1, 2013

Roasting Chickens

After your bread comes out of the oven, there should be residual heat to bake something else, if not more bread. Why waste the heat?

Chicken goes in after bread come out

Two hours later