Is there anything more delicious than hot pizza right out of the oven? Yes. Pizza out of a wood-fired oven! Wood is quite simply the best option for baking pizza. It imparts a flavour and texture that no other fuel can match. With home cooking becoming ever more popular, there’s no better time to build your very own backyard pizza oven. Tuck in for a tasty tour through the features and benefits of various types of DIY outdoor pizza ovens.
Choose Your Ingredients: Make Sure Your Pizza Oven Meets Your NeedsThe first step in learning how to build an outdoor pizza oven is planning. For an outdoor pizza oven, consider the type and colour of brick, stone or masonry you’ll use. You want to make sure it looks good as a stand-alone piece, but it should also complement your home and overall backyard décor.
Examine the layout of your yard for the best possible location. Will it facilitate your entertainment requirements? A wood-fired pizza oven is a great place for socializing with friends and family. Is adding an outdoor kitchen down the road a possibility? Finally, make sure the outdoor oven you build can handle all the different kinds of baking and cooking you want to do. Some oven designs are better for just pizza, others are more general purpose.
Neapolitan Dome OvenAlso called a “low dome”, this is your classic pizza oven design. It’s ideal for baking pizza because the low, flat dome creates more radiated heat and distributes it more evenly. Super-high temperature is just what you want to bake the perfect pizza, Neapolitan style. This also makes a low dome oven great for baking bread, focaccia and other flour-based delights both sweet and savoury. You can still use it for other dishes too, but the lower dome makes it harder to maintain lower temperatures which may limit your cooking options. It also results in a smaller opening which may limit what you can fit inside.
Bottom line: if you love Neapolitan style pizza this is your number one choice.
Tuscany Dome OvenConsidered more of a general-purpose oven, a Tuscany dome is higher than a Neapolitan dome. It’s still a great oven for baking pizza but the temperatures won’t get quite as high, so your pizzas won’t quite be the classic Neapolitan style. On the upside, the higher Tuscany dome is a little easier to build than the flatter Neapolitan dome. It also allows for a bigger opening. This means taller pots and cooking vessels will easily fit inside.
Bottom line: if you want to bake pizza AND prepare a wider variety of other foods and dishes, this is your best option.
Barrel Vault OvenFeaturing extremely thick walls, barrel vault ovens replace the traditional circular dome with a half-barrel design and rectangular oven floor. The massive construction creates better thermal stability, but the heat-up and cool-down times are longer. Two styles are available. Enclosed barrel vault ovens feature a door that can be closed to create conditions well-suited for baking bread and pizza or roasting meats and vegetables. Open barrel vault ovens do not have a door. This makes them ideal for grilling, barbecuing and other types of low-temperature cooking. However, it also makes heat-retention more difficult. For this reason the open barrel style is less than ideal for baking pizza and also uses up more fuel.
Building Materials: Masonry/Brick/StoneThe terms masonry oven, brick pizza oven and stone pizza oven are often used interchangeably for any outdoor oven. The important thing is to use refractory material that retains its strength and form at extremely high temperatures. The design possibilities are almost unlimited, and you can customize the look of your outdoor brick oven to complement your backyard décor.
Hot Out of the OvenGood thermal insulation reduces heat loss during cooking, which is essential for any pizza oven. It retains heat for longer, which means you can continue cooking or warming food once the fire has gone out. The lower the thermal mass of your oven (basically its thickness), the more important it is to have good thermal insulation. One of the best options is aluminum silicate ceramic fibers, with rigid boards used for the cooking floor and blankets for the dome. Expanded Vermiculite or Perlite beads mixed with concrete can also be used.
Cooking with Wood 101Seasoned, dried hardwoods are best for your pizza oven. They burn cleaner and last longer than softwoods. Some of the more readily available types of hardwood here in Canada include maple, oak, walnut, ash, birch, and beech. You can also experiment with aromatic woods to add flavour to your food. Some are grown naturally in Canada while others are imported. Varieties to look for include apple, alder, almond, apricot, cherry, plum, pear, hickory, maple, pecan and chestnut.
HEALTH ALERT! Pressure-treated, laminated and painted woods should never be used in your wood fired oven. They contain hazardous chemicals that can be toxic. Some softwoods also have a high sap content, which produces soot and creosote that can ruin your oven floor and is harmful if ingested.
Tools & EquipmentThe right tools and equipment will help you bake better pizza and keep your outdoor oven clean and well maintained. Check out our BBQ Accessories & Tools, and review the list of essentials below:
- Heat-Resistant Gloves: You’ll want some heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands and forearms when removing pizzas or adding more wood to the fire.
- Fireplace Poker: Essential for moving wood around for even heating and pushing wood cinders out of the way to expose the hot cooking surface
- Oven Grill: Ideal for grilling meats or supporting a skillet, Dutch oven, or other cooking vessels
- Pizza Cutter: A wheel-style pizza cutter makes it easy to slice and serve your pizza
- Oven Brush: A brush with copper or brass bristles that makes it easier to clean out ash and crumbs
- Ash Can: A galvanized trash can to safely collect all the ash you clean out of your oven (it’s potassium rich and great for your garden!)
- Ash Shovel: Makes it easy to scoop up ashes and deposit them in your ash can
- Pizza Peel: A good aluminum pizza peel allows you to insert and remove your pizza safely, avoiding burned fingers and dropped pizzas
Consider an Outdoor KitchenWhy not make your pizza oven the focal point of an entire outdoor kitchen? An outdoor kitchen with pizza oven will create a complete dining and entertaining experience in your backyard. It can include a stove, sink, countertops, cupboards, table and chairs. Even if you don’t build everything together, you can plan the design and location of your outdoor pizza oven in a way that the kitchen can be easily added in the future.
Start Small with a BBQ Pizza OvenNot sure if you’re ready for a full-on outdoor pizza oven? You can always try a BBQ pizza oven first. Designed to fit right on top of your BBQ grill, the cooking chamber creates an air flow system that raises the temperature to wood burning pizza oven levels. Look for kits that include a pizza peel and spatula.
Permits & ApprovalsBe sure to consult all local building department and by-law requirements before building your pizza oven. You should also check with local utilities for any easements and underground service locations.
Knowing how to make a pizza oven takes careful planning and informed choices. Consider your cooking needs, your entertainment requirements, and what will best suit the layout of your backyard. Once complete, you’ll be well on your way to serving up piping hot pizza to your family and friends.