Well, friends, it is complete. Allow us to present The House That Worked Out Deluxe Pizza Oven!
Let’s get something straight- this is far more than a mere pizza oven. It is capable of baking roasts, casseroles, bread, pies, and much more. But since we already cook on a woodfired oven in our kitchen, we will call this our Deluxe Pizza Oven to distinguish the two.
A confession from Peter, who basically built this singlehandedly with the occasional help from one of our handy Slaves: this pizza oven was harder to build than the whole of the House That Worked Out. And he would almost choose to build another house before building another woodfire oven.
Photographic evidence that a Slave was used:
We followed the MTo Woodfire Oven plan by Rado. Rado’s plans are available for purchase online, and Rado has built many, very beautiful, very fiddly pizza ovens in his work as a professional builder.
We are not precise builders, and the MTo Woodfire Oven plans call for a lot of fiddly precision work. And maybe we are alone in this, but we both find the layout of the plans and the instructions very difficult to follow; there are hundreds of photos to look through, yet occasionally very important information is sneakily hiding under an obscure link on one of Rado’s website pages; usually, we found these after we needed the information. It was also very time-consuming matching the written instructions with the corresponding images. Regardless, there is no doubt that Rado’s MTo Pizza oven makes one helluva limousine-of-a-pizza oven.
So, here is how it looked to build:
The first step was to build the base for the oven. This can be made of anything strong enough to support the massive weight of the oven. After much thought, we took the easier and faster route of using concrete blocks for the base.
On top of the base we poured a thick, insulative-concrete slab.
Next came the layer of firebricks. We purchased ours used from a man who had been involved in the demolition of an old bread factory. As you may remember, this was Blythe’s birthday present to Peter a couple of years ago along with the MTo Oven plans. Because our bricks were old and chipped, Peter bought a layer of new, slim bricks as well to have a nice, smooth cooking surface. We are VERY glad we added these new bricks. It is a much nicer surface to cook on.
Up to this point, the oven construction was fairly simple and straightforward. But now we needed to build the oven barrel out of firebricks. Rado provides the plans to build an archway template, and after a couple of setbacks, we were away with the body of the oven.
The archway then needs to be covered with an insulative layer.
Once the barrel is covered with insulation, the pizza oven is basically useable. The addition of a flue improves its efficiency, a roof is handy for keeping the oven protected, and of course, there are many aesthetic additions which can be made. But basically, the oven can be cooked in.
We added a chimney, a roof, and rendered and limed the whole structure. All the outbuildings on our property are either living roofs or corrugated iron, but we wanted to try tiles for the Deluxe Pizza Oven, simply for the aesthetics. Roof tiles are uncommon here in Tasmania- we couldn’t even find them sold new. We were lucky to track some secondhand ones down from a man who was re-roofing his very old tile roof, knew of Tasmania’s lack of roof tiles, and took the time to individually unwire every single tile as he removed them to sell. These orange roofing tiles make the Deluxe Pizza Oven look nicely Tuscan!
For our first time firing up the oven, we baked pizzas on trays, which is supposed to be easier than baking directly on the firebricks. We had mixed results; the pizzas tasted wonderful around the edges, but the centres remained undercooked. Cooking the pizzas for longer only really succeeded in burning the pizzas.
Luckily, one of our sons had some friends around, and one of them works part-time in a wood-fired pizza restaurant. He showed us how to bake directly on the bricks, and since then, our pizzas have been fantastic!! (Thanks, Lucas!). Less washing up, too. Hurray!
When we first toyed with the idea of building a pizza oven, we imagined a life of wonderful social summer evenings around the pizza oven. Never mind that we are fairly socially isolated. But the funny thing is, our imaginings have actually come true in this case. Our Deluxe Pizza Oven is a real curiosity to our friends, and this has been our most social summer since arriving at the property. Cooking with it is a relaxed affair, the same way that barbecuing can be; people peer into the oven, poke at the fire, watch the speed with which the pizzas cook (2 minutes!!), and basically, it gives everyone something to focus on.
So, despite all that work that went into its construction, would we recommend building a Deluxe Pizza Oven?
Considering I personally did almost none of it, yes, I would highly recommend it. Ha!
Seriously, though, yes, we would. A woodfire oven is more efficient than a barbecue, giving hours of heat after the fire has been removed, the oven itself adds a lovely aesthetic to a property (it’s like a little Mediterranean cubby house), and it is a novel way of cooking- a definite talking point- with the same, relaxed vibe of barbecuing. We have voted unanimously; our outdoor woodfire oven is a fantastic, worthwhile addition to the House That Worked Out.