The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wood-fired versus kitchen oven

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Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Wood-fired versus kitchen oven

There's a local restaurant with a wood-burning oven. They start a wood fire in the baking chamber and let it burn for hours. When the wood has been reduced to embers and ash, they are swept to the side and the food baked next to them. Unlike grilling over wood, the food does not have a smoky taste or aroma. 

So, what is the advantage of baking bread in a wood-fired oven?

I've been trying to convince the local library to hold a summer workshop to build a mud oven, then use it to bake bread. I think it would be fun and messy group project, but they think it would be dangerous "and why not just hold a break-baking workshop using a regular oven." Any bread-baking workshop is good, but what are there any selling points for using a wood-fired oven?

Janet

tchism's picture
tchism

I just finished my cob oven this last fall and have really enjoyed cooking / baking in it so far. 

Building one is a fairly simple process, I recommend  Kiko Denzer's book "Building Your Own Earth Oven". It's kinda the bible for cob ovens. There are also some good how to videos on youtube. The best series can be found by searching  for  " How to build a cob oven". It's a three video series. 

Some advantages of the "cob" wood fired oven:

Lots of fun to use by yourself or in a group.

Can bake great bread 

Depending on size, can make several loaves at once with two to three batches possible from one firing. My oven has a 32" cooking floor.

Some disadvantages:

Takes more time than conventional oven to be ready to bake.

Timing on oven heating and dough proofing can be tricky.

Most likely an out door baking environment. (That can be a plus if the weathers nice).

That being said, here is a picture of my oven and the last loaves cooked with it.

loafgeek's picture
loafgeek

I've been reading about these ovens, and watching videos on youtube, and have been really interested in making one for myself.  I think I might make one this late spring.

Wonderful looking loaves.  What temperature did you bake them at in that oven?  Also have you made any pizzas at 1000F yet?   I bet they cook in like a minute and are the bomb :)

tchism's picture
tchism

I think I missed your question about baking temps. I bake bread between 475-425F. Small loaves can be baked closer to 500F. I've also baked pizza's around 750-850F.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Cool oven!—and nice oven spring.

It looks like there is a roof over your oven. If rain got on it, would it turn to mud? Or does the heat of baking turn the walls into a low-fire ceramic, making it a permanent structure?

I have a practical reason for asking. In my town, a permanent outdoor oven is considered a structural addition. That means a permit and inspections, which if fine, but it also results in an increase in property tax!

Janet

tchism's picture
tchism

It would in its present state, I need to coat it with a lime plaster finish. Then it could withstand a lot of weather. The cover will still prolong it life though. 

How are your codes on BBQ' and fire pits? Maybe you could get away with calling it that and avoid the permits.

tchism's picture
tchism

I might add, the dome is two layers. The inner thermal layer has become very hard. It's made of a clay and sand mix. The outer layer is clay and redwood bark chips and act as an insulator. The inside of the oven has been over 1000F while the outside has not been above 135F. Amazing stuff!

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

You mean the hard, shiny plaster that was used in houses before the advent of drywall? Where can you get that these days?

Janet

tchism's picture
tchism

I'm making it out of lime I bought at Home Depot. I mixed it with water following the instructions from the link below. It has to soak for up to a year but I will most likely use mine when its about 4 to 6 months old.

http://buildsimple.org/resources/See%20How%20to%20Make%20Lime%20Plaster.pdf

pol_bishop25's picture
pol_bishop25

As a big fan of the wood-fired ovens, I suggest you go straight for it. In my opinion the food taste better when it's cooked in such oven. I have recently created a small post with inspirational ovens. I hope to inspire you build one on your own as I did back in the days.