The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Barrel Vault vs. Dome

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

Barrel Vault vs. Dome

I'm just coming around to building my own oven and I was wondering if there are any thoughts about the advantages of a barrel vault oven (arched ceiling, straight square sides and corners) versus a domed circular oven?

woods witch's picture
woods witch

I don't know alot about the barrel ovens other than the Alan Scott design is supposed to take longer to heat up but holds more loaves of bread than a round oven. We built our pompeii style oven with a 42" floor and we find it to be very versitale for pizza, roasting and bread. You can find more information at That is where we downloaded a free tutorial for building a round oven. Good luck! you won't be sorry for investing the time! here is a link to pictures of our build.


robbor's picture

tried your link, it's disconnected

TNBentRyder's picture

here is a link to a vaulted design in my area. this is a larger oven as this guy does have a commercial outlet. there are a number of pics on the web site of the construction also has contact info if you have questions:


CanuckJim's picture

I've written about this subject both here and on the Forno Bravo Forum.  The major difference between a vault and a dome is efficiency: a vault oven is more efficient for bread, a dome more efficient for pizza.  That does not mean you can't bake bread in a pizza oven or pizza in a bread oven, however.  It's just that one does a better job at its specialty than the other.  I know, because I've built both styles and used both styles.  Mine is a barrel vault because my major focus is bread.  Scott style ovens do take longer to heat, but they are deliberately constructed with more thermal mass than a Neapolitan round oven.  I was on the editorial board of writers and builders who came up with the Pompeii oven plans, by the way.

Both can, and usually do, bake just fine if they are properly built and insulated.  Each one has its proponents and critics, but anyone who says categorically that one is better than or superior to the other is placing a two ton red herring directly in your path. The choice really comes down to what you'll be baking most: pizza or bread.  The advantage of a higher mass oven is that it will retain heat for much longer (days) without refiring, and that retained heat is very useful for things like pan  breads, pastries and slow cooked meats.

You'll find photographs of my oven at


ClimbHi's picture

And add that a barrel vault is easier/quicker to build and requires less masonry skills. ClimbHi Pittsburgh, PA

JoshuaFinancial's picture

Old thread, but if this is useful to anyone - I have a forno bravo in my yard, and another modular dome from belforno on a mobile food trailer.

Bread, rather than pizza, has recently become extremely important to my business.   But we make both, using the same dome oven.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have seriously investigated a barrel shape.  However, the issues I face are on the commercial efficiency end - I could easily handle home/hobby baking volume with either dome oven.   Shape of a dome isn't as conducive to loading bread as a barrel might be; dome height may not match up to Alan Scott recommendations for optimal bread baking (refraction and steam properties); I believe, but don't know for sure, that a barrel shape would be easier to clean out coals for bread vs round cooking floor; and I do certainly notice that we need to re-fire the oven after every 2 loads to bring the dome oven back into bread temp range.  

That being said, my dome ovens aren't built with tons of insulation - no vermiculite etc.  Just ceramic blanket, ceramic board, and stucco.

However, we are baking what seems to be very well-received 100% whole grain breads, getting reasonable steam (can be improved, though) and after that we roll out the trailer and oven to the city streets for Near-a-politan pizza lunch.

You can do anything you want with your oven, as long as you learn the principles and commit to the trial and error learning process.  The main thing is just build a solid oven of either type using the tried-and-true methods particular to the design.  After that, it's all you (someone once said to me "it's a poor musician who blames his instrument.")