The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Curing (firing up) the oven for the first time

Leticia's picture
Leticia

Curing (firing up) the oven for the first time

Hi all,

I have built a wfo that is an amalgam of the oven design from Alan Scott’s ‘Bread Builders’, Norbert Senf (Canada) and my builder’s input. 

The internal hearth is approx 6’x4’, so pretty large inside!! The oven has cured for over a month now and we are finally ready to light the thing up!!!

Just wondering if anyone could share their thoughts on the best way to properly cure the oven. I have read different things online, such as:

- have a CONTINOUS fire burning for 5 days, starting with a small fire and building them bigger each day to slowly bring the temp up 

- Build a fire each day, letting it burn for approx 6 hours, following the same process in terms of fire size/temp as above

Do I really need to keep it continuous? I think it seems unrealistic to be able to do this, given work schedule, etc.

Also, can I expect the oven to be burnt quite black during this time? Do ovens stay black, or does it go away? Ie: eventually burn off?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!!!!

mrvegemite's picture
mrvegemite

Hi, all though I havent posted here for a while I have cooked sourdough bread (60-80 loaf volume)for a few years in my own WFO built of plans similar to the Alan Scott Style oven. When I cured the oven I just started with a heat around 150C and burnt for a few hours then shut the oven to let it retain heat  and continued this for another couple of days. Then I began to raise the heat to 200C and 250C respectively. All the time the oven was black inside. This is due to low temperature firing and my ability to light a fire inside the oven and get the balance of fuel/heat/compustion/oxgen levels balanced. On the fifth firing I got it past 300C  and eventually the whole inside of the oven cleared and burned it for a few hours extremely hot. In all honesty Ive fired my oven (outdoor/uncovered but sealed from damp) sporadically through winters here in wgtn NZ and the oven it still going great. And I fire from  cold to clearing the oven all the time. It takes a lot of high heat/time to get the fire bricks etc to a temp that could possibly be detrimental to the structure. Hope this helps.

Leticia's picture
Leticia

Thank you Mr. Vegemite! Your info is really helpful. I think I’ve been overthinking the process, so reading how you did it has given me confidence to move forward. I just need to get some quality wood now!

Thanks again!

mrvegemite's picture
mrvegemite

Hi Leticia,

The fact that you've given it considerable thought suggests you will cure your oven perfectly. A mix of fast burning kindling and slow burning  hard woods is good. Enjoy your WFO

Leticia's picture
Leticia

hi again,

You said you made your oven based off Alan Scott’s design and I’m wondering, did you also place your chimney vent outside of the oven chamber?

I am having a huge meltdown because we just finished building ours (an amalgam of designs, as mentioned previously) and decided to place the chimney vent inside the chamber, because our builder advised us that was better than the other option. When I questioned his logic (given my reasoning that an internal chimney vent would give way to heat loss, etc) he told me that having a damper on the flue (which we have) would eliminate heat loss. I guess I trusted his expertise and now regretting it, because I fear that the oven will not retain the heat it requires to bake. 

Now I feel like a massive idiot for not standing my ground and actually taking ownership of the build.

My question to you is simply, did you happen to alter the Alan Ascott design so that the chimney vent was inside the oven chamber?

Sorry to get all heavy on you, but just wondering...

Thanks again

mrvegemite's picture
mrvegemite

Hi Leticia

My oven was roughly based on an Alan Scott designed oven.  I placed the vent/chimney outside of the baking chamber for the very reason that the heat would escape at a quicker rate if it was within in the chamber.  There seems to be a saying that goes like this 'you build your first WFO and then next time you build the one you want' I too made some design flaws when I built mine but have slowly remedied some (not all) of them.  I know how you are probably feeling that you made a mistake but I'm sure you could find a way to block it off inside the chamber and build a vent outside of the entry to the baking chamber. It may take a bit of time but its all learning.  The other option is to see how is runs as status quo and then decide what you want to do.  I imagine you will still get great bread/pizza/ roasts form the oven it just may mean that the heat retention is not as great for batch loading bread (if that is your goal) if you can send a photo I may even be able give some guidance.

Geoff

 

Leticia's picture
Leticia

Thank you for your wisdom and insights, Geoff! It’s greatly appreciated. I’ve actually been happy with how the oven is working so far, although I have such a steep learning curve ahead of me! Trying to do-ordinate the baking temperature with when the bread is ready to be baked will be a challenge! Any tips there?!

It’s also comforting to hear that other people have also learnt from their wfo design flaws! What problems did you encounter and how did you remedy them?

I will upload some pics when I am on my laptop next, as I don’t think I can upload pics from my phone! It would be good to see what you honk and whether you’d have any further guidance. 

 

Have a great weekend!