The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Anyone have an earth oven?

Nancy's picture

Anyone have an earth oven?

Last fall my husband and I started reading up on how to construct an earth oven, and we're pretty set on trying this. We have a good spot for it, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of baking bread in it. I've bookmarked a number of good web sites with pictures of builds, and I've read Kiko Denzer's book on earth ovens. We had planned to sign up for a weekend class that Yestermorrow offered last summer on cob building, but it didn't work out and it doesn't seem to be on this year's calendar.

Anyone with any hands-on experience building an earth oven have recommendations?


Nancy's picture

Maybe what we need is a support group for people who THINK they want to build one. The question is, would the support group help us to do it, or to resist doing it . . . ?

parbo's picture

Hello Nancy,

This is great idea. Taste of any cook in wood fired brick oven is very different.

I'm a member of one great group Brick-Oven Yahoo groups. Home page is Brick Oven

You can also find a famous book written by Alan Scott. He's web site is Ovencrafters, The Wood-Fired Brick Oven Builders

Another nice web site is also The Masonry Heater Association of North America. They have a lot of workshop and detailed information's too.

I'm from Turkey and live in Paramaribo, Suriname /South America and planning build a professional brick oven too. I hope it can be start if I can find a good place then we can share experience together.

Nancy's picture

Thanks, Parbo! I've just subscribed to the Brick Oven Yahoo group and bookmarked the other links you recommended.

I hope to hear more about your brick oven plans.


martin's picture

Hi, Nancy,

I have got as far as getting a piece of land next to our house. I was intending to build a brick oven, but it seems quite complex to me. I am now considering trying to build a mud oven as a first step, we have lots of wood around here so fuel is not a problem.

Have you found any good designs, plans for a mud oven?


longlivegoku's picture

I'm planning to start construction of a brick oven in May/June. I think it will take me most of the summer to get it finished, but man am I looking forward to baking in this thing. Along with reading Alan Scotts book, I've also visited many sites on this subject. I don't know if they would help in the building of an earth oven, but someone there may know more than me about it.
TraditionalOven is a great site hosted by a great guy. Rado has a wealth of information and is willing to send it out free, you just pay for the shipping of the building CDs from Australia. They include 350+ pictures in process though.

qahtan's picture

you may get a few pointers from here...qahtan

qahtan's picture

And there is a couple guys in here that have built brick ovens, qahtan

Eric's picture

I purchased Kiko Denzer's book and plan to build a mud oven this summer. Some friends of mine built one a couple of years ago and the results are impressive. Plus it just seems like a fun project.

Some advise from my friends (who also used Kiko's book) is to be sure to follow the instructions for the correct dimensions. Specifically, make sure the opening is sized properly. Apparently their dimensions are off and consequently it doesn't draft as well as it should, making it more difficult to build a nice fire in preparation for baking.

breadnerd's picture

We built ours this year:

Lots of good sites of other builders out there-we followed the Denzer design as well.

pumpkinpapa's picture

I've fired my oven several times but as it has rained nearly every day since we built it this past summer and with no roof there has been no opportunity. When one does arise something else on the farm comes up :( Oh well.

I tried an oak roof made from twelve 10 foot long white oak boards, bad idea as the oak began to bend almost immediately. So we have lots of old tin roofing which I'll use instead, just have to remove all the rust and paint it and we will be good to go.

Probably by this coming Wednesday I'll bake.

We have a lot of oak on the property and since one firing lasts for about 8 hours on under 20 pounds of oak the fuel costs are very low.

What did you use for your base? I see round stone, I used free cinder block and filled it with free gravel and it is as ugly as sin :) Next time it's all field stone.

I see your door at the side, what did you use to make it? 

breadnerd's picture

We used kind of ugly landscaping stones for the foundation, filled with gravel (and a layer of lava rock). We had them laying around from an old yard project, so it was a good use for them, not as cool as stone but cheaper for sure... We're thinking about doing a mosaic on top of them to make it look cooler--if we used pebbles and did a lime plaster we'd have a little greek-looking oven, ha ha.


The door is made from leftover pine--they're glued 3x3s shaped with a sawzall, ha ha! I need to switch the handle from 2 knobs to one handle, as I can't hold it in one hand which is a pain!

We made a metal roof over ours--it's been raining here too and BF said "well we have a roof now" and I commented that tending a fire in 45 degrees (F) and rain is not the most pleasant idea, even if the oven itself is nice and dry :)


Do you fire it for 8 hours or is that how long it stays hot? After a few tries I now let the fire go until the exterior of the oven is nice and warm to the touch, then I let the coals burn down. It will "bury" the thermometer needle at first (500+ degrees) and then gradually cool off, depending on how much I open the door. If I fire first thing in the morning, bake around mid-day, it's often still 250 degrees the next morning!





mountaindog's picture

I should probably wait until I finish the Denzer book before I ask any dumb questions, but I assume you only use the wooden door to conserve heat after the firing up is complete and you've raked all of the coals and ash completely out of the oven? So then there would be no fire hazard in using a wooden door? Good point about handle vs. knobs, I'll remember husband is now getting very interested in the mud oven concept and is already planning where to place it!


We have a lot of bluestone on our property that I've made many walls with before, so I plan to use that for the foundation - but not looking forward to lugging it across the property to where the oven will be built. I was also wondering if there were a way I could use a piece of flat bluestone for the oven door if I could scribe its outline in the cob before cutting the opening, but don't know how I'd attach a handle to it, and maybe it would be too heavy. We too have quite a lot of leftover metal roofing from our house and barn roofs that we'll put to good use for the oven area.


One more question - my husband wants to make pizza in it as well, how large is the opening of your door as I know you make pizza too? The 13 in. opening described in the book's basic oven seems a bit narrow to fit a pizza or a roasting pan in for a turkey.


Pumpkinpapa, thanks for sharing your blog oven pics too, very instructive, and looks like your family had a lot of fun making that!

pumpkinpapa's picture

You are quite welcome Mountaindog, I'm always ready to share!

For pizza I can get a 12 inch pan in fine, and with my cooking area I could do a lot of pizzas in there. 

breadnerd's picture

Yes, the door goes on after the fire and coals are taken out. I have a towel I soak in water, and wrap around the door for baking. This in theory adds some steam to the oven, and protects the door, especially in the "soaking" stage before baking. In this stage you close up the oven--after the fire is out--and let the heat even out and soak into the floor and walls. It's way over 500 degrees at this point, and my towel has big burn marks on it, but the door seems okay!


I think you can make your door fairly wide--it's the height that's important. I made mine just wide enough to fit a regular sized cookie pan through. I can fit 2 cookie sheets side-by side inside the oven easily--though it takes a little manouvering to get them in there (you sort of have to rotate them to get them out). I had an old wooden peel that we cut down to fit nicely through the door. It's about 9 inches wide, which is narrower than the door and gives me some maneuverability when I'm loading loaves. But, that means I tend to make pizzas that are 9 inches in diameter, ha ha! You can fit a lot of them in at a time though!


The main issue with the narrower doorway is that you tend to bang it up when loading and unloading, especially when the oven is really hot--and you're trying to get things in quickly and hold the door (I'm definitely still getting used to the process, maybe at some point it will be less chaotic, lol). Mine's getting a little chipped up--but I think we can patch it as necessary. I can see how a brick doorway might be nice eventually...


mountaindog's picture

I'm getting deeper into the Denzer book and just finished the chapter on alternative oven and door designs, about metal or brick doorframes and chimney placement. The arched brick doorway looks like it may be a good idea, and not too hard to make, to avoid the chipping with use. I think I may try the rear chimney idea too.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Here and more put in three,4,5, hours ago under the same name.
This spammer is sneaky.
Until Floyd or JMonkey can fix it, PLEASE, everybody zap the spam with negative points!

JMonkey's picture

Got to get to work in about 10 minutes, but I'll kill all the spam I can see until then. Floyd will be on in 3-4 hours, and he can kill the account itself.

Floydm's picture

Thank you, JMonkey.

I killed the account and banned the IP address. I also deleted all of the rest of the spam that I could find.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


Edouard's picture

I realize I'm late to this discussion but Nancy ... go here

Flickr: TechnoPeasant's Photostream

... and would be delighted to discuss with you my experience, the ins and outs and what worked and what didn't. It was easy, while being pretty physical but the finished product was worth every effort. 

Write anytime. Cheers

sourdough greg's picture
sourdough greg

I see this thread started years ago, but having just finished my mud oven a few days ago, I had to chime in. I also used Denzer's book. Best how-to book, IMHO.  

I decided to try Denzer's recommendation to try and use no newly purchased materials. Since I have an older house that had "creative" garden edging when we bought it, I had not only plenty of flagstone, but enough firebrick for the hearth floor as well as an arched door. I scavenged sand and gravel from some long completed construction sites, and dredged a little more sand from a nearby creek. With a 42" hole needed to get the frost line, I needed quite a bit of fill material, but had leftover concrete from a sidewalk I had replaced with paver bricks (more former garden edging). I had enough clay from the hole to build the entire oven.

Total cost was...$0, absolutely nothing, except for many many man hours of labor, as my wife and two teenagers all agreed it was "Dad's project".

First pizza test was last night. Not bad, but the crust wasn't as crisp as I expected. After rereading Part of Denzer's book, I realized I had probably used too much fuel, and had prevented the oven from getting as hot as it could. Tonight, much better results. Nice, thin, crispy crust. Very tasty, and I'm so happy with the result that we're having people over for Labor Day and having a non-traditional Labor Day pizza party!

Although Delzer's book is excellent, one thing I didn't figure out until after almost completely finishing my oven was that I had not used enough sand in my cob mixture, so had some hefty cracks to fill. No disaster, but some extra work that could have been avoided.

I haven't done any final "waterproof" outer layer, a necessity here in the Chicago area. Any recommendations? A roof is not an option, per my spouse. I"m thinking of trying the lime plaster method. Does anyone have any experienceand/or tips in this area?

I LOVE my oven. I can't wait to start breadbaking in it. I really built it for bread, the pizza aspect is just a fringe benefit.