The Fresh Loaf

A Community of 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?

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