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Does size matter? - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community

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Does size matter?

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  • Does size matter?

    Frequent listener, first time caller. I tried to post this question yesterday, but it didn't seem to work.
    I have been wanting to build a wood fired oven for several years, and now is the time to get started. I have been doing extensive reading on this forum. I am sure that my expected success is entirely dependent on the builders who have taken the time to post to this forum, so thank you every one.
    I am trying to decide on oven size. I am wanting to ask a question of the builders who have been using their oven for a while. If you built a 32" or 36" oven do you wish you had built a 42" one? Conversely if you built a 42" oven do you now think that it didn't need to be that big?
    I started excavating last night, so this is a decision I need to make soon. Any input will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • #2
    Re: Does size matter?

    I built a 42 and am very happy with the size so far, we do a bit of entertaining and doing large batches of food is easy in the larger oven. We have been able to cook for large parties 40+ with no. Problem. I still cannot bring myself to cooking more than one pizza at a time but if I had a prep cook or two I could probably manage it. Time is in building not burning the pizza.

    A smaller oven is easier to heat and if you are just cooking for a few people and an occasional 20 person party. A 36 is more than enough oven. I can do a lot of bread at once but with just my wife and me at home we end up giving bread way to neighbors at least once a week. If you are doing smaller batches of bread. Smaller oven could bean advantage. I can do 4 dozen buns or cookies in one batch and have had 7 casserole dishes in the oven at the same time.

    What ever you. Decide to do have plenty of insulation and build a nice tight fitting insulated door.

    I just decided to go bigger because I had the space and it was not much difference in cost at the end.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by mrchipster; 08-07-2013, 07:40 AM.
    Chip

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    • #3
      Re: Does size matter?

      Bob

      when discussing ovens-size is relative. But asking a bunch of guys if size matters is a dangerous undertaking.

      I have a 37.2543678" oven From my research here on the forum, most builders build the oven that they have room for. If that is not an issue, then consideration must be given to fuel cost, time for preheat, and the number of people you expect to be cooking for. Larger ovens tend to be slightly harder to work the oven and take slightly longer to heat as well as require more fuel to achieve cooking temps. I would expect heat retention to be longer as the ovens size increases because of the extra mass.

      As far as my preference-I would not change the size if my oven at all. If anything it could be smaller and do all that i want. But i had to fill that space and build the biggest i could. At the time of planning, size was everything. Now that i have it done, i never even even think about the size.

      I would go with at least a 36" if you have room just to have versatility to cook a range from pizza to tuscan grills to turkeys and brisket and have room to work the fire. Also give thought to the oven floor height. After my oven redo, i increased the floor height by about 6" and really glad i did. Much easier to work without bending over and looks better in the kitchen to me. Also allowed for more floor insulation.
      HTH

      Texman
      My Progress:
      http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/t...ild-17324.html

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      • #4
        Re: Does size matter?

        Thank you guys for the input. I guess I will stick with the 36" oven I had originally planed. Looking forward to a little more excavation tonight after work.

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        • #5
          Re: Does size matter?

          I am a devotee of smaller ovens, my own is only 21". It is all about management. Most folk only cook one pizza at a time, regardless of oven size, as it takes way longer to prepare them than cook them. For my oven a party of around 35 is pretty easy @ 30 pizzas/ hr.(we simply share whatever comes out of the oven) Our family is smaller now, but the oven still fits a large roasting pan and will will cook a few loaves of bread at a time. Remember that the fuel consumption is directly proportional to oven volume so smaller ovens use way less wood which means you use it more frequently rather than just for special occasions. A small oven does not necessarily mean faster heat up time because the smaller oven will have a smaller fire. It is more to do with the thickness of the walls and floor.
          Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.

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          • #6
            Re: Does size matter?

            David,
            I was hoping that someone with a smaller oven would comment. Thank you for your perspective. After heating your oven for a pizza do you have enough retained heat for further cooking. I have been reading about ovens retaining enough heat to still do some lower temp roasting the next day. Have you been able to do that?

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Does size matter?

              The key is insulation and a well crafted insulated door, you should be able to cook for 3-5 days depending on what your temp is.

              Day two roasts and high temp breads
              Day 3 breads
              Day 4 casseroles
              Day 5 ribs or brisket
              Day 6 dehydrating
              Chip

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Does size matter?

                My barrel vault is 22x36. I can cook 2 14" pizzas, but seldom do. My normal bake is 6-8 pizzas, up to about 12 max. The residual heat depends upon the initial heat soak, of course, but can extend out to usable cooking temps for 3 or 4 days.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Does size matter?

                  Originally posted by bobmurphy View Post
                  David,
                  I was hoping that someone with a smaller oven would comment. Thank you for your perspective. After heating your oven for a pizza do you have enough retained heat for further cooking. I have been reading about ovens retaining enough heat to still do some lower temp roasting the next day. Have you been able to do that?
                  My oven door is made of wood but has a 12mm insulating panel, quite suitable for roasting and baking temps , but not really good enough to hold in heat for days. Because it uses such little fuel it's easier to fire up a little if the temp is too low.The oven itself has plenty of thermal mass and insulation to cook roasts and bread.
                  Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Does size matter?

                    Originally posted by bobmurphy View Post
                    Frequent listener, first time caller. I tried to post this question yesterday, but it didn't seem to work.
                    I have been wanting to build a wood fired oven for several years, and now is the time to get started. I have been doing extensive reading on this forum. I am sure that my expected success is entirely dependent on the builders who have taken the time to post to this forum, so thank you every one.
                    I am trying to decide on oven size. I am wanting to ask a question of the builders who have been using their oven for a while. If you built a 32" or 36" oven do you wish you had built a 42" one? Conversely if you built a 42" oven do you now think that it didn't need to be that big?
                    I started excavating last night, so this is a decision I need to make soon. Any input will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
                    Its all been covered pretty well but here's my .02

                    All the ovens I have built and seen were between 36"-44" except one..the oven I am building right now which is a 32".

                    I chose to do a smaller oven here because I have a limited wood supply here, up north I had acres and acres of hardwood. Having used the 32" for a month now, I can say I don't really miss the extra room...my old oven was 38"

                    It all comes down to you the user...it doesn't matter what the other guy has. You have to think about how the oven is going to be used, how often, fuel availability.....etc,etc.

                    Nice thing is, you can always build another if you out grow this one.
                    Old World Stone & Garden

                    Current WFO build - Dry Stone Base & Gothic Vault

                    When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
                    John Ruskin

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Does size matter?

                      I have a 32inch oven and cook one pizza at a time (which takes about 2 minutes per pizza. We had a party for 18 people and had no issues at all with people getting hungry!

                      In other words I am extremely happy with mine!

                      Neil

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Does size matter?

                        I've built two oven. My first was 30" and my second was 42". I will preference all my statements with the fact that I build my oven to make Neapolitan pizza and that far and away takes precedent to everything else, and is what my comments will be based on. Each had it's ups and downs.

                        The 30" was also built lighter on mass then a standard Pompeii with 2" in the walls(full height sailor) and 3" in the dome. I could get that oven to over 1000F on the hearth in under an hour and keep it there for hours cooking pizza after pizza. The downside is the limitations from that physical size. For retained heat cooking it was fine, but for Neapolitan pizza it was just too small. With the fire in the oven a 12" pizza was just too close to the coals. You could cook great pizza in it, but it was also very easy to end up with a charred mess due to the proximity to the glowing hot coals. Other Neapolitan enthusiasts with small ovens will tell you similar stories.

                        The 42" oven is the opposite. It is a pizza baking machine with enough space to cook 3 12" pies at once without any of them getting as close to the fire as a single pie in the 30" oven. I also built it with an oversized door(18" wide) so I can cook 18" New York style pies at lower temperatures. The down side is going from the light mass 30" oven to a 42" oven with traditional pompeii mass was like going from a geo metro to a hummer. It is a beast to fire to true Neapolitan pizza temperatures. It just isn't worth the fuel and time to fire it up for my wife and I to have a couple pizzas on a wednesday after work.

                        I personally think based on these experience's a 36" oven would be perfect for home use. Insulate the heck out of it and adjust the mass based on your use. If you want to do lots of retained heat cooking go with traditional pompeii mass and deal with the little bit of added fuel and time to fire it. If you just want to cook pizza use a full height sailor course and then cut your bricks into thirds for 3" of mass in the dome.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Does size matter?

                          With a small oven you can overcome the burning edge problem by either cooking smaller pizzas or by removing about half the coals and then maintaining a neat fire on one side. This does not require too much space because a smaller oven requires a smaller fire. Having said that, we usually cook around 9" pizzas, but that has more to do with them being easier to roll out.
                          Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Does size matter?

                            Thank you everyone for the replies. It's nice to get some perspective on a project of this scale.

                            Shuboyje,
                            Great to get an opinion from someone who has used two different sizes. I have been leaning towards a 32 or 36. I hadn't thought about the closeness of the coals to the pizza in a smaller oven. Point well taken.

                            Stonecutter,
                            Fuel will really not be an issue here in the Ozarks. Very plentiful, quite cheap, and either oak or hickory.

                            Well one decision down, I will be building a 36"oven. Did some digging tonight after work. Not really that hot 85°, but the humidity is also about 85% so no fun. A half an hour was enough for me. Tomorrow I'll dig some more.

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