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Round Italian oven or breadbuilder's oven???

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  • Round Italian oven or breadbuilder's oven???

    Dear Rick,
    We finished building our oven in the mid of last November. Since then, we fire it up on average 2-3 times a week cooking: chickens, ducks, geese, seafood, lamb, ham, veggies, pies, bread and even pizzas. Our oven is a traditional brick oven. The one that by some reason is called here a "Pompeii" oven. We are very happy with it. It gets to 800 degrees in about 50 min. and stays hot for about 6 hrs. By the way,*it was very easy to build this oven.
    We did a lot of research and surely we studied the links you have suggested (as well *as Alan's book and Rado's CD Rom and emails from Matt and others). These links*are dealing with a construction of a "Mailbox" type oven.***According to people who own this type of oven its drawbacks are: 1) due to a suspended hearst the rebars can cause cracks in the walls *2) its excessive thermal mass requires more firewood and time to heat it up; 3) a strange form of oven (that really reminds us of a mailbox) is not the best for the oven if you are going to cook in it. I would suggest that you check out Jim's posts that make lots of sense.*
    Good luck,*
    Stanley & Diane

  • #2
    > Dear Rick,
    > We finished building our oven in the mid of last November. Since
    then, we fire it up on average 2-3 times a week cooking: chickens,
    ducks, geese, seafood, lamb, ham, veggies, pies, bread and even
    pizzas. Our oven is a traditional brick oven. The one that by some
    reason is called here a "Pompeii" oven. We are very happy with it.
    It gets to 800 degrees in about 50 min. and stays hot for about 6 hrs.
    By the way, it was very easy to build this oven.

    ### Don't you just love these things. Everytime I fire mine up I get a
    warm toasty feeling unrelated to the inferno cooking off the oven :-)
    I *still* think it's way cool the way the smoke goes out the top of
    the door while fresh air goes in the bottom and the way the soot cokes
    off the bricks when it gets really hot.

    BTW, it's called a Pompeii because it's an update to the design that's
    been hanging around since 79AD when Pompeii was buried. (They found
    ovens with food in them ready to cook/eat when they excavated the
    city.) The updates are merely to enable building with materials
    available in Home Depot/Lowes vs. an Italian mason supply store.


    > We did a lot of research and surely we studied the links you have
    suggested (as well as Alan's book and Rado's CD Rom and emails from
    Matt and others). These links are dealing with a construction of a
    "Mailbox" type oven. According to people who own this type of oven
    its drawbacks are: 1) due to a suspended hearst the rebars can cause
    cracks in the walls 2) its excessive thermal mass requires more
    firewood and time to heat it up; 3) a strange form of oven (that
    really reminds us of a mailbox) is not the best for the oven if you
    are going to cook in it.

    ### My first oven was a Scott design that was just too small & took
    way too long to heat up. I've got something of a patience problem when
    I have to fire it for longer than it takes the dough to rise. It's
    great if you want to bake for a day or so after you've heated it up
    but it's a real chore waiting for it to heat in the first place. I
    also can get the Pompeii design hotter so I can cook pizza in 1 minute
    vs. the 3-5 minutes in my Scott build. (It takes almost 6 hrs to heat
    the "mailbox" one to a 1 minute pizza cooking temp.)

    It's also interesting to note that the Pompeii builders tend to use it
    for far more than pizza & bread. There's some use of the rectangular
    design for roasting, etc. but it's not as common as it is amongst the
    "rounders". Maybe we're more adventurous? Or it could be that without
    a really long heat up it's easier to use for other things. (I'm going
    to try a pig next.) Got a great recipe for an appetizer of dipped
    bread that's just outstanding --- chunks of smoked buffalo mozzarella
    floated on a tomato sauce in a crock that is baked in the oven which
    is used as a dipping sauce for toasted slices of a rosemary herbed
    flatbread. I'll have to post it next week when I've got some more time.

    Jim

    Comment


    • #3
      Dear Jim,
      They used to install a dome over the cooking stones long before BC.... And
      here is a pic. from a memorial stone of a breadmaker Eurizaces (30AD)

      Dianne

      Comment


      • #4
        Rick,

        Theses are good links, and Bread Builders is a fun resource, but I would caution (as it sounds like other already have) against the oven describe in the book. I have two of them -- inside and outside, and have been very disappointed. It was the problems that I experienced with those ovens that led me to the Italian ovens (and in part why I'm in Italy in the first place!). I will be removing my outdoor "mailbox" oven when I get back.

        The basic issues are heat up time, fuel efficiency, oven shape for fire-in-the-oven cooking and how even the heat is on the cooking floor. I cannot recommend the Italian oven design high enough.

        I can see that others have posted on this topic as well, but let me know if I can get you more info off-line.

        James

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi All,
          Now my head is spinning like a top! I was all set to build
          a 'mailbox' type oven and, after posting those links to Elizabeth,
          and getting all that negative feedback (for which I'm really grateful
          for) on building that type of oven, I'm not so sure what kind of oven
          to build. No, I don't want to spend 'forever' heating up the oven and
          I certainly don't want cracks in the foundation due to the rebar. But
          what I would like is plans. Real plans with pictures and step by step
          text on building a real oven (round) that heats up in a reasonable
          amount of time and holds heat for an even more reasonable amount of
          time! Is there anyone out there that knows about this or are we all
          doing this strictly by trial and error? C'mon folks, I've only got
          one little backyard and I don't have ANY room for error! I want to do
          this once and I want to do it correctly! Any feedback on this would
          be completly appreciated! Thanx', Rick

          Comment


          • #6
            my general impression (and of course i could be wrong) is that the design of the mailbox oven has been optimized for the baking of bread. the circular oven, on the other hand, is more of a jack of all trades. the walls of my oven (in the winter) are about 650 degrees F when i go to bed. if i seal the oven, they are about 350 degrees when i wake up. i've a general rule of thumb that the oven will lose about 50 degrees per hour (although i'm sure that its some sort of logrithmic (sic) curve).*

            detailed plans are hard to come by but there are a ton of pictures on the web and it all boils down, pretty much, to laying the bricks in a circle with a slight tilt.*the toughest part is the vent and chimney. like you, i went into it with a little bit of fear and trepidation as well, but after having done it i can say that there isn't too much you can*irrevocably screw up. *(also, this was my first ever masonry project.)

            my pictures are at: <http://www.cpsusa.com/ebay/pompeiioven.htm>http://www.cpsusa.com/ebay/pompeiioven.htm

            Comment


            • #7
              Rick, I have been in your place recently. I had read
              Breadbuilders and was very inspired, then learned a
              great deal about the different types of ovens you can
              build. Although I have not yet built an oven I have
              done a lot of research and it basically comes down to
              the needs you have. I realized this with the help
              from this group, mainly Jim (colonelcorn).
              >From what I have learned (someone please correct me if
              I'm wrong) but, the mailbox, or the oven in Alan
              Scott's book, is an oven for big time bread making.
              To me, it's a really attractive oven and has the
              capacity to make several dozens of loaves at a time
              but takes a long long time to heat up.
              After I learned this, I knew it was not for me. I
              want an oven I can heat up within an hour or so and
              cook pizza quickly and maybe some bread if I want too,
              in addition to some other items. I'm not opening a
              bakery though so the mailbox oven doesn't fit my
              needs.
              Jim, and I think a few others on this site have built,
              or have extensive experience with both types of ovens
              so can tell you more, but it comes down to your needs.


              Hope that helps.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi All,
                I'd like to thank everyone for their response to my 'Yikes' post! I
                guess it's 'back to the drawing board' for me and my oven. I'm now
                going to plan out a round oven. (probably 40" or 42") The rough
                sketch is still going to look like the drawing James posted for me on
                the FornoBravo site. (titled 'coming to Boston Ma.', located at the
                end of the residential oven pics) I'm so I didn't go ahead and build
                the mailbox type oven to find out it has a three hour or so heat up
                time. I must say however, I do love the look of the inside of the
                vault! I want an oven primarily for pizza, a few loaves of bread,
                chicken, sausage and potatoes, fish, and whatever else I can
                expirement with!
                Thanks again to y'all! Rick
                p.s. The snowplow just came by so I got to go out and shovel my
                driveway. Were in the middle of gettin' 2 feet of snow! Yecchhh!!!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Take a look at my photos (photos.yahoo.com/colonelcorn76) and the
                  plans materials James has on fornobravo.com and let me know what
                  you're missing in terms of being able to build it.

                  I've built both Alan's rectangular design and the Pompeii. I built the
                  Pompeii because of issues I had with Alan's design. For me as a
                  backyard builder/cook/baker I wanted heating time in under an hour,
                  room for 3 or 4 pizzas at once, ability to bake at least one load of
                  bread. The Pompeii does all of this. Alan's does the last, as well as
                  being able to bake another 3 or 4 loads (as many as 50 or 75 loaves)
                  of bread on one firing. Unfortunately, it takes too long to fire (as
                  much as 6 hrs) and only has room for 1 pizza at a time.

                  I can fill you in on the excruciating details of mass calculations,
                  concrete strength measurements, door height/dome height/diameter
                  ratios, etc. etc. but it all distills down to the plans James has
                  posted. It doesn't take a lot to build in terms of skill. There's an
                  awful lot of room for error or individual technique so don't sweat
                  that. My wife was certain I was building what would wind up as a pagan
                  alter to frittered time & money but is one of the most enthusiastic
                  proponents of this one now.

                  Drop me a note with any detailed questions & I'll fill you in with
                  more detailed answers.

                  Jim

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    -Hi Jim,
                    Thanks for the invite! If we're ever planning to be down in CT.
                    we'll certainly stop by! We live just north of Boston, MA. Our town
                    got just about 30" of snow on the weekend! I dug out 4 neighbors
                    driveways on our quiet little street and my wife cooked for
                    a 'blizzard party' yesterday. We all had fun but I sure wish I could
                    have fired up the oven for the folks on the street but first I'll
                    have to build one! ;-) Do you ever use it when it's freezing out?
                    Anyway, I've decided to build a dome oven like the one you built
                    (great pics by the way) and I'm sure come spring, I'll have many
                    questions for you! I was wondering if you could explain something to
                    me about the dome building pics? Did you calculate the first dome you
                    traced on the plywood incorectly or did you just decide to angle the
                    first row on top of the walls for looks? I'm a bit confused by the
                    way the pictures jump from tracing the first dome, with that 'sand
                    platform', to a pile of firebrick rubble! Also, I'm going to cover
                    the walls with stone and I'm thinking of putting 4" block on top of
                    the 8" block base so I could face the walls with stone all the way up
                    to the roof.(I'm sure I'll have to mortar them for strength.) Should
                    I then consider making the base wider for room to insulate later? Or
                    is the difference in 4' block and metal studs so minimal, I shouldn't
                    worry about it?(I'm thinking of the width of the vermiculite at the
                    base of the dome sides and backwall)
                    I'm so glad I joined this group because I would have made a huge
                    mistake by building the wrong type of 'backyard' oven.
                    Thanx' again to you and everyone else for all this valuable
                    information! Rick

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      > -Hi Jim,
                      > Thanks for the invite! If we're ever planning to be down in CT.
                      > we'll certainly stop by! We live just north of Boston, MA. Our town
                      > got just about 30" of snow on the weekend! I dug out 4 neighbors
                      > driveways on our quiet little street and my wife cooked for
                      > a 'blizzard party' yesterday. We all had fun but I sure wish I could
                      > have fired up the oven for the folks on the street but first I'll
                      > have to build one! ;-) Do you ever use it when it's freezing out?

                      We cook year round outside. Before the brick oven I would be out there
                      in the snow firing up the smoker. Of course the barbecue grill is
                      always right there on the deck. Everyone I know locally does the same
                      thing. Last year we were cooking in near 0 temps in our shirtsleeves
                      with the heat from the oven keeping us toasty. Froze our butts off
                      when we went inside and realized we had left our jackets outside <g>.

                      > Anyway, I've decided to build a dome oven like the one you built
                      > (great pics by the way) and I'm sure come spring, I'll have many
                      > questions for you! I was wondering if you could explain something to
                      > me about the dome building pics? Did you calculate the first dome you
                      > traced on the plywood incorectly or did you just decide to angle the
                      > first row on top of the walls for looks?

                      The first dome calcs were done based on a miscommunication over the
                      size of the first row of bricks. A circular domed oven is not a
                      hemisphere but rather a sectioned oblate spheroid. A hemisphere (1/2
                      of a ball) won't be self-supporting as the walls will push out. The
                      initial row of bricks is vertical with no angling inward to create the
                      base for the reverse buttress effect of the dome (like an inside out
                      version of the flying buttresses that you can see on the exterior of
                      the Cathedral of Notre Dame).

                      At any rate, James was scurrying over the Italian countryside
                      measuring ovens and checking on how they've been built for the past
                      couple thousand years. So, the "full brick" he told me to use on the
                      first row turned out to be too tall. In Italy oven builders have
                      different sized bricks. So, using the full American firebrick of 9"
                      tall, the dome gets flattened in order to get the right dome
                      height/diameter ratio. The correct size for the first row is a half
                      sized brick. That provides for the right amount of vertical space to
                      build the arch into.

                      >I'm a bit confused by the
                      > way the pictures jump from tracing the first dome, with that 'sand
                      > platform', to a pile of firebrick rubble!

                      The sand platform idea turned out to be a bad one due to the volume of
                      sand needed. I used something similar when I built a Scott rectangular
                      oven last year (using a pile of sand & mulch to provide the form for
                      the vault). After getting the size of the first row correct I was able
                      to calculate the spacing & angles necessary for getting the right dome
                      arch.

                      >Also, I'm going to cover
                      > the walls with stone and I'm thinking of putting 4" block on top of
                      > the 8" block base so I could face the walls with stone all the way up
                      > to the roof.(I'm sure I'll have to mortar them for strength.)

                      Definitely workable. That was my original idea until I found the roof
                      tiles which made it look more Italianate and led me to the decision to
                      do the stucco finish.

                      >Should
                      > I then consider making the base wider for room to insulate later? Or
                      > is the difference in 4' block and metal studs so minimal, I shouldn't
                      > worry about it?(I'm thinking of the width of the vermiculite at the
                      > base of the dome sides and backwall)

                      There's enough room to keep the same dimensions and use block instead.
                      It was spec'ed slightly oversized so I could clad it with additional
                      concrete if I needed more thermal mass.

                      > I'm so glad I joined this group because I would have made a huge
                      > mistake by building the wrong type of 'backyard' oven.
                      > Thanx' again to you and everyone else for all this valuable
                      > information! Rick

                      I learned a lot building the Scott design and I think it helped when I
                      got to building the Pompeii. If I hadn't built Alan's design I
                      wouldn't have known what I really wanted so it wasn't a total loss.

                      Jim

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Following on with the debate regards oblong (post box) ovens against round ovens. I build commercial wood-fired bread ovens here in the UK; in general these ovens are rectangular for several reasons. Commercial bread bakers require several functions to be available to them from their oven at the same time. These are: bake as much bread as possible from one (economic) firing, the oven also has to be able to contain the steam that is generated from the bread being baked so as to provide a good crust (this requires a low crowned oven), the oven must be able to deliver a constant (though falling temperature) to the baker, the oven needs to be easy to load and unload (in the UK and many other countries bakers use baking trays or setters). All the above requirements can be delivered by utilising the building techniques of an arch and producing an oblong (mailbox) type of oven. However, this type of oven is structurally difficult to build as the physical forces of an arch try to push the oven sidewall outwards and have to be contained.

                        On the other hand, a round oven has several advantages for the occasional user. Firstly they are much easer to construct if using brick, or for that matter any available natural material (ovens have come from peasant cultures, they naturally used building methods that were easy and worked). Secondly, these smaller ovens require a smaller heat up time and consume less fuel. Thirdly, due to their construction they are high arched and much more suited to the higher temperatures needed for pizza baking, they will move the heat around the oven much better than an oblong oven when using for roasting etc.

                        James and I became acquainted with each other for the same reason, to try and bring good quality, easy to build wood-fired ovens to folks who wouldn’t get scared off from and building one by the complexity of a commercial / semi commercial design.
                        Alf

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Lately I've began asking who already did round and mailbox ovens, and I did myself the same question: is it better one or the other for pizzas ?

                          Well, in both cases, who has the mailbox is happy and who has the round one is happy so I am still confused, anyway someone who does many handmade ovens says that the mailbox gives less and less problems of "crack". But speaking with pizzamen, they 100% are sure that round oven is THE pizza oven and mailbox is for bread and other recipes for the reasons you say in your thread. Probably the game is just to understand better how to stay "away" from vault "cracks".
                          Moreover the "real woodoven pizza" must stay the last 30 seconds on the peel and the man must keep the pizza very near to the top of the vault. This is for a oven working at 350 Celsius degrees. To do this I think you need that the heat must go up properly and fast and this happens better*in round ovens.

                          I am asking to the builder of*a rolling project of a big round*pizza oven and I hope to discover some other tips nextly.

                          Cheers.
                          Wally from Italy

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hi Wally,
                            I've built both. When all I had to cook in was the Scott design I was
                            happy. But, I wanted to do things I couldn't -- heat it in under an
                            hour & cook 3 pizzas at once (I have 4 kids & many friends who love
                            pizza & bread). Everyone I know who has a Scott oven wishes it were
                            bigger.

                            So I looked into building a bigger Scott oven. That's when I
                            discovered the problems with the mass & heating times. The bigger the
                            footprint the longer it takes to heat up---heat that's wasted unless
                            you're baking a lot of bread.

                            Then I looked into round ones. The result is that my latest oven
                            (Pompeii) heats in under an hour, cooks 3 pizzas at once in about a
                            minute, can bake a dozen loaves of bread and still have enough heat to
                            do a pork roast. Not bad.

                            For the average homeowner round is better. For the serious volume
                            bread baker the rectangle is better (although one could also just add
                            a lot of thermal mass to the round one).


                            Jim

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Round Italian oven or breadbuilder's oven???

                              Now that's an historical post!

                              My next oven will not have much thermal mass and be portable )
                              sigpicTiempo para guzarlos..... ...enjoy every sandwich!

                              Comment

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