Round Italian oven or breadbuilder's oven???
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.*
Stanley & Diane
> 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.
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)
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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!!!
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.
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
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