Instructions for Curing Your Pizza Oven
Follow these instructions for curing your pizza oven. Curing wood fired ovens is critical to your pizza oven’s performance. Failure to follow these instructions can result in damage, up to and including cracking the dome, severely impacting heat retention.
NOTE: If you have a gas assist commercial oven, there are shortcuts to the curing process you can find in the Installation Manual. A Forno Bravo technician can be made available through our contact form to help walk you through some tricks to make this easier.
1-Why is proper curing so important?
When cast, your oven contains a high ratio of water to concrete that has to be baked out of the oven. This curing process actually strengthens the dome, when done properly. However, if the oven gets too hot too fast, that water seeks to escape the entire dome’s thickness simultaneously and can result in cracking the dome.
Also, after you have installed your oven, there is still a great deal of moisture in the mortars, hearth concrete, vermiculite, and the oven chamber and vent. Each of these oven components was recently produced using an air-drying, water-based process. Simply letting the oven stand for a week does not “cure” the moisture out of the oven.
2-Can I cure the oven dome without installing the insulation and decorative facade?
Technically you can, but it isn’t recommended for a few reasons:
- Without insulation, you will experience heat loss making it more difficult to manage to proper temperatures;
- Without insulation, it can present a fire and safety hazard;
- After curing, your oven can reach temperatures in excess of 1,000° F, so if you cure it, then do your stucco facade, the first time you cook pizza, the stucco will also have water that tries to dry and cure causing it to crack and possibly ruin your seal on the oven.
3-When can I start my curing process?
Before you start the curing process, let the complete oven sit for one week. It doesn’t matter if it rained during that week; moisture often helps the natural strengthening of the refractory material.
If you purchased a fully assembled pizza oven from Forno Bravo, this doesn’t apply as the assembly time in our facility is sufficient.
4-How do we cure the oven?
While it is difficult to maintain consistent, low-temperature fires, it is critical for proper curing that you do not go above these temperatures during the first two days.
It is important that you cure your pizza oven slowly over a 5-day period. You build a series of five increasingly larger fires, starting with a low temperature (see below). The first-day fire is no more than kindling and thin strips of wood.
Day 1: 300ºF for 6 hours (longer is better)
Start and maintain the fire in the center of the interior dome wall, not on either side or back of the oven. You don’t want the fire to get too high and touch the dome as direct contact with the fire will spike temperatures.
You won’t put the door all the way in the oven, but rather use it as a windbreak allowing about a 1-inch gap once the fire is lit. Lean the door back on its handle allowing the temperature gauge to get an accurate temperature. Also, this will help direct the smoke up the vent because at lower temperatures the wood will not burn off the impurities as fast.
Use the analog temperature gauge provided in the oven door/frame. The temperature gauge reads the oven’s air temperature. For a more accurate temperature reading of the oven refractory surfaces, you can use a Digital Infrared Thermometer, which can be purchased in the Forno Bravo Store. This type of thermometer is helpful in many types of wood and gas fired cooking.
You want to measure the temperature at the dome of the oven, not the side wall or floor. This will be the hottest point of the oven. The temperature can vary slightly, but try not to exceed the temperature for that day’s cure schedule by more than a few degrees, better to be 20 degrees cooler than hotter. Especially on day one and two.
Close the oven door every evening to preserve dryness and heat.
Day 2: Repeat process at 350ºF
Day 3. Repeat at 400ºF
Day 4. Repeat at 450ºF
Day 5. Repeat at 500ºF
- Use solid wood fuels only.
- DO NOT use charcoal, pressure treated lumber, chipped wood products, sappy wood such as pine, laminated wood, or any material other than dry, medium- or hard-firewood.
- DO NOT USE liquid fuel (firelighter fluid, gasoline, lantern oil, kerosene or similar liquids) to start or maintain a fire.
- You can start the fire with an acetylene torch if you have one handy.
- Food grade fire starters are considered acceptable aids when starting a fire.
- Do not use products not specified for use with this oven.
- Never use water to lower the temperature inside the oven, or to extinguish the fire. This will increase wear and tear on your oven and can lead to “spalling,” pitting, and cracking your floor tiles.
- There must be a period of time between completing the masonry work and beginning the actual firing cure.
- Longer is better than shorter, particularly for the actual dome cement.
- The cement and mortar must cure first and this process is actually improved by keeping the cement moist and not letting it dry out.
- Space heaters should not be used to cure an oven. It will produce a high amount of steam in the oven and can become a safety hazard, so it is not recommended.
- If you notice a black smoke coming from the oven, don’t panic. That is food grade grease which is used in the de-molding process. The smoke will be a little heavy for the first 2 days and will dissipate through the rest of the curing process.
Congratulations. Your oven is complete and ready for Cooking.