Build Your Own Barrel OvenAdvertisement
Build Your Own Barrel Oven – There’s a promising outdoor oven: The wood-fired barrel oven promises some pretty compelling advantages over a cob or factory oven, and it’s the subject of the latest book Build Your Own Barrel Oven by Max and Eva Edleson. It’s the first I’ve heard of this particular design, and I must say it definitely caught my attention, and the Edlesons’ book does a fantastic job of describing the blueprints and construction process for these relatively simple and efficient pizzas and breads. wonders
Have you been thinking about building your own outdoor oven or are you intrigued by the idea of cooking pizza with wood? Read on for my book review and a better understanding of the advantages of building your own barrel kiln.
Build Your Own Barrel Oven
The barrel oven is, well, exactly that. It is an ingenious oven built around a horizontal metal drum, wood-fired and relatively simple to build, with few specialized materials; in fact, it can be built largely from recycled and readily available items. Think barrel, bricks, chimney, mud and sand, stone or cinder blocks and a few other materials. It’s still a somewhat unusual design, especially compared to the very popular cob ovens, but as the book describes, the barrel oven offers very distinct advantages over its relatives.
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The main advantage, obviously, is that you can cook in about 15-20 minutes after lighting the fire. Now, if you’re familiar with cob or clay ovens, you’ll know that they usually need at least 2 hours of cooking time before you can use them.
How does it work? Well, this is not a massive kiln: the fire is built under the barrel, in a separate fire chamber, and the heat wraps around the outside, in a gap between the barrel and a brick arch. Therefore, the barrel quickly heats up to cooking temperatures. A cob oven, on the other hand, cooks directly, and the solid dome heats up slowly, and after the fire is removed, the food is cooked with the stored heat of the dome and hearth.
Again, the speed and ease of use of a barrel oven is a major attraction. No more baking in an oven for three hours to cook! The excellent fuel efficiency that comes with it is a big draw, and the cleanliness of the kitchen environment is also key. And as you can imagine, the barrel oven is spacious. Max and Eva report that they have not heard of barrel burns in any of the rigs they or anyone else has built, suggesting that the furnaces have a long life, with adequate protection from the rain.
Sounds good! The downside may be that pizza lovers who want to cook in a warm hearth won’t be able to achieve the same effect with a barrel oven – a pizza stone will be necessary here. And, with the fire out of the barrel, you can find that wood-burning flavor. But these may be minor shortcomings, considering all the other positive aspects.
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In any case, heck, you can always have a cob oven and a barrel oven at your disposal, if you have the space. As the authors say, it becomes more efficient to operate a mass oven (like a cob or factory oven) if you are baking regularly (every day), that’s when they excel. When they are not allowed to cool completely, high heat becomes much easier to achieve and maintain, and fuel efficiency is greatly improved. Ultimately, a barrel oven can be more practical with its greater fuel efficiency and ease of use.
Max and Eva have done a great job with this book, clearly presenting the steps needed to build your own barrel oven. The book is presented in full color, with many excellent photographs illustrating the whole process. Beautiful.
Complete with blueprints, diagrams, bill of materials, and even barrel oven bakers’ recipes and reports. It’s all there, nice and concise, in 96 pages. I am very excited about this book, and very anxious to get started on my own barrel kiln, and the book has been a great inspiration. Because I cook almost exclusively with wood heat year-round, and because I love to bake, I can see that the barrel oven will fill an important gap in my kitchen arsenal.
Be sure to check out the Build Your Own Barrel Oven book here. Max and Eva also offer barrel kiln kits for aspiring builders! Our latest excitement at home is no different…it started with dreams of a fire pit being built in the backyard – getting an oven ready to cook our food outdoors. I’m still surprised it’s even built.
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Our good friend Will has inspired me in many ways related to food. He taught me how to bake my beloved sourdough (learn here), from his own magical experience working in a bakery in Greece. Our idea for the oven came when he was talking about his desire to build an outdoor bread oven. We even talked about building one in our backyard a year ago. When his plans changed and he left the area – we were very sad to see him go – and so did we
I had seen too many wonderful videos of my dear Gennaro and Antonio sliding fabulous meals into ovens all over Italy, eating and preparing food… OUT.
You can find the episodes of ‘Two Greedy Italains’ on youtube; we keep seeing them over and over to inspire you.
Really – preparing an entire meal outdoors, cooking it over a fire, and eating it out sounded like my idea of heaven.
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So I came across a new design that sparked an idea: build an outdoor oven made from an old 55 liter drum (on the website I found it was called a barrel oven). The reason I was attracted to this idea was because it was made from very simple materials that can be found in many places around the world. Since we wanted to try things here at home that could be replicated in Haiti (where my cousin lives and works), I thought this would be perfect. It seemed like you could build one as simple or as complex as you wanted.
I had also recently made a new friend whose husband was a welder. When I commented “Oh, I’d love to learn how to weld” – his remark stuck with me – “Scott is a great teacher.”
When I read the options for building this barrel oven, you could either 1. Order the pre-welded oven kit or 2. Solder the parts yourself… I immediately thought of Scott.
It felt a little risky when I emailed the link asking if (this man I had never met) would be willing to share his skills with us. I wanted to learn how to… you know… just put together a working oven out of an old barrel.
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What I didn’t realize was that, in that step of reaching out, I ended up making some very dear new friends.
Max & Eva Edelson wrote this simple book that has basic plans and provides an outline of how to build a barrel kiln. CLICK HERE to order yours.
I invited my new welder friend Scott over and showed him the design. After a few minutes, he called a friend and asked him to set aside a barrel they had. I was dizzy. We were already on our way.
As with many things I assume: I am the eternal optimist. “We can TOTALLY do it!” I say… and indeed we can. It usually involves a little more work than I initially expect.
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Scott gave us an estimate on the cost of the brazing materials and generously offered his time to teach us and help us complete the furnace. Once we saved up enough for the materials (about $200), we were ready to go.
The girls and I got out the sledgehammer and knocked down the old fire “ring” that used to be in our backyard. We needed to get rid of it so we could pour our new cement pad and get ready to build our furnace!
I soon found out that I had NO IDEA what I was talking about when I made that comment about wanting to learn how to weld. I had the idea that you used a small torch-like thing to heat the metal and bend it into the shape you wanted, or fuse pieces together, and voila! magic When the girls and I walked into Scott’s shop and saw all these huge hacksaws, tanks full of argon gas, and cranes on the ceiling to lift, I realized what a BIG gift it was to be there. I love giving my girls hands-on experiences like this for them to learn, but I was in love and in awe of the whole process.
We start with the ash grid. Two pieces of angle iron and a bunch of cut pieces of welded rebar. He was