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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
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If you enjoy the taste of traditional Neapolitan pizza with its light, fluffy texture and a slightly smoky flavor, you should try building your own wood fired pizza.
A high-quality wood fired pizza oven takes under 90 seconds to cook your raw pizza dough and infuse your food with smoky aromas and flavors. You’ll impress your friends and family when they see your rustic-style clay pizza oven.
Building your own wood fired pizza oven is an easier process than you might imagine, and it’s a more cost-effective way of getting that authentic flavor than investing several hundred dollars in a premium-grade, pre-made clay model.
What is a Wood Fired Pizza Oven and Why Should You Build One?
A wood fired oven uses exceptionally high heat to cook pizzas in just over a minute, creating food that’s infused with a tinge of tasty and earthy smokiness. You fire up these ovens by placing seasoned hardwood on one side of the oven’s central brick or concrete base plate. You then light this dried wood and wait until it burns down to coals, and the oven reaches a high temperature of around 750°F. You use a wooden or metal pizza peel to slide your uncooked pizza into the kiln.
These types of ovens produce delightfully soft and doughy Neapolitan-style pizzas in under 90 seconds, and you’ll love the slightly bittersweet, woody undertones that the dry, rich smoke imparts into the food. The seasoned hardwood burns at a blazing and consistent temperature, reflecting off the structure’s domed interior, ensuring an even cook.
Also, you’ll find that a wood fired oven brings a dash of Mediterranean-style decor to your backyard, elevating the look of your patio.
Deciding Where to Put Your Wood Fired Pizza Oven
Before you learn how to build a wood fired pizza oven, you’ll need to figure out where exactly to place it. This oven is a permanent structure, so you won’t be able to move it to another section of your patio or backyard after constructing it.
Most wood fired ovens make plenty of smoke during the cooking process, so try to build it somewhere that’s not too close to your outdoor seating area or your neighbors’ backyard. Also, make sure you’re not constructing this oven directly beside or underneath leafy shrubs.
How to Build a Wood Fired Pizza Oven
When learning how to build a wood fired pizza oven, there are five simple steps to consider.
1. Build the base structure of your oven
The first step to constructing your wood fired pizza oven is to build the foundations. You can use several materials to create the frame for this structure, from cinder blocks to concrete to timber sleepers. Just make sure you’re using a suitable bonding agent to stick your bricks or cinder blocks together, like cement or mortar.
Before you begin building this base, you’ll need to dig a shallow trench in your backyard where you’re going to put the oven. This process helps you find a firm and compact subsoil which strengthens the lower foundations of your unit.
The easiest method for constructing the oven’s plinth is to use treated timber to create a sturdy and durable framework. You want the square foundation to be around 3’ high by 4’ wide. Make sure you’re using a power drill to screw the wooden slabs together and construct a strong foundation.
Once you’ve constructed the plinth, fill the hollow wooden square with a layer of large stones, then a thin bed of sand, sediment, and crushed glass. This process will create a basin underneath the oven’s floor that catches heat from the brick or concrete base plate and emits this heat back up toward the food.
You’ll then need to build the oven’s base plate itself by filling in the top of your box with bricks or concrete. Regardless of the material you use, make sure that this surface is smooth and unblemished.
2. Make the mold for your dome
You can use wet sand to construct the mold for your oven’s dome, but some people prefer to build this dome with hard clay bricks and mortar, using a trammel tool to help create the unit’s signature curve.
If you’d prefer to use wet sand, order between 260-270 lbs. of this material, then clump it all on top of your foundation structure and shape it into a smooth dome. Aim for a shape that’s between 30-35” in diameter by 15-18” tall.
Rinse several sheets of newspaper, then cover the dome with these damp sheets: this process keeps the dome moist while you puddle the clay.
3. Build the initial clay layer around your mold
When you puddle the clay for the layers of your dome, stick to a general ratio of 1 bucket of clay to 2 buckets of wet sand, where the buckets measure around 10 liters. You should need 3 buckets of clay for your initial layer and 4 buckets for the second major layer.
You can use your feet or an electric drill with a paddle attachment to mix these 2 ingredients and create a moist, thick substance that is ideal for constructing your dome.
Once you’ve created this mixture, you can build the first layer of clay and sand around your dome mold. The easiest way to do this is to split the puddled material into long, cylindrical rolling pin shapes, then wrap each piece around the mold until the whole dome is coated with this substance. Make sure that this first layer is between 2½-4” thick.
4. Create the entrance to your oven
On this take you'll be laying the bricks for the entrance. Let the clay dry for between 4-6 hours. You can now use a sharp knife to cut a smooth crescent aperture in the front of your clay oven. Be careful not to make this entrance too large: you don’t want lots of heat escaping from the unit during the cooking process. Aim for a hole that’s just under 8” high by just under 12” wide.
You can then use a shovel or small rake to remove all the wet sand from inside the dome. This sand should be dry by this point, so it won’t be too difficult to scoop it all out.
After you’ve removed all the sand from inside the oven, you can use a trammel and wooden supports to build a brick archway above the mouth of the unit. If you’ve got any surplus puddling mixture, use this as an adhesive agent that connects the bricks to the rest of the dome.
Create a hole just behind the brick entrance towards the top of the dome, and use concentric circles of clay to shape this circle into a small chimney.
5. Add the final layer to your mold
After you’ve let the clay set around your brick archway, mix clay, water, and some wood shavings and add this substance to the dome as an insulation layer. Leave the mixture to dry for 2-3 hours, then create your final layer of puddling using the previous ring method.
Leave the oven to dry out for between 5-7 days, then cure the interior by lighting a fire inside as you would when preparing to cook a pizza and let it burn for several hours. Allow the oven to cool off completely. Then, it is ready to use.
Build Your Own Wood Fired Pizza Oven and Be the Talk of the Neighborhood
Taking the time and effort to build your own woodfired pizza oven can elevate the look of your backyard and allow you to serve delicious and fresh homemade pizzas to friends and family. But a woodfired oven isn’t just for cooking Italian classics because there are many foods to cook in an outdoor pizza oven that you can try. Try whole roasted chick or suckling pig, or enjoy baked root vegetables with a subtle smoky flavor at your next backyard cookout.
Once you're done with the construction, there are other things you can explore. You can read our tips on using a pizza oven or look into our outdoor pizza oven reviews that you can bring without going out camping.