A Clay Oven For Perfect Pizza Every Time

Perhaps your taste for pizza has never taken you beyond your local fast-food chain or a frozen pizza from the supermarket, but there are some people for whom only the most authentic will do. A wood-fired clay oven and nothing less is their pre-requisite, and lesser methods of pizza preparation simply aren’t good enough.

[Jan] is one of these pizza perfectionists, and his wood-fired oven is an interesting one because it eschews the traditional dome for a cylinder. His very detailed write-up gives us an interesting insight into its construction. He’s taken the bottom half of an oil drum as his base, and built and fired the clay oven itself around a wooden former. We see his early attempts at a former which distorted under the weight of clay, and we hear about how the clay required reinforcement with chicken wire and straw. Finally, we see the structure being dried out, before an impressive display when firing for the first time. The oven receives a coat of Rockwool insulation but [Jan] has a way to go to learn the oven’s characteristics. Still, this is an oven that will last to refine the perfect morsel given a bit of time.

We like the cylindrical design as an alternative to domed ovens, which can be a bit tricky to build. An oven may be a bit low-tech compared to some of Hackaday’s usual fare, but they can be no less difficult to get right. We’re no stranger to novel flame-based cookery, perhaps you might like to also take a look at this rocket grill.

27 thoughts on “A Clay Oven For Perfect Pizza Every Time

  1. I’m just waiting for the open invitation for lunch :-)

    It’s hard to get a good pizza here as well. The rise of the “$5” dial a “pizza” has killed the concept of a quality (not cheap) pizza. The masses have no taste or appreciation of good food.

      1. I’ve gotta agree and say that fast food pizza is awful, but you don’t necessarily need a wood fire pizza oven to make good pizza. It’s food, and like art, how “good” the pizza is can be a matter of perspective. There is something to be said for a pizza that is cooked properly and the quality of the ingredients but I personally don’t feel that a wood-fire oven adds anything substantial to the final product.

        1. Good points here, but what the oven does for me is twofold:
          1) intense heat of nearly 450°C which bakes the pizza in less than 2 Minutes
          2) relaxation: I like the whole process from chopping wood to eating the selfmade pizza.

          Regarding taste you’re totally right. The oven itself does not add extra flavour. It’s all about ingredients which will be one of my next posts. But really, my kitchen oven doesn’t really cut it with its 280°C…

    1. The irony is not lost on me that while people say they get the ‘hot-n-ready’ pizzas because they don’t want to wait, a top-quality pizza is cooked in ninety seconds flat–faster than the time it takes to put the sauce and toppings on! Is that not the very epitome of ‘fast food’?

        1. I think the point was that people go for the 5 dollar hot and ready pizzas instead of calling ahead for a custom made pizza and picking it up. For those that don’t know, in some areas there are large pizza chains that offer a already cooked (and held in a heater) pizza with one toping for 5 dollars, walk in pick up only. The amusing and ironic thing is that people will say that they don’t want to wait for a pizza to be made but the reality of the situation is that they just don’t want to spend any money, it has nothing to do with time as pointed out by the OP. I have a wonderful pizza place near me, the pizzas are superb and made to order and they use a modern pizza oven (the conveyor belt style). I usually call before i leave work and give them a rough time as to when i would like my pizza ready by and about 95% of the time it is fresh out of the oven as i am walking in the door. I would never take one of those 5 dollar deals as not only do you never know how long they have been in that warmer, the quality of that one ingredient is usually subpar. people who go for those deals either need to admit that they are extremely frugal or lack the forethought to call ahead and place an order for pickup.

          1. The only appeal of it to me, and my family, is that we are all busy between the wife, my 2 teens and myself, sometimes we have no time to wait. An event runs over the time it said at the highschool, when we have another event directly after means we need something NOW, not call in and hope it is ready when we pull up. This happened this week for us, choir show was supposed to be 6pm to 8pm, but ended at 8:20 and my daughter had an event from 8:30-10pm across town for FCCLA we cant even get faux food mcdonalds in that time. We were in and out of the pizza place in under a minute. 2 larges, 4 drinks, swipe card and into the truck. Burn rubber to the next event.

    2. What’s worse is the number of “authentic italian pizza” restaurants after cropping up here, which will all serve you roughly the same thing (with a few more toppings), and charge you anything from €14 to €18 for the pleasure. There’s a reason I eat nothing but pizza when in Italy – it’s almost always delicious, and always incredibly cheap.

  2. The Italians that invented pizza as we know it today will laugh about the concept of “pizza as a sophisticated delicacy”.

    Next in the menu: garlic bread as a gourmet meal …

    Tasty? YES!
    Special? Nope…

    1. Pizza is a street food. Unftrtunately has to be made right to taste good. Even in Italy is easy to eat a bad tasting pizza. Culprit #1 are the frosted precooked pizzas and bases, followed by pizza made with low quality ingedients, and short rising pizza dough. With good ingedients simple toppings are the best.
      A margherita pizza with buffalo mozzarella made with long rising dough, a good oven and eaten immediately is a tasty fast food.

  3. Hmm, why not just use dry sand as support material (like in 3d printers), then apply clay and wait for clay to become dry? Then remove sand and you have dome. Looks too easy, maybe there is something I didn’t think of…

    1. This is the most-used method, yes! Most dome-shaped ovens are built that way. But drying time is much longer plus you need lots and lots of sand. We finished building it in October/November, without using the wood form and force-drying it, may have not dried before May/June following year. That’s why I chose the method described.

    2. The trad way Brits (and probably others, I have no idea) do it is to build a domed frame with thin branches, then make your dome former on it with cow dung. You theb build your clay and straw dome on top of that and fire it, the sticks and dung burn away and fire the clay.

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