Sunday, July 11, 2010

An Experiment with a home made Wood fired Pizza Oven

For a long time now i have been fascinated by Wood Fired Pizza Ovens. Then while on a Cycling trip in the Himalayas, i came across one at a friend's Hotel in Naggar Village in Kullu. Now this guy makes amazing Pizzas & you can get one for as little as 75 bucks ( thats INR) . When i was there for a day of chilling out post the cycling trip, he showed me his oven which he'd made himself after an Italian tourist taught him to make Pizzas. Since then i have been obsessed with making one for myself..

I looked a lot of designs on the Internet & they were far too elaborate & took up quite some space. We have a lot trees & plants in our garden, so i didn't have the luxury of too much space. So i decided to come up with a improvisation of my own which could fit into the space i had which was about 2ft X 1.5 ft.

I built the first version of this improvised oven last week. This was a simple modification of the Barbecue I had made earlier out of a piece of scrap cement pipe..

V 1.0 The Barbecue
This was just the pipe with a wire mesh put above & below it , with some bricks underneath.

First run of the Barbecue. Paneer !

V 1.1 The Pizza Oven
In this case I made a foundation of stones & mud & raised a brick fire chamber on which I placed the Wire mesh. On top of it went the pipe. Above it another wire mesh & finally an old dome shaped vessel ( Ghamela ) which I placed inverted.

Getting the oven ready for the first bake...

The insides of the pipe & vessel I coated with a mixture of mud & cow dung ( the fresh variety not being available I used Cow Dung manure or shenkhat )

Oven 1.0 hours after being fired. The mud did not hold up..

The outside was also coated in a similar manner, sealing all gaps except for the ones kept in the fire chamber for air. This design was missing a chimney but I supposed that the air gaps in the fire chamber should be enough.

The Test

One thing that I should have done is let the mug all dry before lighting the oven..but I didnt have the time as we had guests coming over the same evening so it had to be lit before it could properly dry off.. This led to some of the mud falling off due to un even drying due to the heat.

One small problem we found in the design was that it was a bit tough to get the fire started as the fire chamber was very cramped. But this wasn't a big issues as once the fire was lit it was fairly easy to maintain it.

We primarily used the kernels of coconut & waste from Coconut trees as fuel . ( Naralachya Shendya ani zadachya phandya) .The waste from the trees falls of regularly & we have three trees of coconut so this fuel is easily available . Plus the kernels are discarded when we peel the coconuts so they can be used as well.

Our first Pizza ! Just after we took it out of the Oven V1.0

We discovered that the major issue in the design was that A. The wiremesh was too close to the fire & B. That the heat from below was way too high than the heat from the flue gasses trapped in the baking chamber. We tried to mitigate this by putting a tin tray under the pizzas but it wasn't as effective as we thought . The result was that we had to be very careful about the timing of keeping them inside . But still a lot of the pizzas got burnt on the underside if we tried to make sure that they were cooked well up top.

So we decided that the design had to be modified. We were not gonna give up on this since the taste of the pizzas though burnt was absolutely amazing !

V 1.2 Pizza Oven with Design Improvements

The oven in a side view with the chimney at the rear end

In this case, I made 3 major changes.
A. The size & height of the burning chamber was increased. Above this the wire mesh was placed.
B. On top of the mesh, I placed a flat piece of stone tile above the burning chamber which would be used to keep the pizza to be baked. This was placed such that about 40% of the burning chamber was covered by the tile while the rest of the mesh was clear.
C. On the extreme end of the burning chamber ( opposite to the place I kept the tile) , I fixed a small dia cement pipe on the mesh to act as the chimney.

The above image shows the burning & the baking chambers

Finally the main pipe which would serve as the baking chamber & the tile were covered with the mud dung mixture & on top went the inverted Ghamela. Finally it was all covered with a layer of the dung mud mix.

My Brother, Pranav applying the finishing touches to the oven after sealing the top

This one is still to be tested. But we hope that this improvement should do the trick !