If you are looking for a fantastic project to do over a few weekends, you may enjoy this one. Making your own clay oven is great fun and messy too, everything that boys want. The basic design is simple, but it can be hard work to prepare and apply the clay.
The principle behind the oven is to heat it up with fire and allow the energy it stores to cook the food. It can reach incredible temperatures in there, so you will need a few attempts at cooking a pizza until you get it right. Each oven has its own characteristics and only with experience can you figure them out.
You can build the oven on the floor, but that makes it very awkward to tend the fire. Make a plinth instead; all you need is some bricks or stone and some sand. Lay the bricks in a circle of about seventy-five centimeters in diameter and as tall as you want the structure to be. When it is complete, and the mortar has set, fill the tube you made with sharp sand and ram it down to make it nice and firm.
Make the bottom of the oven out of fire bricks. You will find them at your local builders merchant. Sink the fire bricks into the sand so they are level with the walls of the plinth.
You make the oven out of clay. It is the clay walls and the firebrick base that hold onto the heat that you generate when you burn sustainably sourced kiln dried logs in it. Here’s the process.
- Make a dome shape on top of the firebricks using damp sharp sand. The dome will be the shape of the inside of the oven.
- Cover the dome in newspaper and wet it with PVA glue and water. It will help the sand hold its form while you are covering it in clay.
- Empty a bag of clay onto a polythene sheet and wet it. Now the whole family can have some fun, especially the children, by treading the clay to make it soft and malleable. Mix some sharp sand into it too.
- When it is ready, start building the clay up in layers around the dome. Keep adding more until it is about two inches thick. Cut an arch into the front of it before it sets. That will be the oven door.
- When you finish the oven, scrape out all of the sand from inside it.
- Light the fire inside the oven with small sticks to fire it gently. Don’t build a big one to begin with, or the clay will crack.
Now the oven is finished you can start experimenting with food. Light a fire in it and let it burn for about thirty minutes so that the fire bricks and clay absorb much of the heat. Then, when the fire has died down, push the charcoal to the sides and put a pizza in there for about one or two minutes. Remember it will take practice to get it right. When you master the technique, move on to joints of meat wrapped in foil. It is great fun.
A clay oven is an ideal accessory for ‘preppers’ because it will work should the power be cut off. It is also a manly way to cook, so leave him to it and put your feet up. That sounds like a good idea to me.