I have no issue bringing the walls to 800+ and the floor to 500-600 but after the second pizza the bottom is staying undercooked and the top is perfect. I built everything to specs and followed exact mixing ratios, am I doing something wrong? Am I supposed to reheat the floor every 2 pizzas?
Last question: anyone using some sort of shield to slow down the cooking process?
To me it sounds like your not letting the oven heat soak long enough. I usually get the top to about 1000 and the floor to about 800. It takes me over an hour to do this. To heat up the floor you need direct contact with a lot of hot, glowing coals so I start with a good sized fire to generate the coals and keep adding wood (3-4 pieces at a time) to keep the blaze going.
I also start the fire right where I’ll be cooking and, as I add wood, I’ll grow the fire towards the back of the oven so that I have primarily coals in the front and most of the fire in the back half of the oven.
Typically I can cook 5-6 pizzas before the deck gets below 600 at which point you move the fire around to reheat. Some people move the fire side-to-side. I’ve tried that but have settled on pushing the fire to the back while cooking.
One other hint: Don’t give up It took me quiet a few attempts before I found a method that gives me the results I want.
Everything Ken @kgondoly said is spot on, and I just want to second his final word of advice about patience. It’s a learning process, and it’s taken a season of fires for me to feel confident that I’ll get the fire I’m looking for.
As for a shield: yes, there are times when it is necessary. Last evening I baked a focaccia bread, which requires a much slower fire than pizza. I’m using a cast iron quarter sheet pan. I have to shield the side closest to the fire at all times or it will char quickly. A sheet of aluminum foil, slightly crinkled, does the trick. You are shielding from infrared heat rather than the direct flame.
Keep at it, and let us know how things progress for you!
Thank you bikerbudmatt and kgondoly for the advice and comments. I am a fisherman so I am all about patience
I am pushing the coals to the side rather than the back but I will try the back next time.
I appreciate the tip about using aluminum foil. I was at a local tile store this morning shopping for mosaic tiles for the oven and was chatting with one of their employees, he mentioned that he built a similar oven and he put two layers to metal sheets under the firebricks and that helped tremendously with hearth heat retention. Too late for me, but I wanted to share in case anyone wants to try it for new builds.
I would avoid the advice of using metal sheets under the firebricks. You want insulation between the firebricks and the supporting structure, not conduction. Sand and the perlite/vermiculite layer prevent the concrete hearth slab from wicking the heat away from the floor of your oven. Metal will speed the heat transfer into the hearth slab.
This might be over doing it but I fire the oven for around 2 hours before cooking. A laser thermometer is critical! After I brush back the coals I’m looking for 700-800 on the floor. It will sometimes get up to 1000 and I simply just wait for it to cool down a little before sliding a pie in.
I don’t think I’d go that route. The layers in your oven hearth are:
Firebrick heat retention and refraction back up and into your food
Sand neutral layer primarily there to level the firebrick
Insulation a thermal break to stop, or at least slow, heat transfer to the foundation layer
Concrete the foundation layer that bridges the load of your entire oven between the vertical supports of the concrete block base
If you add a layer of metal sheeting between these solid layers, it will promote more rapid conduction of heat away from the firebrick.
When I mentioned aluminum foil, it was in the context of cooking when I want to shield food from infrared heat, which is transferred as light waves through the air. That’s where metal can help, because it is an opaque layer that won’t melt at these temperatures. It is still conducting heat, but not as much as you’d think because in the air convection also comes into play and hot air rises.
In the solid layers of your hearth, infrared heat won’t come into play because your firebrick are also opaque. So the metal will conduct heat without blocking infrared waves.
I also had issues with the floor cooling too quickly. It took multiple attempts over a year’s time (so patience is key!) but here’s what I found:
I used vermiculite, not perlite, as part of my insulation in the floor. Vermiculite absorbs water, unlike perlite, so it seemed like we had steamed pizza at first. After many (6 or more?) HOT fires, this problem went away
Definitely build your fire over where the pizza will go and then push it to the back. It’s helped to push a little of it to the side which seems to keep the floor hotter longer.
3} I wondered if the fire brick I used for the floor was of the optimal mix of silica, etc. So I purchased a baking stone and put it over the brick. It seems to cool fairly quickly but it measures hotter (850 degrees) than the fire brick did (less than 800 degrees, typically). here’s the one I bought: Avantco 18" x 18" Square 13/16" Thick Cordierite Pizza Stone for Countertop Pizza Ovens (avantcoequipment.com)
pizza cooking technique: Our crusts are probably not as thin as they should be so, after turning with a pizza peel to get the sides done, I’ll lift the pizza up near the top of the oven for a minute before taking it out.
I’m still not fully satisfied with heat retention and, yes, I insulated it exactly according to the instructions.
I’m having to rekindle/re-fire the oven after every 2 - 3 pizzas so now I’m considering using propane to boost/maintain the internal temp.
Any suggestions for how to do this to an existing Mattone Barile oven?
Search “propane” and you’ll find a number of threads on the subject. There are some folks who built it in from the beginning. Since your oven is fully built it will take some effort to retrofit it, but I believe that involves drilling a hole for your supply line.
And above all, please, please make sure your oven has plenty of ventilation. Adding a gas burner is a serious proposition because of the CO it produces.
Another thought: if you’re not happy with your crusts, it may be the recipe you’re using. This post has a link to a book I swear by. The author is an American pizzaiola who, among other things, engineered his Neapolitan (thin) dough recipes by traveling to Naples and Rome and learning from the best.
Invest 10 minutes (literally) in making the dough and 24 hours in letting it ferment in your refrigerator, and you’ll have a thin Neapolitan crust with rich and complex flavors that will bring tears to your eyes and praise from your guests.
Recently I had to make pizza on very short notice, and broke down and bought the ready-made dough in a bag sold by a local bakery in the supermarket. Big mistake—even though it seemed relatively fresh, it kept pulling back in on itself and puffed up like a marshmallow in the high heat of my oven. I would have been better off calling for takeout.
Question here for Pete do you add the stone at the beginning of the burn or at sometime while the oven is heating. I am struggeling with floor temp at times and the stone maybe the trick. The stone has to get hot so i would think you would add it at the beginning of the burn
let me know. Also i was thinkg of covering the whole floor with the pizza stone this way it is a more unform surface. Another advantage to the stone is that now you are inch higher to the dome.
It’s certainly one way to go if you’ve having trouble keeping the floor hot enough. I’d check the underlying causes first as mentioned above.
If you want to try it out with a single Corderite stone first you want to wait until you’ve started pushing back your flames. Most stones need 15 to 20 minutes to warm up, and if there’s nothing underneath to help that, they will need longer. But I would think it would get in the way of building your fire, so better it’s out of the way at first.
Yes. I has a 6" high stainless steel plate with feet made to separate the embers from the cooking surface for when I make bread. Normally I sweep out all of the embers and place the dough in an oven without embers. This will allow me to maintain enough heat for more than one baking cycle.
Oven floor temp. I found this to work all the time. Keep the embers on the spot you want ot bake the pie. for me it is the right corner of the oven. build a blazing inferno to the left.
Once the inferno of flames is rolling over the top of the oven, brush the embers to the back and to the left. clean the floor with rag on a pole, At that point you have a coal bed in the back and massive flame to the left, The floor should be between 700 and 750. Put the pizza in.
To maintain this keep that flame massivly burning and with the coal bed, this should maintain floor temp.
I also added the flue damper and reduced the front to 240 cm sq as per the instructions
Also quick tip. build the front reduction 10" from the mouth of the oven. You want to cut off part of the flue area from the main oven, That is how the dome oven designs do it
Also you need to start at a floor temp of over 750 and go from there.
A couple years removed from the completion of my oven, I still struggle mightily with floor temperature.
Can the experts and scientists weigh in regarding the idea of adding a layer of fire brick on top of the existing floor?
The smoke problem was solved when I learned more about building and maintaining fires. I have been able to get my oven to 1,000 degrees with the oven floor reaching 700 degrees to start.
The base and hearth are built to specs.
I have never timed the heat up. Typically, since I don’t use my oven frequently, I start a fire several hours in advance and build slowly until the end.
The floor just seems to cool very quickly.
I completed my oven recently. When i am doing pies it is usually 10 to 12, 12 inch pies. I find that raking the coals over the cooking area after my second pie works great. They stay there while we cut the pie, and i prepare the next one. I am in California, not super cold here. Hope that helps