Want a brick oven not just for pizza? Then a Portuguese oven is the one for you!
What is a Portuguese oven, you say? Well it’s different from an Italian, Neapolitan or regular oven in that it has a higher dome, producing less intense heat. This means that it is more suitable for cooking bread, lasagnas, slow roasts and other food that need lower temperatures!
While this DIY oven generates less heat than what a pizza requires, you can still definitely bake your favourite pizza in a Portuguese oven. But of course, it is much easier to maintain the needed 900-1100F temperature in an Italian oven. :)
Nevertheless, a Portuguese oven is a great option if you want a single, more versatile cooker especially if you have limited outdoor space!
Is this the kind of oven you want to have in your yard?
- 1 x 3 Timber
- Clay Brick
- Fire Bricks or Terracotta Tiles (for the cooking floor)
- Portland Cement Mix
- Refractory Cement
- 6 – 8 lb densitiy Ceramic Fiber
- Rigid Mineral Board or Mineral Wool
- Steel Bars
- Plastic Covering
- Used Cans
- Regular Lifting Shackles
- Chicken Wire
- Latex Concrete Paint
- Clay, Stainless Steel or Black Stove Pipe
- Tiles, Stones, Bricks or Stucco (for aesthetics)
- Brick Cutter
- Rounded Bricks
- Fireplace Mortar
There are a few things about the Portuguese brick oven which are different than a traditional DIY firebrick oven in USA.
1) the bricks used are clay. yes, regular clay bricks – they will hold up to the high Ts even though they will have small cracks – this is normal. Clay brick are very cheap in USA, the last i saw was about 80 cents per brick and i’m sure there are places that sell for less.
2) ideally the bricks should be rounded. these are widely available in Portugal, not so widely in US but importers are started to bring them in and in general i believe they are possible to come buy. if you don’t have rounded bricks then the straight ones will do.
3) as the dome is higher than a Neapolitan oven. In a Neapolitan brick oven the inside heights of the dome is 16″-18″. In the Portuguese it should be 25″ in the middle.
The base platform: Like all things a good brick oven will require a good foundation. The foundation is made from cement, reinforced with steel bars. We like to keep the corners rounded as opposed to straight because straight corners can easily suffer damage when you move your oven – they can break off. You will need to make a mould for your base – most likely from 1×3 timber. This is just the frame – 4 sides. You don’t really need a floor for your mould as long as you construct it on something flat and solid and to which cement will not stick. If you are doing this in your garage on concrete floor this is great, but make sure to cover your floor with a few layers of plastic to make sure the oven does not stick to the floor. To make corners rounded insert anything that will provide this shape on the 4 corners – this can be just a few bricks if you have a grinder and can create this semicircle shape, or… used cans! You will need to cut them in the middle to get the right shape, this way each can can provide for 2 corners.
You can pour a 2″ layer of Portland cement, wait 1 day for it to harden a little and then we need to place the metal bars before pouring more cement. Very important: since eventually you will want to lift your oven you need to leave lifting eyes exposed, 1 on each corner. In order for these lifting eyes to function the whole structure of rebars inside the base of the oven has to be interconnected – otherwise you stand the risk of the lifting eye being ripped out when you try to lift the oven. Hence there is some welding involved in this stage unless you can get them already welded together – a frame… Once you have joined the rebars together you will need to add a lifting eye on each corner. You can use regular lifting shackles from a hardware store, this should save you some welding, just make sure they are large enough to let a hook inside even after you pour the additional 1″ layer of cement.
Pour the remaining 1″ layer, make sure the lifting eyes are pointing straight up to allow hooks to be inserted later.
Once the cement has hardened (at least 4-5 days) you can remove your timber frame. Lay out the first layer of clay brick as shown here.
Add a layer of sand inside and then mineral wool – at east 2″. Better ceramic fiber and even better rigid mineral board but the last 2 items are not available from Home Depot and are a little costly while mineral wool is sold by Home Depot and is cheaper.
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