Weekend Firing

A busy weekend on the WFO front with family visiting.  It was pizza on Friday evening, then baked some bread and closed the fire up about 10.30pm.  The oven was still at 150C when I put some pork spare ribs in on Saturday morning and they out really well 4 hrs later.  Then we fire the oven up again, not as fiercely as for pizza, to do some general cooking and then closed up for the night.  Sunday was my first attempt at cooking a large fore-rib joint which went in at 9.30 (170C) and 4hrs later it was cooked beautifully and the oven was still 140C.  All in all a great experience.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photos in the rush to get the food served.

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I’m not quite finished with the construction as I still have to put on the external render coat once we get 2 or 3 days forecast without rain, but I need to say thankyou to a few suppliers.

In building the oven probably the most difficult thing has been finding suppliers of some of the materials, however, having found suppliers, their first response is often incredulity, ‘why do you want to build a WFO?’, they then quickly move to being very helpful.  In fact I’ve generally found the people at suppliers I’ve dealt with have gone that extra bit to help me, so I thought I would mention them and their company:

Peter at Midland Refractories, West Bromwich

Julie at CP Insulations, Newcastle


Dennis at Kitsons Thermal Supplies, Newcastle

Mike at Thermal Ceramics, Bromborough

Without whose help, it would have been very difficult to complete the WFO



DoorIts been a very busy last few weeks.  I’ve fired up the oven on several occasions and even got the whole of the dome white on the last couple of times.  I managed to cut my thumb fairly seriously while chopping some wood, not very nice but I’ll learn to keep my fingers out of the way next time.

Thanks to some help from a friend and a friendly supplier, I’ve got a new oven door consisting of a couple of thicknesses of insulation board sandwiched between two mild steel 3mm plates.  This should help the insulation a lot and I’m looking forward to firing the oven up later this week and will do some measurements on heat loss soon.

Sourdough Loaf

Hand Made LoafI baked this sourdough loaf, one of two, in the WFO following a small pizza party yesterday afternoon, I am very pleased with the result.

I followed the White Leaven Bread recipe in Dan Lepard’s Handmade Loaf, and the photo is very similar to that in the book.  The crumb texture is good, the crust is a softer than I expected and I burnt the bottom slightly, though the other loaf was fine.  Best of all the taste is excellent.

The flour is unbleached organic stone ground strong white flour from a local Northumberland farm/mill, Gilchesters Organics, good quality but expensive.  Unfortunately, their website has been in development for a number of months.

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Firt Pizza Party

I rashly arranged a pizza party for 9 people last evening.  The oven took a little longer to heat up, mainly because I was moving from oven to kitchen to prepare stuff so I struggled to maintain the fire as I would have liked.  I still haven’t managed to get the full ceiling white but the pizza’s cooked really well, particularly the bottoms,  the tops were good but could have been better.

I used the party to check out a range of different pizza toppings, as well as two types of dough and buffalo vs commercial block mozzarella.  The sourdough based dough needs starting at least the day before, whereas the quick instant yeast only needs about 3-4hrs so is ideal for last minute pizzas.  I don’t have the most discerning palette and struggled to tell any taste difference, similarly with the two mozzarella, although some of the party could tell the difference in taste.  I need to experiment with older more ’sour’ doughs.

Sorry there are no pictures but it was none stop, thankfully one of the lads helped me with the cooking.  Thanks Bri.


White WFO CeilingI’m not sure how well this shows but you can see that the oven ceiling is changing colour from sooting black to clean white.  This is an indication that firebrick is reaching pizza temperatures.  The photo was taken after about 1 hr and by 2 hrs the white area had increased to half way down the wall, which is when I started to cook the pizza.

I had a larger fire this time, though not massively so, the flames were travelling down the dome ceiling and occasionally just through the inner door opening.  I used just short of 2 large bags of logs.

The base of the flue became warm at the front, hot at the back.  I couldn’t feel any increase in temperature on the outside of the dome so the insulation must have been working.

The next job is to get a door made for the inner oven opening.

Sweet Taste of Success

Garlic PizzaI had another go at making pizza in the WFO tonight, using a slightly different and a little bit less wet pizza dough and a hotter oven.  As you can see there was some nice oven dough spring, the base was well cooked,slightly charred, much better than in my electric oven.  I was very happy with the taste but I will be looking to get it even better.

Oh Dear

After finishing the curing fires last week and visiting family for a couple of days, I thought I’d try my first attempt at pizza.  I made the dough, using a new recipe on Saturday and left it in the fridge until early afternoon yesterday(Monday).  Got the fire going, 1 1/2 hours later went to make the pizza.  First problem - the pizza stuck to the table and then to the pizza peel and ended up in a heap on the oven floor, oh dear :( I did manage to get the second pizza into the oven in one piece, but, seconf problem, the oven was just not hot enough to cook the pizza in the couple of minutes I was expecting.  Sorry no pictures, I had to rush off to a meeting which also didn’t help.

So next time, I will use a bigger fire and try to make sure that the soot burns off the roof before I put the pizza in.  I will also have to work (a lot) on my pizza making technique.

Curing Fire 3

Curing Fire 3This is the 3rd of a series of curing fires, raising the temperature by about 50C each time, this fire got the dome up to about 170C at its maximum.  The purpose of the curing fires is to gradually ease any physical thermal building stresses and to avoid any major cracks in the dome.  Dome cracks are considered inevitable but the aim of the curing fires is to minimise both the number and size of any cracks.

Finished ….. Almost

Vermicrete InsulationI finished the vermicrete insulation layer today, somewhere between 75 and 100mm thick over the eramic blanket.  It was quite easy if a little slow to put on, pressing it into place by hand.

There’s still a weatherproof layer of render to go on but the dome needs to dry out before I put that on.

I’ll wait a few days for the vermicrete to set properly and dry out a little before starting the curing fires.