Creating an outdoor living space is a great way to expand your home’s footprint and enjoy the warm weather season. While you can add all sorts of custom built-ins to your patio or outdoor kitchen, a pizza oven is one feature that promises to make everybody happy, from household members to backyard guests. Although you can hire a professional contractor to construct an outdoor pizza oven, you can also take the do-it-yourself approach and build one to your exact specifications. Here, we’ll outline how to do it.
Benefits of a backyard pizza oven
As homeowners, we sometimes might add features to our backyards and patios that enhance the ambiance but might not be as functional as a brick pizza oven. This feature is no novelty. Once you build and use it, you’ll find that it is the ideal vehicle for bringing family and friends together over great food. You’ll love spending time in your outdoor living space even more.
Plus, a built-in outdoor brick oven can enhance the value of your home. While it will certainly involve some expense for quality materials, you can generally recoup that expense at sale time should you decide to sell your home. Moreover, a brick pizza oven is a great selling feature that will help you showcase what’s best about your backyard space when it comes time to stage your house for the real estate market.
If you enjoy entertaining family and friends at your home, a brick pizza oven is sure to become your patio focal point. The delicious food you create will help provide a strong foundation for making memories too. Plus, this type of oven heats pizza to perfection; no indoor oven offers the same time of authentic woodfired cooking experience, and you’ll find that during hot, sticky summers, it’s nice to keep the oven heat outdoors!
Building your pizza oven
First, you’ll need to consider the type of pizza oven you want to install. A traditional wood-fired pizza oven is a popular option, but a brick pizza oven or a gas or charcoal pizza oven might be a better option for you. What type of fuel do you want to rely on for operating your oven — gas, wood, or coal? Your choice will govern the type of oven you select. We’ll cover the construction of each, but first, you’ll need to gather some tools for the job.
Installing an outdoor pizza oven can be a fun and rewarding project, but it’s important to take the right steps to prepare before beginning the installation process.
- Check local building codes. Before you start any construction or installation, make sure to check your local building codes and obtain any necessary permits.
- Plan for utilities. If your pizza oven requires gas or electricity, make sure to plan for the necessary utilities before beginning the installation process.
- Consider hiring licensed professionals. They have the knowledge, experience, and training to ensure that the installation is safe, meets local codes and regulations, and operates correctly. Hiring licensed professionals can also protect you from potential liability and ensures that your pizza oven installation is covered by insurance.
- Call your insurance agent. Adding a pizza oven to your property may increase your liability, and your home insurance agent can help you understand any changes that may need to be made to your policy to ensure that you are fully covered.
- Prepare the foundation. Your pizza oven will require a sturdy foundation to support its weight and prevent settling or shifting. Prepare a concrete base or foundation that is level and provides adequate support.
Tools and supplies
Generally speaking, you’ll need these tools and possibly others, depending on the type of oven you decide to build and its required materials.
- Cordless drill
- Circular saw
- Tub to mix concrete
- Concrete mix
- Mortar (and mortar with fire clay for oven interior)
- Metal chimney duct
- Rubber work gloves
Choose the location
Next, decide where you want to put your pizza oven — as a permanent feature, it’s something you can’t easily move once it’s built. Look for a level area with good drainage and adequate space for the oven and any necessary seating or prep areas. It will also get quite hot — the masonry can heat your oven to between 50 to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit to bake a pizza in roughly two to three minutes. Don’t locate your oven near anything flammable, like a pergola or garden foliage.
Build the oven
Find a concrete oven plan online for specific instructions for building the oven type and size you have in mind. In general, building a DIY pizza oven is pretty simple if you have experience with building materials, which include concrete, bricks, and mortar. If you don’t have experience, it may be a moderately difficult project for you, but if you’re clever, persistent, and do your research, there’s no earthly reason why you can’t successfully build an awesome pizza oven that’ll serve up hot, homemade pies any time you get the hankering for one.
Here’s a glimpse of the steps you’ll take to build your pizza oven:
- Create a concrete foundation to provide a strong and durable base for your brick oven. Since a cracked foundation is a thing to avoid at all costs, first install a gravel layer with a rebar grid and pour your concrete on top.
- Layout the bricks for the bottom of the oven — use regular red bricks and cement. Your oven’s floor plays an important role in insulation, so take care that your bricks are evenly aligned before inserting mortar between them.
- Build the front arch by dry-fitting bricks into the proper form.
- Build the rear dome, also by dry-fitting bricks into the proper form. The rear dome tends to be the trickiest part of the process, and it’s helpful to use a plywood template as a model for your dome. Remember to leave space at the dome’s top for the metal duct and chimney.
- Add mortar between bricks as you work, and use your trowel to smooth it into place.
- Construct your oven’s chimney, insert your metal duct into it, and mortar it into place. The chimney should be at least 20 inches above the top of your dome to provide adequate smoke removal from your location.
If you don’t feel like you’re up to the task of creating a pizza oven from scratch, you can purchase a building kit or hire a local handyman to build it — or help you build it.
Using your pizza oven
To ensure you heat your oven to the 700 degrees Fahrenheit typically required to bake pizza, purchase an infrared thermometer. If you’re relying on wood to heat your oven, you’ll probably want to add a new stick to the fire every 30 minutes to maintain your oven’s temperature. It can take up to 90 minutes to heat your oven to that temperature, so give yourself plenty of time to prepare it for use. In other words, don’t wait till your guests are hungry to start the heating process.
How to make homemade pizza
Now for the good part: the pizza itself! If you’re making your pizza the traditional way, you should give yourself about 3 hours so that your pizza dough has time to rise. You’ll need these ingredients to make your pizza dough, enough for four pizzas:
- 4 cups of bread flour (or stone-milled flour)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 ounce of brewer’s yeast (or 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast) dissolved in 1 cup of warm water
To make your pizza dough, create a mound with the flour. Make a well in the center of the flour, and add the olive oil and salt. Add the water and yeast mixture, and knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth, elastic, and comes away from your work surface without sticking. Set your dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover it with a clean towel, and set it in a warm area for about two hours, during which time it should double in size.
Remove the risen dough from the bowl, and place it on a floured workspace. Divide it into four parts, shape each part into a ball, and use your hands to flatten and stretch each ball into a flat circle at least eight inches in diameter.
Once you have your pizza crusts completed, add your toppings. While a classic Neapolitan Margherita pizza is a home-oven favorite, featuring fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes, your pizza can include any toppings you like. After topping your pizza, you’re ready to bake it, provided your oven has reached the desired temperature. Slide your pizza in the oven, and allow it to cook for about a minute to a minute and a half. Keep an eye on it so you don’t burn it!
Maintaining your pizza oven
It’s important to clean and maintain your brick pizza oven to ensure that soot or ash buildup doesn’t affect the taste of your food. Make sure your oven is cool before you clean it. Keep cleaning tools such as a small shovel and brush on hand so that you can easily sweep out ashes after each use. Use a scraping tool to remove residue from your pizza stones.
Cleaning after each oven use will help you prevent a buildup of debris that detracts from the taste of the pizza and leads to oven ventilation problems. For thorough cleanings, avoid using detergents. Instead, use vinegar to scrub your oven interior. You can also use baking soda. Remember that your pizza stones or bricks will absorb water, so don’t use too much. If you use your pizza oven often, clean out the chimney about once a month to ensure good ventilation and reduce the risk of flair-ups.
Routinely inspect your oven for cracks. Most cracks tend to be superficial, but you don’t want to ignore them, since they can deepen. Fill in superficial cracks with grout or mortar. Also, water is an enemy of your oven, so if you live in a rainy climate, cover your pizza oven when it’s not in use. Water in the bricks turns to steam when the oven heats up, and this can lead to cracks and, ultimately, oven failure.
A DIY pizza oven can transform your outdoor living space into everyone’s favorite place to be. Homemade pizza isn’t the only thing you can cook up in your pizza oven. Add a grate, and grill delicious Neapolitan and Tuscan dishes too! You can use your outdoor pizza oven to make flatbreads, focaccias, bread loaves, roasted vegetables, grilled meats, and more. Now that you’ve learned how to build an outdoor pizza oven, you’re ready to get started. Search online for a pizza oven kit, or create your own custom plan.