Brisbane woofired pizza oven – by Papa Gomez
“…None of this thick carboard style, sausage and cheese crust filled, tasteless Frisbees they sell in franchise owned restaurants…”
So , you love pizzas, eh?
Well, what do you know?? So do I!!! As a matter of fact, pizzas are my favourite food group in the whole wide world… Not that I eat pizzas every day (I would if I wasn’t so conscious of my waistline), but I do have an enormous appreciation for a great rustic Italian pizza.
Roll the clock back to circa 1982, when my parents took me to a restaurant called “La Siesta” in Geneva. I had the Quattro Stagioni and automatically fell in love with the flavours and smell of pizzas, and more importantly those covered with anchovies and capers. I would probably get crucified in Australia for saying this (and I do apologise to my friends in advance) – I don’t believe in pizza toppings such as pineapple, sour cream, potatoes, minced meat and chicken. When it comes to pizzas, I personally believe in tradition and only vouch on Italian classics – including Margarita, Capricciosa, Napoletana, Marinara, Il Diavolo, Quattro Formaggi and of course my favourite. Thin crust with few, fresh toppings. None of this thick carboard style, sausage and cheese crust filled, tasteless Frisbees they sell in franchise owned restaurants.
Many, many years ago, I had this a idea of building my own woodfired pizza oven. I would use my hooded gas BBQ to cook pizzas (which worked much better than an electrical oven as it gave the dough a better flavour). I even bought a slab of granite and had it cut to size and polished so it would fit inside my BBQ – the granite started to show cracks after a few firings and didn’t work as well as I would have hoped. I also bought a few pizza stones. They were excellent as the porous surface absorbed the moisture from the dough and made the base crunchy. But ultimately, I knew that no other cooking implement would beat that of a traditional wood fired oven…
It was really worth all the effort building the oven!!
And that is how my mission began… (I will be adding more photos to this gallery over time as I continue and complete this project.) I should also show my gratitude and thank fornobravo.com for their oven plans and extremely helpful instructions.
Oh and I almost forgot – I could not have done this without the physical help of Fred, Vitaly, Koray and the Russians, and the motivational support of my beautiful wife Letty. Thank you so much guys!!
Trench dug, reo/steel laid and formwork ready for pouring
Concrete poured and blocks purchased
Laying the blocks
Vitaly – thinking of better days…
Happy like a pig in mud – Yay!
Slowly laying the blocks
Overall view of first part of formwork
Form work – this will be filled with concrete and serve as work bench where magic happens.
Starter bars into the support columns for suspended slab
Clean out blocks around bench perimeter – this will be filled with soil and used as pots for a herb garden.
Pour the concrete into the form work. One painful wheelbarrow at a time.
Once the concrete has dried…
Dry concrete – suspended slab/bench
Ray Sprake – Bobcat man
Digging holes for foundations
These holes are deep,,,
1.7 metres deep – don’t fall in!
Formwork for suspended slab/bench. This consists of 12mm d-bar, 16mm d-bar and starter bars.
More blocks laid, more formwork and more suspended concrete
Concrete poured into foundation holes – SHS and 16mm D-bars in place
Ready to start on the woodfired oven…
Still taking shape…
Old Grafton Kiln
Destroying Grafton Kiln
A piece of Australian history in every slice of pizza…
Destroyed Kiln arch
Tapered refractory bricks
More tapered bricks
Drive out to Grafton, NSW to pick up refractory bricks taken from the old Kiln.
Got the bricks home, time for a quick presentation
Bricks and 7mm plywood template.
Lay bricks on ground as a trial.
Render blocks while waiting for weather to improve
Split faced blocks will be used to finish off the project…
Checking the base template for size and fit.
Cut and Lay surrounding blocks – serves as formwork for vermiculite
Time to use vermiculite for the base.
I did not use these tools. Instead I mixed 5 parts vermiculite to 1 part cement in the wheelbarrow. Mix dry first and add water slowly.
Make sure the surface is level
Seriously – really make sure! This will be the level of the sacred surface…
Vermicrete – Vermiculite and cement hardens like the running ground at your athletic’s field.
Present bricks for the landing
Mix fire mortar… Dry first, then add water. 3 sand : 1 cement : 1 hydrated lime : 1 fire clay – little plasticiser.
Lay the bricks and put some weight on them
Sacred surface is now laid and level
Present bricks and template
Time for a quick taste test…
6 bricks laid – oh yeah!
First course nearly completed
Ratchet, hinged elbow socket, saddle clamps and 1/2″ drive extension
Home made “Indispensable tool” – aluminium u-channel and pop rivets.
Second course and home made “indispensable tool”
2 courses laid – 44 half tapered bricks per course
Two courses and entrance laid.
3rd and 4th courses and first arch laid
Closeup of first arch – not a pretty site.
Close up of 4th course with keystone
Entrance to oven
5th and 6 courses laid
7th and 8th courses laid
Closer view of 8th course
More mortar – grimace
Bricks stacked on top of sand in sand bag
Close up of top of dome
Ready for closing the dome – car jack, melamine circle, rubbish bag filled with sand in dome shape…
Applying mortar to the underside of the top of dome
Second (outer) arch complete – note this arch is lower than first arch to stop smoke from coming out.
Time for first firing!
First baby fire…
First dish ever prepared in oven!!
Peruvian roast chicken…
Insulation blanket and chicken wire
Few blocks laid…
Few more blocks laid… cement stains will have to be cleaned with acid when finished.
So we had our first pizza day…
It was really worth all the effort building the oven!!