Wood-fired ovens used to be a staple in every home, where families could cook delicious meals, warm their houses, and heat water for the washing basin. Today, it is possible to find modern, high quality cast iron wood stoves that can function as an alternative heating method for your home. However, those large cast-iron centerpieces where families cooked every meal are today mostly relics in antique stores.
Making a wood-fired oven is a fast and relatively simple DIY home project that can be completed in a few weekends, even if you aren’t an accomplished mason or builder.
Why Do You Need a Wood-Fired Oven?
Perhaps the better question is: Why don’t you? Most of us probably don’t have a lot of experience cooking with wood. If you have ever tasted a wood-fired pizza, however, you probably understand that cooking with wood offers a different taste and can expand the culinary possibilities of even a novice cook.
Wood-fired ovens can be beautiful, artistic creations that can bring life to an otherwise dull and ordinary outdoor patio. A wood-fired oven can transform outdoor patios and gardens, extend your kitchen and dining area, and allow you to take advantage of outdoor spaces even during the winter.
Of course, wood-fired ovens also offer warmth. Its heat can warm an attached sunroom or provide ambient heating for outdoor areas during colder months.
Wood-fired ovens are fun, inexpensive, and relatively easy to build. Below, we will look at three different possibilities to create an economical, practical, and aesthetically pleasing wood-fired oven for your home.
The Sustainability of Cooking with Wood
In the United States, about three out of every four households own a grill or smoker, but almost nobody relies on wood for their primary cooking needs. While our grandmother's generation might have continued the practice of cutting firewood early in the morning to have fuel for the day's meals, today, the vast majority of households cook with either natural gas (40 percent of households) or electricity.
Cooking every meal with wood does have its drawbacks. For starters, the process of starting up a fire every time you want to heat water for a quick coffee will most likely not fit with our hectic schedules. But cooking with wood does still offer certain sustainability benefits.
Cooking with wood is often associated with pollution, mostly because homeowners can physically see the smoke rising from the burning wood. While thousands of households in a dense urban area, all cooking with wood could cause dangerous problems with urban air pollution, natural gas stoves and ovens are also responsible for enormous methane emissions. Though less visible, these methane emissions are a significant contributor to global climate change and are another reason that homeowners should consider transitioning to an all-electric home.
Whether for home heating for cooking purposes (or for both simultaneously—an added advantage), Burning wood is essentially a carbon-neutral solution. The growth of the trees initially captured the carbon released during the burning of the wood. If those trees grew in degenerated environments, much of the carbon would most likely accumulate in the soil by increasing soil organic matter and soil organic carbon. That means that burning wood for fuel might even be carbon positive. An electric range powered by a carbon zero home cannot claim the same, as solar panels come with a sizeable embodied energy footprint.
A Few Different Wood-Fired Oven Options
Whether you want to find a cooking solution that will help you reduce your carbon footprint or want to try your hand at baking a wood-fired pizza, we offer three simple step-by-step guides for building three different types of wood-fired ovens.Photo Credit: Valoriani UK
What Is an Italian Brick Oven?
An Italian brick oven offers an authentic-looking centerpiece for any outdoor deck or eating area that is also extremely functional. Even if you are not an accomplished mason, a simple Italian brick oven can be made following the steps outlined below for building a cob oven. Once you have your base and build the mound of wet sand (essentially a giant sandcastle), you will make around that mound with firebrick instead of cob.
You will need to make a simple mortar from two parts fine sand, one part Portland cement, and one part lime. Build up slowly around the mount of sand, and make sure to leave a space for the door. Let the mortar dry around each level that you build up. You will want to use a wooden form around the door frame that you can remove once the mortar has completely dried out. When the mortar has cured, remove the sand from the door opening and fire slowly for several days before using it. Photo Credit: Tyrant Farms
Drolet Deco Nano Wood Burning Stove DB03215
The Drolet Deco Nano Wood Burning Stove DB03215 is an exceptional heating solution, designed to efficiently warm spaces up to 1,200 ft² with its powerful 45,000 BTU/h output. EPA-certified with a low emission rate of 1.8 g/h, this non-catalytic stove combines functionality with modern aesthetics. Its unique design features a higher-than-average stature and a convenient storage space beneath the unit. The stove's deep combustion chamber allows for increased ash accumulation, reducing the frequency of cleaning. This model has a pedestal for log storage, a top air deflector, durable ceramic glass, a cast iron door with adjustable hinges, an ash lip, an air damper, and a stainless steel heat shield. Capable of a burn time of up to 5 hours and accommodating logs up to 17 inches, it has a 1.55 ft³ firebox. Proudly made in Canada, it is certified for both mobile home and alcove installation, making it a versatile choice for various living spaces. Up to 5 hours burn time Up to 17" logs 1.55 ft³ firebox EPA certified Proudly made in Canada Limited lifetime warranty Certified for mobile home and alcove installation This model qualifies for the US tax credit Included: pedestal with log storage, top air deflector, ceramic glass, cast iron door with adjustable hinges, ash lip, air damper, stainless steel heat shield A contact number is required for all Drolet, Century, and England's Stove Works orders at checkout
Drolet Escape 1200 Wood Burning Stove DB03182
The Drolet Escape 1200 Wood Burning Stove DB03182 stands out as Drolet's most compact offering in its series, expertly designed for heating spaces up to 1,200 square feet. This EPA-certified wood stove, with an impressively low particulate emission rate of just 1.8 g/h, delivers a robust 45,000 BTU/h, ensuring efficient and effective heating. Its uniquely deep combustion chamber allows for increased ash accumulation, minimizing the frequency of ash disposal for enhanced convenience. This model embodies simplicity and durability with a reliable and robust build.The package includes essential components such as a pedestal, air deflector, high-quality ceramic glass, a cast iron door with adjustable hinges for optimal operation, an ash lip, an air damper, and a stainless steel heat shield. Notable features of the Drolet Escape 1200 include a burn time of up to 5 hours, accommodation for logs up to 17 inches, and a 1.55 ft³ firebox. The stove is proudly made in Canada and has a limited lifetime warranty. Furthermore, it meets certification standards for mobile home and alcove installation, making it a versatile and dependable choice for various living environments. Up to 5 hours burn time Up to 17" logs 1.55 ft³ firebox EPA certified Proudly made in Canada Limited lifetime warranty Certified for mobile home and alcove installation This model qualifies for the US tax credit Included: pedestal, air deflector, ceramic glass, cast iron door with adjustable hinges, ash lip, air damper, stainless steel heat shield At checkout, a contact number is required for all Drolet, Century, and England's Stove Works orders.
Drolet Black Stag II Wood Burning Stove DB03411
The Drolet Black Stag II Wood Burning Stove DB03411 is an outstanding example of eco-friendly design and powerful performance, ideally suited for heating spaces up to 2,300 ft². This non-catalytic stove is a leader in environmental responsibility, boasting an impressively low particle emission rate of just 0.95 g/h, ranking it among the most ecological options in the market. With a maximum heat output of 90,000 BTU/h, it ensures your space remains comfortably warm throughout the winter. The stove's firebox is thoughtfully designed for the depth-wise loading of logs and can accommodate logs up to 20 inches. The aesthetic appeal is enhanced by a cast iron door superimposed on steel sheets and decorated with a unique deer head design.The Black Stag II includes practical features like steel legs with an ash drawer, a top air deflector, an ash lip, and an air damper. It boasts up to 10 hours of burn time and a 3.3 ft³ firebox capacity. The stove's durability is assured with a heavy-duty 5/16" steel top reinforced with a C-Cast heat shield. EPA-certified and proudly made in Canada, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty. The stove is also certified for safe use in mobile homes and alcove installations, offering versatility and reliability for various living environments. Up to 10 hours burn time Up to 20" logs 3.3 ft³ firebox Heavy duty 5/16" steel top reinforced with C-Cast heat shield EPA certified Proudly made in Canada Limited lifetime warranty Certified for mobile home and alcove installation Included: steel legs with ash drawer, top air deflector, ash lip, air damper A contact number is required for all Drolet, Century, and England's Stove Works orders at checkout.
Englander Blue Ridge 300L Wood Stove ESW0008
Experience the ultimate warmth and efficiency with the Englander Blue Ridge 300L Wood Stove ESW0008. This EPA-certified wood stove boasts a high efficiency 2.4 ft³ firebox, ensuring up to 8 hours of burn time to keep your home comfortably heated. Crafted with precision in the USA, it features a steel top reinforced with a stainless steel heat shield, a cast iron door with ceramic glass for a stunning view of the flames and a non-catalytic combustion system for clean and eco-friendly operation. Designed for versatility, it's certified for mobile home and alcove installation, making it suitable for various living spaces. High efficiency 2.4 ft³ firebox Up to 8 hours burn time Steel top reinforced with a stainless steel heat shield Cast iron door and ceramic glass EPA certified Proudly made in USA Non-catalytic combustion system Certified for mobile home and alcove installation Qualifies for the 30% US tax credit Included: legs, ash drawer & lip, air intake damper & rear air deflector Due to the size of the product, a contact phone number is required at checkout to ensure we can schedule pickup and delivery.
Drolet Escape 1500 Wood Stove DB03135
The Drolet Escape 1500 Wood Stove DB03135 is an exemplary model of efficiency and environmental consciousness, designed to warm spaces up to 1,800 square feet. With its low particulate emission rate of only 2.4 g/h, it boasts an impressive output of up to 65,000 BTU/h, adhering to stringent EPA standards. This non-catalytic wood stove is thoughtfully equipped with side panels to minimize the clearance needed from combustible materials and features a top heat exchanger that efficiently channels heat forward. The package includes a pedestal with an ash drawer for easy maintenance, an air mate, durable ceramic glass, protective side panels, an ash lip, and an air damper for optimal control. Capable of accommodating logs up to 18 inches and offering a burn time of up to 7 hours, this stove is constructed with a heavy-duty 5/16" steel top, further reinforced with a stainless steel heat shield for enhanced durability. Proudly manufactured in Canada, the Escape 1500 is EPA-certified and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It is also certified for use in mobile homes and alcove installations, making it a versatile and reliable heating solution for various living spaces. Features: Up to 7 hours burn time Up to 18" logs Heavy duty 5/16" steel top reinforced with a stainless steel heat shield EPA certified Proudly made in Canada Limited lifetime warranty Certified for mobile home and alcove installation Included: pedestal with ash drawer, air mate, ceramic glass, side panels, ash lip, air damper A contact number is required for all Drolet, Century, and England's Stove Works orders at checkout.
Century FW2900 Wood Burning Stove CB00026
The Century FW2900 Wood Burning Stove CB00026 represents a perfect blend of efficiency and elegance for modern homes. Exceeding EPA standards with a low particulate emission rate of just 2.3 g/h, this stove ensures a cleaner, more sustainable heating solution. Its large firebox is tailored to accommodate various types of homes, making it a versatile choice for different living spaces. The stove boasts a reinforced appliance top, enhanced with a stainless steel heat shield, ensuring durability and improved heat distribution. The cast iron door, coupled with ceramic glass adds to its robust construction and enhances its aesthetic appeal. This non-catalytic combustion system is a testament to its advanced engineering, providing efficient burning without complex mechanisms. Proudly designed and manufactured in Canada, the Century FW2900 also comes equipped with essential accessories including a pedestal, ash lip, air intake damper, and a rear air deflector, making it a comprehensive heating solution that combines performance with Canadian craftsmanship. Features: Large-size firebox, ideal for all types of homes Reinforced appliance top with a stainless steel heat shield Cast iron door and ceramic glass EPA-certified at 2.3 g/h Non-catalytic combustion system Designed and made in Canada Included: pedestal, ash lip, air intake damper, and rear air deflector A contact number is required for all Drolet, Century, and England's Stove Works orders at checkout
What Is a Cob Oven?
Cob is a building technique used for decades to construct durable, sustainable homes that last hundreds of years. It relies on a mixture of clay, sand, and straw to create a monolithic structure with an enormous amount of thermal mass. The same material used for building the walls of your home can also make a simple, DIY wood-fired oven.
How Do You Make a Cob Oven?
- Just as with the Italian brick oven, start by building a base for the oven. This base can be from rock, brick, block, or any other resistant material that raises the oven to a height that is easy to access.
- Lay a foundation of fire brick, which will act as the base for the oven.
- Above the fire brick, build a mound with wet sand. This mound should be the same size as the interior of the oven.
- Cob is ideally 75 percent sand and 25 percent clay. You can check the content of your soil composition by doing a bottle test. Take a handful of soil, place it in a clear glass container, add water, and shake it up. The sand content of the soil, which is heaviest, will sink to the bottom while the clay will settle on top of the sand. These proportions will give you a ratio of the sand to clay in your soil. If you have heavy clay soil, add some river sand to the mix.
- On top of a tarp, mix the cob that is going to be the walls of your oven. Add a bit of water and stomp on the soil with your bare feet or rubber boots. When mixed, add a healthy amount of straw that will offer tensile strength.
- Once you have your cob mixed, begin to place it around the outside of the sand dome that you built on top of your fire brick floor. Make the walls between 4 and 6 inches thick. Continue until you have entirely covered the dome. You should now have a dome of cob surrounding the inner layer of sand.
- After several days of drying out, and before the cob completely hardens, take a knife and cut out a doorway to your oven. You will also want to cut an opening for the chimney on top of the dome. Let the cob dry for a few more days and then, with a mason's trowel, scoop out the dry sand. You should be left with a hollow dome.
- When the cob is completely dry, you can add a metal door, the metal chimney, and decorate your cob oven as you see fit. If it isn’t under a roof, you will need to protect it from rain and snow through either covering it with a tarp or adding a layer of cement.
- Fire the oven slowly the first few times to get the hang of achieving the ideal temperature.
It is also possible to substitute the cob for a dome made entirely from fire bricks. This takes a bit more masonry skills but will allow you to end up with a beautiful oven that will be reminiscent of traditional Mediterranean bakeries.Photo Credit: Home Tone
Metal barrel ovens are a great example of upcycling and use a 35 or 55-gallon drum or barrel to make a beautiful wood-fired oven. Unlike traditional wood ovens, recycled metal barrel ovens can heat up in just 15-20 minutes which makes for quicker and more efficient baking.
- Start with a used steel barrel. With an angle grinder and metal cutting disk, cut out a door and a chimney top. You can purchase a cast-iron barrel stove kit that will help you determine the size of the holes while also helping you avoid the work of creating a door from scratch.
- Once you have cut out the doors, you will want to build a fire pit from fire brick underneath the barrel. The firebox should allow the heat to hit the bottom and sides of the metal barrel for quick heating.
- Surrounding the metal barrel and the firebox will be masonry fill. This could be rock, brick, or even cob. The extra thermal mass will store the heat from the fire and allow the barrel oven to cook whatever is inside efficiently.
- Inside the oven, you should add two deep shelves that will maximize the amount of space you have for building.
- Finally, add the chimney to the hole in the barrel stove, and you're finished.
Whether you choose to build a metal barrel stove, a cob stove, or an authentic Italian brick oven, you can add several artistic touches. This will allow your wood-fired oven to become a centerpiece of your patio while offering numerous functional benefits.
Article By: Tobias Roberts
Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.