Wood-Fired Ovens: Is a Barrel Oven for You?

The barrel oven is a functional, efficient wood-fired oven with a short pre-heating period.

| July 24, 2013

In Build Your Own Barrel Oven (Hand Print Press, 2012), Max and Eva Edleson offer a comprehensive guide for planning and building a practical, efficient and affordable wood-fired oven. The Barrel Oven offers surprising convenience: It's hot and ready to bake in within 15-20 minutes, and maintaining it at a constant temperature is easy. In this excerpt from, “What Is A Barrel Oven” and “Is the Barrel Oven for You?,” you will learn the advantages and disadvantages of the barrel oven.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Build Your Own Barrel Oven.

What is a Barrel Oven?

A Barrel Oven is a versatile wood-fired oven that is relatively easy to build and easy to use. It can be the seed for a small-scale baking enterprise or the heart of a community’s wood-fired cuisine. All kinds of food can be baked in the Barrel Oven including bread, roasts, pizza, cookies cakes, pies, casseroles and stews.

The Barrel Oven offers surprising convenience because it is hot and ready to bake in within 15-20 minutes of lighting a fire. Another great feature is that it is easy to maintain at a desired temperature for long periods of time. This type of oven is often called a “mixed oven” because it has the capability to cook with direct as well as stored heat.

The Barrel Oven can be built almost entirely out of recycled, re-sourced and local materials It can also be made with brand new, manufactured and bought parts. At its center is a metal barrel, of which there are many in the waste-stream. One or more racks to bake on are constructed inside and a door is fashioned at one end. Wood-fired cooking enthusiasts appreciate the capacity that two deep shelves offer, allowing the ability to bake eight to ten 2 lb (1 kg) loaves of bread, four 12” (30 cm) pizzas or four cookie sheets at a time.

When cooking in the Barrel Oven, a fire is built in the firebox located beneath the barrel. The fire hits the bottom and wraps tightly around the barrel as it travels through the carefully constructed space between the metal barrel and the surrounding bricks. This extended contact between the fire and the metal concentrates the heat for cooking inside the barrel and is what allows the Barrel Oven to heat up so fast.

10/29/2013 9:27:27 PM

An up-date on my "Licker-Tee-Split" wood fired barrel oven. I've just had my first fire-up since adding a convection fan. It exceeded all my expectations. I was able to get the oven to 700 degrees in 20 minutes. Baking at 750 to 800 deg. with convection spits a PIZZA out in 2 to 2-1/2 minutes. All I kept saying was WOW !

10/11/2013 9:55:08 PM

Hi, I was excited to see someone has built an oven using barrels. I've just completed my fourth one (all where different). This oven uses Rocket Stove technology. The degree of difficulty to build is well within most DIY projects.(IMO). The oven chamber is 18" wide & 22" deep, with two oven racks. Enjoy looking. http://www.flickr.com/photos/procomfort/sets/72157634639807783/

8/4/2013 2:03:03 PM

As an aside, I can see how the barrel can be or is utilized as a rocket stove oven.  It's a great idea to be able to use the full horizontal depth of the barrel as an oven.   Especially, for baking large quantities.

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