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

Build Your Own Barrel Oven Book Cover

"Build Your Own Barrel Oven" is a guide to selecting an efficient wood-fired oven with instructions on how to build a Barrel Oven.

Cover Courtesy Hand Print Press

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.

8/4/2013 1:58:15 PM

bevlower:  That's a good idea about recycling an old gas oven.   Just turn the lower drawer into a firebox and add  an exhaust flue.  However, I kind of like the idea of a rocket stove/oven, which is fuel efficient and has a thick stucco exterior.  I made a small rocket stove out of bricks in my back yard and I was amazed at how fast an iron dutch oven, filled with water, came to a boil for some corn on the cob and other steamed veggies.  I used very little wood fuel for that experiment. 

8/2/2013 10:49:45 AM

Careful when buying this book.  It does a pretty nice job explaining the masonary part of the job but tells little about the metal parts (and there are lots of special metal parts).  Be aware that the authors expect you to buy the metal kit from their store.  Towards the end of the book there is mention of a future second book covering the metal pieces but over a year down the road I've not seen it.  There are also quite a few recipies in this book which was disappointing filler.

8/2/2013 9:28:24 AM

i love the oven.  have read/studied many designs.  but in the spirit of recycling i'm thinking...can an old discarded gas oven be converted? any handy folks out there got suggestions/prototype?

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