Build Your Own Earth Oven

Earth ovens are more efficient and environmentally friendly than conventional ovens, and the flavor of earth oven cuisine is unbeatable — and these ovens are just as fun to make as they are to use!

| June 24, 2011

Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century

No matter where you live, no matter your life circumstances, “Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century” has a project perfect for you and your unique pursuit of self-reliance. You’ll learn how to raise chickens, goats and other livestock, how to preserve food through canning, how to reduce your energy bills, and much, much more. Authors Dick and James Strawbridge also provide an impressive assortment of well-designed DIY projects, including instructions for building a solar food dryer, a chicken ark, a cold smoker and an earth shelter.


The following is an excerpt from Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century by Dick and James Strawbridge (DK Publishing, 2010). 

Few tastes compare to the stone-baked flavor you get from cooking in a traditional earth oven. They can be used for everything from bread and pizzas to pies. On an environmental front, the simple clay structure and use of carbon-neutral wood fuel makes cooking in an earth oven a low-impact option. The cost of building one is next to nothing, and the process, while a bit messy, is a lot of fun. (You may find it helpful to refer to this illustration of the authors’ earth oven as you follow the building instructions below. — MOTHER) 

Earth Oven Materials and Tools

Tape measure
Garden sieve
Rolling pin
Clay (dig your own if possible)
Bricks or cinder blocks
Stone slabs

Earth Oven Instructions

Build the Stand 

1. Build a firm base. We used some spare cinder blocks. Keep it level and build the structure up to a comfortable working height for cooking.

2. Prepare a solid floor for your oven. It must have a smooth surface. We used a couple of old paving slabs.

6/30/2011 8:30:23 AM

Teaser articles inspire me to dig deeper, do my own research, think and stretch. There's a very detailed book on building earthen ovens: "Build Your Own Earth Oven" by Kiko Denzer which has EVERYTHING you need to know. It's inexpensive and, I think, from M.E.News. We have plans to build one this summer.

6/29/2011 4:23:33 PM

Excellent introductory article. I highly recommend a good wood fired brick oven. A bit more involved to build, but very permanent!! We have a 42"er that I built last summer using the free plans and helpful forum at We can heat soak the oven with two or three armloads of wood and, since it is properly built and well insulated, we can cook in it for 4-5 DAYS!!! Talk about efficient. Saves electricity and overcoming a/c having to overcome the heat ion the house. We've cooked everything from cookies and sweet rolls to pizza, stews, prime rib and casseroles! Read up on wood fired brick ovens!

6/29/2011 1:57:50 PM

Many of these articles assume that the reader knows at least the basics of operation. They are intended only to teach the building concepts. There are many cookbooks available that will let you know how hot the oven needs to be for what you want to make, and other articles, videos, etc, on how to build a fire. They are all different concepts, some overlap, others don't, and the authors can't necessarily cover every facet (building, usage, recipes, etc) of a piece of equipment. The whole idea of books like these is learning to be *self*-sufficient. As far as wood containing all of those chemicals that are so hazardous - that depends largely upon the wood you choose (chemically treated wood would be very unwise), and how you compare it to using coal or gas - or electricity that depends on coal or gas for your cooking/baking needs.

Reynard Loki
6/29/2011 12:47:01 PM

The smoke produced from woodstoves and fireplaces contains over 100 different chemical compounds, many of which are harmful and potentially carcinogenic. Wood smoke pollutants include fine particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, dioxins, and furans. Breathing air containing wood smoke can cause a number of serious respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those suffering from allergies, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, or any other heart or lung disease. N.H. Department of Environmental Services Air Resources Division New Hampshire – Doing Our Share for Clean Air!

Janette Gamble
6/29/2011 12:16:32 PM

Judi, I certainly understand where you're coming from and have experienced such frustration when trying to implement some of projects. In this article you need to click on link to "illustration to author's earth oven" (via blue underlined links throughout article) which answers some of your questions.

Keith Hallam_1
6/29/2011 10:45:43 AM

Hi Judi, perhaps you read through once and too quickly.... like me ;-)). No firebox, no chimbley. You light a fire inside and when it's all burnt out you remove the ash and put the food in. The cooking is done by the retained heat. Thicker walls, more retained heat although thicker walls tend to crack more, so for a while, you would be repairing cracks until the unit had settled down. Clever people (not me) can make a Pitta Bread mix, spin it out to a thin flat pancake and flip it up onto the inside roof of the dome, where it sticks until it's cooked. Great fun trying....

6/29/2011 9:55:15 AM

This article leaves a lot left unsaid. Where is the firebox and chimney? It told me lots about constructing the oven part but nothing about how to build the fire, how hot to keep it. I am getting very tired of reading "lite" articles that really don't give enough depth to truly do anything with the limited information presented. Most of these articles don't share enough information to be able to actually do what the article is talking about. This is not the only publication that does this. I just got a subscription to Grist. The articles have great titles, "Grow delicious Peppers" and it tells about variety of peppers but not the details of how to grow or best conditions and practices.

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!