More cob oven details and photos

by ziggy on September 16, 2009 -- 10 comments -- Follow

coboven-17pileout

No, I’m not trying to climb inside, believe it or not… I’m just cleaning out the sand form in this photo. (This part of the cob oven construction makes for some interesting photo opportunities!)

Anyway, I thought it important to mention some details about my cob oven that I did not describe in the initial how to build a cob oven article. After the first two firings, I can surely say that the oven is completely dry. It was obvious that during the first firing, the oven still had moisture, especially in the insulation layer.

During that first firing, large cracks appeared in the earthen plaster that spread as the oven was fired longer. However, these cracks are not structural – they are merely aesthetic. It was a little disappointing to see them come about, but I’m doubting it could be avoided. I went back later to fill in the cracks with additional material. Also, it’s interesting to note that the cracks tend to close up a bit after the oven cools.

coboven-cracks

Note the moisture around some of the cracks – you could actually see a small amount of steam coming through the cracks during that first firing!

I’ve yet to build a roof over the oven, but it is definitely on the To Do list. It’s not an especially wise idea to leave your oven exposed to the rain, especially if it’s only protected by earthen plaster.

bread-april

Here is some semolina bread that we made during that first firing – delicious stuff, very moist!

weirdpizzaface

Most recently, we made pizza. (This photo should give you a good idea of the maximum size round pizza that could fit in the oven. Unfortunately, I was too busy to take any photos of the finished product! (Next time, I hope…) Anyway, foodie types might be interested to know that this pizza was made entirely by hand and from nearly all local ingredients, and without any aid of electricity:

  • homemade mozzarella and ricotta cheese from raw organic milk (from dairy 1.5 mi. away, made on wood stove)
  • homemade whole wheat crust from hand-milled organic wheat berries (from 3 miles away)
  • homemade tomato sauce from homegrown organic tomatoes (from our gardens)
  • organic homegrown veggies and herbs (peppers, eggplants, zucchini, basil, oregano, etc.)

Whew! (The only non-local ingredients were the olive oil and the salt.)

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  • Brad

    Thanks for the great photos and instruction! I’ve built three successful cob ovens and one abject failure. The one that failed was the result of too much water in the mix — my guess is that the same issue caused your cracks. Too much clay in the mix is another possible cause. Beautiful oven!

  • S. Odewahn

    Hi Ziggy. Great article(s). One thing is unclear to me regarding your oven. Is
    there a rack placed inside the oven chamber? If not, where are the bread
    loaves (or pizza) positioned relative to the fire? This is an inspiring project!

  • Nope, there is no rack. The bread and pizza bake directly on the hearth bricks. You can leave some coals in the oven while pizza is cooking, but everything is swept out when the loaves of bread are baking. (You use what is called a rook [or an old hoe] to sweep out the coals, and then a scuffle [wet rags on a stick] to wipe the hearth clean.)

  • nils

    Wow, that second picture looks like a dinosaur egg, and it’s hatching…!

    But honestly, great oven! One day, I want to build one myself… but right now I don’t even have a garden or anywhere to put it. However, that will change soon, and then I can do that and have a compost heap and most importantly gooseberries…. (Living in a flat without a garden is slowly driving me insane.)

  • I love the cob oven; I wonder if it would make a good addition to our catering equipment fleet. 🙂

  • Katzy

    How about smoke? does much smoke come out of it? does it have a chimney or vent?

  • The smoke is usually fairly low, especially when the wind is favorable. If the wind is not favorable, however, there can be instances of swirling flames and smoke outs. There is no chimney.

    When I build the next one, I will probably include a chimney.

  • PInaker

    After reading about your oven, I had to build my own, so my daughters and I celebrated Canada Day by building ourselves an oven. Waiting it to dry is the hardest part. Can not wait to light our first fire.

  • joe blanco

    Very informative articles ,i wish more people is like you guys that cares about our Mother Earth.Thank you so much.

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