Brick Oven 101
An outdoor brick pizza oven is an addition to your home that pays for itself in no time, from the delicious meals you can cook in it, the increase in your property’s value, and the quality time you will spend with friends and family beside the blazing oven.
That’s why it’s no surprise any defects or damage to your oven are highly unwelcome; an unsightly or even compromised oven due to major cracking in the dome or insulation becomes little more than an eyesore at best, and a useless pile of brick at worst.
To keep your brick pizza oven in tip-top shape, it’s critical that you cure your oven before you use it. Here are some answers to common curing questions to get you started on the path to Neapolitan excellence!
Why is curing so important?
In the simplest terms, all masonry ends up with moisture trapped inside of it once construction is complete. This usually isn’t an issue for most masonry applications, but as The Wood Fired Enthusiast points out, moisture inside of an appliance like an oven will get heated up while you’re cooking.
If this moisture is heated too quickly, as it would be during the normal cooking process, water will turn to steam, expanding in the masonry and potentially creating cosmetic cracks or even structural damage to the oven itself. The curing process uses small amounts of sustained heat, which simply causes the moisture inside the brick to evaporate a little quicker, allowing you to fire your oven at max temperature later on without worrying about damage.
It’s also worth mentioning that the process of thermal expansion and contraction caused by cooking in your oven will inevitably create some cracks, but these are nothing to worry about, as they’ll typically be minor fractures in the exterior brick. If you like the rustic appearance of a seasoned oven, great! If not, you can use refractory concrete or a repair kit to seal the cracks up.
How do I cure my brick oven, the right way?
Curing a brick wood-fired pizza oven requires some special attention, and is a process that is ideally done over several days. You’ll need to pay extra attention to the temperature of the oven to ensure it does not exceed safe levels, and while your oven’s thermometer should work fine, it might add some extra precision if you used an infrared temperature gun to check the heat level inside the dome.
The best way to heat your oven is by building small, controlled, smoldering fires inside the dome. You can adjust how hot they burn based on their size and how much fuel you add to them. Here’s the recommended day-by-day process of curing your oven:
- Day One: Heat your oven to 140 °F / 60 °C for 4-5 hours.
- Day Two: Repeat at 215 °F / 100 °C for 4-5 hours.
- Day Three: Repeat at 300 °F / 150 °C for 4-5 hours.
- Day Four: Repeat at 400 °F / 200 °C for 4-5 hours.
- Day Five: Repeat at 480 °F / 250 °C for 4-5 hours.
You’re done! Throw a pizza in the oven and get ready to start making memories!
If you're really into the "why a brick oven cracks", check out our next blog post on brick oven cracking.