With the tabletop prepared last week, Justin Newcombe gets to work on the pizza oven kitset.
The amount of time and effort you can put into building a pizza oven from scratch is phenomenal. You won't spend much less than $1000 and you may not get it right.
If it's too thick or too thin, you've used the wrong plaster, the wrong bricks, the wrong mortar, the wrong shape, the wrong size, you've basically wasted your time and money.
The most reliable way to get a guaranteed result is with a kitset, so I went for an Aztec model from Hard Yards. It's an igloo shape that is put together in a few hours, comes with a terrazzo mantel, pizza paddle, poker, door and thermostat and, at $1800, is great value. Last I built a tabletop for it and this week I was lucky enough to have Nigel from Hard Yards help me put the whole thing together. We had the oven completed, ready to plaster, in two and a half hours. Then I plastered it and a day later I lit a small fire.
I repeated this for the next day or two with the fires getting progressively bigger, until I managed to get a full-blown inferno going.
The heat is incredible. Once the fire has burnt down, you push the embers to the back and, to test if it's hot enough, you throw in a pinch of flour. The flour should immediately brown off.
When I threw in my flour it exploded into flames. The oven can be 700 degrees C on the inside and only 40C on the outside, so it's very efficient.
I lit the oven in the morning and decided on an egg and salmon breakfast pizza. It took 30 seconds to cook and what you see here is my very first effort. It was delicious.
Use a table that is at least 100mm thick (See how to build one here). Place the oven blanket and base 200mm from the edge of the table to allow room for the mantel. Mortar inner edges of the base with Refrax Mortar and position base on the blanket. Tap with a rubber mallet for a good bond.
Place inner dome on the base, ensuring all connecting edges have been pre-mortared. Tap together. Smooth off excess mortar from joins.
Mortar into place the mantel, ensuring it is level with the oven base.
Fit and mortar the front arch.
Place fibre blanket sections over the inner dome, then lay the outer dome over the top.
Stick fibre tape over joins in the outer dome. Seal with cement mortar.
Add chimney section to the front arch, then fit the stainless steel flue.
Mix cement and water to a stiff paste and splatter over the oven. Cover with mortar made from four parts sand to one part cement. Once dry, apply final coat, mixed with a coloured oxide if desired. Dab with a thick sponge to get texture. Apply a clear coat of Resene Multishield Satin to protect oven from excess moisture and enhance colour.
"Season" your oven
Start with a small fire in the middle of the oven and slowly build up the heat over eight hours. This will extract any excess moisture and is a very important step - failure to do so will result in cracking.
Be in to win a kitset pizza oven!
The good folk at Hard Yards have given us one of their Aztec wood-fired pizza oven kitsets to give away, valued at $1850, plus free delivery.
To enter the draw email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Pizza oven" in the subject line, or post to "Pizza oven competition, Weekend magazine, NZ Herald, PO Box 3290, Auckland" by Thursday, November 4. Find out more about the oven at hardyards.net.nz