After another extremely busy few weeks on the farm (hello summer harvest! hello new animals!), the days are shortening and the mornings are a little chillier. We've been enjoying more farm to table dinners than ever before thanks in big part to the huge inspiration that came with the first step in my dream outdoor kitchen build- the installation of a wood-fired oven.
To make room for the 1100 lb brick oven from Authentic Pizza Ovens, I had to pull up a few boards on the porch and build a sturdy stand. The stand is a little sparse for the time being, but that is intentional, I wanted to be able to easily work around it for the rest of the outdoor kitchen rebuild, which involves replacing the deck, adding roof cover, building an enormous farmhouse table, and installing a food prep and bar area. Ideally, this outdoor kitchen will become our more-used kitchen. Fenagling that enormous thing up there was quite an adventure in and of itself, but thankfully, when my own tractor failed to lift it, my buddy Clint was able to trailer his tractor over to lift the oven and get the oven mounted on the stand.
I spent five days "curing" the oven, building increasingly hotter fires inside it so as not to dry it out too quickly and crack it. By day five, I had a major hankering for wood fired- EVERYTHING. And so I've spent much of the last few weeks experimenting and doing a whole lot of entertaining.
Though I've been doing a whole lot of cooking and baking my whole life, folks online started getting a whole lot more interested in my recipes when cooking with fire got involved, and, really, I can't blame them for that. To that end, I have actually also started a cooking segment as part of the homesteading topics covered on YouTube, and the first was, naturally, my mom's failproof dough recipe.
As is the case with every project I tackle trying to restore this old farm to its former glory, I’ve got my work cut out for me. To add strength to the stand, I used lap joints. The stand will eventually be fully enclosed, with wood and pizza paddle storage underneath, but I will wait to do that after I’ve replaced the deck. My biggest priority was getting the pizza oven lifted to it’s final destination so I could use it this harvest season, and as long as I can use it to cook, I can make do with everything else until I can finish the rest of this project. I got it mounted and cured just in the nick of time, just as the tomatoes and basil hit their peak.
If you haven’t already guessed, I LOVE to cook. I grew up in a house where the making and eating of dinner was a family affair, and I was su-chef in my mom’s and grandmother’s kitchens as soon as I could walk. My family spent much of my young life living and traveling abroad, and my first experience with wood fired ovens was baking bread with my babushka in rural Ukraine, when I was a kid, and I was hooked. I loved stoking the fire and the smell of burning wood and baking bread. I’ve had plans of building a wood fired oven from scratch on the farm since we moved in, but there are so many other, more pressing projects I’ve had to deal with before I could get to a quote “luxury” project like that, that I started looking into commercially produced ovens, and that’s how I came across Authentic Pizza ovens. There are tons of sizes, styles and price points available, and I chose the one I did because I didn’t want to be limited to cooking pizzas in it, this is actually going to become my primary oven. Authentic Pizza Ovens are handmade in Portugal, they are beautiful incredibly well built. And, this model especially, is a total tank. Such a tank, in fact, that I couldn’t even lift it with my own tractor, I had to hire my good buddy Clint to haul his tractor over and help me out.
Preheating these ovens actually takes about the same time as preheating an electric oven, especially if you jumpstart the process with a torch. It takes a few tries to get used to controlling the temperature of the oven based on the amount of wood added and moving around the coals efficiently, but just like driving stick, it quickly becomes second nature. Those first bites out of the oven were pure heaven, so reminiscent of so many awesome memories from my childhood, but also just super rewarding to see some of my longterm dreams come to fruition.
I used my mom’s failproof dough recipe and some farm fresh ingredients to make what I kid you not was the best pizza I’ve ever tasted in my life. That pizza was followed by the best cinnamon rolls, then the best steaks, and now I’m basically just walking around the farm all the time looking for more stuff I can cook in that oven.
Yes, it’s a tad more cumbersome to cook in a wood fired oven than an electric oven or even a gas powered bbq, you need to have enough foresight to light the fire in time for it to be hot when you’re ready to cook, but you can save about 25 minutes in heat up time if you use a torch, and since I’m outside all the time anyway. It’s not hard to make a few extra trips over to the oven in the day to tend the fire, especially knowing the delectable goodness that will be my reward if I do.
Authentic Pizza ovens makes a gorgeous oven that is built to last. Though I loved the idea of building my own oven, getting a ready made oven was quite literally the difference between being able to start cooking this summer as opposed to waiting two or three more years before I could set aside the time to do so, so it was a no brainer for me to opt for a ready-made oven and take a couple days to build the stand and get the oven properly mounted.
A few notes on the things I’ve cooked thus far in the oven- the pizzas- use a ton of flour on the bottom of the crust, it helps enormously when it comes to sliding the pizza on and off the peel. Never walk away from the oven, your stuff cooks FAST in there. I’ve never made 6 minute cinnamon rolls before, but there you have it. When cooking steak, I pre-heated the pan on the cooktop before adding the steaks and putting it all in the oven. I don’t know if that’s a necessary step, but it gave me peace of mind.
So I hope I haven’t got you drooling too much with all this food, I look so forward to tackling the rest of this outdoor kitchen build later this year. As always, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by, make sure you go out and make something with your hands this week. Cheers!