WRITER | CANDIE CONAT
Brick ovens have been around for centuries. What makes them so special, and why are they so popular right now?
What’s great about brick ovens is that they add a distinct, smoky flavor to food that you cannot get from the average household oven. That smoky flavor comes, of course, from the wood used to heat these ovens.
Brick ovens work by absorbing the warmth of the fire and then reflecting it into the center of the oven, so the shape is key to proper cooking here. The oven’s bottom should be flat, and the walls and top should create a dome; the overall shape may be round or oval. The oven opening should provide plenty of clearance so that you can easily move food into and out of the oven.
Many think of brick ovens as an outdoor kitchen accessory, but they are frequently found indoors as well. Since these ovens resemble a fireplace in configuration — they have their own chimney and are constructed like a fireplace — they are appropriate in both settings when built properly. The optimal cooking temperature is about 650 degrees Fahrenheit, so careful attention to construction is crucial.
DIY plans are plentiful on the internet. Outdoor ovens can be created on a relatively small budget, while indoor ovens require someone more knowledgeable about fireplace construction.
It can often take an hour or more for a brick oven to reach the perfect cooking temperature – just the right amount of time to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer and catch up on the week’s happenings. This can make for an enjoyable group cooking activity, and we’ve found that cooking parties are a common occurrence for those who have this type of oven in their home.
Pizza is probably the most common thing we hear about cooking in a brick oven. They are amazing, no doubt about it, but many other meals are well suited to this type of cooking. A quick internet search will provide recipes for various types of fish cooked on cedarwood, soft pretzels, turkey and dressing, beef stew, crab legs, and even bread. Well-known chef and restaurateur Jaime Oliver has created a YouTube video about cooking steak in a brick oven where he swears it is the best steak you will ever eat.
Do you have a brick oven, or have you eaten a meal cooked in one at a friend’s home? Visit the Michigan HOME and Lifestyle Facebook page and tell us all about it; we would love to hear about your experience with these interesting outdoor appliances!