Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cooking in a Cob Oven

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

As I wrote at this post titled "Clay Oven Community", I have been making a clay cob oven in my back yard.   After five layers of cob, it is now finished except for a little render on the base, but other than that we have been cooking in the oven on weekends.  You can read about how I made the oven on my personal blog under the label "Cob Oven"

Before we used it for the first time I spent some time making a door for the cob oven, cut it to size and popped on some handles.  I used the two bits of ply that I cut for the door arch template, trimmed off about 1cm from the bottom, screwed them together and added some handles.  The handles are just some shelving brackets that I screwed into the front of the door.

We also added a coat of render and my lovely wife Kim decorated it with mosaic tiles.

Kim worked diligently on the oven to make it all beautiful.  All of the tiles were pushed into the render or stuck on and the grout has been applied.  The grout colour is terracotta.

I think that the finish is wonderful and it really is an outdoor feature, as well as a practical oven.

Here is the other side with the grout still wet.
So my first attempt of cooking in the oven was a bit of experimentation.  I lit the fire at about 5pm and kept it going until about 6.30pm.  There were lots of hot coals that I pushed to the sides of the oven, and then put the door on for about 10 minutes to let the heat build up.  It only got to about 180C (356.0F).  Kim was busy in the kitchen making the pizzas and brought the first one out, which was a garlic pizza.  Just a base drizzled with olive oil, crushed garlic, some Italian herbs and a little rock salt.  It took just over 10 minutes to cook.

A big smile for the first pizza!
It tasted delicious, (sorry for the dark picture).

This quick and easy pizza was brown on top and bottom, and was scoffed down in about 2 seconds flat.  Luckily it was time for the main meal, so in went all the other pizzas.

These took a little longer, about 20 minutes and the door was on during the cooking time.  They were still a bit soggy on the bottom because we used trays.  We also found that the temperature dropped considerably and had to throw a few more sticks on the coals to raise the heat to finish off the cooking.  In essence it cooled down way too quickly.

Since that first attempt, we have added a layer of render to the oven, and the mosaics as you have seen.  After all of that dried solid I tried to cook in it again.  I started the fire small, and built it up and kept the burn going for 3 hours which was twice as long as the first attempt.  I pushed the coals all over the floor and let it sit for 10 minutes to heat it up.  Then I moved the coals aside and mopped the oven floor with a wet rag on a stick to get rid of the ash.  I checked the temperature and it had reached 350C (662.0F)!  I was pleased with that so got ready to cook.  This time I made simple garlic and herbed bread in a thick pizza shape.  I floured the peel and placed each pizza in the oven directly on the floor.  This time the pizza cooked in 4 minutes flat, with the dough cooking all the way through.  I cooked 4 of these flat breads in a row in the space of 8 minutes which tasted fantastic!

Just after we finished the pizzas, I put the door in place and found that the temp went up to 400C (752.0) and the door began to blacken, so I removed it quickly.  Talk about being hot!  If I soak the door in water before I cook, it should stop this from happening.

This time we found that the oven kept its heat for more than 4 hours, with the temp dropping down to about 180C at about midnight.  If I had have planned ahead, I would have cooked a roast dinner next, then bread, and maybe even more bread or pastries or even jacket potatoes in foil on the coals. 

I have so much more to learn, and have even bought a cook book specifically for cob ovens which should help a lot.  I know that there will be many more wonderful meals to come out of this oven in the very near future.

Does anyone have any suggestions of dishes to cook, or had experience with cooking in a clay cob oven?  I would love feedback via comments.


risa said...


To lighten dark pictures easily (and without destroying the original), download Picasa for free, it does amazing things for photos for bloggers and the "fill light" tool is IMHO better than a flash bulb.

The Snow Child said...

This is amazing. They look great. Ive wanted one for a very long time xxxx

Lorraine Butler said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. Way to go!

Eric said...

Looks great Gavin!
Love the mosaic tile too.

My cob oven had the same problem of cooling down too quickly and soggy second pies.

If you fire the oven until all the soot is burned off the interior, it is usually hot enough for two rounds of pies, and more than enough for bread.

Jen said...

We have a masonry wood-fired oven, and we try to cook a series of dishes in it when we can plan that well. We fire it about 2 hours before cooking pizza (which is cooked with the fire still in), then we might cook steak or some other high-heat dishes. Then we take the fire out, let it cool for about 1/2 hour and put in bread. Sometimes we put the fire back in for other dishes, like roasts or desserts, and the last thing is drying tomatoes, baked beans, that kind of thing. Living where it's often wet, we try to put a load of firewood in the oven overnight so we have dry wood to start the fire with the next week. Enjoy!

Paula said...

That tears it- I am so building a cob oven next year!

I just need to figure out where...

Anonymous said...

I used to have a brick oven in my bakery long ago. I would start a fire and keep it alive for 8 hrs., rake all the coals out, mop the floor, and leave it with the door closed for a few hrs. so you don't have any more hot spots, but even temp. all over the floor. First day I would bake pizza at 650F; as the temp. dropped I would bake bread (550F), bagels, bean casseroles and other braised meat dishes, around 325F the cheesecakes would go in, and lastly cookies at around 275 to 300. All of this in a span of 3 days-that is how long the oven would keep warm. It was an amazing construction.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Ive been looking for a cob oven cook book for awhile but to no avail. Can you tell me the title of yours? Many thanks.