Why are more and more people making plans for brick ovens? Well, let’s not forget the allure of making pizza in a wood-fired unit! Seriously, though, brick ovens combine aesthetic value with functionality, and you don’t need a huge yard to own one. Finally, they are so widely viewed as wonderful additions to a yard that installing one is sure to boost your property’s value –- an important consideration, should you ever wish to sell. Joe Raboine, President, Harmony Outdoor Living, Inc., provides ideas on the subject in the interview that follows, designed to help you make plans to have your own unit constructed.
Q. For the reader who has never given much thought to the subject (except maybe for the delicious pizza that can come out of them!), please explain how brick ovens can enhance the outdoor living experience.
A. Brick ovens are great for parties, permitting guests to cook their own pizza or bread.
They can be the focal point of an outdoor living space or kitchen. They are a feature that brings people together – since the dawn of time, people have been gathering around the fire cooking their meals, and sharing their experiences. Nothing beats the authentic taste of food cooked in a wood–fired brick oven.
Q. What is the most popular way in which brick ovens are used by those who entertain frequently? Is there a particular food that is especially amenable to cooking outdoors in such a feature?
A. Just about anything can be cooked in a wood fired brick oven – it’s really no different than the interior kitchen equivalent -– except it’s heated with wood and made with bricks. Many people cook roasts, hams, breads, pizza, etc. in their brick ovens. One of the most popular items to cook while entertaining is pizzas. If a partially baked crust is used, a whole pizza can be cooked within two to three minutes. This speed allows your guests to take part in the experience by applying their own toppings, and helping to bake them. Kids especially love the pizza-making aspect. Cooking then becomes part of the event, not just a side note handled by one person.
Q. Can you supply another example of how brick ovens can help people derive more satisfaction from being out in their yards?
A. They promote spending time with loved ones and friends in a new and unusual way. People today are craving connections with their friends, family, and neighbors. The trend of “slow cooking” is catching on. After decades of fast food and eating on the run, there is a hunger (no pun intended) for better food, and treating cooking and eating as an experience that should be cherished and appreciated. Outdoor kitchens and brick ovens are part of this experience -– and, if used to their maximum potential, can profoundly change people’s lives.
Q. Do you find that kids want to spend more time in the yard in the company of adults if the result will be eating food outdoors that was cooked in a brick oven?
A. Absolutely, I know from experience (I have 5 children) that brick ovens are a kid magnet. They love to help prepare the meal, and then watch it quickly cook among the coals and smoke of the oven. It is an experience that is dynamic, and it's fun to be a part of. To them it is like taking part in an art project that they can eat. Again, we are so far removed from the process of where food comes from and the family experience of cooking (and how food is made) that children are very interested in taking part in the process. It’s a desire that comes from deep inside all of us.
Q. Give us some insight into how brick ovens function.
A. They provide consistent radiant heat from all directions allowing food to cook quickly, depending on the temperature.
In most brick ovens, the fire is built inside -- the same space that the food is cooked. The concept has been around for thousands of years. The dome of the oven is built with refractory cement or clay, and is designed to radiate the heat at the food from all directions. The smoke goes out through a flue like with a fireplace. The heat is regulated by the amount of wood used, and a brick oven that is properly insulated with a door can hold the heat at 350 degrees or more for up to 16 hours.