After hours and hours (and hours) of doing all of the work to build the pizza oven so far (working on the dome and entry arch to name a few), the time has FINALLY came. We can now make pizza! Or can we? Although there is a huge desire to make the first pizza, there is one more step. We need to cure the mortar in the oven. Letting the mortar sit and air cure won’t do the job. We need to cure it with fires.
Although the Forno Bravo site has a wonderful article describing this very topic of curing a pizza oven, I’ll explain a little bit here (with a couple of pictures of course). If you read this post and still have any questions, I encourage you to go to this link.
The first question that you may ask is, “Why can’t I just let the mortar cure like normal concrete cures through air drying?” The answer: When we build the oven, we added a lot of moisture. In the mortar, in the hearth, etc. No matter how long we let the oven sit, there will always be moisture that remains. If we fire up the oven to 1000 degrees without driving that moisture out of the oven, it could cause cracks to form. That, of course, is what we want to avoid.
To cure the oven, I started with a small fire. Ideally, on day 1, you could maintain a temperature of around 300 degrees for about 8 hours. It isn’t too bad if you have a weekend to just throw a log onto the fire every half hour or so.
I followed the same schedule that is outlined in the Forno Bravo link above. This schedule is:
- Day 1: 300 degrees for 6-8 hours
- Day 2: Repeat at 350 degrees
- Day 3: Repeat at 400 degrees
- Day 4: Repeat at 450 degrees
- Day 5: Repeat at 500 degrees
There are a few different ways to measure the temperature. Some people build probes into their oven and then link up to a thermometer. This seemed a little much to me, so I use an infrared thermometer. These can sometimes run upwards of $80, but I use a cheap infrared thermometer from Amazon. It is less than $20 and has worked great. You simply point the laser into the oven and voila! Instant temperature reading.
Now I must admit, I did let the temperature get a little bit hotter than some of these temperatures. It’s very hard to maintain an exact temperature. I tried to keep it +- 50 degrees, but on my second day it accidentally got to 500 degrees for a short time (oops, got a little bit excited). Fortunately, I didn’t develop any major cracks. However, there were quite a few little cracks that developed throughout the curing process. From what I’ve read, this is completely normal to see hairline cracks. As long as there is minimal smoke/heat escaping, this is ok.
If you have done all of the steps to this point (including the chimney, which I installed after I cured the oven – out of order with the logical process), then you now have a fully functional pizza oven. Go make some pizza!
Up next, I’ll cover the concrete countertop that I’ll be using on my pizza oven.