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For the love of pizza

Published 08 Jul 2020 by Dean Mowat

WARNING: This blog will make you hungry!

Since my partner Jessica and I moved out to Charles Darwin Reserve from Geraldton six months ago, we've missed a few things from the city, but one thing we have certainly missed ‘big time’ is pizza. Due to the reserve’s remote location, delivery is out of the question – the nearest pizza delivery shop is about 300km away. So there appeared to be only one solution ... build our own pizza oven!

Sounds easy huh? 

I made a decision early on that as much as possible I wanted to build the oven using recycled materials and other supplies found on the reserve.

So I started my project by scouring the sheds and ‘use me later’ recycling site to see what might be suitable for the job.

I’m very pleased to say that the only thing I had to purchase was a handful of special fit-for-purpose ‘fire-proof’ bricks from the nearest brickworks, for a tidy sum of $70. The rest I sourced from around the reserve.

Let the project begin

The first step was to create a suitable base. I had planned on making one, but stumbled across an unused bench made out of steel that was just perfect for the job.

The next step was to pour the concrete slab on top of the bench that the pizza oven would sit on. This was a steep learning curve for me as I didn't have much experience with concrete. In fact, I hadn’t had much experience with any of the methods I had to use to create the oven. I’ve never made anything like this before.

Once the slab had dried, I laid the ‘fire-proof’ bricks on a layer of sand, to act as an insulator, and set about making the oven itself. The first construction was the archway at the front of the oven: Using a cardboard template I built a sand mould of the dome so I could start applying the first internal layer in the oven, which was made out of some clay I found from nearby an old station dam.

Once the first layer of clay was dry, it was time for a second, “insulation” layer to go on top of that – comprised of a mixture of sand, hydrated lime and Perlite.

Once the second layer had dried, it was time for the final layer – a mixture of sand and lime – which would make the oven waterproof. Once this had dried, it was just a matter of scooping-out all of the sand that I’d used for the interior mould, which came out easily through the doorway.

The final step was to make a shelf under the oven to store firewood, as well as attach some corrugated-iron panelling to the outside of the oven so it would ‘fit-in’ among all of the other corrugated-iron constructions around the reserve homestead. Mission accomplished!

After a couple of weeks allowing the oven to completely dry, we were finally ready to test it out.

I got a cracking hot fire going, we made some dough from scratch, and threw on a gorgeous selection of tasty toppings, and pushed the first pizza into the baking-hot oven.

Don’t tell anybody, but the pizzas were a huge success. (Shhh – everyone will want one and before you know it I’ll be making deliveries all over the countryside). And we had the extra benefit of the wood fire to keep us warm for the remainder of the night, as we sat back and gazed at the best show of stars in Australia (in my humble opinion).

I can recommend building a pizza oven to everyone who’s able to squeeze one of these into their backyard. Who needs a pizza delivery shop anyway? Not us.

Off to a good start. Off to a good start.
Creating the concrete slab. Creating the concrete slab.
Laying the brick base. Laying the brick base.
Creating the templates. Creating the templates.
Clay first layer. Clay first layer.
The insulation layer. The insulation layer.
Final layer of sand and hydrated lime. Final layer of sand and hydrated lime.
Exterior all done. Exterior all done.
Success! Success!
Say 'cheese'! Say 'cheese'!

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