Are you ready for your new delivery? Our essential advice for siting your wood fired oven
Christmas is upon us and if you’re hoping Santa is bringing your wood fired oven down the chimney, you’d better think of where you’ll be putting it and get the site ready for when it arrives.
Here’s our advice for making the most out of your site – it will take a little forethought but it’s definitely worth it in the long run.
- 1. Convenience. Site your oven as near to your kitchen as you can. We know you’ll have dreamt of siting your oven down at the bottom of the garden in the evening sun but that seemingly perfect site will mean someone will be doing a lot of walking back to the main kitchen to get that pair of tongs or any other essential equipment that you’ve forgotten to take out with you. Unless you are creating an entire kitchen with refrigeration, running water and lots of storage (which some people have), then it will really save your legs if you’re as close to the main kitchen as possible and your oven will get the regular use it deserves.
- 2. Cover. Think about building a roof over the oven to protect both the oven and the cooks. Wouldn’t it be lovely to fire up the oven knowing that it will be dry and so will you; well here in the UK that’s not ever entirely likely. Some covering over your oven will mean it is protected from the worst of the elements and won’t absorb as much damp from the driving rain as if it was uncovered. If your oven regularly gets wet it will absorb moisture and your fire will need to drive off that moisture before it can start cooking efficiently. If you’re under cover, the oven is protected and your fire will be used for heating rather than drying out the oven. Obviously you’re protected too and more likely to use your oven on a regular basis, not just those 6 weekends a year you can guarantee perfect conditions. Otherwise, much like the Great British barbeque, the cook is out in the weather, protected by an umbrella, while the rest of the party is peering out from the house, wondering when the food will be ready and how damp it will be.
3. Neighbourliness. A well made oven, like our Bushman’s, burning dry wood works super efficiently and produces very little smoke. However, that doesn’t mean no smoke. All ovens when first lit and when wood is added will smoke a little. Consider your neighbour’s and your own comfort by putting the oven where smoke is least likely to drift into open windows. You might also consider putting a long flue on the oven to take the smoke to a height where no one will notice it.
- 4. Insulation. If you have an insulated oven, make sure it is well insulated both above and below. We’ve had so many students on our courses saying their ovens are losing heat too quickly and they can’t work out why; they’ve insulated the oven to keep in the rising heat but it still cools down too quickly. Well let’s head back to secondary school physics for a moment; yes I was asleep at the back of the lab too but science suddenly becomes much more interesting when there’s food and cooking involved……Heat does rise in a fluid; but in a solid mass (ie your oven) it heads out in all directions and that means downward too so make sure your oven has a good bed of insulation to sit on before you put it in place.
- 5. Wind. Position the oven so the door is not facing into a prevailing wind. This means the food won’t get covered in ash flying around the oven and also that the fire won’t be fighting a draught whenever the door is open. The fire will burn hotter, be less disturbed and you’ll get to eat sooner and without a light dusting of embers.
- 6. Workspace. Build lots of workspace around the oven. In any kitchen you need more workspace than you think and your outdoor kitchen is no exception. If you haven’t got space for permanent surfaces, a couple of trestle tables will do the job but make sure they have heatproof surfaces for placing hot pans.
Additionally, set the oven back so there is a lip of 8–10 inches (but no more) in front of the door. This allows you to easily bring out a pan and give it a stir or turn over some meat. If you don’t have this you’ll always be looking for a space to put your pot on; wandering round with hot pans and liquids is never a good idea.
- 7. Working Height. Set the door at a working height of not less than 1m to avoid too much bending. Always look after your back!
- 8. Storage. Allow lots (and lots) of space for log storage. We have plenty of space under the ovens for log storage; you need them close by so you can feed the fire when necessary without wandering off to refill your log carrier. We also have them stacked under seating and along walls. As with your oven, make sure your wood is under cover – you’ve gone to all the trouble of buying dry wood and then if you leave it out in the elements to be rained on, they are just going to absorb moisture and that’s going to affect your fires.
- 9. Light. Think about some lighting near the oven for late evening and winter cooking. This saves having to work with a head torch and means the party can carry on longer.
Now if you’ve got all this sorted, whenever Santa delivers you’ll be ready for your oven. Don’t forget to leave out his mince pies, wood fired of course!