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  • How to repair cook surface

    Greetings from upstate NY. I'm looking for some advice on maintaining my stone and brick oven. The cooking surface is worn and my pizza is picking up bits of grit when I bake it. What product would be recommended for resurfacing?

    Hopefully my attached photos will be easy to view.

    Thank you very much in advance to all who take the time to respond.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Howdy SimplyJH and welcome to the forum. What is your cooking surface? From the picture I assume it is refractory cast mix or homebrew. Knowing what the current cooking floor is made from and a picture of the inside of the oven would be helpful. How long have you been using it? I'm surprised not to see smoke stains on the front. By the way, nice looking base.
    Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
    Roseburg, Oregon

    FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
    Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
    Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

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    • #3
      Hi Mike,
      ​​​​​​Thanks for your response.

      I don't know what the cook surface is made of. The mason who built it was visiting the previous owner of my house for the summer and built it as a gift. He was French and was a professional mason if that offers any clues.

      We haven't used it in about a year so the outside is pretty clean, but also there is a smoke vent in the rear. I would use it more often if I wasn't afraid of breaking a tooth on the pizza.

      Joe
      ​​​​​​
      Attached Files

      Comment


      • #4
        It looks like he just stacked regular bricks over a concrete floor and then coated the outside with mortar or more concrete. Interesting that there's a vent in the back...totally different from what we normally see. You wouldn't get heat flow & reflection from above as the heat circulated up & over from the fire to exit in the front. It appears that the main issue for this oven is the spalling (flaking off) from those regular bricks. I honestly don't think there's any way to repair this other than a total rebuild.

        If you really want to use it as is, I suspect the only option would be to always cook/roast in a covered pan or pot. You could probably put a piece of aluminum foil over a pot/pan as well to keep the "chunks" off. I guess if you were good with metal work, you could build an elevated cover/structure for a central area in the oven and then do pizza on a pizza stone under the cover...but you'd still always be thinking about the possible tooth fracture in your future.

        Wish I had some positive options for an actual fix...but I don't. I actually cooked in an old WFO in Italy that looked somewhat similar to this one inside...the difference was the bricks were NOT flaking off and the floor showed no evidence of "fallout"
        Last edited by SableSprings; 08-20-2020, 01:54 PM.
        Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
        Roseburg, Oregon

        FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
        Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
        Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          That is a fine looking base you have, so if you decide to rebuild you are that much further ahead. Lots of folks are even casting ovens so if you aren't up to brick cutting you have other options.
          My build thread
          http://www.fornobravo.com/community/...h-corner-build

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you both for your advice. I haven't had any brick come off while in use. The realpreal is that the dough sometimes picks up a bit of grit off of the cook surface. I've never had any debris fall from above.

            I understand that the rear vent may not be optimal for the reasons described, but honestly the oven gets nice and hot and cooks a beautiful pizza rapidly in a few minutes so I don't think the heat flow is really a problem.

            Is there some type of special mortar I could use to recoat the cook surface? If not, I think I may just insert an unglazed terracotta tile or pizza stone and cook on that.

            Thanks again for all of your time and expertise.

            Joe

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            • #7
              Use the pizza stone...Those terra cotta files will quickly crack & break. Also, I could see in your first picture of the oven interior, some brick spall pieces. Can also see some potential "tooth crackers" in the ceiling. Just be careful.

              The problem with most of those mortar type products is that they have a sand component and it will be rubbed/scraped off by your peel and even just pushing wood/fire around (becoming future grit for your chewing pleasure . That's why most ovens built here have brick or commercially made refractory tiles for the cooking surface. Another option is to use a perforated (or solid) pizza pan. They work pretty darn well and would keep your pizza just above the grit layer. There are some thinner splits of firebrick available that you could lay on the floor, but a good pizza stone or the pans will serve you well. Do remember that even pizza stones can be cracked if put cold into a fired oven - Good luck!
              Last edited by SableSprings; 08-21-2020, 08:38 AM.
              Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
              Roseburg, Oregon

              FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
              Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
              Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                Thank you Mike! We do have both perforated and solid pizza pans that we use in our regular oven and they work great. They are a little too large for the opening in our wood oven so I will just buy a few smaller ones. That seems like the simplest answer for the short term. I will definitely watch for any falling debris on the top of the pizzas.

                Thanks again for all the help. We are looking forward to using the oven more regularly.

                Is there a good trick to easily inserting and removing the pizza pans? Even using a pizza peel I have to wear elbow length oven mitts because of the amount of heat emanating from the entrance. I don't think I will be able reach inside to insert or remove the pan safely even with the mitts on.

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                • #9
                  Joe, you might find that you can make a longer narrow peel from scrap wood or attach a flat metal piece to the end of a length of wood. The pizza pan is rigid and all you have to do is find something of the appropriate length (to retain the hair on your arm...) and slide under the pan to pull it out...or slide it in. You could buy a longer banjo peel, but I think you can make something that works well and looks good too. I do keep a bucket of water near the oven as metal peel handles can get very hot and although I've never had a problem with my wooden peels... Remember, that using a peel with a longer handle means you have to be careful not to hit one of your guests in the head when pulling a pizza out....

                  I normally make up my pizza on the shorter wooden peel (rice flour between the skin & peel) and have no problem sliding it in the oven. I use my longer, metal banjo peel to turn and work the pizza while it's cooking and then to remove it. I normally don't make large pizzas, I like smaller ones so I can try out more toppings and pieces are always hot (because with only 4-5 wedges, they don't last on the serving plate very long...).
                  Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
                  Roseburg, Oregon

                  FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
                  Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
                  Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    One other thought - I don't know what the internal dimensions of your oven are, but firebrick are available in splits which are 1.25 inches thick. It would take some cutting and effectively lower your dome by 1.25 inches but you could skin the floor and cook pizza without picking up any debris from below.
                    My build thread
                    http://www.fornobravo.com/community/...h-corner-build

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      In going through our pizza pans yesterday I found four of them that fit the opening, that's a good start. I do have a couple of wooden peels that fit the opening as well. I haven't used a banjo peel before, I will look into them as the long handle might be helpful.

                      So Mike if I understand you correctly, I could still make the pizza on the peel and have the pan in place inside the oven already, and then use the peel as I would if cooking directly on the masonry surface? I was imagining making the pizza on the pan and then sliding the pan with the pizza into and out of the oven somehow without using a peel.

                      Sounds like I need to fire up the oven and mess around a bit until I find the method that is going to work best for us.....

                      JR, that's good to know that you can get thin firebrick that I could redo the surface with. The only drawback I can think of is that the width of my opening is pretty narrow already and losing height from the bottom effectively narrows it further. As it is now, I can just fit a 13 inch diameter pan into the opening.

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                      • #12
                        Hey Joe, glad you found pans that fit the opening. No, I was thinking of you loading the pizza on the pan and then after adding your toppings, using the peel to put the pan into the oven. The longer handle peel would make it more comfortable to load or retrieve the pan from the oven if your hands are sensitive to the heat. If you were going to place pizza directly on a pizza stone in the oven, then the banjo peel would be useful.

                        It sounds like simply getting (or making) a peel with a longer handle will allow you to more comfortably load into and retrieve the pan from the oven.

                        Sorry about the confusion, I hope that cleared it up.
                        Last edited by SableSprings; 08-22-2020, 07:46 AM.
                        Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
                        Roseburg, Oregon

                        FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
                        Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
                        Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks again Mike. I appreciate all of your time and expertise.

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                          • #14
                            I wanted to post a follow up after using the oven yesterday.

                            I purchased a long handled aluminum peel, both to keep a safer distance from the oven entrance and also because I figured the thin aluminum peel would do a better job of sliding under the pizza pans. It did a great job on both fronts.

                            Also, cooking on the pans solved the gritty crust problem about which I original posted at the start of this thread, so I'm on the right track.

                            The main difficulty I encountered was that the bottom crust cooked too slowly compared to the outer crust and top of the pizzas. I'm going to try again in the next few weeks but this time I will build my fire directly on the area where the pan will go and push back the coals at the last minute before putting the pizzas in. Also I plan to let the fire cool further before attempting to bake. I think I had too active of a fire at the time I cooked the pizzas.

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