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Swabbing the Deck - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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Swabbing the Deck

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  • Swabbing the Deck

    Hey there...after getting the oven fired and nice and hot, moving the coals to the side, I will use a wet rag to swab the cooking deck. Does anyone else do this? Is it necessary? I think it obviously drops the temp quite a bit...

    Let me know what you think...I'm firing now!

  • #2
    Hey Jay,

    I don't know if this is in time. Don't do it.

    Just use your copper brush. It does a nice job of getting hearth clean and it doesn't cool the oven floor down. For anyone who doesn't have one, you can get a brush at the FB Store. Don't use a steel grill brush, it will scratch and wear your floor out, and won't do a good job of cleaning.

    Pizza Ovens
    Outdoor Fireplaces


    • #3
      I didn't swab the deck and it worked out much better! I used my laser temp from FB and confirmed that the temp was MUCH higher.


      • #4
        While the swabbing makes sense to clean the ash off the floor, I'm afraid the power of the steam that results could damage the floor of your oven. At 700 degrees, the explosive force of steam could blow apart the surface of the bricks.

        I do not have experience with Pizza Ovens but have experiece with Gas fired boilers used to create steam for kitchens, dry cleaners, etc. When water gets close to the refractory - mild chipping to explosive fractures can occur.

        Please be careful - I you must swab - please consider wear eye protection.
        My oven progress -


        • #5
          Boy I didn't even think about explosions! Pizzas turned out great last night...so I'm kicking my swabbing habit.


          • #6
            Another Swabbing the Deck Qustion

            Hi All,

            I've read all about how using a steel or stainless steel bruxh will eat away at the bricks but will fine wire brass brush be satisfactory or is there a problelm with brass too?



            • #7
              Brass is way softer than even the softest common brick, let alone hard refractory. Try to scratch a brick with a piece of brass: you'll just get yellow lines.
              My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


              • #8
                Although i understand all the negatives of swabbing the deck per say..i have seen it done..as a kid one of my chores was to ride my bike to the east side of town (that would be the east side of the railroad yards) and do chores for my Grandmother. Take care of the yard...clean the rabbit shed..ect. She had an outdoor brick oven. She'd fire the oven..bring it to temp rake out the coals and then mop it out with a damp string mop before baking her bread. I'm not suggesting this but just thought i'd mention it.


                • #9
                  wet oven

                  Just out of curiosity, what's the difference between swabbing the oven floor with a wet mop, and spraying water in the hot oven? It would seem to raise the same issue. I recall one poster saying that spraying his oven before baking was causing loose mortar problems.

                  Not that I'm discouraging steam baking, I'm just curious
                  My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


                  • #10
                    There are lots of fun themes going on here -- pizza, bread, steam, brass, ash, et. al.

                    If you are cooking pizza, where you want high heat and don't want to take any heat out your cooking floor, don't swab. A good brass brush from Forno Bravo (hint) gets the deck clean and ready for pizza.

                    If you are baking bread, you want to let the hearth temperature fall before you start to bake, so swabbing is OK/good. Also, I think of pizza a slightly more rustic product than bread, and if you want your break perfectly clean on the bottom, swabbing also helps there. (I will defer to Jim for more details there). When I swab, I use a damp paper towel attached the my Forno Bravo brush (hint), and then just toss it. You can see that it does get up some ash beyond what the brush does.

                    On steam, you have the idea that you want the oven cooler than you do for pizza at play. I also think the idea is that the oven walls or floor never get wet -- but rather that the spray explodes into steam as it nears the walls. I will again defer to our resident bread expert (Jim) for more on that.

                    Good topic.
                    Pizza Ovens
                    Outdoor Fireplaces


                    • #11
                      Swabbing and Steam


                      Generally speaking, I agree with what's been said here regarding pizza baking on a deliberately low mass floor. You do not want to lower your temp at all, therefore swabbing is probably not a good idea.

                      The comments that follow have to do with bread baking. When my burn has gone to ash, I rake out, then brush (brass), seal the opening with the door, then let the oven moderate for about two hours, to a hearth temp of about 600 F of thereabouts. My peak temp just after firing would be in 900 range. Although the hearth temp has dropped quite a bit during this time, the slab and cladding temps have raised to around 450 F for each.

                      Then I swab out the remaining ash; the hearth temp might drop a degree or two, but that's all, but my oven is very high mass. For swabbing, I made a handle, cut a groove around one end and wired on an old piece of towel. The towel is used damp, not wet, to clean up the remaining ash. I have encountered zero problems with cracking, mortar falling, etc., doing this or injecting steam, but my refractory mortar joints are very tight.

                      Swabbing contributes very little to steam content in the oven, but I should stress this is done very quickly, with a wrung out, damp piece of towel. Once I've finished with swabbing, I give the oven a long spray with a garden sprayer, then seal again. I can't be absolutely sure, but I don't think the fine mist spray actually ever contacts the bricks; it goes to steam in the superheated air. I spray again once the breads are loaded to make sure there is visible steam in the oven chamber. I've already posted the benefits of this with hearth breads. I can see no detrimental effects inside the oven from doing this.

                      In France, commercial wood fired brick ovens have steam injection systems that are controlled by the head baker.

                      All of us know that a little ash won't hurt you, but I'm dealing with the public for my breads, and 90 per cent of them wouldn't be very understanding if the bottoms of my breads had ash on them. Besides, I like to point out the impressions of the hearth brick on the undersides of my kilo hearth breads. There's a certain wow factor in it, and if I had to brush off ash to show them, it would be, umm, distracting.

                      I'm not at all sure about the wisdom of swabbing or steam with cast refractory FB ovens; this would be more James' topic.

                      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


                      • #12
                        Interesting difference in words and meanings. What you guys across the pond call ?swabbing out? an oven we call ?Scuffling? the oven

                        Lets not get confused on this subject, we are talking about high mass low temperature (lower than pizza ovens) bread ovens in this case.

                        The ovens we use this technique in are from two ? four meters deep so you would need one big long brass brush and a lot of time to clean the oven. Generally we use a hollow mild steel of wooden ash pole roughfully the same length as the depth of the oven. At the business end of the pole is attached a swivel and choke chain that one would use to walk a large dog. The choke chain is then choked or closed round the middle of a damp but not wet Hessian sack. Once placed inside of the oven the wet sack is rotated or swivelled around the oven floor by agitating the pole in a rotating manner.

                        The action of the rotating scuffle and the evaporating steam has the effect of lifting the ash from the ovens floor and suspending it in the hot air of the oven. As the hot air and resulting steam rushes to leave the oven chamber and exit up the ovens flue the suspended ash exits the oven thus leaving a clean oven for baking. For smaller oven we use a normal string type mop head on a long handle.

                        We have ovens with tight airset cement joints; wide refractory mortar and lime based joints and have no problems with this scuffling method of cleaning the oven floor.

                        Don?t scuffle a hot pizza oven, for one, there is no need as the oven is much smaller than a commercial oven and you cant afford to loose any hearth temperature. The brass brush is just fine for the job.


                        As Jim says the garden spray works good, we have ovens working with that type of operation, also, with water in containers inside the oven. One oven is well into the twenty first century, we installed two steam lances down each side of the oven chamber and they are serviced by a dedicated live steam boiler. The baker can chose how much, and over what period of time he want to flood the oven with live steam and thus influence the crust and appearance of the product.

                        There are many different methods of injecting or creating steam in a commercial oven; I wont go into them here as we are usually talking pizzas. If any one is interested I will get some photos of the various steam injection methods and post them.



                        • #13
                          Steam Systems


                          I'd be very interesting in seeing pictures of steam injection systems. I've been messing about with using the garden sprayer when my hearth breads are just loaded, then again in about two minutes, once they've set. As you know, this affects the crust and caramelization. Having the ability to inject steam without opening the door would be a benefit.

                          My steam methods come from my reading and plain old experimentation.

                          "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


                          • #14
                            Need Help

                            I have a 3 x3 hearth with a 18'' wide and 20'' long antichamger or area before the hearth by the oven door. I plan on having an oven door made this afternoon using a two pieces of plywood and a wooden handle on the outside. The
                            two pieces of plywood will be seperated bt two peices of coconut lumber that we cut from our coconut trees using a chain saw and a graphit laidened string.
                            We are still having problems with the oven maintaining heat. I hope the door will help. Any other suggestions.
                            The oven has a clay brick floor and a dome height of about 18 inches and a door arch ove 15 inches and a with of about 20 inches.
                            Thanks for any and all suggestions.


                            • #15
                              coconut wood

                              Can someone please tell me the advantages of coconut wood? I live in the tropics were coconut trees are in abundance. I am half way through building my pizza oven (36"igloo). Is it able to withstand high heat or something. I have read a few references to coconut wood without the explanation.