Most modern masonry ovens are found in restaurants that make artisan pizzas and breads.
A masonry oven is an oven made of a fireproof material such as concrete, stone, brick or clay. These ovens are used in restaurants and homes to cook food using the heat of the fire inside the oven. Also known as stone or brick ovens, masonry ovens are commonly used to cook meat, pizza, and baked goods.
Although these ovens existed in ancient Rome, masonry ovens became popular in the 19th century. In medieval Europe, masonry ovens were built to serve entire communities and were usually owned by the government. Masonry kilns spread across the Americas during colonial times and are used throughout the world today.
When they were first created, these ovens were powered by coal or wood. A modern masonry oven typically uses electricity or natural gas, however. In the past, masonry ovens were used for just about any baking task, but most modern masonry ovens exist in restaurants that serve pizza or artisan breads.
A masonry oven cooks food using three types of heat: radiant heat, convection, and conduction. Radiant heat is heat emanating from a direct source. In the case of a brick kiln, the radiant heat comes directly from the fire in the kiln and also from the heat stored in the sill and walls of the structure. Radiant heat cooks food from all directions.
Convection occurs when heated air circulates within a structure. In a masonry oven, fresh air is drawn in through the oven access hole, heated, and then circulated throughout the oven. As the heat passes over the food, it helps it cook more evenly.
Conduction occurs when a hotter object comes into contact with a cooler object, which causes heat transfer. The typical masonry oven features a heated surface where food rests during cooking. Heat transfers from surface to food by conduction. Conduction dries the meats and improves the flavor.
Masonry ovens can be used indoors or outdoors and can vary in size. A modern masonry oven can be made of brick, stone or stucco and is available in residential and commercial sizes. Masonry kilns also vary in appearance, from small corner kilns to large separate structures. Individuals or companies can purchase masonry furnaces from specialist retailers or they can build them themselves.