A masonry oven is an oven that is made out of a fireproof material, such as concrete, stone, brick or clay. These ovens are used in restaurants and homes to cook foods using the heat from a fire within the oven. Also known as stone ovens or brick ovens, masonry ovens are commonly used to cook meat, pizza and baked goods.
Although these ovens existed in ancient Rome, masonry ovens first became popular in the 19th century. In medieval Europe, masonry ovens were constructed to serve entire communities and usually were owned by the government. Masonry ovens spread to the Americas during colonial times and are use around the world today.
When they were first created, these ovens were powered with coal fires or wood fires. A modern masonry oven typically utilizes electricity or natural gas, however. In the past, masonry ovens were used for virtually 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 that emanates from a direct source. In the case of the masonry oven, radiant heat comes directly from the oven's fire as well as from the heat stored in hearth and walls of the structure. Radiant heat cooks food from every direction.
Convection occurs when heated air circulates within a structure. In a masonry oven, cool air is drawn through the oven's access hole, is heated, and is then circulated throughout the oven. As the heat passes over the food, it helps it to cook more evenly.
Conduction occurs when a warmer object comes into contact with a cooler object, which causes the transfer of heat. The typical masonry oven features a heated surface that food rests on while cooking. Heat transfers from the surface to the food through conduction. Conduction sears meats and improves flavor.
Masonry ovens can be used either indoors or outdoors, and they can vary in size. A modern masonry oven might be made of brick, stone or stucco, and it is available in both residential and commercial sizes. Masonry ovens also range in appearance from small corner ovens to a large, separate structures. Individuals or businesses can purchase masonry ovens from specialized retailers, or they can build the ovens themselves.