Saturday, September 5, 2009

You Can Build an Improved Stone Pizza Oven : Stone Pony II

The Stone Pony is the nickname for my beloved home made stone oven. I use this to make anything from pizza to barbecue, including my annual Thanksgiving turkey. I have measured temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (390 degrees Celsius) before my oven thermometer self-destructed.

This is a follow up project to You Can Build a Stone Pizza Oven. Which was posted in December of 2007.  Before reading this article you should read You Can Build a Stone Pizza Oven
first. I have since updated that article with pictures of the cement creation process.

The oven is shown below with the electric rotisserie attachments. Also note the added warming rack above the oven. The picture on the right is a roast in cooking in the over in a rotisserie basket. 

I have been using the oven for almost 3 years now and I must say that I am very happy with it. For one thing it cooks food with an absolutely phenomenal flavor. Also, it can be used in any weather and it is very versatile in terms of the foods that can be cooked in it. The following recipes have been made using the Stone Pony for this site.

Anything that you can make on a grill can also be made better using this oven. I regularly make steak, barbecued ribs, and chicken. I usually cook with apple wood because it is a mild smoky taste, also I live in Apple Country.

Like I said before, rocks vary widely in size, so this set of instructions gives you the general idea, but your own creativity is the key to building an oven.

As any technologist would tell you; there is always room for improvement. Rustic stone ovens are no exception. I wanted to increase the capacity of the oven and also be able to cook things at different temperatures simultaneously. The changes to the oven all center around the chimney area:

  1. Increase the size of the Chimney. Even though the diagram does not show it, I also made the chimney taller, as well as wider. 
    1. A taller chimney gives you a greater temperature gradient between the top and the bottom of the oven. This will result in an improved draft. 
    2. An improved draft will add a convection effect which will cook food faster and more evenly.
  2. Take advantage of the increased chimney volume and create a secondary cooking chamber inside the top of the over. 
    1. This gives a good place to cook things that you want to cook with slightly lower heat. 
    2. I use this space for baked potatoes and corn on the cob. The great thing is that these can be cooking at the same time as the main dish in the main cooking chamber.
  3. Take advantage of the increased surface area on top of the chimney to create an external cooking surface.
    1. This is great for things you want to grill slowly on low heat such as sausage, ribs, or natural casing hot dogs
    2. I sometimes use a grill cover on the top if cooking sausage in cold weather to give more even cooking.

The extra cooking space has been great. For example while cooking the Thanksgiving turkey inside the main chamber, I can be making extra wings on top of the Chimney while baking potatoes inside the secondary chamber. Also since I can cook everything at once, I end up using much less wood for cooking.


  1. I removed the old chimney leaving the back of the oven open. You have to be careful to not remove anything structural, but my old chimney was just stuck on to the back of the superstructure.
  2. The second picture below shows you the plan for inserting a grill to create the secondary chamber. I took this pictur while measuring it.

  1. Mix up a batch of fresh mud based cement, see You Can Build a Stone Pizza Oven for illustrated instructions.
  2. Lay down a generous layer on the stone that forms the base for the chimney. 
  3. Spread evenly to a thickness of about 2 inches (5 cm).

  1. Place a layer of carefully selected rocks
  2. Fill the gaps between the from the top with cement. Push the cement in between the rocks.
  3. Cover the rocks with another generous layer of cement.
  4. Keep repeating this process until it is time to add the grill for the secondary cooking chamber.

  1. Now it is time to add the grill, which will be structurally supported by the chimney on 3 sides.
  2. Lay down a generous layer of cement on top of your last layer of rock 
  3. Press the outer end of the grill into the cement. 
  4. Add more cement on the 3 sides of the grill that correspond to the chimney walls.
  5. Add a layer of rocks above the grill.
  6. Continue to build up layers of rocks until you reach the desired height for your chimney. For me this was about 6 feet (~2M)  above the ground. This way I can stand on a large rock when I am cooking on the top.

This is what the finished chimney looks like with and without a top grill.   

Now that I have  near perfect stone oven, I would really like to start from scratch and build a really great one. For example I would point the firebox in a different direction from the cooking chamber. I would also make a larger cooking chamber. Of course any change would force me to re-design the electric rotisserie that built for this oven.

Again, this is only a rough guideline. I encourage you to use these ideas, but you will have to solve many problems yourself, depending on the type of material you have in your area. For example, in Morocco they build ovens completely out of mud. They are able to cook an entire lamb in such an oven.

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