Italian Brick Oven Glossary

Every pizza oven has a curve, bend or curvature which is referred to as the arch, including the dome itself, which is a annular or rounded vault, the opening into the oven chamber, which can use either a level or semicircular top, and the opening into the vent landing, which can also be constructed either as a rectangle, with a flat top, or with an arch, either brick, stone, stucco or refractory.

Bread Oven
The main features of a Bread Oven are the Cask Vault design and larger thermal mass. You find both Pizza Ovens and Bread Ovens all over Earuope, where Pane Cotto a Legna can still be easily found in most supermarkets, many of which have brick Bread Ovens in their bakeries. Pizzerias, restaurants and homes all use traditional Round Pizza Ovens.

High quality Firebricks for the dome and floor of the Oven are highly recommended. Red clay bricks are a traditional design element for many oven finish styles, including the Vent Arch.

Carbon Burn-Off
When your pizza oven reaches about 650F, the black soot, or carbon, begins to burn off, giving the impression that the oven dome is turning white, or clear, You can see the detail of the dome interior, and know that you oven is nearly ready for cooking pizza and that it has reach a stage where it will continue to hold heat for other types of retained heat cooking.

Cart Oven
Cart ovens are prevalent in and around Naples, where they are used for catering parties and outdoor festivals (of which there are a lot), and for neighborhood entertaining. Our view is that the nature of entertaining, houses and roads in the state lend themselves more toward Trailer Ovens for catering, parties and events.

Unlike a Fireplace, where the chimney is in the back, a Pizza Oven has the chimney outside of the fire chamber -- the front. The oven draws in cold air through the oven opening for the fire, and exhausts hot air back out through the top half of the oven door. The exhausted air is collected by a Vent, which is in turn connected to a chimney. Outdoor ovens use a short chimney run to safely exhaust smoke, while indoor ovens can be connected to an appropriate chimney system to exhaust smoke outside of the house. It is interesting to note that while very rustic ovens do not have a vent and chimney, and subject the chef to lots of heat and smoke, the ancient Pompeii Ovens had sophisticated Vent and Chimney systems and were inside shops that also served as retail outlets.

Chimney Manifold
The part of a PC Brick Ovens Pizza Oven that connects the Vent to a standard steel chimney system.

Clay Brick
Again, we do not recommend Red Clay Brick for the dome or floor of the Pompeii Oven. They are, on the other hand, beautiful and very inexpensive as a finish material.

Commercial Pizza Oven
Commercial Pizza Ovens and Residential Pizza Ovens are based on the same basic design, where the only differences are the size of the oven, the thickness of the Refractory material used and the quality of the refractory material used.

You will end up using concrete for your stand and hearth, and possibly your trim and finish, but should never use standard concrete in any core oven components, including the Vent -- which gets too hot for standard concrete. Try to avoid oven producers that provide a concrete vent, or worse, a steel venting system in refractory oven.

Concrete Block
These 8"x8"x16' blocks are easy to use and inexpensive ($1 each) for building an oven stand. For indoor installation, and builders who are looking for a faster or lighter installation method should consider a Metal Hearth Tray and stand.

Concrete Board
These pre-made sheets of concrete provide a convenient method of finishing the top of an oven when used with Metal Studs. They are non-combustible, and can use near the oven opening, and can be covered with stucco and stone.

After your oven has been installed, you need to bring it up to heat slowly to allow the oven itself, and the installation materials to dry. Failure to do this could result in damage to your oven. You should allow your oven to sit for seven days after installation, then begin a series of seven small, then growing fires. Read our Curing Page for additional information.

There are a number of oven door designs, including a free-standing sheet metal door, a hinged and insulated door, and an owner-built wood door. You use the oven door to regulate air in-take and the strength of your fire during Oven Firing, and to close the oven for Retained Heat Cooking. An insulated door improves a Pizza Oven's ability to retain heat for longer periods of time.

Refractory bricks used to build the Oven Dome of the Pompeii Oven. Typically made from about 30% alumina and 60% silica, they can withstand rapid heat-up and cool-down cycles without spalling (flaking) or cracking. Read our Brick Primer for more.

Fire Clay Mortar
A mortar made for building the Pompeii Oven that consists of stand, fire clay (ground firebricks) and Portland cement. Refer to the Pompeii Oven plans for more details. While not as heat resistant as true Refractory Mortar, it is often easier to find.

Your oven will sit on a standard concrete pad. Make sure you build your foundation slightly larger than your Oven Stand, in order to support your finish material, and forms you will use to install our Insulating Hearth. Consider sloping the foundation just slightly to the front of the oven, to keep water from standing in your wood storage area underneath the oven. Your hearth and Oven Floor will be level.

Gabled Enclosure
A form of outdoor oven enclosure that features a basic walled structure and gabled roof. A traditional Mediterranean finish style.

A form of outdoor or indoor Pizza Oven enclosure where the oven walls follow the basic shape of the oven chamber to form an Igloo, or Beehive. Also a traditional Mediterranean finish style.

Insulating Blanket
Modern, high-tech woven ceramic insulation that comes in blanket form, and wraps around your Pizza Oven.

Insulating Concrete
A mix of 6 parts Vermiculite or Perlite:1 part Portland cement to make an insulating product which can be used in the Insulating Hearth and for dome insulation in certain types of enclosure.

Insulating Hearth
A two-part hearth that supports your Pizza Oven, and provides both a Thermal and Insulation layer. Comprised of standard concrete and Vermiculite or Perlite concrete, the Insulating Hearth enables your oven to hold heat for better cooking and better efficiency with fuel. The Thermal Layer absorbs heat, while the Insulation Layer stops it from "leaking" out the bottom of the oven.

The layer that encloses your Pizza Oven, and stops heat from escaping. Typically, this means a layer of Vermiculite concrete below your Pizza Oven, and both Insulating Blanket and Vermiculite layers above your Oven.

Your pizza oven has two landing areas. The smaller space directly in front of the oven door and below the Vent, called the Vent Landing, and a larger area at the front of the oven, called the Oven Landing.

There are three types of mortar, at least for the purposes of installing a Pizza Oven or Refractory Fireplace. Refractory Mortar, a pre-mixed heat resistant mortar engineered for Pizza Ovens and Fireplaces; Fire Clay Mortar, a site-mixed mortar based on sand, fire clay and Portland cement; and standard masonry Mortar. Do not use standard mortar for your Pizza Oven chamber and vent, and only use it for decorative elements that do not get hot.

Neapolitan Oven
A style of Pizza Oven that features a lower Oven Dome height and more aggressively curved dome shape -- seen in and around Naples and in ovens built by Neapolitan builders throughout Italy. It is said to be tuned for cooking Verace Pizza Napoletana.

Outdoor Kitchen
The Outdoor Kitchen can range from a simple Pizza Oven or grill to a completely outfitted kitchen and dining room featuring a Pizza Oven stainless steel grill, cook top, refrigerator, sink and more. The Outdoor Kitchen has been a part of Mediterranean living for centuries, and is really catching on in the states -- for good, reason. It's the best way to cook and eat when it's hot (and even when it isn't). Read our Outdoor Kitchen Design Guide for more.

Oven Brush
A soft copper brush used for cleaning your Oven Floor.

Oven Dome
The curved vault of the Pizza Oven. The parabolic, round shape of the dome is efficient with wood fuel, and evenly reflects heat back down on the Oven Floor for cooking perfect pizza and other dishes that use both top and bottom heat for cooking. There are two basic types of Italian Oven Dome: the Neapolitan Oven and the Tuscan Oven.

Oven Firing
The fire inside the oven chamber that heats the refractory material that comprises the oven. Make sure you know how long it takes to fire your oven for the type of cooking you are going so you can plan ahead and fire your oven at the right time. For more, read our Pizza Oven Management page.

Oven Floor
The floor of a Pizza Oven can be made either from prefabricated circular pieces (typically pie-shaped), bricks or refractory tiles. If it is at all possible, it is better to choose an oven where the Oven Dome wraps around the oven floor, and rests on the Insulating Hearth. This keeps heat inside your oven, and keeps it from "leaking" out the side of the oven through the exposed sides of the oven floor. You cook pizza and bread directly on the oven floor, and set pots, pans and grills on it for other cooking effects.

Oven Landing
The area in front of our oven where you place food going in and out of the oven. Often the size and material of the Oven Landing is up to the design of the owner, and ranges between 4" and 24".

Oven Opening
The door into your oven chamber. The size of the opening is designed to be large enough to accommodate pots, pans, grills, and of course pizza, without being so large that the oven does not hold heat.

Oven Stand
The "legs" that your Pizza Oven rests on. Typically Concrete Block for site-built installation, and optionally metal for light-weight installations and rapid installations.

Pizza Oven
A traditional, round Italian wood-fired oven optimized for cooking pizza, roasts, vegetables and a single batch of bread from a single firing. Sometimes features an LP fixture for back-up and fire-starting.

Pizza Peel
The tool you use to set and turn pizza, and the pots and pans to put in and out of your Pizza Oven. They can be either wood or steel, short- handled or long-handled. For more information on technique, read the Using Pizza Peels page.

Portland Cement
Pure cement -- kiln-dried limestone, without any of the aggregates that make up concrete. Used in various ways in Pizza Oven installation, including Insulating Concrete and Fire Clay Mortar.

refractory Fireplace
Unlike a typical fireplace, where all of the heat goes up the chimney, a Refractory Fireplace uses Refractory Material to absorb and reflect heat into the space in front of it.

Refractory Mortar
True Refractory Mortar is made from Alumina Silicates and has the same, or similar, heat resistance and thermal characteristics as the Refractory Pizza Oven itself, making it the right mortar for Pizza Oven and Outdoor Fireplace installation.

Residential Pizza Oven
Residential Pizza Ovens are designed for home and garden use, and have a number of defining characteristics. They are smaller in size, and are slightly lighter in weight. Their lower Thermal Mass and high tech Refractory Material enable them to heat up very quickly, typically between 40 and 60 minutes, making it practical to use them often during the week.

Retained Heat Cooking
This is the style of cooking where you rake the fire and coals out of the Pizza Oven, and cooking using the heat held in the Refractory Material. You can cook a wide range of foods this way, taking advantage of the various levels of heat the oven goes through as it cools. For example, you can cook bread at round 500F, roasts, cakes and other Dolce around 400F, then beans and soups overnight as the oven temperature falls. For more, read our Brick Oven Techniques pages.

Round Pizza Oven
The round Oven Floor and parabolic Oven Dome are two of the main characteristics of an Italian Pizza Oven.

Thermal Layer
This includes all of the material in the Pizza Oven that absorbs and retains heat for cooking. It can include the Oven Floor, Oven Dome, the concrete layer of the Insulating Hearth and any addition Thermal Mass you add around the Oven Dome using additional Refractory Mortar.

Thermal Mass
Thermal mass describes the volume of refractory material in your oven that you have to heat up in order to prepare your oven to cook. One interesting characteristic of thermal mass, like most things in nature, is that it likes equilibrium. If one site a piece of thermal mass is hot and the other cool, such as a Pizza Oven when it is being fired, the heat will migrate to the outer part of the oven in order to reach equilibrium -- leaving the entire mass only "warn". What this means is that you cannot heat only the "inside" of your oven, and that ovens with a large thermal mass will take a long time to heat up, as nature tries to heat the entire mass evenly. That is why you should not use a bread oven for cooking pizza at home, and why you should never use a Commercial Pizza Oven as a Residential Pizza Oven.

A small probe and wire cable you can install with your Pizza Oven that will output the temperature of the oven at that spot in the oven to a temperature display.

Temperature is always an interesting topic with wood-fired ovens. You can test the temperature of the inside of the oven dome, the floor of the oven, a couple of inches inside the oven dome and in the air, using a variety of thermometers and Thermocouples For example, the Premio oven tests the air temperature, which allows you to gauge the temperature of the dome and floor. Another option is to use a Non-Contact Thermometer, which tests the surface temperatures of the Oven Floor and Oven Dome (if you have the right model). Bakers using larger, thicker Bread Ovens test inside the refractory to see how much heat has been absorbed to gauge the oven for bread. Another option is to develop a "feel" for your own oven using you hand. For more, read our Pizza Oven Management page.

The Vent rests just in front and above the Oven Opening, and collects the smoke and hot air that is exhausted from the top half of the opening. It is typically important to note that this part of the oven gets very hot, and if possible, should be built using true Refractory Material.

Vent Arch
The arch that you see in the front of most ovens is in fact a non-structural, decorative Vent Arch, which encloses the Vent and Vent Landing.

Vent Landing
The small landing directly in front of the Oven Opening.

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