Stone Pizza Oven or Horna Piatra (Oven, Stone)

Updated: January 15, 2014


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Introduction

During the late winter of 2010, we stayed at the El Cid hotel on the island of Cozumel, just off the mainland of Mexico's Yucatan penninsula. The hotel had several restaurants, some of which served the beach and poolside areas as well as their own dining rooms. In a separate area, there was a Stone Oven that was used exclusively for baking pizzas. I was interested in the exact workings of the oven and the process used to actually bake the pizzas. Here below, is what I learned (sorry about the lousy sketches; they were made on a napkin. I may redraw them some day.)

Here's a side view of the Stone Oven. It's obviously beehive-shaped, with a short chimney at the rear. The oven itself sits on a concrete "table" that's about 4 inches thick. Firewood can be stored beneath this table. The floor of the oven is made of 1 inch thick firebricks, laid very closely together, so there are hardly any discernable cracks between them. A very nice, smooth floor.
Stone Oven Side

The "beehive" and the collar in the front are made of 4 inch thick firebrick, held together with some sort of mortar.
Stone Oven Cold
Stone Oven Showing Size of Firebricks Relative to My Hand
This surface never seems to get very hot, so the requirements for the mortar must not be very demanding.
The inside diameter of the beehive is about one meter, and the dome is slightly more eliptical than a semicircle. That is, the inside height is maybe 10 or 12 cm greater than 1/2 meter.
Stone Oven Front

Building a Fire

Hardwood fire of small pieces laid on back half.
3 cans of lit Sterno placed within the laid-up wood.
Stone Oven Fire Getting Started
After 20 minutes, the chef sprinkled on vegetable oil to get the fire going even faster.
Vegetable Oil to be Added to the Stone Oven Fire
The chef pulls out the Sterno cans when they go out.
At about 1 hour, coals have started forming and the floor began to get hot to the touch.
Stone Oven Fire Going Well
The outside of the dome is still cool to the touch.
At about 1 1/2 hours, it's too hot to stand within about 4 feet of the door. There are lots of coals at this time. The floor has been 'way too hot to touch, even at the entrance, for quite a while already.
All the blackening which had formed inside at the top of the beehive during the early stages has been burned off by now.

Baking Pizzas

Pushing Coals to the Rear of the Stone Oven

-The chef now pushes all the coals and wood to the rear of the beehive, into a semicircle.
Stone Oven Inside
-He brushes all ashes off the exposed floor of the oven. This leaves room for 3 or 4 8" pizzas, or for one 12" pizza within the oven.

Stone Oven Ready for Pizzas

The chef inserts up to 3 small pizzas around the edge of the coals.

-With a fresh new fire, as described above, it takes about 7 minutes to cook two 8" pizzas.
The pizzas have a medium thick dough and they DO raise slightly during cooking.
The raw dough looks as though it has been allowed to raise a little before adding the condiments and being put into the oven.
This fire was kept going from about 1:30PM to about 10PM by adding a log or two at a time on top of the existing coals.