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Curing a new refractory oven

Getting your precast pizza oven ready to use

Step 1: Safety and Prep Before you kick off, make sure your oven surroundings are dry and hazard-free. Keep a fire extinguisher close by, just in case. Don heat-resistant gear, like leather gloves, to stay protected from burns.

Step 2: Oven Checkup Clear out any leftovers – ashes, debris – from previous rounds. Ensure your oven floor is clean and good to go.

Step 3: The Lowdown on Curing Curing, or seasoning, is about gradually warming up your oven to bid farewell to any lingering moisture and toughen up the materials. The goal? Avoid heating too much, too fast – steam can spell trouble, causing cracks in refractory materials. Slowly baking that moisture out is key. Remember, water expands into steam, and steam can harm your oven permanently. If your fires are too short each day, you won’t drive all of the water out of your oven before you start using it, which again, will cause steam and cracks.

Crack Talk

Speaking of cracks, small hairline ones are par for the course in all pizza ovens. Nothing to sweat. They’re your oven’s way of dealing with the ups and downs of heating and cooling. Think of them as tiny earthquakes, releasing pressure and preventing larger cracks. Some precast pizza ovens, maybe yours, come with burn-out fibers that create channels to allow steam escape during the first fires without causing cracks, and stainless steel, basalt or organic fibers for extra precaution. Hypothetically, if someone threw a water bucket into your heated oven, those structural fibers would minimize cracking and ensure your oven’s structural integrity. It’s an unlikely scenario, but hey, better safe than sorry.

The Curing Routine

Now, onto the nitty-gritty of curing. Think of it as a slow bake to draw the water out. Low temperature, sustained fires are the name of the game. Quick bursts won’t cut it. Fires should be neither scorching nor short-lived, heating up and cooling down at a leisurely pace. Each day your goal is to reach the target temperature level, and maintain that level for 4-5 hours. That’s a long time, but it’s important.

Day 1 Goal: 150ºF

Day 2 Goal: 200ºF

Day 3 Goal: 300ºF

Day 4 Goal: 400ºF

Day 5 Goal: for 450ºF

Again, maintain that temperature for 4-5 hours.

The Curing Kit

What you need in your arsenal:

Dry, seasoned firewood Kindling or fire starters Infrared oven thermometer Water spray bottle Oven brush

The Curing Steps

Prep Work: Ensure your oven is bone dry. If it’s a newbie, let it air out for at least a week before diving into the curing process.

Start Small: Light up controlled fires using kindling or fire starters. Gentle heat-up is the name of the game here.

Gradual Temp Rise: Over a few days, escalate fire size slowly. Build slightly larger fires each day to let the oven warm up at its own pace, preventing cracks from rapid temperature changes.

Maintain the Heat: Use an oven thermometer to keep tabs on the internal temperature. Hit the max temperature for each day and hold it for a good few hours, letting the oven thoroughly dry out.

Spritz Action: Spray the oven interior lightly with a water spray bottle during curing. This creates steam, speeding up the process and avoiding too-quick drying.

Cool Down Smoothly: Once you’ve maxed out the temperature for a while, let the fire simmer down naturally. Allow the oven to cool gradually to avoid surprise cracks.

Repeat the Drill: Depending on your oven’s specs, you might need a few rounds of curing. This ensures your oven is seasoned and ready for culinary action.

Ash Cleanup: After each curing session, brush out the ashes and debris. Keep that oven tidy for the next round.

Remember, the curing routine is your cast pizza oven’s ticket to a long, crack-free life. Stick to the plan, take it slow, and you’ll have a trusty oven ready to whip up mouthwatering pizzas and more.