Happy New Year, Quincho Project fans! The pizza oven has completed the curing burn in stages and is now ready for operation. In case you are interested, there are 4 stages to the burn in, each a higher temperature than the previous. Since this takes place over a period of four days, the weekend through new years was a perfect opportunity. Besides, we had a clear weather forecast, so I decided to get it done.
The first two days burns get the dome walls to a maximum temperature of 250 and 400 degrees each. You monitor the heat at half hour intervals by taking a reading with an infra-red thermometer off the wall of the dome of each side (just below the curve) and averaging the two. The objective of these first two burns is to drive the moisture out of the clay used to make the terracotta dome and activate the heat set mortar. Start with a small fire and don’t over fire the thing, lest you crack the dome. You will want to bring this up to temp over a period of about 4 hours (increasing the heat 50 – 75 degrees an hour or so). Every 30 minutes or so you add a small piece of hardwood to the fire. As the coals bank up, the temperature stabilizes and it’s easier to keep it lit. Patience is the key here, so don’t push it.
The next two days are hotter fires yet, day three going to about 600. The objective of the fourth day is to get a rolling fire over the inside of the dome that burns off all the accumulated soot. Did I say be patient? Well, be patient. Below is a shot of day 4. You can see the white area behind the fire where the soot has burned off. The fire is rolling across the dome.
It’s important not to “over-fire” this thing. That means that you put so much wood in here the flames are shooting out the arch and going up the chimney. Bad idea. Be patient.
By Day 4 I had the hang of it and built a perfect fire. So lessons learned… Always keep a log at half hour intervals including temps, how much wood you added and the fires status. I’d suggest doing this even after it’s cured so that you can get the hang of the consequences of your actions and what kind of fire they produce. Probably the fastest way to getting good at this. Anyhow, tonight I will try the first pizza. Let’s see what happens.