When an earthen oven comes to mind, most folks envision wood-fired pizza at a traditional (or progressive) restaurant. While pizza is a perennial favorite of ours, a mud oven is actually a very versatile cooking tool. What can you cook in it? Well, the short answer is: pretty much anything you can cook in a regular oven!
A little over two years ago, my husband almost single-handedly built a mud oven (or cob oven, or earthen oven, whichever sounds nicest to you) in our backyard. Since then we’ve had many mud oven pizza parties and bread bake-offs, but we’ve also tried several other types of food in our outdoor oven.
Before trying to cook in a mud oven, you should know how it heats. (My hubby is the mud oven guy around here, so he always takes care of this part.) First, he spends two-three hours burning a very hot fire to thoroughly heat the oven. After it’s quite hot, he pushes the coals to the edges of the oven and we bake pizza. (At this point it’s probably about 700 degrees in there, and the pizzas are done quite quickly!)
Next, he scrapes out the coals and wipes out the oven floor with a wet mop (reserved only for this purpose). He allows to heat to evenly “soak” the inside of the oven. It cools down a good bit- to about 450-500, so we generally use this stage to bake sourdough loaves and/or pies.
After this, the oven gradually cools on its own. We will often bake a casserole, soup, or stew as the oven cools to about 350. The temperature will eventually cool enough (between 100-200) to serve as an overnight dehydrator.
As you can see, mud oven baking is usually a whole day event for us. Planning ahead can help us to take full advantage of the long lasting heat, and we can make an entire week’s worth of meals at one time if we are organized! (Note the key word: IF. 🙂 )
(A picture of our mud oven pizza from my Instagram feed.)
We have personally tried making the following with various levels of success:
- Breads- sourdough, yeast breads, quick breads
- A whole turkey
- Dehydrated fruits and herbs
(Apple pies that were baked in the mud oven.)
You could also try:
- Meats, poultry, fish
- Side dishes
We have also used our mud oven as a combination oven/stovetop by placing a Dutch oven inside and piling the coals up around it. It boiled what was in the pot just as if it was soup on a burner. I’m not sure how it would work for sautéing anything, but if you’re feeling adventurous, let me know how your experiments turn out!
It’s important to remember that a mud oven’s temperature is much more variable than a conventional oven’s. So make sure that you’re using cookware that will stand up to the high heat that a mud oven holds. (Cast iron cookware or no cookware at all when it’s really hot, Dutch ovens at about 450, Pyrex glassware or other regular bakeware for when it cools to be around 425 or lower.)
Do you have a mud oven? What’s been your favorite thing to cook in it? We’d love to try it here at our place!
If you want to build your own oven, we’d highly recommend Kiko Denzer’s book, Build Your Own Earth Oven (affiliate link). You can read how my husband built ours here.
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