One of the greatest crazes in home entertaining and cooking has been the increased interest in outdoor ovens and fireplaces. These features are reminiscent of the old European community ovens. In just the same way the modern versions are places of industry as well as gathering. In summer they allow baking and cooking without creating a sweltering home, and in winter they allow a warm place to snuggle together and get some fresh air. Year round the multipurpose space allows more flexible use of your whole home and yard.
As with the indoor variety of oven, there are numerous construction types and heat sources for outdoor fireplaces. Coal can be a popular fuel, as can gas if your backyard has an accessible line. Both of these have certain benefits for heat overall, but they can be tricky if you want the oven to serve as both a cooking space and one in which to enjoy the flickering of firelight. Coal fires are not always lovely to view, and the inevitable impurities make it difficult to be comfortable cooking directly. Making the heat source indirect can add expense to construction and removes or encumbers its use as a traditional fireplace. Gas can be both lovely to view and used directly as a heat source for cooking, but it has expense issues and may also add complications to construction and zoning requirements. Firewood offers the best of both worlds.
With varying species of tree available as a fuel source, you can adjust the temperature of the fire easily. The burning properties of different woods are well documented, especially if you get them from professionals that kiln dry them to tested moisture levels. In addition to varying species, they often have different forms available including natural logs and briquettes or pellets made from compressed sawdust. The latter two forms can be drier and thereby burn hotter than split logs. This consistency ensures you are able to bake and cook as precisely as you would in your gas or electric cooker inside the home, though it may take a bit of research and experimentation at first. As an added benefit, you can easily introduce certain wood chips like hickory, oak, or pecan to enhance the flavor of your foods with their smoke. When you are ready to enjoy your outdoor feature as a fire pit, there is nothing quite like the flickering flames of natural wood fire crackling away.
There are numerous online and print resources available for building your own outdoor oven from readily available materials, if you are interested. A simple search will give you multiple ideas and help you round out what you want from your new space. While browsing, take into account the space you have available and your primary desired function for the oven or fireplace. Build to the strength you want, but keep your eye out for options to incorporate multipurpose features. Just make sure there are no local ordinances with which you must comply if doing the work yourself. Should you pursue this option, wood is a great choice as a heat source. While it burns hot enough to cook your food, it is less likely to damage your DYI construction with temperature extremes.
Should you choose the professional installation route, many manufacturers know you would like a unit to be as versatile as possible. There are options available in different types of construction material, with or without hybrid heat sources, and you may even request multiple burning pits. You can have a stand-alone heat source or build in surfaces for food preparation and dining. If you go for the hybrid heat source option, you may even want to install a range to facilitate total meal making. The advantage of hiring someone to install your new feature, besides the plethora of options, is being able to pass on the headache of dealing with local government compliance.
Looking at your options may lead you to incorporate other forms of heat, but by and large wood has the most advantages. In addition to those mentioned above, it burns cleaner than coal (especially when using the kiln dried firewood ) and modern harvesting techniques have made it an incredibly renewable resource. Nothing makes a little indulgence feel better than it also being environmentally friendly. Other options include electric type outdoor heating.
Brought up in a cold draughty house? In the winter (and sometimes the summer) the only rooms in our home that were warm was the kitchen and the living room (open fire).
The coalman was a regular, carrying sacks of coal, dumping them in our outside store. I was instructed to stand, count how many sacks were being delivered. I still remember watching him deliver 26 sacks before the winter and after each sack him patting me on the cheek. I clearly remember having to wash both my face and blow my nose after each visit to our coal shed, the dust went everywhere!
I’m unsure why I drew the short straw, I seemed to be in charge of all our household fuel requirements and also had the daily chore of not only cleaning the fireplace out but filling the two battered dirty coal scuttles whether it was raining, snowing, freezing cold or boiling hot. I became an expert in both open fires and wood burning stoves by the time I was 7 years old!
I remember one winter; Dad managed to purchase some old railway sleepers. He spent hours, with my uncle, sawing and chopping the sleepers into useable sized logs. They seemed to weigh a tonne and worse still they were cut what appeared to be miles away from our house! The wood was heavy, damp and covered in oil and grease, he was so pleased, we would have hours of burn time, he would say, it will reduce the amount of coal we use, at little cost! In reality, we were either roasting hot (opening windows, doors and unable to sit in the room for the heat) or huddled over the fire (fighting for an inch of warmth) and being told to ‘shut the door’ seemed to be the only words ever used. The fireguard was in place permanently, to prevent us being hit by the metal rivets that would suddenly explode like a projectile missiles out of the log fire or to prevent that all too familiar smell of smouldering carpet and yet another visit from our local Fire Service.
When we first bought our own wood burning stove, some 15 years ago, we were really excited; I couldn’t believe how easy it was to both clean, light and the amount of heat it gave out! With each of our stoves, we read the manufacturers recommendations and I think I can safely say that all those involved in our Company have all become firewood anoraks, not just the boss! We know the differences between our luxury birch, ash and oak staying well clear of the likes of alder and other known less superior firewood! We consistently quality control our products, use them ourselves so what we sell we can talk about with certainty!
I still can’t believe, all those years ago, that we were burning wet wood, in fact it wasn’t just wet firewood, we would burn anything and everything that may have given us a little heat, nothing was ever wasted in our open fire.
In 2010, after a particularly wet British summer and a very cold winter, we couldn’t find a source of ‘dry’ firewood for our own wood burning stoves. The boss at The Real Firewood Company, also a forester came up with a solution to our problem. After sourcing for ourselves he thought this could be a national solution. If only he could deliver our firewood across the UK in a tidy clean fashion. It was really important we sourced our firewood from sustainable forests; we tried at first sourcing this in England, Scotland and Wales. We were one of the first retail and wholesale Companies in the UK importing quality kiln dried hardwood in a palletised form.
Our aim now is to try and educate the British public, to get the best out of our products, which have all been tested by ourselves.
TopTip1 read your stove instructions and test the products against their recommendations. If you do not spend one evening reading it and you are using unsuitable products, it may/will invalidate any warranty that you receive. Burning firewood at more than >25% moisture, is not only damaging to your stove (build-up of creosote in your stove flue) but also dangerous, as this can cause chimney fires, you will also not get the heat from your stove which in return is not cost effective.
The Real Firewood Company guarantee all our kiln dried firewood is less than <25%. We never ever mix softwoods and hardwoods in the same pallet, in fact we never purchase softwoods or inferior hardwoods. The reason we do this is so that the customer will get a consistent burn and receive the best quality firewood you can source. We deliver in a pallet and all it needs is a rainproof cover popped over it on the top, it is a ready built wood or log store.
#TOPTIP2 – You don’t need to buy glass cleaner to keep your glass stove doors clean. We use a piece of newspaper slightly dampened, dipped into the cold ash, add a little elbow grease and rub the glass with the ash/newspaper it will come up as good as new!
It must be cold outside? Our pallets of kiln dried firewood are being delivered throughout the #UK! Our direct line telephone number is 01361 883911 if you want to discuss delivery on a specific day!