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Baking in clay ovens

Updated on June 14, 2011
Taos Pueblo in New Mexico where we saw clay ovens in use. You can see one in the far right hand corner.
Taos Pueblo in New Mexico where we saw clay ovens in use. You can see one in the far right hand corner.

Clay oven and clay pot baking

I saw some really neat clay ovens that the people of Taos still use in New Mexico. They make wonderful bread. The Native American Indians have a rich history, and it was so neat to see they still have ways of life that have been in use for a very long time.

In the above picture, you can see a clay oven, in the far right hand corner. Its just a little mound, and there may be one towards the middle of the picture, underneath a covering. They don't look like much at first glance, but they make amazing bread.

Clay ovens have been in use for centuries now. They have also been known to be called earth ovens or Adobe ovens. Many people today still love cooking in clay ovens even though there are other ovens readily available. When it comes to baking bread, some have discovered that its best in a clay oven. It happens to be better for the environment, in the sense that you are using wood and the heat from the clay, and no extra electricity or propane.

Clay ovens allow for three heat sources. 1. You get the heat radiating from the clay itself. 2. You have the process of convection taking place, from the movement of steam. 3. You have the brick hearth, which also conducts heat. The end result, is a wonderful bread! If done correctly, will have a perfect crust on the bread, and the inside of the bread will be wonderful.

Foods are cooked slowly in clay ovens and have their own distinctive taste because of the natural properties of clay. A clay oven is a domed shaped clay shell with a brick bottom. Many cultures have used these ovens for centuries. Clay ovens may also be called earth ovens. Constructing a clay oven is time consuming, but very inexpensive because many of the materials may be readily available on the site. These are visually attractive additions to many landscapes due to the natural appearance.

This is a different looking type of clay oven from the Indians at Taos Pueblo.  The cooking techniques and benefits are similar.
This is a different looking type of clay oven from the Indians at Taos Pueblo. The cooking techniques and benefits are similar.

When you bake bread or other items in a clay oven, you get a particular taste because of the natural properties that clay possesses. It's a technique used for centuries now. I find it interesting when our own technology, even with all we know and have created, sometimes can't outdo the older tried and true methods. I don't know that I am close to even beginning to really think about building our own clay oven anytime in the near future, but I think it would be really cool to do so. I suppose you could contract it out, considering you had the permission to do so in your area, depending on what your local laws are in your state. It sure would be neat to try!

For now, I will have to settle with my little stone loaf pans that heat very evenly, and that I have come to love. Those perhaps are a step closer to the clay baking.

Another clay oven
Another clay oven

Make your own clay oven to bake with

Some people today, want to have the benefits that clay oven baking give, so they build their own clay oven. I have to say that this sounds like a daunting task, but some have done it and shared on the internet and in books. You will first need to check to see if you need a permit in your area for making the small structure. While constructing a clay oven can take time, I imagine it would be very rewarding to have. Its not that expensive, on a positive note. Depending on your surroundings and landscape, it may be just a wonderful addition that adds much appeal. I have lived in places in the Southwest where it would blend in beautifully.

Here is the "short list" of what you need to begin a project for a clay/brick oven. Double check to see if you need a building permit or not. It may not be required, but in case it is, you want to know before you put a lot of effort in. You will also need bricks, hammer, chisel, leveler, safety glasses, sand, shovel, building sand, water, tarp, newspaper, flat board, carving knife, and of course firewood. Look online, or in other places to find out the finer details of constructing your own clay oven.  One last thing to keep in mind, is to build your clay oven far enough from neighbors so they don't get disturbed by any possible smoke that may come from your oven.

Other things you can bake in a clay oven

There are some other items you can bake in a clay oven. Once you have gone to the trouble of getting it hot to bake your bread, why not cook something else as well? Some of the ovens hold their heat for about 10 hours or so. Make use of the heat! How about trying to cook a wonderful pizza or baking a chicken dish, or any other meat.  You can do other breads as well, like biscuits or pita breads. Desserts can work as well, like cakes and even pies. Some have cooked vegetables, after drizzling on some olive oil. I can tell you right now, that if we ever were able to have one, my kids would be out there sticking marshmallows in to make some S'mores. That would be fun.


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Phoenix!

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      cool looking clay oven , looks an igloo Great Hub!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Green Tea-cher, thank you so much! That sounds like a great time, to remember your Ukranian ancestors, and go to the festivals, and especially to get some of that yummy bread. That sounds like a neat tradition.

    • green tea-cher profile image

      green tea-cher 7 years ago

      Very interesting Hub! My Ukrainian ancestors used to bake bread in clay ovens as well. We still have an opportunity to enjoy this clay oven baking every year at some of our annual festivals. You are right! The bread is so much more delicious baked in a clay oven compared to a regular electric oven.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you OnlineHub!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Les Trois Chenes, I am so glad, thank you for reading and commenting!

    • OnlineHub profile image

      OnlineHub 7 years ago from Fresno, CA, USA

      This is a very informative article about Baking in clay ovens. Thanks for sharing this piece of writing. 5* plus recommendation!

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Am all enthused! Can't wait to make my own clay oven!