There are three common types of outdoor ovens, ranging in cost for supplies and complexity. These main styles are adobe wood-burning oven, brick pizza-style oven and brick barbecue oven.
Sunset magazine offers comprehensive plans for an adobe-style oven. (See Resources below for the link.) Built from concrete, fire bricks and chicken wire, the adobe oven features a supportive base of cinder block and fire brick that gets covered in an adobe-and-cement sludge to form this oven's opening and frame. The project can be completed in a couple of days with assistance from friends, though the adobe takes about one week to dry.
The brick pizza-style oven is similar to the adobe model in size and shape but features a base and dome made entirely of brick. Forno Bravo offers free plans as well as brick oven kits for seasoned and novice do-it-yourselfers. (See Resources for the link.)
The simple brick barbecue oven plan from Gardeners' World is best for beginners. (It is linked below in Resources.) Shaped like a sideways 3, this plan offers a flat rack for grilling or smoking and a preparation area for cooking aides. You can customize a lid easily for this style of oven by bending a piece of metal into an L-shape and welding a handle to one side.
While prices vary on type of oven and equipment, expect to spend $500 to $800 in 2009 prices for materials for the larger ovens and $50 to $100 (also 2009) for the barbecue oven.
When choosing the type of oven best for you, think about its primary purpose. Brick ovens offer high-heat environments for unparalleled pizza or bread, but the construction and materials cost more. Adobe ovens cost less than brick ovens and offer many of the same benefits. A barbecue oven is best if you'll cook primarily meat.
Before you build, consider where to locate your oven. You need a flat spot of ground where an oven won't be in the way of children; clear the spot of grass before you begin construction. Also avoid locating your oven near a door or window that tends to be open in nice weather because oven smoke will blow right inside.
While a simple grill offers easy and tasty summer meat, and a reliable convection oven is a must for any home, there are some foods that really shine when cooked in a brick oven. Meats develop a rich, smoky flavor, and you can use different types of wood to play up different flavor notes. Pizza and bread crusts crisp and blister for a satisfying crunch.
Additionally, outdoor enhancements such as a wood-fired oven are sure to improve the value of your property. If done right, your wood oven may be a prime selling point if you relocate.