Barrel Oven: 8-Step Guide to Delicious Pizzas

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by teamobn

Barrel Oven
A great barrel oven from an oil drum!

An oil barrel drum is a large, cylindrical container used for storing and transporting oil and other liquids. The most common oil barrel drums have a capacity of 55 gallons (208 litres). Oil barrel drums are made from a variety of materials, including steel, aluminium, and plastic.

The material choice depends on the oil type being stored or transported. For example, heavy or corrosive oils would be better suited for a steel drum, while lighter oils could be stored in an aluminium or plastic drum. In this project, we will repurpose an old steel drum as a pizza oven!

If you’re a pizza lover, you’ll love this great idea! Instead of ordering out, why not try making your own pizza at home? Not only is it cheaper, but you can also customize it to your own taste. You only need a pizza oven, some pizza dough, and your favourite toppings.

If you find building a cob oven or cement outdoor pizza oven too laborious, perhaps you’d like this DIY pizza oven made from an empty oil drum. 🙂 This simple and easy design can be completed in a few hours, and with a few tools that you may already have around the house.

This barrel oven project is perfect for the backyard chef who loves pizza but doesn’t want to go through the hassle of building a more traditional oven.

This project involves a little bit of the usual steelwork, but it is way simpler than moulding a cement or clay pizza oven. With the right materials and some basic skills, you can easily build a durable and effective pizza oven that will last for years.

Plus, with a barrel pizza oven, you don’t have to worry about the dome. The oil barrel itself creates the dome, so it’s quick and easy to set up. You’ll also save time on the building since you won’t have to construct a clay or brick oven.

This barrel oven is a relatively easy steel project since some of the steps can be done with simple tools like a drill and tin snips. The most important thing to remember when working with steel is to always use safety equipment, like gloves and a mask, to protect yourself from the fumes.

Barrel Oven

When making a DIY oil barrel pizza oven, there are a few things to consider in order to ensure that your oven is up to par. First, you’ll need to make sure that the barrel is food-grade and clean. The last thing you want is for your pizza to pick up any unwanted flavours from the barrel.

Next, you’ll need to choose the right location for your barrel oven. It’s important to find a spot that gets good airflow so that your pizza cooks evenly. Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right materials on hand to insulate your barrel oven. This will help to ensure that your pizza cooks evenly and doesn’t get burnt.

So if you are someone who likes working with steel, a steelworker, or know someone who is, then this is a great barrel oven project for you! Once you’re done you can reward yourself with some delicious freshly baked homemade pizza or even bread. 😉

Is this oil barrel oven going to be your next upcycling project?

Constructing a DIY Barrel Oven

Materials

  • Empty Oil Barrel Steel Drum
  • 2mm Steel Sheet
  • 40x40mm Steel Angle
  • 6″ Stove Pipe
  • 10mm Rod (or Studding)
  • Kiln Shelves
  • Fiberglass Insulation

Tools

  • Measuring Tape
  • Welding Equipment
  • Plasma Cutter
  • Angle Grinder (with disc for stones)
  • Power Drill

Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the Barrel Oven Drum

  1. Cleaning: Begin by thoroughly cleaning the empty oil barrel steel drum to remove any residues. This is crucial for ensuring the safety of your barrel oven.
  2. Cutting the Door: Use the plasma cutter to cut a door on the side of the drum. The size of the door should be large enough to insert and remove pizza or other food items easily.

Step 2: Construct the Cooking Surface

  1. Cutting Steel Sheet: Measure and cut the 2mm steel sheet to fit inside the drum, serving as the cooking surface for your barrel oven.
  2. Installation: Place the cut steel sheet inside the drum, resting it securely on the bottom. This will be where your kiln shelves, acting as the pizza stone, will be placed.

Step 3: Build the Stand

  1. Measuring and Cutting: Measure and cut the 40x40mm steel angle to create a stand for your barrel oven. Ensure the stand is tall enough to comfortably use the oven and sturdy enough to support the weight.
  2. Welding: Weld the pieces together, forming a rectangular or square base that the drum can sit on securely.

Step 4: Install the Stove Pipe

  1. Cutting an Opening: Use the plasma cutter to cut an opening at the top of the drum for the 6″ stove pipe. This will serve as the chimney for your barrel oven.
  2. Securing the Pipe: Fit the stove pipe into the opening and weld around the edges to secure it in place, ensuring that smoke can escape efficiently from the barrel oven.

Step 5: Add Insulation

  1. Wrapping the Drum: Wrap the exterior of the drum with fiberglass insulation. This helps retain heat within the barrel oven, making it more efficient.
  2. Covering Insulation: Use the remaining 2mm steel sheet to cover the insulation, creating a safe and tidy exterior. Cut the sheet as needed and weld it onto the drum.

Step 6: Fabricate and Install the Door

  1. Door Fabrication: Using the leftover pieces of steel sheet, cut a door slightly larger than the opening you’ve made on the drum.
  2. Hinges and Handle: Weld hinges to one side of the door and attach it to the drum. Use the 10mm rod to fashion a handle, ensuring it’s secure and provides easy opening and closing.

Step 7: Seasoning Your Barrel Oven

  1. Clean Interior: Ensure the interior is clean and free from any debris.
  2. Apply Oil: Coat the inside with a high-smoke-point oil and heat the oven to season it, as previously detailed in the safety considerations.

Step 8: Final Assembly and Safety Check

  1. Place Kiln Shelves: Inside the drum, on the steel sheet, place the kiln shelves that will act as your cooking surface.
  2. Stability Check: Ensure the barrel oven is stable on its stand and that the door opens and closes securely.
  3. Ventilation: Check the stove pipe for any obstructions and confirm it’s securely attached.

Click on any image to start the lightbox display. Use your Esc key to close the lightbox.8-)

Safety Considerations and Preparations

Transforming an oil drum into a functional barrel oven is an innovative way to repurpose materials and embrace the joy of outdoor cooking. However, safety is paramount in such projects, especially when the end result involves high temperatures and food preparation. Ensuring that the drum is safe for use and the construction process is carried out with caution can make the difference between a successful project and a hazardous one. 

Here are the essential safety considerations and preparations to keep in mind when embarking on your barrel oven project.

Choosing the Right Drum

Focus on Food-Grade Materials 

The importance of opting for a drum previously used to store food-grade materials cannot be overstated. Such drums are designed to contain safe substances for human consumption, significantly reducing contamination risk when repurposed as a cooking appliance. Food-grade drums have not been exposed to hazardous chemicals or substances that could leach toxic residues into your food during cooking.

However, finding a food-grade drum requires some diligence. It is advisable to source drums from reputable suppliers or companies that can confirm the drum’s prior contents. Look for markings or labels on the drum that indicate its previous use; symbols or text might suggest that it was used for food substances. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and continue your search until you find a drum with a verifiable food-safe history.

Inspect for Rust and Damage

Once a potential drum is identified, a thorough inspection is necessary to assess its condition. Rust and damage are not merely cosmetic issues; they are indicative of the drum’s structural integrity and its suitability for repurposing into a barrel oven. 

Rust, in particular, can pose a significant health risk if not addressed, as it can contaminate food with tetanus-causing bacteria. Moreover, a rusted or damaged drum might not withstand the high temperatures required for cooking, leading to potential safety hazards.

Inspect the drum both inside and out. Pay close attention to the bottom and the lid, as these areas are prone to damage and rust. 

Light surface rust can sometimes be removed through sanding and treatment, but deep rust or significant damage might compromise the drum’s durability and safety. It’s also crucial to ensure that the drum is structurally sound, with no holes or weak spots that could lead to leaks or collapses.

Choosing a drum in good condition might require patience, but building a safe and efficient barrel oven is a non-negotiable aspect. A well-selected drum not only ensures the safety of the food prepared within it but also contributes to the longevity and performance of the oven. 

By prioritizing food-grade materials and the drum’s condition, you lay a solid foundation for a successful and enjoyable outdoor cooking experience with your new barrel oven.

Cleaning and Preparing the Drum

Thorough Cleaning 

The importance of thoroughly cleaning the drum cannot be overstated. This initial step involves removing any residues of oil, grease, or other substances that could contaminate food or emit harmful fumes when heated. 

To begin, select eco-friendly degreasers that are effective yet pose minimal risk to your health and the environment. Products designed to break down oil and grease without harsh chemicals are ideal.

Start by applying the degreaser inside and outside of the drum, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application and rinse times. A stiff brush can be used to scrub away stubborn residues. For the interior, consider using a pressure washer to remove all grease and oil thoroughly. This step might need repeated several times to completely clean the drum.

Ventilation is crucial during this process. Work outdoors if possible, or in a well-ventilated area to prevent inhalation of fumes from the degreaser or dislodged residues. This protects your respiratory health and ensures a safer working environment.

Removing Paint and Coatings 

The next step is to address the drum’s exterior paint and any internal coatings. These are often applied to drums for branding or to prevent corrosion during storage and transport. However, when subjected to the high temperatures of a barrel oven, these materials can release toxic fumes, posing a significant health risk.

There are several methods for removing paint and coatings, each with its own set of considerations. Sandblasting is highly effective for stripping the drum to bare metal but requires specialized equipment and safety measures, such as protective clothing and a respirator, to prevent inhalation of paint particles. 

Alternatively, a heat gun and scraper can soften and lift the paint for easier removal. This method is more accessible for DIY enthusiasts but requires patience and careful attention to avoid burns or overheating the metal.

Work in a well-ventilated area, regardless of the method chosen, to avoid inhaling any fumes or particles released during the removal process. Additionally, consider the environmental impact of removed materials and dispose of them responsibly.

Completing these preparatory steps diligently lays the foundation for a safe and effective barrel oven. By ensuring the drum is clean and free from potentially hazardous materials, you can look forward to many enjoyable cooking experiences with peace of mind regarding the safety of your food and health.

Safe Construction Practices

Wear Protective Gear

The use of appropriate protective gear cannot be emphasized enough. Each tool and material used in constructing a barrel oven can cause injury if improperly handled. For instance, welding emits intense light and heat, necessitating a welding mask to protect the eyes and face. 

Similarly, cutting and drilling metal generate sparks and sharp shards, making gloves and safety glasses essential to protect hands and eyes. Additionally, wearing long sleeves and durable fabrics can shield the skin from sparks and minor abrasions. This gear acts as the first line of defense against common injuries associated with metalwork.

Ventilation is Key

Metalworking, especially welding, can produce fumes that are harmful when inhaled. These fumes may contain various metals and chemicals, depending on the composition of the drum and the welding materials used. Working in a well-ventilated area is crucial to disperse these fumes and reduce the risk of respiratory issues. 

Outdoor spaces are ideal, but if the project must be conducted indoors, ensure that the area is equipped with fans and that windows are open to facilitate airflow. The goal is to maintain a fresh air supply and prevent the accumulation of toxic fumes in the workspace.

Fire Safety Measures

The processes involved in constructing a barrel oven can generate sparks and high heat, presenting a fire risk. Therefore, fire safety measures are an integral part of safe construction practices. Before beginning work, identify a suitable fire extinguisher based on the types of fires that could arise from the materials involved. 

A water source, such as a hose or buckets of water, can also be invaluable in case of a minor fire. Additionally, the work area should be cleared of any flammable materials, such as papers, chemicals, or fabrics, to minimize the risk of accidental ignition. Being aware of your surroundings and having a plan in place for dealing with potential fires can prevent accidents and ensure a safe working environment.

Incorporating these safe construction practices into the building process of a barrel oven not only safeguards the individual performing the work but also contributes to the overall success and longevity of the project. 

By wearing protective gear, ensuring proper ventilation, and adhering to fire safety measures, DIY enthusiasts can enjoy the process of creating a barrel oven while minimizing risks and promoting a safe and healthy working environment.

Final Preparations Before Use

Seasoning the Oven

Seasoning is a critical process for any cooking appliance that involves direct heat, especially when constructed from materials like steel. The goal is to create a protective layer inside the oven, which not only guards against rust but also provides a natural, non-stick surface that’s ideal for cooking. To season your barrel oven, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the Right Oil: Select an oil with a high smoke point, such as canola, grapeseed, or flaxseed oil. These oils can withstand high temperatures without breaking down, forming a durable layer on the metal surface.
  2. Clean the Interior: Before applying the oil, ensure the inside of the oven is clean and free from any debris or dust. A clean surface will allow the oil to adhere better and form a more uniform coating.
  3. Apply the Oil: Coat the interior surfaces of the oven with a thin layer of oil. You can use a clean cloth or brush to spread the oil evenly. Cover all areas, including corners and seams, to provide comprehensive protection.
  4. Heat the Oven: Heat your barrel oven to a high temperature with the oil applied. This heating process allows the oil to polymerize and bond to the metal, creating the protective layer. The oven should be heated for several hours, and you may notice some smoke as the oil undergoes this chemical transformation. This is normal and indicates that the seasoning process is working.
  5. Cool and Repeat: Let the oven cool completely after the initial heating. Then, inspect the interior. For optimal results, you may want to repeat the oiling and heating process a few times to build up a stronger seasoning layer.

Safe Placement 

The placement of your barrel oven is not just a matter of convenience; it’s a safety consideration that impacts both the user and the surrounding environment. To ensure safe operation, keep these guidelines in mind:

  1. Non-Flammable Surface: Position the oven on a surface that is heat-resistant and non-flammable, such as concrete, stone, or metal. This prevents the risk of fire spreading to the ground or floor.
  2. Clearance from Structures: Maintain a safe distance from any buildings, fences, or trees. Heat and sparks from the oven could potentially ignite nearby materials, so it’s crucial to have clear space around the oven. A general rule is to allow at least 10 feet of clearance to minimize fire risks.
  3. Stability is Key: Ensure the oven is stable and cannot be easily tipped over. Uneven or unstable surfaces could pose a risk, especially when the oven is hot. Construct a dedicated base or stand that provides a level and secure foundation for your oven if necessary.
  4. Accessibility: Consider the accessibility of the oven, not only for cooking but also for emergency access. Ensure there’s enough space around the oven for safe operation and that it’s positioned in a way that allows quick disconnection or extinguishment.

By meticulously seasoning your barrel oven and situating it in a safe, well-considered location, you’ll be set to enjoy countless cooking adventures. These final preparations are the key to unlocking the full potential of your DIY project, ensuring that it delivers delicious results safely and sustainably.

Conclusion

Building a barrel oven is not just a rewarding DIY project; it’s an opportunity to repurpose materials and enjoy outdoor cooking in a new way. Following the detailed steps, you can transform an empty oil barrel into a functional and efficient oven perfect for pizzas, bread, and much more. Remember to prioritize safety throughout construction, from selecting the right materials to ensuring proper ventilation.

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