Dome vs Barrel Ovens – Which Is One Is Better?

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Have you ever been spoiled for choice, picking the best type of wood-fired oven? Before narrowing it down to the best option, you may need to consider some critical factors.

A barrel oven is easier and quicker to install than a dome oven. It requires fewer building skills. On the other hand, dome ovens have better heating capabilities. If your primary focus is on baking bread, a barrel oven will be more suitable. A dome oven would be ideal for baking pizza.

Each type of oven works slightly differently than the other and has its own unique advantages. Keep on reading to learn how to choose the best for your situation.

What Is a Barrel Oven?

A barrel oven is a brick wood-fired oven. It has a rectangular floor space with a top half-barrel shape. It has thick walls, allowing it to hold temperatures for long periods. This thermal stability makes them convenient for baking.

Some people choose barrel ovens based on their looks. However, if you’re worried about the aesthetics of your outdoor oven, remember you can add enclosure afterwards with any shape you like.

Advantages of Barrel Ovens

  • Affordable and easy to install
  • Can be used within the first 15-20 minutes of lighting up
  • Fuel efficient
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to clean

Disadvantages of Barrel Ovens

  • The temperatures it can reach aren’t as high as in dome ovens
  • Baking time is slightly longer
  • Requires heavier building materials

What Is a Dome Oven?

A dome oven is a versatile domed-shaped brick oven. Its dome shape allows it to get to very high temperatures and heat up quickly. This outdoor oven is commonly used for preparing pizza.

Advantages of the Dome Oven

  • Lighter on build materials
  • Can achieve higher temperatures quickly thanks to its efficient radiation and convection heat
  • Baking time is much faster
  • Stays hot for a longer time

Disadvantages of the Dome Oven

  • Higher building and installation costs
  • Limited cooking space
  • Can be difficult to clean

Why Are Dome Ovens Domed?

Dome ovens have a unique spherical domed shape. You’re probably wondering what’s the reason behind this design feature. After all, rectangular ovens are more efficient in terms of space. How does a dome shape make for a better oven?

Dome ovens are domed to allow for more efficient heating. It also has the ideal shape for baking pizza. The shape of a dome oven allows it is to reflect heat from all angles of the oven chamber, which produces better radiant heat.

The shape of a dome oven also allows for better convection flow. This means that very little smoke will spill out of the entrance, twirling out of the chimney instead.

Differences Between Dome Ovens and Barrel Ovens

As we’ve seen, dome ovens and barrel ovens have contrasting features. Understanding them will help you settle for the best oven for your individual needs. It all depends on your available resources and the efficiency of the oven.

Purpose

Both dome and barrel ovens are efficient in baking. However, it’s essential to note that each oven is built and purposefully designed for a specific task.

Dome ovens have been proven to be more efficient for baking pizza. Meanwhile, barrel ovens are highly recommended for pastries, bread baking, and even pottery.

You should choose one depending on the purpose you’ll give it. Both ovens are versatile and could be used for either purpose, but each one will do one task better than the other.

Construction Difficulty and Expense

Constructing a dome oven is more laborious and costly. Its circular shape makes it harder to build, requiring specific masonry skills. It may also take a lot of time to construct.

In contrast, barrel ovens’ rectangular floors are straightforward to design and easy to build.

The most important thing is that you go for an oven that’ll remain long after it’s constructed. You want to invest in an oven that will last you many years.

Cleaning

Barrel ovens are easier to clean than dome ovens. In barrel ovens, ashes are deposited inside the chamber, making it easy to take them out from the sides. The larger opening and rectangular shape also make it easy to use brushes.

On the other hand, cleaning dome ovens can be difficult due to their spherical structure. It’ll be challenging to get to every part of the inside of the oven with a cleaning brush. However, cleaning a dome oven can become much easier with the right choice of tools

Materials

Choosing great materials is key for a long-lived oven. A barrel oven can be built with readily available and recycled materials, including mud, sand, cinder blocks, bricks, and stones.

On the other hand, a dome oven is built mainly with bricks and cobs. A dome oven is very light on materials during construction. Because there’s less mass to be heated, the oven heats up quickly.

Before you take one path or the other, consider the types of material you’ll need to use. Are they readily available? Do you have the proper materials for the type of oven that you want?

Shape Benefits

The barrel shape is better suited for bread than pizza. Just imagine the form of a loaf of bread and that of a barrel oven: they’re quite similar. A barrel shape also offers plenty of room, allowing you to bake in larger batches.

Now think of the rounded shape of a dome oven. It’s much closer to the shape of a pizza than to that of bread.

In both cases, it’s the shapes of these ovens what most contributes to their efficiency at different tasks.

Cooking/Baking Space

When built in the same place, a barrel oven will be more space-efficient than a dome oven. This allows for larger batches when baking and cooking. Of course, the deciding factor is how much space you can set apart to build your oven.

If you’re a high quantity baker, you’ll want to opt for a barrel oven. If that’s not a priority for you, simply choose the better fit for the space you have.

Heat Distribution

Heat is distributed evenly in dome ovens. In other words, the heat is the same throughout the oven chamber. The structure of dome ovens allows air to circulate easily and quickly on its inside. It’s also great at absorbing heat and making sure all of your batch bakes evenly.

On the other hand, heat distribution in barrel ovens can be uneven depending on how the oven is fired. Because barrel ovens are longer than they are wide, they need the fire be spread evenly.

That being said, differences in heat distribution are very small. If a dome oven and a barrel oven are both well insulated, the difference will be barely noticeable.