Last July Matt called me at the office, to ask me a very important question after spending much of the morning with Zack digging up our crab grass infested lawn:
“Umm… I got a whole bunch of dirt here, you want to make a garbage can pizza oven?”
DO I EVER!
Let’s back up though. How did I know what the hell Matt was talking about?
Well, a few years ago my friend Daniel went to South Africa for an internship with an architectural firm. He returned to Canada with a bunch of terrifying stories of how dangerous and corrupt Cape Town is. . . and some good stories too about cool things that he did (though those ones seem to escape me). Anyway, he also came back with a cookbook for me:
Cooked in Africa by Justin Bonello (which I talked about here)
I’ve only tried a handful of recipes from it, but one that I had been wanting to do since I got the cookbook was the Dustbin Pizza, not just to piss off the neighbours by building a hideous hobo oven in my backyard but also because wood oven pizza is probably the best food in the world.
So I picked up a metal trash can (Edited to add: Make sure you get a garbage can that is not galvanized!) and Matt, Zack, and I got to building the oven when I got home.
How to Build a Garbage Can Pizza Oven:
1) Lay some soil down as a base for the ungalvanized metal garbage can.
Clay soil apparently has the best insulating properties, but we just used whatever we dug up out of our lawn.
2) Lay the garbage can (on its side) on top of the base soil and pack more soil around and on top of the garbage can. Again, the soil will help insulate the fire.
3) Acquire a square pizza stone for baking the pizza on.
Ours is actually rectangular measuring 14”x16”. We originally tried using a stone that was longer than 16”, but it was impeding oxygen flow to the fire so the fire wouldn’t stay lit. It might take some trial and error to figure out what size is best for the trash can.
So we made the oven last summer, but didn’t actually get a chance to cook anything on it until last night! I finally bought a new, appropriately sized pizza stone this weekend so we were able to make our first home made wood-fired pizzas.
How to Make Pizza in the Garbage Can Pizza Oven:
1) Start a fire at the back of the oven.
We set up 2 logs and some small kindling branches and got the fire started with a bit of newspaper. It didn’t take long to catch with the newspaper and the kindling.
The flames were pretty intense: I realized this later when I rubbed my forehead and found that I had actually singed off some of my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes! That’s intense. Maybe just 1 log next time?
2) Place the stone in front of the fire and allow it to heat up.
We definitely didn’t let our stone heat up for long enough so the bottoms of the pizza didn’t get as crispy as I would have liked. It could probably use a good 10 minutes or so before putting the pizza on it.
3) Slide the pizza onto the stone using a pizza peel thoroughly dusted with semolina or cornmeal.
If you don’t have a pizza peel, you can use the back of a baking sheet instead. It works relatively well as a substitute. We put in two pizzas at a time because they were only about 6”. If you make a larger pizza you’ll probably cook one at a time.
4) Keep oven mitts and a set of tongs handy to rotate the pizzas as necessary.
Obviously, this oven is hot, so oven mitts are a must.
Keep an eye on the pizzas and make sure you don’t burn them like we did with this first batch. Woopsie!
Batch 2: Much better
5) Enjoy your hard earned pizza!
I’m thoroughly excited about the success of this wood oven. Not gonna lie, it’s way cooler than a barbecue. I’m planning on baking some bread in here too this summer.
Justin Bonello’s Tarzan Roast – a leg of lamb cooked over a fire built in a wheelbarrow. Genius!