Monday, October 5, 2015


A Spanish word for oven, horno was built by Native Americans from clay adobo to cook their meals. Now several centuries later hornos are trendy again and you find many plans and building advice online to build your own. I have a number of friends who built their own with modest success.

One friend built it too small. I was invited to dinner when the horno was still fairly new and I took a nearly fully risen bread dough that I’d hoped to bake in his horno. A small horno has two problems. Once it has been heated up it loses its heat too fast. Second, it has a limited capacity.

At this party I placed my bread dough in the preheated hot horno (about 450 degrees) and for a while a looked as it’s going to bake just right. But the horno cooled too much. When my bread was more or less done, the host added more fuel and placed a marinated chicken in the hot horno. Alas, after some 30 minutes the chicken was brown but the inside nearly raw. By now the guests were well passed ready to eat besides the hors d’oeuvres. The host lifted the chicken out of the horno and, to our horror, finished cooking it in a microwave. The results were mediocre to poor.

Another friend built his horno very elaborate and huge; so big a small piglet would’ve fit inside. It had all kinds of bells and whistles and looked very impressive. But it also had problems. It took many hours of burning oak logs before it heated up to useable temperatures. So when you don’t know how long, how are you going to manipulate your ready bread dough or pizza dough before it’s over-proofed? You cannot. The friend used this horno only once or twice than given up. Now it’s an outdoor decoration.

A third friend also built one that he claims is perfect but I yet to see it in use.

Hornos are very tricky, fun when they work but somehow I prefer to rely on my well-regulated oven.

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