A masonry oven, colloquially known as a brick oven or stone oven, is an oven consisting of a baking chamber made of fireproof brick, concrete, stone, clay, or cob. Though traditionally wood-fired, coal-fired ovens were common in the 19th century, and modern masonry ovens are often fired with natural gas or even electricity. Modern masonry ovens are closely associated with artisanal bread and pizza, but in the past they were used for any cooking task involving baking.
The traditional direct-fired masonry design is often called a "Roman" or "black" oven and dates in Western culture to at least the Roman Republic. It is known as a black oven because the smoke from the wood used as fuel sometimes collects as soot on the roof of the oven. Such ovens were in wide use throughout medieval Europe and were often built to serve entire communities (cf the banal ovens of France, which were often owned by the local government and whose operators charged a fee to oven users). Such ovens became popular in the Americas during the colonial era and are still in wide use in artisanal bakeries and pizzerias, as well as some restaurants featuring pizzas and baked dishes. Descendants include the beehive ovens of the colonial United States and the Quebec ovens based on the designs of the banal ovens of France.
Wood-fired ovens, also known as wood ovens, are ovens that use wood fuel for cooking. There are two types of wood-fired ovens: "black ovens" and "white ovens".]citation needed[ Black ovens are heated by burning wood in a chamber. Food is cooked in that same chamber while the fire is still going, or in the heated chamber after the fire and coals have been swept out. White ovens are heated by heat transfer from a separate combustion chamber and flue-gas path. Thus, the oven remains "white", or clean from ash. While the traditional wood-fired oven is a masonry oven, such ovens can also be built out of adobe,cob or cast iron.
Wood-fired ovens are distinct from wood-fired stoves that have a hot cooking surface for pots and pans, like on a gas or electric stove. A wood stove may also have an oven separate from the fire chamber. Regardless of material they all have an oven chamber consisting of a floor (or hearth), a dome and an entry (oven opening).
Cooking or cookery is the art or practice of preparing food for consumption with the use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training. Cooking can also occur through chemical reactions without the presence of heat, most notably as in Ceviche, a traditional South American dish where fish is cooked with the acids in lemon or lime juice. Sushi also uses a similar chemical reaction between fish and the acidic content of rice glazed with vinegar.
Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to humans, and some scientists believe the advent of cooking played an important role in human evolution. Most anthropologists believe that cooking fires first developed around 250,000 years ago. The development of agriculture, commerce and transportation between civilizations in different regions offered cooks many new ingredients. New inventions and technologies, such as pottery for holding and boiling water, expanded cooking techniques. Some modern cooks apply advanced scientific techniques to food preparation.