Pizza chefs, bread bakers, and tradition-minded rural homeowners have spurred renewed interest in the historic masonry craft of brick bake ovens. Brick pizza ovens have become trendy across the country for several reasons. First, a large brick oven adds ambiance that spurs customer interest to visit the restaurant. Second, and more important, it makes food taste better. Brick ovens provide even heat distribution and moisture retention, resulting in crispier crust and lighter dough. Third, the wood-fired brick oven reduces cooking time by about 65% compared with a gas or electric oven. OVEN TYPES Three basic types of brick ovens are categorized by their ceiling shapes. Most common is the beehive, designed roughly in the shape of a shallow dome. A second type of oven is the vaulted arch, which is tunnel shaped. The third type is a smaller, domestic oven that's also a masonry heater. MATERIALS To be effective, a brick bake oven requires specific kinds of brick, mortar, insulation, and mass materials. Two types of brick are acceptable to build the oven dome arch: firebrick or soft (salmon) brick. Masons should use either fireclay (heat set), local clay (low fire), or refractory (air set) mortar to hold the bricks in place. Firebrick is generally used to build the hearth for domestic ovens, and soapstone is preferred for pizza ovens. Insulation holds in the oven's heat and prevents it from dispersing. Preferred insulation materials include perlite, vermiculite, and mineral wood.