~ by wulf_sternhammer

How to make an outdoor kitchen from an old clothes dryer!

Here’s a little idea that could easily be called ‘Recycling runs riot!’
I had an old clothes dryer that no longer heated so was pretty well useless, and the cost of repairing such an old appliance was not economical, so it sat in my shed until one day I had a great idea. I would use it as the basis of an outdoor kitchen!

Firstly the back needs to be removed to access the internal workings. This should be easily achieved with a screwdriver (mine required a number 2 phillips-head). Once the back is removed it’s time to have some fun as you have to totally ‘gut’ the dryer. This includes removing the door if it is not metal. This means remove all electrical wiring, the motor, the barrel, and any counter balance fitted. Note! Most old machines were not fitted with anything that could store electricity, but many more recent ones do. If you are not confident in identifying and discharging capacitors, try and either find someone who is, or find a dryer that has already been gutted of electrics. Many appliance repair centres will have them as they claim the motor, thermostat and other electrical parts.

Once gutting is complete, replace the back. You now have the basis of a combustion stove/oven as well as a ‘Tandoor’ style oven.

You will also need clay and straw, and some bricks or some bricks and mortar. You will also need some 100 mm metal pipe (about 2 to 3 metres), for a chimney. A piece of 1/4″ steel plate to use as a grill/hot plate is also recommended, but not essential. I built mine using cob, which is a clay/ straw mix, as the outer thermal layer, and to make the whole thing more aesthetically pleasing, but if a ready supply of clay is not available then using bricks and mortar also works.

Positioning

Finding the right position is very important, as it needs to be in a convenient position in the yard, but positioned so as not to be a fire risk. Local council or fire authority will be able to tell you of specific requirements for your area. A safe rule of thumb, is to have no combustible surfaces or substances, unshielded, within ten feet of hot surfaces or flame. Special care is to be taken with any nearby trees and shrubs for over-hanging branches. (Remember they may grow).
When the right position is found, start by placing the outer case on a layer of bricks, pavers, or concrete. Place the inner barrel next to it, with the opening pointing upwards, and raised upon a few more bricks to allow airflow through the bottom vent holes. There needs to be an insulating layer between the 2 pieces, to avoid heat loss when only 1 is being used. Cob, bricks, pavers, or even a piece of cement sheet can be used for this. When placing the barrel on the bricks, it is a good idea to lay them out in a 3 sided square with the opening to the front to allow free air flow.

Now into the bottom of the outer casing, fill with sand to within 3” of the bottom of the opening. Level this, then using 1 ½” concrete pavers, line the bottom of the ‘oven’ space.

Construction

Now comes the time to mix the cob. A large wheelbarrow will serve the purpose, or anything else you have handy to mix in. Even an old bathtub will do. Place some wet clay into the mixing receptacle, then some straw on top and mix thoroughly. Add more straw until the mix forms clumps that are pliable, a bit sticky, and just hold their form. If it oozes, it needs more straw, and if it crumbles it needs more clay. Start forming this into a wall, approximately 4” – 6” thick and 6” – 8” high around the bases of the 2 parts. If you try making the wall higher it will most likely sag. This first layer will take 24 – 48 hours to set enough to build the second layer. Repeat this process until the sides are totally covered in cob. As it dries and ‘cures’ it will shrink a bit so it may need to have another layer added after a week of drying time has elapsed.

Some sort of form work is required around the opening to the outer casing opening to build the cob up, without blocking it off. Some strong cardboard in several layers will work, and the first firing will burn away any that sticks to the cob after drying. When the cob is dry (a week in warmer weather and up to 3 weeks in cooler weather) it can be fired. This involves having a series of 3 or 4 small fires in both parts followed by a good hot fire, spaced over several days. If you fire it too soon the cob will crack and crumble. Remember to keep the cob protected from the rain until after it’s been fired, as it will wash away.

If using bricks instead of cob, lay a 2” – 3” foundation of concrete, twice as wide as the bricks before building up the brick wall. This is done by mixing the mortar as per the directions, and applying it with a trowel ½ cm thick between the bricks until the right height is reached. This may mean that the wall ends up being just above or just below the top of the dryer and barrel. If it’s just below, use mortar angled up to the edge to complete the sides. Once again, the mortar requires a few weeks to cure before lighting a fire. Follow the same method as for the cob.

The Tandoor is now ready to use. The wood fired oven still needs a chimney and a grill/hot plate. For the chimney, cut a circular hole slightly smaller in diameter to the metal pipe (I actually used a couple of lengths of 4” steel flue pipe) in to the top of the dryer case at the back. 6 to 8 slits of equal length need to be cut into one end of the flue pipe and then flared out. Each of the strips can then be attached to the top of the casing using nuts and bolts. Heatproof Potbelly putty can be used to seal the gaps. The steel plate can be fixed in a similar way. Cut a hole into the top of the dryer casing, slightly smaller than the metal plate, towards the front. Again using heat proof Potbelly putty to seal it, attach the plate with nuts and bolts in the corners. This plate can be used as a BBQ plate or as a hotplate for putting pots on.

Use

To use the Tandoor, get a fire going in the middle of the bottom, directly over the vent holes. When a good thick, hot bed of coals is achieved food, wrapped in foil is placed against the edge of the inside of the oven to cook. Also by having a large hot fire in the centre, it can be used as a wok burner.

The wood oven is used by getting a good fire with lots of hot coals happening, then scraping them aside and placing a covered pan, tray or ‘Dutch oven’ inside.

The grill/hot plate is used by building a hot fire inside to heat the plate.

Good luck and enjoy!

Live and love,
Wulf