Fireplaces and Cooking
A cooking fireplace can provide a lovely, rustic look to your home or patio and add some real functionality as well.
You might like a basic early American look for your cooking fireplace. A simple red brick design with a wide open firebox can provide plenty of room for you to hang a pot or grill and do your cooking. Firebricks on the floor can give the piece an updated look as well as providing sturdier bricks that won't crack or spall. On the other hand, you may prefer the instant aging effect you get from using regular red bricks.
Another design separates the cooking space from the rest of the fireplace. A small fireplace is situated at ground level and is separated from the cooking area by stone. The cooking area can be as simple as a hole in stone wall with a fire safe cooking slab at a convenient height to insert and remove oven safe dishes.
More complicated versions of this basic approach are also available. You can widen out the bottom portion a bit and top it with a shallow brick arch. The oven portion can be closed off by a tempered glass door, a metal door with an insulated handle, or even by heat proof wood. The door can keep the warmth inside the oven on a summer day and can improve the convection currents as well since it isn't drawing in cool air from your home.
For a different feel, any of these designs can be done in stone instead of brick. A rugged stone framing with a shallow arch may provide just the look you're hoping for. Especially if the fireproof bricks look too modern to you, stone can provide an older look without the danger of cracks and spalls.
These basic designs do have a drawback that can be addressed. They require you to stand right next to the fire and reach over it in order to access the oven. It's possible to bring the oven out from the fireplace so that it stands in front. The oven can be covered with an insulating dome that draws the hot air in from the fireplace and returns it to the chimney via a flue that curves over the top of the dome.
Even well-insulated, a fireplace oven can bring a fair amount of warmth to your home. This may not be something you desire, especially if you plan to use it during the warmer months. In that case, consider an outdoor fireplace oven on your patio or lawn.
Simple versions of the outdoor oven can look just like the interior fixtures that have been described. Built with brick or stone, they are freestanding structures that include a firebox, an oven, and a chimney. The chimney doesn't have to be as tall as the indoor version because the smoke and heat are venting directly to the outside rather than up through your roof. You just need a chimney that's tall enough to keep the smoke from getting blown into your eyes.
Again, as with the indoor ovens, you may want to consider a design that places the oven off to the side of the firebox. This will keep you from having to stand with your feet practically in the fire as you attend to your cooking. An outdoor fireplace oven design can also include space for a more modern appliance: the gas grill. All the enjoyment of outdoor cooking can be had in this one location.