Nothing beats that unique, authentically crisp, slightly charred and smokey pizza base only made possible in wood-fired pizza ovens. At about 450 degrees it should take roughly 90 seconds for a pizza oven to cook a thin-based pizza to perfection with a crisp bottom that holds the weight of the toppings, beautiful blistering of the dough around the edges and charring on top. And because pizza ovens retain their heat so efficiently, even after you’ve stopped adding firewood, the temperature decreases so gradually that you should have ample time to bake and cook even more food. As an example, bread can be baked at 250 degrees and below that you could grill meat and fish at 180 degrees.
Here’s how to guarantee the best fire for your pizza oven that will keep you cooking outside all summer long:
Choose wood that flames well
Pizza, unlike other food, needs to cook at very high temperatures for a very brief amount of time. To achieve this, well-seasoned (very dry), dense woods are ideal. When cooking pizza you want a clean-burning fire as too much smoke can produce rancid and bitter flavours – this is why wet / un-seasoned wood should be avoided.
As long as your fire is made with clearly very dry and high-quality wood, your pizzas are likely to be successful.
Pick wood that is the right size for your pizza oven
Most standard pizza ovens should be fuelled with lengths of wood about 30cm long. You should start the fire with the thinner pieces (Premium Kindling not Pine) because they are likely to ignite and start burning more easily than the larger lengths of wood. Once the thinner pieces are burning successfully, they will ignite the larger pieces which will bring the oven to temperature.
Smaller pizza ovens needs very dry softer wood or smaller pieces of harder woods that ignite easily and will not smoulder. There needs to be enough space in the centre of the oven to fit the pizza so that it does not come in direct contact with any hot coals.
Best wood for your pizza oven
The wood you use in your pizza oven is based largely on your personal preference. A good-quality, dry wood that produces a good, hot flame is all you really need.
Wood to avoid
- It is important to keep your pizza oven clean and safe for cooking by burning untreated wood. Any wood which has been processed (painted, laminated, pressure-treated or varnished) in any way will produce harmful chemicals when ignited.
- Sappy and green wood will produce too much smoke and can spit and sizzle – these fires can damage an enclosed oven and will never reach the required temperatures.