How to use a wood fired pizza oven
To learn how to use a wood fired pizza oven effectively, it’s important to understand how these ovens work. To cook the perfect wood fired pizza you want to prepare the oven so it can heat evenly, store this heat in the oven refractory, and allow it to be released throughout the cooking process.
Your wood-fired pizza will be cooked using three different heats, the oven stores all this heat during the heating process.
- The heat that is transferred from the fire bricks placed in your cooking base is known as conductive heat.
- We know the heat released by the refractory Dome of your pizza oven as radiant heat.
- The heat created by the interaction between the fresh air entering the oven’s opening, the drawing action of the oven’s chimney and they know the fire causing all this circulation inside the Dome as convection heat.
To cook the perfect wood pizza you’re going to need to preheat your oven to its maximum temperature, then let it cool down to the temperature you want to cook your food at. This process can take anything up to an hour depending on the wood you’re using and the size of your oven.
Lighting a wood fired pizza oven
You should always use dry seasoned wood free of any chemicals, glue or paint to start your fire. Softwood is good to start, but then you should switch to hardwood as soon as possible to maintain the fire. We’d suggest you also use natural firelighters and not chemical-based ones.
The best kindling to start a fire should be approximately 200 to 300 mm, about as thick as your small finger. A softwood burns faster because of its lower density this is perfect for starting the fire.
Once your kindling has been lit, it’s time to add the hardwood and try to use pieces that are thinner than 15 cm in diameter and the same length as used previously. Hardwood produces a more intense heat that will last for longer due to the fact that is denser than softwood. You want to use smaller logs as these are easier to maintain when you’re cooking with an open door.
Tips for lighting the fire
- When you’re firing your wood fired pizza oven, you need to leave the door slightly open and you can use either crumpled newspaper or firestarters to help light your kindling.
- One of the easiest ways to do this is to light your kindling on your pizza paddle, then just place it in the center of the oven.
- Once the kindling has caught fire and is burning sufficiently, you can add some hardwood
- The next stage requires you to monitor the inside of the oven as the heat increases. First, it will turn black which is caused by the resin and smoke coming from the wood, then as the temperature of your Dome reaches 350 degrees celsius it will turn grey. This grey colour will continue down the oven walls until the interior completely changes colour.
- Once this grey colour has reached 3/4 of the way down your oven wall, you can spread the burning embers across the oven’s floor to help store as much heat in the oven’s base as possible.
- Once the full interior of the oven has turned grey, sweep these embers to the side using a natural fiber brush ensuring all ash and embers are taken off the oven floor.
- You can test the floor of your wood fired pizza oven to see if it’s too hot for cooking pizza very simply. Just spread a handful of flour in the center of the oven floor if this bursts into flames then the floor is far too hot to cook a pizza. Failing that buy a pizza oven thermometer.
- The temperature can be lowered by removing some embers and leaving the door open. Once the floor of the oven cools down and only browns the flour that you add, then the oven is safe to be used
Wood fired pizza oven maintenance
It’s important to ensure that no water enters or gets onto your pizza cooking base. This can be achieved by keeping the door closed and a cap on the flu when you’re not using the oven.
Because of the high temperature nature of your oven, it is a self-cleaning device that will burn off any bacteria bugs grease or spilled food.
Brush the base with either a wire brush or a natural bristle brush to remove any ash.
Learning to control the smoke
One of the biggest issues people have when they’re learning to use a wood fired pizza oven is to control the smoke, this can easily be done by using the following tips
- Always keep your wood piles covered to keep the wood dry
- Store your firewood in a well-ventilated space
- Never burn wet or green wood as this produces much more smoke
- Work with seasoned hardwoods that are aged for at least 6 months ideally 12 months as these will have 20% moisture content at most
- Your pizza oven was not designed for burning treated woods, driftwood, paints, solvents, plastics, charcoal coal, rubber or any household rubbish
- Try not to add your hardwood to your fire until his burning brightly and that is higher temperature is possible
- Use plenty of paper in kindling to start the fire as quickly as possible keeping it blazing. The hotter the embers, the less smoke you’ll have come from your pizza oven
Finally please try to resist the temptation to overfill your oven with larger logs. If you add a larger piece of wood, make sure it’s loosely packed to allow air to circulate. If you fail to do this, the large log will easily smother the fire resulting in more smoke being produced.
How to you use a pizza oven for the first time?
If you have a new wood fired pizza oven, the first thing you need to do is cure it to ensure that your oven’s dome does not crack or break.
Depending on the pizza oven you’ve chosen, each may have its own instructions on how to cure it for the first time. In the majority of cases using your wood fired pizza oven for the first time will involve lighting a series of small fires inside and then gradually increasing the fires in size and heat over a number of burns. Completing several small burns will allow any moisture trapped within the dome to evapourate over time. A sudden reduction of all the moisture at once time could cause significant damage.
Expert tip: Cure the oven once
Remember that once you have cured your wood fired pizza oven, it is cured. Many people believe that if your pizza oven gets substantially wet due to the elements that they have to cure it again. You can, of course, dry your pizza oven out by lighting a fire inside but you will not have to repeat the curing process once it has been done properly.
Buying your wood fired pizza oven
If you haven’t yet bought your wood fired pizza oven, then take a look at our online shop. You can find plenty of different types and styles from a range of manufacturers including Ooni.