If you own a wood fire pizza oven, you’re one of the lucky few with access to the best-tasting pizzas right in your home. The soaring temperature of wood-fired pizzas ensures a perfectly cooked pizza that’s sure to gratify even the pickiest of pizza aficionados.
However, using an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven isn't as easy as it seems. When you’re just starting, you’re bound to encounter some burned pizzas. After a period of trial and error, you’ll get used to it and you’ll soon be baking the most savoury pizzas in no time.
We’ve done the hard part for you. From lighting a wood-fired pizza oven to cooking on it, this detailed guide shows you the proper way of using wood-fired ovens.
Precautions For Lighting A Wood Fired Pizza Oven
You should never light a fire with charcoal lighter fluid, kerosene, gasoline / petrol or other similar flammable materials.
Never use water to extinguish the flames of the fire or to lower the wood burning oven temperature. You should only use dry and seasoned wood, preferably kiln dried wood. Refrain from using resinous, wet, or treated wood.
If your wood-fired pizza oven is wet, let it dry off completely before using it for cooking. You can start a weak fire for this.
Lighting A Wood Fired Outdoor Pizza Oven
Here’s our step-by-step guide on lighting a wood-fired pizza oven for the first time:
- Both the pizza oven door and the chimney smoke control vent must be left open when you light the fire.
- Build an open stack of kindling sticks in the centre of the oven. Push the firelighters and slide them underneath the kindling stack.
- You can now light your match. Light the firelighter with care and leave the match by it in the centre of the kindling. Step back and allow it to fully burn.
- After the kindling is set ablaze, add a further 3-4 small logs (we suggest splitting the quarter round logs into two) slowly increasing the size of the fire after the kindling is burning well.
- The pizza dome will turn black after a while. Smoke from the fire causes this to happen. Firewood will also gradually turn white.
- Continue adding logs. To distribute the heat evenly, keep the fire going all over the floor of the pizza oven. Make sure to stoke the flames carefully using gloves and suitable tools, as the fire will heat up now. Always keep an extinguisher nearby in case the flames get out of control.
- Let the temperature continue to rise. With increased heat, the dome's inside turns white. Ensure the fire is burning evenly and the oven floor is covered with wood. The desired temperature should be around 350°-400° C. Monitor with a laser thermometer.
- The smoke control needs to be closed. You can now start preparing your cooking area.
- Move the flames to the sides and back of the oven after the flames have died down so that you have room to roast your food. The embers should be at the back of the oven if you're cooking pizza so that the pizza can be placed at the front.
- To avoid too much smoke inside the oven, leave the door ajar if there are still flames or embers.
- Place the food inside. You can now begin cooking! For best results, make sure that your wood-fired oven stays hot for a minimum of 2 hours. This is perfect for pizzas and slow cooking.
Cooking Pizza On Your Wood Fired Pizza Oven
Now that you know how to start your wood-fired pizza oven, you’ll want to know how to cook pizza on it. Here’s our step by step guide on making pizza on your wood-fired pizza oven:
Prepare The Pizza Dough
Good pizza starts with good pizza dough. Our favourite is to create our own dough, but there are lots of options, including buying pre-made dough. Making the perfect pizza dough is simpler than you might think. Most of the time you spend on it just involves waiting for it to rise. Here’s a simple recipe to make dough.
- Olive oil (1 tsp)
- 1 ounce (28g) of brewer's yeast/ active dry yeast (2 tsp), dissolved in the water
- Warm water (250ml)
- Stone milled flour (1/2kg). You can also use bread flour
- Make a mound of the flour and scoop a well in the middle, add olive oil and salt oil to the mound.
- After that, mix in the water-yeast mixture. Keep on kneading until the dough becomes elastic and smooth and comes off easily from the work surface. This should take about 10 minutes.
- Make a ball out of the dough. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and use a clean kitchen towel to cover it. After that, place it in a warm place and let it rise for about two hours.
- Pinch down the dough, give it a quick knead, and make four balls out of them. Then place them on a floured surface, cover them, and let them rise for about an hour.
- After the dough has risen, use a rolling pin to stretch it into a circle. You can also use your hands instead of a rolling pin to do this.
Add The Sauce And Toppings
Dough provides the foundation while toppings are the star of a pizza. Depending on your taste, you can stick to traditional toppings such as Margherita with small pieces of mozzarella or try experimental ones, like banana peppers, chicken, tofu, jackfruit, kimchi, avocado, and maybe even pineapple.
The traditional recipe for pizza sauce uses crushed tomatoes, sea salt, and olive oil. The sauce is also not constrained by any limitations. Beet sauce, barbecue sauce, alfredo, and pesto all make excellent pizza toppings. Arrange your ingredients on top of the dough, starting with the sauce.
Heating Your Oven
In the meantime, you should heat your oven: put several logs in the centre of the oven floor and let them burn. When the oven floor temperature reaches about 370 degrees Celsius / 700 degrees Fahrenheit, the soot will vaporise and you’ll see a white patch. As the oven continues to heat, the white patch will migrate to the floor. The oven is hot enough when all the soot has been burned off.
Depending on the materials and shape of the oven, the duration may vary. The baking time for brick pizza ovens and barrel vault bread ovens can take up to three hours. Pizza ovens made from modern refractory materials can take up to 90 minutes.
Depending on your oven's internal temperature, the time it takes to cook your pizza can vary from 10 minutes to 90 seconds! After your oven has reached the correct temperature, you'll need to bake your pizza.
Read also: The BEST Pizza Ovens: A review
Bring Out Your Pizza Peel
Pizza peels are flat, wide tools you use to move pizzas around. While some pizza peels are better suited for transferring pizzas from your countertop to the oven, others are ideal for rotating the pizza while it's cooking.
You should choose a pizza peel that is large enough for the pizzas you want to make and has a long handle to shield your hands from the fire.
Place The Pizza In The Oven
Top your pizza with your desired toppings, then slide it onto a lightly floured pizza peel. Use the peel to quickly transfer the pizza to the oven's floor, where there is a baking stone. Once the pizza is on the floor, it will begin to puff and bake immediately.
After about 40-50 seconds, slide the peel under the pizza and turn it 180 degrees to ensure even cooking. When rotating it, make sure it doesn't move to another part of the oven, or else it’ll burn.
In about 60-90 seconds, your pizza will be done. If the crispy crust is nicely browned, the cheese has melted, and the rest of the topping and ingredients are bubbling, the pizza is ready. After it’s done, take it out from the oven and serve as desired.
Let your oven cool down and use a brush or oven rake to clean out the wood refuse, embers, and ash. if your oven is made of metal, you can also use a damp rag to wipe it down.
As you embark on your journey with a wood fire pizza oven, remember that each type of oven, be it a traditional wood-fired or a modern stainless steel oven, has its unique features.
The cooking floor and baking surface in these ovens are designed to reach high temperatures quickly, ideal for cooking pizzas to perfection. When using your oven, a turning peel is an essential tool for maneuvering your pizza on the hot surface, ensuring an evenly cooked crust. Monitoring the oven's temperature is critical, and an infrared thermometer can be an invaluable tool in this process, helping you maintain the right balance between high and lower temperatures. This is particularly important as cooking in these ovens can be a learning curve, especially when trying out new recipes.
Whether you're making a classic Margherita pizza or experimenting with different dishes, the key is to wait for the oven to reach the optimal temperature. Use dry wood to fuel your oven, as it burns cleaner and more efficiently. Lastly, don't forget to add sauce and toppings to your pizza, as they will cook quickly and melt beautifully under the intense heat, creating mouthwatering flavours that are sure to delight any pizza aficionado.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven to heat up?
A wood-fired pizza oven usually takes up to an hour to fully heat. Several factors affect the temperature of your oven, including the wood used, the outside temperature, and the design and size of the oven.
The right temperature can be reached in 40 minutes for small ovens, but it can take as long as 2 hours for larger home pizza ovens.
What accessories are required for pizza making in a wood-fired oven?
To protect your hands from the heat, you may want to invest in a good pair of heavy-duty gloves and some thick pan holders for additional protection, since the cooking utensils will be very hot.
Pizza peels are very versatile kitchen accessories as they can be used for a multitude of things such as adding logs and moving embers when needed. An oven floor brush with a long handle is also recommended for maintaining cleanliness.
You can read more about how to clean a pizza oven on our blog
What wood is ideal for a wood-fired pizza oven?
It is best to use wood that generates high heat and low smoke when you are making pizza in a wood-fired oven. Hardwoods / kiln dried wood are better for this than softwoods.
Several kinds of wood are ideal for wood burning ovens, including oak, birch, and ash. Many people also enjoy the scent of olive wood.