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To us, there is nothing better than making our own pizza, with all the ingredients we want, in an outdoor oven pizza in our own backyard.
To help you get started, we’ve put together this simple how-to guide to make using your new pizza oven more enjoyable.
Read More: Guide on building an outdoor pizza oven.
1. What’s the Best Wood for a New Pizza Oven?
The best wood to use in a wood fired pizza oven is one that produces low smoke and high heat. This makes softwoods much less suitable than hardwoods . Never use pine, cedar, spruce or fir wood in your pizza oven. These woods have a lot of sap and can damage your oven and make your pizza taste strange.
Woods such as oak, birch and ash are all ideal for a pizza oven. For a unique pizza experience, try olive wood for a pizza with a Mediterranean taste.
Dried or “seasoned” woods are a must for your pizza oven. Wood that has too much moisture will smoke and will not create enough heat in your pizza oven for the proper cooking conditions.
2. How to Light a Wood Fired Pizza Oven?
Admittedly, lighting a pizza oven does take a little patience and practice especially those portable models– the key is to build it up slowly, allowing heat to gradually build.
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to lighting your pizza oven.
Step 1: Open the chimney smoke control vent and the door of the oven – both should remain open during the lighting process.
Step 2: Place some kindling in the center of the oven. Kindling is often small sticks, paper, or other material that will light quickly and create a fast, hot fire. If you are not sure what to use for kindling, you can even purchase pre-made kindling bundles or firelighters. Over the kindling, in a teepee shape stack a few small logs of your hardwood.
Step 3: Light your match. Carefully light the kindling and leave the match placed by it, still in the center of the kindling. Step back and allow the wood to catch fire completely.
Step 4: When the kindling gets burning sufficiently, add a few more small-medium size pieces, slowly increasing the fires size.
Continue to add more wood, growing the fire across the floor of the oven to evenly distribute the heat. Caution: Be sure to use proper tools and thick gloves to stoke the fire.
Step 5: Using a laser thermometer, check the temperature of the oven. When the oven temperature reaches 575-800°F, close the smoke control.
Step 6: Once the flames die down and are reduced to embers, move them to the back of the oven to make space for your pizza.
Check for embers still burning. If there are still flames or embers, leaving the door vent open for a couple minutes allows the small amount of smoke to escape.
Step 7: You’re ready to start cooking! If you are planning on running your oven over several hours you will need to add additional wood to maintain consistent heat in the oven
Every 10 minutes or so, add a small log to the embers and allow to burn. This will help you maintain a steady temperature inside the oven.
3. How Long to Heat Up a Pizza Oven?
It typically can take up to an hour to heat up a wood fired pizza oven fully . However, this depends on a few factors: size, design, made of materials like stainless steel, the wood used, and the weather. Some smaller ovens can heat up in less time but some larger ovens can take as long as 2 hours.
You should get a good estimate of how long your particular pizza oven takes to reach ideal temperature after only a couple attempts.
4. How Hot Should a Pizza Oven Be?
To cook a pizza in a wood fired oven, you need a temperature of at least 800°F. Keep in mind that if you have a thicker crust, this higher temperature will allow for faster cooking. Thin crusts can easily burn at temperatures higher than 800°F.
5. And Now – Put It in the Oven
To cook your pizza, place onto a lightly floured pizza peel (a pizza peel is a flat, wide tool that helps you move pizza pies around. It looks like a big spatula). Slide the pizza peel with the pizza on it into the pizza oven and give the peel a quick pull to transfer the pizza from the peel to the pizza oven floor. You will get better at this the more you attempt it.
The crust should begin to puff up nicely and start cooking immediately. After about 40 seconds, slip the peel under the pizza and rotate it 180 degrees to ensure that it cooks evenly.
Making a pizza in a wood fired pizza oven is a skill that takes practice. You’ll find that some of your first attempts are not perfect. Remember to turn your pizza during cooking and watch your temperatures; too hot and your pizza will burn, too cool and you’ll have a soggy pizza.
If you are just learning to use your new pizza oven, there are sure to be a few pizzas undercooked, burnt or otherwise ruined. And that’s okay. There is a definite learning curve when you start off using a new pizza oven. This guide would also apply to any DIY wood fired pizza oven you’ve installed at your yard.
The fun is in trial and error and experimentation with different styles of pizza and getting to hone your skills to become a pizza MasterChef. We hope this guide will help to assist your efforts and make the experience less daunting.