Wood fired pizza ovens have been around for decades, and they have made the trip to North America in the last 30 years. There’s nothing quite like the taste and texture of a wood fired pizza. The only place where you could find that food nirvana was at a wood fired pizzeria until recent years. Nowadays, you can find outdoor pizza ovens with either traditional gas-fired or wood-fired capabilities. Cooking pizza in a traditional gas-fired oven is simple enough, just sling it in and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Wood fired ovens are a bit more finicky than that as there are unique methods exclusive to those ovens.
The Wood Makes It Good
Apologies to Kenny Rogers for that subheading, but that saying worked for his rotisserie chicken chain and it also works for wood fired pizza ovens. Dry hardwoods that are seasoned such as beech, birch, maple, and oak are ideal to use in the oven as they burn slowly and produce adequate amounts of heat. Warm up the oven with a small bundle in the center of the oven and let it burn for a little bit. Once the wood and embers have a light glow to them, you can use an oven shovel and gently push the embers to the back corner and the oven should be ready to go. One last test to see if the temperature is ideal, toss a handful of flour into the oven. If the flour ignites instantly or it burns within a few seconds, the oven is too hot. You can let the fire burn out for a little while to lower the temperature.
This is where the magic happens, you can place your prepared pizza into the oven. It would be advantageous to use a bit more water in the sauce as the high heat of the oven will tend to dry the sauce out a bit during cooking. Stay rooted to the front of the oven as it cooks because it will cook completely in 3-5 minutes. Keep an eye on the side of the pizza closest to the flame and turn the pizza once that side’s crust is golden brown. Once the other side’s crust is done cooking, pay attention to the top of the pizza to see how much of the cheese has melted. If the cheese and toppings need a bit more time to cook, use a pizza peel and gently raise the pizza up off of the oven surface. The top of the dome is the hottest portion of the oven and you can hold the pizza on the peel there for a few seconds to finish the cooking. Think of the top of the dome as a Salamander Grill that a Chef uses to finish off dishes quickly.