What to do when lighting a wood fired oven for the first time
You have carefully chosen your new wood fired oven. You brought it home, installed it without any problems and now you can’t wait to start cooking pizzas worthy of the best Neapolitan tradition.
However, before starting, some questions may arise: how do I light the wood fired oven the very first time? How much wood will it take to cook 10 pizzas? How will I know when the oven is ready?
These are all valid questions, particularly for those who are beginners who are anxious to learn the tricks and methods for not burning pizzas or for churning out fragrant and well-cooked loaves of bread.
This article is intended to clarify these common concerns so that your wonderful new oven can be used to it’s full capacity for years of good food with family and friends.
The important thing when it comes to wood fired ovens is not to be in a rush; take time to experiment, carefully prepare the lighting and learn how to better manage both heating and cooking.
With practice you will be able to cook, grill and roast dishes that are always different and flawless.
In this article we will see:
- What to do when lighting your wood fired oven for the first time
- How to light a wood fired oven – How to tell if the oven is at the right temperature
- What kind of wood should be used for the pizza oven? – What is the best type of wood for cooking pizzas?
- How long in advance should the wood fired oven be lit?
- How to get a wood fired oven ready: conclusions
What to do when lighting your wood fired oven for the first time
Once installed, the wood oven can be used immediately.
For example, Alfa ovens are immediately ready for use thanks to the Forninox™ Technology, which combines the cooking chamber with the stainless steel structure.
Basically, all you need to do is:
- Place the base on the structure
- Assemble the chimney on the flue
- Mount the chimney and flue on the oven dome
In just three steps the oven is immediately ready to be lit, but how do you light a wood fired oven for the first time?
Lighting a wood fired oven should always take place gradually, by creating a light flame with little wood.
In this way, the temperature of the oven is able to gradually increase. you simply need to ensure that the thermometer on the side of the oven reaches around 600 degrees.
In doing so, the structure of the oven and the refractory materials will be able to get to the heat slowly, adapting and perfecting the respective positioning, subsequently guaranteeing high performance in terms of cooking.
How to light a wood fired oven
In order to be able to make fragrant bread and pizza, or roasts and vegetables both rich in flavour and cooked to perfection, you first need to learn how to light the fire correctly.
Before proceeding with the lighting, what you will obviously need is small wood or very dry twigs that will help you start the flame.
Remember never to use chemical fuels to speed up the time and facilitate the lighting of the fire; this could cause the food will be contaminated with these harmful and distasteful substances.
Once you have the wood, you can place the wood cover in the centre of the oven and start creating the so-called “castelletto (little castle)” using dry twigs or straws, on top of which you can then place small pieces of wood.
You can see how to do this in this video.
When ready, you can light the fire and leave the oven door ajar to facilitate combustion, thanks to the greater influx of air flowing into the cooking chamber.
When a nice flame is ready, you can add larger pieces of wood so as to get a lively fire.
Upon reaching the right temperature, use a pizza peel, to move the ‘castelletto’ to the side paying attention mainly to two things:
- The fire should be on the opposite side from where the pyrometer is, so as to be sure that the detected temperature is correct.
- If the temperature detected by the pyrometer does not correspond to that of the ground: to find out how many degrees are found on the oven surface, simply use a laser thermometer, in order to see if the floor has also reached the temperature you need.
How to know if the wood fired oven is ready? A few minutes after lighting, the oven reaches a temperature of 480 degrees, burning the dark soot found inside the cooking chamber.
This is the moment when you can start placing the dishes you prefer into the oven.
Obviously, the quality of the oven will make a difference regarding the time it takes to bring it up to temperature and how much wood you need to use.
Thanks to the Forninox™ Technology and the high quality of the materials used, Alfa ovens require little fuel because the time required to reach high temperatures is minimal.
How to tell if the oven is at the right temperature
If you’re just starting out you will probably not be able to tell if the wood oven is ready just by looking at the cooking chamber.
However, there are two tools that can help you identify the temperature:
- The pyrometer: located on the side of the oven, it measures the heat of the air inside the cooking chamber.
- The laser thermometer: a useful tool for detecting the temperature of the hob.
Usually, in fact, the oven surface is about a hundred degrees less than the temperature found in the vault. Knowing the exact temperature of the hob will prove to be particularly useful information if you want to cook plate pizza.
When the oven has reached the correct temperature for the dish you intend to make, you can start cooking.
Vuoi scoprire qual è il forno più adatto alle tue esigenze?
What kind of wood should be used for the pizza oven?
One of the reasons that prompted you to buy a wood fired oven is likely the unmistakable aroma that the various types of wood are capable of conveying to dishes, especially dishes that require lengthy cooking.
Each type of wood has its own peculiarities and is capable of releasing different scents, for example: oak wood is perfect for giving a delicate aroma to fish, while maple wood is ideal for giving an extra edge to roasts.
What is the best type of wood for cooking pizzas?
Beech and oak wood are a good option since they are wood with good heat yield, they do not interfere with the taste of the dough, they burn slowly and they do not release the smell of resin during combustion.
Chestnut wood should be avoided when cooking pizzas as it tends to crackle during cooking, producing small pieces of charcoal that could end up on the dough.
How to light a smokeless wood oven
The wood you use, regardless of the type, must always be dry, of good quality and free from soil residues. In fact, if it’s not dry, it generates an intense white smoke and will not produce a flame.
Furthermore, the fire must be lit towards the bottom of the oven, making sure that there is the right amount of air inside the combustion chamber so that the flame can stay alive.
How to heat the wood fired pizza oven
In this article we have seen how to light the wood oven for the first time, however we would also like to provide some suggestions on how to obtain excellent results and always make well-cooked pizzas.
Remember that a wood fired oven works in three different ways:
- By conduction: when the dish to be cooked is placed directly in contact with the hot surface of the oven, as occurs for example with pizzas.
- By convention: through the propagation of hot air which, inside the oven, creates ideal conditions suitable for cooking various dishes.
- By radiation: when the heat generated inside the cooking chamber is transmitted directly to the food to be cooked.
A correct combination of these three elements will allow you to adapt the cooking parameters to the type of pizza you intend to make.
For example, in order to cook an excellent Neapolitan pizza you need a slightly lower temperature than the vault, otherwise you risk burning the base even before cooking the heart and the crust.
A pan pizza, on the other hand, requires a greater thrust from the bottom so as to heat the pan and make the base of the pizza crispy.
The procedure for lighting a wood fired oven for pizzas is essentially the one described in the previous paragraph.
How long in advance should the wood fired oven be lit?
Depending on the size of your model, simply turn on the oven 15 or 30 minutes before starting to cook the pizza.
The time needed to reach the ideal temperature to cook your pizzas is linked to the speed used by the refractory surface of the oven to heat up. If the surface is not hot enough, in fact, the pizza will cook in the upper part, since the top of the oven is quicker to heat up, yet it would remain raw at the base.
In general, the ideal temperature to cook pizzas is 932 degrees for the for the vault, which will take about 10 minutes to heat up, and 840 degrees for the surface, which will take about 30 minutes.
In any case, the use of a laser thermometer is always the best way to know the actual surface temperature of the oven.
Here’s an example with the Nano oven by Alfa: this model can reach 932 degrees. In order to reach the temperature that is ideal for cooking pizzas, it needs to be heated with the door closed for roughly 30 minutes.
Once placed in the oven, the pizza cooks in 60 or 90 seconds depending on the type of dough used.
The amount of wood you will need in order to reach the right temperature and keep it constant throughout the evening will vary according to the number of pizzas you want to churn out, the type of wood used and the size of the oven.
How to get a wood fired oven ready: conclusions
You now have all the information you need to turn on your wood fired oven and start cooking tasty pizzas flawlessly.
But there’s more, because with a little practice and the right tools you can delight friends and relatives even with succulent and fragrant dishes that include roasted meat, fish, vegetables and desserts, thus obtaining a complete menu.
Now all you need to do is start experimenting and, if you wish, why not share your recipes with us!