The key features that the best wood-fired pizza ovens should have.
Wood-fired oven is certainly at the top of the heap because of various reasons. It can reach very high temperature, distributes heat evenly and the firewood imparts pizza that extra kick that blows your guests away.
But, most of all, the wood-burning oven enables you to cook the real Neapolitan pizza, with all the art and culture that normally comes with it. The traditional wood-fired pizza oven is mainly made of bricks and cement built into the home kitchen or in your outdoor living space but currently there are many types of pizza ovens whose performances come close to those of large commercial ovens.
In this article, we will focus on the key features that a wood-fired pizza oven must have to deliver the goods.
Why should you choose a wood-fired oven to cook pizza?
Let’s see five reasons why pizza is better when baked in a wood-burning oven.
1. Personal satisfaction.
There’s great satisfaction in operating a wood-fired oven, whether it be choosing the right firewood, cleaning after using it or managing temperature so that your pizza cooks perfectly. Fire has also a positive connotation since it has always fascinated the human species and its control was a quantum leap in the evolution of man.
2. Ability to reach high temperatures.
The multitude of dishes that you can bake in a wood-fired oven is almost limitless but, most of all, it’s the very thing to cook Neapolitan pizza in under 90 seconds at 450°C (800°F) with golden bottom and a little charring on the top.
3. The aroma of wood
The burning of firewood infuses food with smoked aroma that enhances the original flavour of it; moreover, wood is a clean, renewable and carbon neutral source of energy.
4. Display cooking
If you want to put on a show in your kitchen there’s no better ally than a wood-burning oven facing guests hanging around and watching pizzas being made by hand trying to learn your secrets.
5. Resistant to the passage of time
The wood-fired oven is based on uncomplicated technology so it’s small wonder that it will last a lifetime as long as it is properly maintained and cleaned.
Ten key features of a wood-fired oven for baking a top-quality pizza.
Now let’s examine the factors to consider when choosing a wood-fired pizza oven. We will mostly focus on structural and design elements that will affect performance and functions.
1. Shape and dimensions
Normally the shape of the pizza oven is half-spherical to really influence the circulation of air inside it. The dome shape forms a small pocket where hot air generated from the fire circulates above the pizza and the heat is transferred by radiation. The heat comes from the bottom up to the top of the dome and is then redirected back down to cook pizzas evenly in a few minutes. Besides, the heat generated by glowing embers is absorbed by the refractory materials the oven is made of by conduction. The standard dimensions of a wood-burning oven are 1,5 m of internal diameter (60’’) but plenty of other sizes are available depending on how many pizzas at once you want to cook.
The wood-fired oven is made of refractory materials, that is minerals able to withstand very high temperatures and to absorb and retain the heat. Refractories are of the utmost importance to resist thermal shock when temperatures change too fast.
3. Weight and stability
The weight will depend on the materials used for building it. Pizza lovers swear by masonry ovens that can reach very high temperatures and have a big thermal mass, but portable ovens may be a great alternative to wheel your pizzas in and out of the house.
4. Serviceable mouth and door
The mouth of the oven must be large enough to get food in and out and to easily manage the fire but not so large as to dissipate heat. With the door you control the air flow and, as a result, the oven temperature. It must be equipped with a heatproof handle and be heavy enough to be stable when it’s placed at an angle of the mouth or partly closed.
5. Heat-up speed
The speed at which the oven heats up depends on its structural characteristics but also on factors such as the type of firewood and the ability to manage the fire. A good wood-burning oven reaches and keeps high temperature.
6. Low energy consumption
Firewood is a cheap and renewable resource. Just pick the best quality and well-seasoned wood that you can, and it will pay off handsomely in terms of heat and energy efficiency.
7. Even cooking
As we have already seen, pizza bakes simultaneously from below, via thermal conduction and from above by way of thermal radiation. To get a perfect pizza, you must balance the two so that the bottom and the toppings are cooked at the same time. So, an oven that combines high temp with the refractories’ properties provide an even cooking and that all the more important when cooking many pizzas at once.
8. Speed to get back to operating temperature
When baking, heat is transferred from the oven floor to the pizza, causing a slight drop in temperature in that point. Should you have to cook scores of pizzas you have to consider the floor loss of heat and its speed to get back to operating temperature to avoid uneven cooking.
9. Heat retention
The wood-fired oven retains heat so long that once pizza cooking is finished, you can manage the falling curve of temperatures to bake multiple dishes. At 250°C (480°F) you can bake bread, at 180°C (350°F) roasts or fish and so on. That’s quite an achievement to squeeze every drop of energy coming from your wood-burning oven.
10. Designer furniture for outdoor living spaces
A wood-fired oven is a cooking appliance that doubles as an outstanding piece of furniture to liven up your garden or backyard and to turn it into a terrific cookout venue.
In conclusion, if you really want to buy a wood-burning oven, you should take these factors into account: consider your lifestyle, your wishes and your means and then choose the best pizza oven that you can afford.
Don’t forget that cooking with a wood-fired oven is not an exact science so use your senses, trust your judgment and adjust things as you go to enjoy the experience to the fullest.