5 Wood-Fired Oven Hacks from The Experts
Operating a wood-fired pizza oven could be daunting. Unlike a gas-fueled oven, it sometimes does not come with a manual. Cooking for the first time could be frustrating, especially when you are too fired up to make your pizza recipe.
But fret not. It is not as difficult as you think. Top pizza experts share their time-tested tips and tricks for using a wood-fired oven. Part of the fun is trial and error.
Related: About Your Oven - A Complete Guide.
Here are five easy-to-follow wood-fired oven hacks you should not miss.
1.Light it up early
Firing up your oven 1-2 hours earlier before using does the job; unlike the traditional range where temperature increases speedily, the brick needs a longer time to build up heat.
One thing to remember about oven temperature is that dough needs a different temperature. Some doughs are okay with 500 F, while others come out best between 900-1000 F.
2. Allow enough time for curing
One of the most common wood-fired oven mistakes people commit is not curing their newly bought oven. Or if they do, it is done hurriedly out of their eagerness to create a flavorful, hearty pizza.
Curing means allowing the moisture to evaporate from the mortar. It ensures tip-top performance for your pizza oven and extends its life. You could start by building a small fire for five consecutive days and letting it stand for 4-5 hours. All authentic ovens will crack but curing your oven properly will reduce them.
Here is a schedule to guide you in curing your oven for its initial use.
- Day 1- 140 F/ 60 C (4-5 hours)
- Day 2- 215F/100 C (4-5 hours)
- Day 3 - 300F/150C (4-5 hours)
- Day 4- 400F/200 C (4-5 hours)
- Day 5 - 480F/250C (4-5 hours)
3.Heating the oven
Starting the fire in the brick oven is different from lighting up a conventional home oven. So, may you wonder how to heat a wood-fired oven properly and safely.? Start by using hardwood that is no more than 2-3 inches in diameter, like beech, walnut, maple, ash, oak, hickory, and birch. Newspapers, particleboard, plywood, or other treated woods are not ideal. These create a lot of ash which has NO heat value, they also can give a different flavor to the pizza due to the smoke coming from the ashes. They are also not environmentally friendly.
Start with working in the center of the oven floor, pile the woods in a teepee shape. Another option is to build a log cabin style. Make sure your set up is as wide as possible as this will heat a larger space. You can use a match but we recommend using a butane torch and igniting it at the center of the wood pile for about 60 seconds. This will expedite the wood fire and create an even fire start.
4. Maintaining the heat
Next to lighting up the oven is keeping the heat even. A lively and bright flame keeps a clear flow of air. Overloading the fire with big logs prevents airflow. Instead, throw in small pieces of wood occasionally for steady temperature. For maximum heat, you want more coal than fire before you begin to cook your pizza.
5.Cleaning it up
Even the best outdoor pizza oven would not last if not adequately maintained. The first step is letting your wood-fired oven cool down completely, say overnight. Use an oven rake or brush to scoop the remaining ashes, embers and wood refuse out from the oven. For leftover food particles, use a steel or metal brush to avoid remove any stubbor debris.
The beauty of wood-fired oven cooking is that most mistakes are just learning experiences and should not stop you from experiencing great outdoor cooking in your pizza oven. These five kinds of wood-fired oven hacks guarantee your next cooking adventure hassle-free!
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