Wood-fired ovens provide an exciting, smoky flavour to the food they cook and preserve what you put in them. They can cook more than just pizza too, like bread, roasted veggies, or meats. And using the oven for these other items uses less energy so it also saves time & money!
Cooking with a wood-fired oven has its fair share of perks. However, to maximise your experience you should consider some tips and tricks.
Lighting a wood-fired pizza oven is quite straightforward. The only caveat is the need to factor in some time for it to get up to temperature.
- So to begin, open the door and the chimney vent. These two are to remain open until you are done lighting the fire.
- Next, place kindling and some smaller logs in the oven’s center. For optimal results, use a teepee shape.
- Then light a match and place it within the kindling. Once it is burning, slowly add medium-sized logs and ensure the fire’s size is increasing.
- Make certain that your logs are turning white while the dome turns black. These two outcomes are indicators that you are on the right track and the fire is burning well.
- Add logs as needed until the fire is hot enough to turn the dome white. At this point, you can use a thermal thermometer to check the temperature before closing the smoke control.
- When the fire is down to embers, move them to the side or back and leave the door open until all flames have died down.
- After that, your oven is ready for cooking.
Regardless of the temperature that you need to cook with, you first need to certify that the oven has attained an optimal temperature of around 450 C. Once it meets this, you can adjust it as needed by moving the coals closer or further away. When adjusting your oven, you can always tell the cooking temperature is by reading the oven floor. But don’t leave the thermometer inside for too long!
Monitor the Temperature
Heat variation with this type of oven is notoriously bad…without the ability to control it. Cooking styles, cooking methods, thickness of pizza – are all affected by how hot it gets inside. For example, generally, you need to cook pizzas at high temperatures for short periods of time. So to find the spot with the ideal temperature, observe the fire distribution.
Another factor that affects the temperatures you attain is the wood you use. Therefore, keeping the wood as evenly dried and sized as possible for optimal results.
Keep the flame consistent
There is no way to maintain consistent cooking if there is no fire within the oven. This drawback is prominent, regardless of ideal baking temperatures. Consequently, you’ll need to know how high your flame needs to be and make sure you stick with it.
Now that you have the basics, here are some cooking techniques you can expect to execute:
You can bake bread, pastries, pasta dishes and even desserts in an oven with temperatures less than 200 degrees Celsius. This level allows for gentler and more consistent cooking. Make sure as well you keep your tools clean such as cleaning a flour sifter effectively!
Roasting in a wood-fired oven is best done at temperatures between 200-350°c. This range will allow you to cook dense foods without the exterior of the food burning.
High Heat Cooking
This method of cooking with your wood-fired oven requires you to aim for minimum temperatures of 400 degrees celsius. Such an aggressive approach is ideal for making pizzas and baking flatbreads, among others. The primary benefit of high-heat cooking is the ability to get some good caramelisation and stunning golden brown crusts.
You can tell that the oven temperatures have reached the optimum levels for this technique when all the soot has cleared away from the oven dome.
Grilling in a pizza oven may sound like a dubious endeavour, but the execution is quite simple. You only need to gather and scrape some of the burning logs and embers to the front of your oven, place a grilling rack over them and get right down to it. You now have a cooking device within a device!
Make necessary recipe adjustments
When following certain recipes for cooking with a wood-fired oven, it’s crucial to keep in mind that some things may be quite different from what you’re used to with your regular stove. Even at lower temperatures, wood ovens tend to be hotter than gas and electric. As a result, some recipes- for example, doughs that contain a lot of sugar- may easily burn on the surface before the insides have thoroughly cooked if you aren’t vigilant and meticulous.
Cooking with a wood-fired oven can undoubtedly be an adventure. It may take a little trial and error to get to where you are comfortably executing recipes. But until then, and afterwards, observe safety measures and figure out how to control the temperatures. Soon, you will be wowing your family with delectable creations made exclusively in your wood-fired pizza oven.