So, you found a wood burning pizza oven for sale and after your wood fired oven’s arrival, you’re ready to fire it up and start cooking those delicious wood fired pizza recipes.
Wait a minute! I think you can agree that spending an hour trying to heat a smoky oven isn’t your idea of a good time! But, it doesn’t have to be that way if you have the best wood to use in your pizza oven. Not all wood is fit to use in a wood fired oven and not all firewoods contribute to the savory blends of wood fired cooking flavor.
In this blog post, we’ll focus on the best woods to use for your wood fired oven. Hopefully, after you’ve read this post, you’ll know the dos and don’ts of using wood for pizza oven use.
Woods to Avoid When Cooking in Wood Fired Oven Cooking in a wood fired oven is a healthy choice so don’t negate that by using firewood that is dangerous to your health. Laminated woods, pressure treated and painted woods, or any wood that has chemicals are never to be used in a wood fired oven.
Why does this matter? These woods have hazardous chemicals that can be toxic. Also, avoid woods that have high sap content, like pine. Sap produces soot and creosote which coats the oven floor and is bad for humans. This is especially important when using various woods in commercial wood fired pizza ovens.
Best Wood for Pizza Oven Now that you know the types of wood that you don’t want to use, you may be asking “what is the best fuel for pizza ovens”? The best woods for pizza ovens are seasoned and dried hardwoods.
Hardwoods, which usually contain broad leaves as trees, are a better option than softwoods, which usually have needles and cones. One reason hardwoods are better for cooking in a pizza oven is because they are cleaner and last longer than softwoods.
The best examples of hardwood are ash, beech, sycamore, birch and oak.
That’s not all… If you love the aromatic effect wood has on your food then fruitwood is highly recommended and can greatly affect your meal.
Fruitwood, as the name implies, comes from several fruit-bearing trees. Fruitwood includes apple, cherry, plum, almond, pear, hickory, maple, pecan, mesquite, chestnut, avocado, alder, apricot, and nectarine. These woods can really add to the flavor of your next dinner!
Flavored Wood for Pizza Oven Different fruitwoods have different smells and season your food in a different way. Therefore, some fruitwoods are a better match for different types of food. Here’s a list of some fruitwoods and the best types of food to cook with them in your wood fired oven:
◾ Apple is used by pizzerias to enhance aroma and flavor and burns very hot. Great choice for pizzas!
◾ Alder is best used when cooking fish and poultry for it provides a light flavor.
◾ Hickory is the most famous for “smokers” as it gives a rich, hearty tang to meats. It is mostly used for pork ribs and shoulders.
◾ Apricot, Nectarine, Plum, and Peach all have flavours that are milder and sweeter than hickory. You can use these to make your food have a sweet aroma.
◾Oak is the most popular of all the woods used in wood-fired ovens. Oak wood burns for the longest time and gives off a great aroma for your food. It is typically used for lamb and beef.
◾Walnut is the perfect match for cooking fruits and vegetables. It brings out the flavor of vegetables and fruits, especially mushrooms and potatoes. If you love your food to have a great aroma, this is a great wood to use!
Does Moisture Content Affect Wood Fired Cooking? Did you know that the moisture content of your firewood affects not just your food but also your wood-fired oven? YES, it does!
The ideal moisture content of the best wood used in wood-burning ovens is 20% moisture. This means that under-dried or over-dried woods are not recommended. There should be a nice balance, not too dry but not totally green wood.
Why Is My Pizza Oven Smoking? Greenwoods are those that have been just cut recently and not had the chance to dry yet. This type of wood is NOT what you want. It doesn’t produce the right amount of flame needed inside the oven and will produce lots of smoke.
Here’s the deal: One of the main complaints we hear from new wood fired chefs is that they have too much smoke coming from their pizza oven. Even the best wood fired pizza oven will smoke if you are using the wrong wood. To avoid too much smoke, use hardwood that is kiln dried to ensure the balanced moisture and dryness of the wood you use.
Best Wood for Wood Fired Pizza Oven Cooking Great food depends on the wood you use when it comes to cooking in your wood-fired pizza oven. Cooking in your pizza oven with hardwood brings other benefits as well; every wood fired oven seasons differently over time, just like a cast iron skillet, so each will produce food with subtle differences.
Basically, your wood burning oven will acquire its own environment and personality, infusing your food with flavors you can’t find anywhere else.
How Much Wood for a Pizza So, how much wood do you really need when cooking in your oven? Here comes the dreaded answer… it depends. Usually, you can start with about 5 small pieces of wood to get your fire going and your oven up to temperature. Depending on your oven’s heat retention (ie, brick ovens hold heat better than stainless ovens), you may only need to add a few other pieces of wood to maintain the temperature or you might need to continually add a piece of wood as necessary while you are cooking pizzas.