Wood Fire Home Pizza Ovens
How do wood fire pizza ovens work?
The main principle of a wood-fired oven is very simple. A wood fire is lit in the back, side or centre of the oven to heat up the inner dome and hearth area. The oven will retain heat to create optimum cooking temperatures long after the flame is exhausted. The wood fired brick oven is designed to retain heat and radiate it over an even cooking area. Heat must be even top and bottom of a pizza to cook properly. Your fire can be completely burnt out or ideally just hot ashes and embers left.
Your oven needs to heat quickly. The larger the oven, the longer it will take to heat so it may get used less than a smaller oven. Finding the right combination has only been achieved by experience. Keep in mind having enough space in the oven for your fire and multiple cooking trays. When you are ready to cook, move your hot ashes to the sides and use the retaining heat to cook virtually anything. The use of tinfoil assists required cooking temps when cooking multiple items at one time.
A well balanced oven is critical. This means when you place your pizza in the hot oven hearth surface it will cook both sides evenly. The ovens are balanced to ensure even cooking over a variety of foods.
The best pizza ovens retain even heat for long periods and do not require much additional heating. To achieve the best cooking results you require a pizza oven that retains heat on the hearth and surrounding dome for a cooking temperature of approximately 350 to 425 degrees Celsius. This is called ‘hover temperature’ (the period where the internal temperature stays the same or similar without adding additional energy). The heat must be even under and on top of the pizza while cooking.
Residential ovens are very different to commercial ovens; so always use the correct design of oven for the job. Residential ovens are used in short bursts and heated from cold where commercial ovens are heated over the first week and mostly stay hot for their entire lifetime.
An even heat throughout from a solid one piece hearth and fire brick dome is essential. Each internal brick in the oven is adhered to each other making it one item so the heat is transferred evenly.
Different designs of wood ovens work better for different types of cooking so consider the type of cooking you would like to do. In essence the more density in the internal structure of the oven the more versatile it will be but the initial heating will take longer.
Why we love wood fire pizza ovens?
Pizza cooks quickly – Wood fired pizza ovens are set to 350 to 425 degrees Celsius while home ovens max out at about 260 degrees. Rather than waiting for the oven to preheat at home and then cooking the pizza for an additional 20 minutes, a wood fired pizza oven cooks the pizza in about 5 minutes.
Food flavour is boosted – Due to even heat distribution, there is an enhanced food flavour and the wood creates a smoky flavour.
Nutrients are retained – Since cooking over an open flame is quick, the veggies on the pizza are able to retain their antioxidants. When cooked in a traditional oven antioxidants and nutrients can be depleted because of how long it takes to cook.
How to clean and maintain a pizza oven?
Regular maintenance is important to maintain the quality of your pizza oven. The simple act of taking away the cobwebs on the exterior top of the dome is usually helpful enough in order to keep a pizza oven clean. As the heart for the baking or cooking of pizza is in the center of the oven, it is proper to keep this area tidy. Whatever dirt is retained inside the dome will affect the taste of the pizza.
The first step to cleaning a pizza oven is to rake the ashes to the center of the oven. Then using a paddle, lift the ashes and slowly carry them out. Because cleanliness is the primary issue for maintenance, you should avoid dumping the ashes just anywhere in the backyard. When the ashes are becoming thinner and harder enough for the rake and paddle to handle, a two meter broom sweeper is usually sufficient. The process is repeated until the inside of the pizza oven is free from wood ashes and residue.
Brushing the floor of your pizza oven is a good way to eliminate hardened ash or dirt. To do this you will need brass or steel bristle brush. Brushes made from plastic are too soft for this task and will not last long. Attach a damp cloth to an extended stick, and wipe the floor of the oven chamber. It is best to use a cloth cotton in order to maximize absorption of the smallest dust particles and ash. If brushing the walls of the oven is possible, this may also be done.
As with regular fireplaces, wood fired ovens will gradually create a buildup of soot on the walls of the oven and within the chimney. To improve airflow through the oven and out of the chimney it is necessary to periodically clean the chimney with a brush. A bristle nose brush can usually be used for this purpose.
Is it necessary to clean the hearth before cooking a pizza?
If there is black ash on the cooking floor of the pizza oven, the bottom of pizza may get dirty and not taste very nice. In the pizza oven wood is burnt to generate the required heat and naturally the wood eventually converts to ash. Ash of a previous cooking cycle may be mixed with the pizza dough which results in bitter and smokey tasting food. To remove ash or coals a square nose aluminum shovel is usually sufficient. After removing the ash or coals you should brush over the oven hearth properly using a bristle brush and consider final cleanup with a wet cloth. Before cleaning the hearth you should be careful because the oven hearth remains warm for several hours. Always wait for the oven to cool fully before beginning any intensive cleaning.
Due to the high heat of the oven and the open flame, it is not important to remove oils from the cooking of roasts or steak. Unlike conventional gas or electric ovens which require the use of chemicals to clean the oven of oils and buildup, wood fired ovens can be cleaned by simply running a fire until the contents are burnt off. Similar to barbeques, wood fired ovens benefit from previous firings food flavours may improve in the older oven.
When cleaning an oven wearing gloves and a face mask will prevent the inhaling of wood ash or soot. Although no cleaning chemicals are used during the cleaning, the byproducts of the previous fire can be irritating to the lungs and eyes, and may even be carcinogenic.
The longevity of a pizza oven will depend upon the construction method and the material used. In general the deterioration of an oven will occur to the softest and thinnest material first, whereas the thinker and harder material will last the longest. In addition the environmental conditions the oven is exposed to will also have an impact. For example soft wood exposed to moisture will degrade quickly whereas hard wood protected by moisture will last much longer.
The history of wood fired pizza ovens
Pizza is a popular dish and eaten by many. With countless toppings, it is certainly a food we will not grow tired of. While there are numerous ways to make pizza, wood fired pizza ovens are undoubtedly one of the best ways to cook the perfect pizza.
So where did wood fired Pizza Ovens originate?
Wood fired pizza ovens have been around in ancient civilizations for thousands of years. This type of oven has been excavated in ruins of different ancient origins from which it has been known to be popular. This was probably due to the distinctive taste in food that it could provide. Its precursor is the earth oven which is the most simple and historic cooking structure that is still used by some cultures today, especially in the Pacific region. The earth oven is created using a pit that is made from the ground and heated with wood and fire prior to cooking. The earliest remains of wood-fire ovens were found in the eastern half of the Mediterranean region which was beehive shaped with a squat clay mound. They also had internal shelving and an opening at the base for ash removal. What advanced the use of this technology was when the Spanish colonized areas throughout Europe and Asia.
Traditional wood-fired ovens are usually constructed out of stone or other types of aggregates like adobe or cast iron. During Medieval times, the use of ovens was inventive and often formed a focal point for communities. This was because only landowners or government authorities had the privilege having their own ovens and would “lend” them to other people (similar to present-day laundromats). Communal ovens were put up inside small buildings where people would bake bread and pies, cook stews and roast food. The entire village shared the community oven on a rotating schedule, usually starting the day with breads before moving on with roasted meals. The feudal system of Italy during the middle ages was less difficult which allowed families to own wood-fired ovens. Italian wood-fired ovens were round, smaller in size, and were built from stone or brick. A vast majority of Tuscan farmhouses had brick or stone ovens, some of which are still in use today. This became the foundation of Italy’s current pizza industry.
In Pompeii, they were used in local shops and many were very well-insulated as well as well-vented. When it came to the flooring, tempered terra cotta tiles were used. These were about two inches thick. Throughout the neighborhoods, there were food shops with insulated terra cotta trays to keep the food either warm or hot.
Throughout the years, the process of building wood burning ovens advanced and brought out an assortment of modifications from where it actually started.
Pre-assembled pizza ovens marked the renaissance of firewood cooking which took off in the 1970s. After World War II, a lot of wood-fired ovens were destroyed and the electric “American Oven” was created. From here, many families rediscovered wood-fired cooking techniques and made use of the recipes their ancestors had passed down to them.
A new development in wood-fired oven equipment surfaced around the 1990s, producing modern refractory and insulating materials. Newly designed ovens demonstrated greater fuel efficiency and higher heat retention capacity with only 45 minutes of waiting for the oven to reach the required temperature. Mainstream ceramic insulation in conventional ovens is now offered by many manufacturing companies and claims that this is an even greater leap in the pizza oven industry.
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INSPIRED BY AN ITALIAN’S AMORE FOR FOOD, CUSTOM DESIGNED BY A SOUTH AFRICAN’S GEES FOR INGENUITY.