We love pizza! If you’re like most people on the planet, you probably love pizza too.
With the current surge in popularity of homemade pizzas, more and more families are investing in high-quality at-home pizza ovens especially, for those who insist on the traditional taste and texture of real Italian-style pizza, cooked in wood-fired pizza ovens.
Whether it’s a traditional weekly pizza-night, or a special occasion party for friends and family, a properly cooked pizza, made with premium ingredients and wood fire is certain to be not only a delicious meal but a memory-making crowd pleaser.
One of the first questions you’ll need to know the answer to when shopping for a pizza oven, is “how hot should my pizza oven get?”
How A Pizza Oven Works
As its name suggests, a wood-fired pizza oven gets its heat from a wood fire that’s built directly on the cooking surface, and burns until the interior of the oven reaches optimal cooking temperature.
Once this heat is achieved, the remaining wood, coals, and ash are pushed to one side, and the pizza is placed directly on the heated surface to cook. By placing the uncooked pizza dough directly on the hot surface, the crust cooks quickly, creating a crisp surface and a rich, lightly smoky flavor.
For the most traditional flavor and consistency, wood is considered to be a better source of heat than charcoal, gas, or electric options because it is the only medium that adds flavor (from both the char and woodsmoke) to the pizza, as opposed to just heat.
One of the most important factors in successful wood-fired pizza-making is the use of high-quality wood, cut specifically for pizza cooking, with a consistent burn time and high heat output. Kiln-dried cooking wood, due to its ability to burn hotter and cleaner than other types of wood is considered by most to be the ideal fuel source for a wood-fired pizza oven.
When prepared in a pizza oven, food is cooked in three ways, simultaneously:
- Reflection heat
- Convection heat
- Conductive heat
Reflective heat is that which comes directly from the heat source (coals, embers, and still-burning wood) straight into the surface of the food. In grilling parlance, this would be a form of Direct Heat. Reflective heat basically bounces off all inside surfaces of the oven, including the pizza, and not only cooks your food, but helps replace, or “recharge” the surface heat that is being lost over time.
Convection heat. Because a wood-fired oven requires a flow of oxygen to keep the fuel burning, it creates convection (moving) heat as well as reflective. This airflow circulates hot air around the oven’s interior, keeping the heat even throughout the chamber, and allowing the pizza to cook faster. (Food absorbs heat as it cooks, and convection restores that heat as quickly as it dissipates).
Conductive heat. This is the heat from the fire that is stored directly in the floor of the oven and radiates upward into the food that touches it. Conductive heat is what creates the best pizza crusts, as well as most other baked goods from bread to bagels, and what makes wood-fired cooking the best method for preparing pizza.
How Hot & Why
To make the perfect pizza, you need to be able to produce a lot of heat, and most residential, electric, or gas ovens just aren’t up to the task. In fact, most top out at close to 500F.
A pizza oven, on the other hand, is usually heated to between 700-800F over the course of about 20 minutes before adding the pizza to cook, which is a heat easily achievable with wood-fired cooking. This longer “pre-heat” time is necessary for the heat to be absorbed into the surfaces of the oven.
At that temperature, a crisp crust is formed on the bottom of the dough, while the rest of the pizza cooks very quickly – depending on the thickness of the dough and other ingredients, in as little as 90 seconds.
The thickness of the crust and how well you like the middle of the dough of your pizza will determine what temperature your wood-fired pizza oven should be. If you have thicker dough, you will want to be around 700, otherwise, you will have a very doughy middle that isn’t completely cooked. If you do a very thin crust pizza you will want to be around 800F.
It’s important to be able to maintain a constant temperature as, too low and the ingredients won’t cook thoroughly and the crust won’t form, but too high and everything can burn.
Getting the right kind of cooking heat, and the right temperatures from your wood-fired pizza oven are the keys to cooking a great pizza…
…and great pizza is a beautiful thing!