According to a recent survey, pizza is America’s favorite food. Consisting of round baked dough topped with sauce, cheese, meat and veggies, it’s an incredibly versatile dish that can be prepared in countless ways. However, you’ll need two things to cook delicious pizza likes the pros: a pizza and oven and the right wood. Once you’ve mastered the art of using a wood-fired pizza oven, you’ll be able to professional-quality pizza from the comfort of your home.
What Is a Pizza Oven?
Also known as a masonry or stone oven, a pizza oven is a special type of baking chamber that’s designed to cook large foods, including pizza, at high temperatures. Although they are designed in different ways, most feature a brick or clay construction with a half-dome baking chamber. You simply slide your pizza into the oven, at which point it will cook from the heat produced by the burning wood.
A pizza oven isn’t the same as a conventional kitchen oven. For starters, pizza ovens are typically heated using wood, whereas kitchen ovens are heated using electricity or gas. This alone can have a significant impact on the flavor and overall quality of your pizza. Since they use gas or electricity, kitchen ovens don’t offer the same flavor as their wood-fired counterparts. You can still cook pizza in a kitchen oven, but you shouldn’t set your expectations too high.
Kitchen ovens aren’t able to produce as much heat as a pizza oven, either. A typical kitchen oven has a maximum temperature of about 500 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is more than enough heat to bake chicken, pork chops, casseroles and other dishes, it’s not enough to cook crispy pizza. When cooked in a kitchen oven, pizza dough will remain relatively soft. By cooking pizza in a pizza oven, on the other hand, the dough will turn to a golden brown color with a crispy texture. This is because pizza ovens can reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
Why the Right Wood Matters When Using a Pizza Oven
Unless you’re experienced with pizza ovens, you may assume that all wood is equal. After all, how much of a difference can wood really make when cooking pizza? Well, using the right wood matters for several reasons. It affects the amount of heat to which your pizza is exposed, the flavor of your pizza and more. If you’re looking to step up your pizza-cooking game, you need to use the right wood.
Choose Dry Cooking Wood
Always use dry cooking wood in your pizza oven. Burning wet or damp wood will result in a less-efficient combustion process. Once you light it– if you’re even able to light it — it will convert less organic wood matter into heat. Unfortunately, this means the temperature of your pizza oven will be too low to create a crispy crust. At the same time, the wet or damp wood will release high concentrations of particulate matter into the air, some of which will land on your pizza.
Don’t assume that a piece of wood is dry just because it doesn’t feel wet or damp. All wood has at least some moisture embedded within its pores. But the amount of moisture in wood varies depending on whether it was seasoned. Seasoning simply refers to the process of drying wood. There are different ways to season wood, the most common of which include air drying and kiln drying. Of those two seasoning methods, though, kiln drying is able to create the driest cooking wood, making it ideal for use in a pizza oven.
Choose Logs Over Chips or Chunks
While wood chips and chunks are ideal for smoking meats and veggies, they don’t work well in pizza ovens. Wood chips and chunks are significantly smaller than wood logs. And because of their small size, they’ll burn to ash more quickly than wood logs. For the longest burn time and hottest temperatures, it’s recommended that you use pizza-cut cooking wood.
Available for sale here at Cutting Edge Firewood, pizza-cut cooking wood lives up to its namesake by featuring the perfect size and shape for pizza ovens. Each pizza-cut log is approximately 16 inches long. At this length, pizza-cut cooking wood burns hot and long. You can experiment with other types of cooking wood, but you’ll probably discover that pizza-cut cooking offers the best performance when using a pizza oven.
Choose a Flavorful Variety
For the best-tasting pizza, choose a flavorful variety of wood to use in your pizza oven. The variety of cooking wood refers to the tree species from which it was harvested. Research suggests that there are over 60,000 species of trees in the world, each of which has unique qualities that affect its performance when using as a cooking wood. For pizza ovens, oak is a popular variety of cooking wood that excels in several ways.
Oak is a relatively mild variety of wood, so it won’t produce an overbearing flavor that masks the natural flavor of your pizza and its topping. Since it’s a hardwood rather than a softwood, oak also produces lots of heat and stays lit for a long period of time. And while it has a mild flavor, oak wood is still flavorful. When you cook pizza using oak wood, some of the oak’s flavorful compounds will be absorbed by the dough and toppings.
Tips on Using a Pizza Oven
Along with using the right cooking wood, follow these tips to cook delicious pizza in a pizza oven:
- Aim for an internal temperature of 700 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit in your pizza oven. You can raise the temperature of your pizza oven by adding more cooking wood.
- Build a fire in the center of your pizza oven, and when you’re ready to add the pizza, use a metal scraper to move the coals to the back of the oven.
- Clean any remaining wood or ash out of your pizza oven after each use.
- Avoid using dough with a high sugar content. Sugar-based dough is fine when cooking pizza is a conventional kitchen oven. When used in a wood-fired pizza oven, though, it causes the crust to cook unevenly.
- Don’t leave your pizza sitting in the oven for too long. Assuming your pizza oven has reached a temperature of 700 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, it should only take one to two minutes to fully cook a pizza. Allowing it to cook for longer than two minutes may result in the crust or toppings burning.
- Use caution when adding and removing your pizza to protect against burns.
- Remember, while it’s called a “pizza oven,” you can cook other types of foods in it, some of which include potatoes, bread, fish, hamburgers and more.
Don’t limit your pizza-cooking activities to a conventional kitchen oven. Using a pizza oven with the right wood will help you create better-tasting pizza that simply can’t be achieved with a kitchen oven. And once you get the hang of it, you can use it to cook other foods.
Find the best deals on premium smoking chunks by visiting our online store today. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a variety of high-quality smoking chunks, including white oak, hickory, cherry, pecan and whiskey, all of which will allow you to smoke delicious meat.