Perhaps you found a sale and decided that you definitely have to have a wood-burning pizza oven in your home.
If this is the case you will want to know how to get it started and what way to get it started is the best.
You might want to get going and make your pizza now, but hold on a second, it is not that easy, you need to be prepared and understand the wood you use.
You can’t just use any old wood, you need to choose carefully!
We can all agree that the prospect of spending a good hour trying to get your oven heated is likely a bit dull, but if you use quality wood in a pizza oven it shouldn’t be this way.
Today, we will be focusing on the importance of the woods you use to fire up your good old-fashioned outdoor pizza oven.
By the end of today, you should be well versed in all the dos and don'ts of woods you can use for pizza ovens.
Are you ready to get started?
Like anything there are good and bad woods you can use for your pizza oven. Not all wood is suitable for this purpose, and not every wood will give you that great flavor you get from using a wood based cooking method.
Cooking with fire wood in a wood fired oven is usually a healthier choice, so don’t assume that just because fire lets off smoke that it is a health risk.
However, never used any painted, laminated, pressure-treated woods, or any that had chemicals in it.
Why? Well, these woods will have toxic chemicals inside them. Similarly, you should also avoid wood like pine as they will have a high sap count, and sap will produce soot, as well as creosote.
This will coat the floor of the oven, not to mention how it is bad for us. So, keep this in mind when you are considering the woods to use in firing up your pizza oven.
As we now know that the type of wood is important, and that there are some wood types you should strongly avoid, we need to know which is best.
Typically, the best types of wood you should use for cooking will be dried or seasoned hardwoods.
This is because hardwoods, which will usually come from trees with broad leaves, are better than softwoods that have cones or needles.
Hardwoods are just cleaner and will last a lot longer than a softwood will. What are some hardwoods? Well, these are things such as birch, hickory, maple oak, and so on.
However, the reasons do not end there. If you love the gorgeous taste that comes from cooking your wood on your food then a fruit wood is even better.
Fruit wood is exactly what it sounds like, it is a wood that comes from a tree which bears fruits.
This can be from an apple tree, pear tree, cherry tree, plum tree, as well as hickory, mesquite, chestnut, alder and more. Fruit woods will naturally add a unique flavor to your dish.
Another thing we must consider is the moisture. Trees are not dry, they come with moisture in them, remember, they soak up moisture through their roots, and it travels through the tree, and any good healthy wood will have some moisture in it.
But moisture will affect your food and your oven. If the wood has too much moisture in it then you will end up watching your oven spend more time drying out the wood than it does heat up your oven.
Ideally, you do not want a totally dry wood as it won’t last long, but something with a moisture content of around 20% or so will do the trick.
You do not want the wood to be too dry, nor too moist. There is a happy medium between them, too.
It shouldn’t be totally green, but it shouldn’t feel like an arid desert beneath your fingertips either.
There are many new wood firing chefs that have the complaint of their pizza oven smoking like crazy. While a lot of smoke can be great if you want to smoke some meat, it is not exactly what you want for a pizza.
This is all down to the use of the wrong wood, even a pro with a top-notch oven will find their pizza oven smoking if they are using the wrong type of wood.
You do not want to be using greenwood, these are woods that have only recently been chopped, and they will not have had the chance to dry out.
This is not something you should be using, it will not give you enough flame, and it will also give you way too much smoke.
In order to avoid too much smoke inside your oven, you need to use a kiln dried wood to make certain that the moisture levels are balanced in whichever wood you intend on using.
Let’s look at the smoke, energy and ember quality of different wood types.
|Wood||Level Of Smoke||Amount Of Energy||Ember Quality|
|Mesquite||Strongest there is||High||Brilliant|
Right, so now we know what wood you should and should not use in your pizza oven, we need to find out how much you should be using. Sadly, we cannot give you a direct answer because really, it depends.
Typically, you can start off with around 5 pieces of wood to get it going and ramp up the temperature.
Generally the wood length to use in a pizza oven is around 12 inches or thereabout. So, it is usually easier to get your fire started using some small pieces.
Much like when you have a wood burning fireplace in your home, it is best to start with small pieces and then pop the big logs on top, this is like that.
It also depends on the heat retention of the oven, in which case a brick oven will be better, and you might only need to add in a few other bits of wood to be able to keep the temperature at what you need it to be.
When you decide to purchase a large amount of wood for the purpose, it is usually sold in ‘cords’, this is when the wood will be stacked at 4ft by 4ft by 8ft.
This size is created by the use of using a cord to measure the amount, which is a unit of measurement that dates back to the 1600s when wood would be sold in a bundle tied up with a cord.
They are often stacked together on a pallet and will be arranged in parallel fashion, occupying an overall amount of space of 128 feet.
So, where can you buy the wood to use in your pizza ovens? Well, the easiest way to do this these days is via a good online shop! Just search ‘where to buy wood for a pizza oven by me’, or ‘firewood for pizza’.
This is basically the easiest way to do it, you can find local retailers, or even get it delivered to you. There will be some online stores that specialize in this and will sell premium firewood just for this purpose.
They will usually have niche types of wood as well as specific flavors, scents and aromas. Shipping costs are a thing though, and you will want to expect a fairly hefty price some of the time as well.
However, if you want local wood to render shipping costs void, have a Google , ask around to people near you, or just look on Craigslist.
If you do this, it is an easy way to get the firewood you need, but always ensure that it is a hardwood made for cooking that is adequately seasoned and dried.
A good pizza oven pizza will depend on the wood that you use to cook it in your pizza oven. Cooking your pizza in an oven that is lit with hardwood will bring many benefits, but always not that every wood type will fire up differently.
It is much like different seasonings, or different oils in a pan, there will be subtle differences, and while hardwood as a general rule makes for good pizza oven wood, you should also not use the flavors from different types.
That being said, not everyone has the same taste buds, and this should always be taken into account as well, one person may love a pizza cooked with applewood, while someone else may find a pizza cooked with oak the absolute best!
It can be all about personal taste.
You will also need to consider the quality of your ingredients, the temperature of your pizza oven, what spices you are using, and any sauces that you add. All of these factors will contribute to the end result of your meal.
So, the overall best thing that you can do is play around a bit, experiment, get to know the flavors, what works and what doesn’t. Being a good cook is a lot like being a painter, it's about trial and error.
Even the best chefs mess up in places, we learn best from our mistakes, so have some fun with it and experiment with different wood, spices, and more!
It is said that the flavor of wood is usually affected more by the soil and climate that the tree has grown in instead of the species of tree.
This means that if you live in Tennessee your maple wood cuttings will likely give off a different flavor than maples that grow in Colorado.
Differences in two trees of the same species grown in different states will probably vary in flavor more than two trees of different species that grow next to each other.
With this in mind not that fruit woods will also have different aromas hence they will give your food different flavors in different ways as well.
So, some fruit woods might be a better match for one type of food than another will be.
So, now we will look at different fruit woods that are most popular for this purpose.
First up we have alder wood. This is a type of flowering tree and shrub that belongs to the birch tree family. They have a sweet but subtle flavor and can be mild.
It makes for an ideal smoking flavor, and can easily be mixed with other woods to create unique flavors.
It is an ideal wood to use for cooking poultry, lamb, fish and sausages as its flavor is very light and is not too intrusive.
Then we have apple trees, these are very popular in the United States, however, these trees actually came from Asia, and came to the U.S. when European colonists brought the tree over to the States.
It is one of the most common woods to be used in pizzerias that brings extra aromas and tastes to the pizza.
This is because it burns very hot. However, thankfully, due to the mildness of this wood type it also allows for food to be smoked for longer times too.
It is an amazing wood for using in smokers and cold smoking meats and even cheeses.
Want hickory wood? Take your pick, there are 18 species of this wood throughout the world. In fact, it is believed that there are 12 species of Hickory that are native to the U.S.A. alone!
This wood has a very strong smell which is sweet but is also not too bold, it is just right.
This type of wood is most popular for pork based foods such as sausages and bacon. However, it can also pair nicely with a bit of chicken or even some beef.
Due to its strong flavored smoke we wouldn’t recommend it for everything as it can easily dominate some dishes, so be cautious of this before using it.
Maple trees are widely loved and recognized, they have very big and colorful leaves and you have a wide variety of species to choose from. There are 128 of these trees, but most of them are native to Asia.
Maple is sweet in taste, and its smell is quite mild and similar to maple syrup (any surprises there?).
Thanks to its sweetness in its smoke it mixes quite well with pork, giving the otherwise potentially dull meat a bit of a boost.
However, maple can often also be used for vegetables and even poultry.
You should also note that there are many maple species and each will have a varying syrup level, this can caramelize when burned, so it can have an influence on the taste of your food.
This means that the more sap there is in your maple, the more likely you will experience a bitter taste, so be wary of this.
This particular type of wood is native to Mexico and the South West of the U.S.
These trees are capable of living in very arid conditions, including deserts, thanks to their crazy long roots which let them find water that is super deep in the ground.
For cooking mesquite is quite popular as it burns hot as hell. It is usually a favorite when it comes to cooking up a steak or making some pork as its flavor can be rather bold, and it can boost these meats.
It can be quite strong for some, and some people may find it to be a bit bitter in some cases, it’s not for everyone.
There are around 600 species of Oak, and there are a majority of these in the U.S. Mexico alone has 160 and China 100.
Oak is probably the most common and popular wood to be used in any wood-fire cooking as it is available in pretty much every area.
Oak wood also burns for a long time and has a delicious aroma as well. It is used most for lamb, beef and ribs as well, and it nicely compliments a majority of seasonings as well.
It is like the go-to wood if you are not so sure what to use. It’s the ideal immediate solution.
Peach trees are usually found in China, they also belong to the prunus genus which includes many other fruit trees such as almond, plum, cherry and apricot.
The flavor these trees’ wood gives off is slightly sweet when applied to fish, seafood, and white meats.
Some pit masters will typically mix it up with some oak or even hickory if they are cooking chicken, beef, or pork to give it a bit of gentleness.
If you fancy smoking a game bird, this type of wood is a great choice!
Pecan is a well known wood in the US, and it is very often farmed for its fruit. This is a species of hickory, and it is found mostly in the Southern U.S. states around the Mississippi, although you might also find it in Mexico too.
It is used for many things in wood-fire oven cooking, with a weak flavor that is a bit more gentle than wood’s like hickory.
It is not so strong nor does it burn super hot, so it can be great for smoking large meats that need a slower cook.
Walnut trees grow huge, some getting to an impressive 131ft! Half of these trees are found in China.
This wood is a great pairing for fruit or vegetable cooking as it brings out the body of the flavor of these foods, especially in potatoes and mushrooms. If you want your food's flavor to bounce out of it… use Walnut wood!
Honestly, there is no one wood that rocks the pizza oven world, it really depends on what you're cooking and what kind of flavor you seek, but make sure that you use properly prepped and dried hardwood, whatever you do.
We hope that we have helped you on your pizza oven journey and are now ready to start experimenting with flavors, wood, and food!
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