Wood-fired pizza ovens. Their substantial size and Old World appeal are showstoppers, but what really grabs customers' attention (and hearts) are the gourmet pies pulled from searing hot stone decks.
Achieving the hallmark crispy, bubbly, smoky, lightly charred pizza takes some finesse. It also takes these expert wood-fired pizza oven tips:
6 Tips for Making Exceptional Wood Fired Pizza
A wood-fired pizza oven has a large stone deck inside. The heat from a wood fire makes the deck incredibly hot, and pizzas are placed directly on it to cook quickly.
Given its unique characteristics, getting a wood-fired pizza oven to the appropriate temperature and tending pizza during cooking requires a little more effort as compared to conventional ovens.
Use these best practices to get the best performance — and pies — from your wood-fired pizza oven.
1. Start oven 2-3 hours early
Unlike a conventional oven, a wood-fired oven doesn’t have an “on” switch. You need some prep time. You want the wood to be burning 2 to 3 hours before using the oven so the stone is in the temperature range you want.
2. Best wood for pizza ovens
Pine or other softwood may release creosote or other toxic chemicals into the air and your pizza. We recommend using a nice, simple hardwood like oak or maple for a distinct flavor and up to 3x more burn time than softwood.
3. Check your temperature
Your dough or crust type dictates the oven temperature, making a laser thermometer one of your essential kitchen tools. Some doughs require the oven to be as low as 500°F; others need to be up between 900°F-1000°.
4. Place pizza close to flame
Use your best judgment in getting the pizza close enough to the flame to cook, but not burn. Trial and error testing is necessary to find the sweet spot. It’s important to get the pizza near the heat source right away so it lifts and so the bottom of the crust chars a little and isn't doughy.
5. Rotate pizza during baking
During the cook time, use a peel to keep turning the pizza so it gets brown on all sides. A conventional oven has forced air blowing around for even baking, but wood-fired ovens only have one heat source coming from the flame. Rotation is key to keep the pizza from burning or from being uncooked on one side.
6. Lift pizza to the dome
Once the pizza is fully cooked on the stone deck, use a peel to raise it into the oven dome for a few seconds. The dome has a lot of heat and provides a nice, light char and crispy edge on the pizza top.
Achieving the perfect bake in a wood-fired pizza oven can be challenging, but with a little bit of practice, you can make a perfect pizza every time. It all starts with aligning your crust selection with your oven type.
Learn how in our eBook, The Best Crust Types for Your Pizzeria’s Oven. Click the button below to download your free copy.