Best Wood for Pizza Oven!
For the Perfect Pizza
As we often point out in our guides and reviews, when it comes to pizza, opinions vary on a large number of topics. These include the best wood for pizza oven.
Just look at what happens when someone eats New York pizza with silverware or the ongoing argument about pineapple. Let alone the Great Debate about Chicago-style pizza.
Namely, people take their pizza very seriously. That’s why today we want to tackle a topic with a wide range of opinions. Mainly, what is the best wood for pizza oven?
Firstly, when talking about the best wood for pizza oven, you have to go back a bit and consider coal-burning vs. wood-burning pizza ovens.
Nevertheless, this is a subject with a lot of strong opinions, but let’s summarize.
About Wood and Coal-Fired Ovens
When the first wave of immigrants came from Italy to New York, it was difficult to find the traditional wood-fired ovens they were used to.
Moreover, coal ovens were easier to find and less expensive.
Consequently, they became more widely used as migrants adapted their traditional recipes to life in New York instead of trying to find the best wood for pizza oven in the States. Coal ovens burn hotter, melt hard and, dry cheeses more evenly.
Additionally, they impart the distinctive New York style crust: crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. This crust texture is difficult to replicate in a wood-fired oven.
On the other hand, these ovens don’t burn as hot, and produce a more traditional Italian-style crust: very thin in the center, with fluffy edges.
But, the most important characteristic of a wood-fired oven is that the wood itself becomes an ingredient in the pizza.
Therefore, different woods give off flavors and smoke that can be imparted into the pie and create an extra dimension of smell and taste. It is this flavor dimension that makes wood-fired ovens so appealing and interesting to pizza makers, professional and amateur alike.
Ultimately, the opportunity to experiment and perfect temperature, smoke, and flavor with a wood fire is irresistible to some enthusiasts.
How to Start Cooking Pizzas with Wood
If you want to get started making wood-fired pizzas, it’s a good idea to invest in a wood moisture gauge.
For one thing, the moisture level of the wood is critical to success, and the first thing to master.
Using wood that is too green (moist types that sizzle and pop) reduces the overall temperature of your fire, and produces excess smoke and steam. The ideal moisture content for wood for your oven is about 20%, and not below 15%. Visually, the ends should be darkened and show radial cracks.
However, deep fissures may mean the wood is too dry and will be undesirably smoky when cooking with it. Therefore, a moisture gauge will help assess moisture, and give your pies consistency fire after fire.
If you are harvesting your own firewood to use in your oven, cut it during wintertime. Because, In the winter months, trees store sap down in the roots instead of the branches. And, a high amount of sap is undesirable.
Additionally, harvest at least 6 months before you plan to cook with it. Also, split it before storing it, allowing it to dry thoroughly. Namely, If you are purchasing wood, purchase a cord of kiln-dried hardwood and store it somewhere dry.
Best type to use
Firstly, let’s talk about which to avoid: Treated ones like laminate, plywood, or particleboard.
Never use anything painted, glued, or chemically treated.
They may have ingredients or reactions that are toxic in food.
Starting your fire with leaves, twigs, or pine needles. These create too much smoke and have too much resin. Moreover, untreated chips and pellets can be used as kindling, but will not provide enough heat to effectively cook a pie.
High-sap or resinous type. These create soot and creosote. Also, they coat the inside of your oven. Also, avoid pine, fir, eucalyptus, white birch, or cedar. However, If you do choose to use an oily type, peel the bark back or remove it entirely to reduce resin and help it burn evenly.
Now, What kind to use:
For clean, even heat, use oak, maple, ash, beech, and birch. Moreover, oak is easy to find and burns very hot. Therefore, it can also be used to help burn off excess creosote that may have built up in your oven.
For flavor and fragrance, consider introducing dried fruitwoods in your oven. Olive, apple, cherry, hickory, pecan, and other fruit- and nut-woods all impart something special to pizza.
Building your Fire
First of all, start your fire with dry wood kindling, without using lighter fluid.
Secondly, split your logs so they are no larger than 3” in diameter, and 12-18 inches long.
If you choose to use fruitwoods for flavor, build your fire with about 2/3 hardwood and 1/3 fruitwood. As a matter of fact, some pizzerias only use applewood in their fires, because it burns hot and clean, and imparts a sweet aroma and flavor to the pizza.
Essentially, they claim that applewood is the best type for ovens(and we see why!). Others recommend dry olive wood for a light smoky flavor and a long-burning fire.
Hickory is well-known as a flavor in barbecues, and the smokiness is welcomed in many pies. But, experiment and see what you like best. Furthermore, If your wood has gotten damp or isn’t fully dry yet, you can plan ahead by placing some into the used oven after the fire has gone out.
The residual heat of the oven will bake excess moisture out of it, drying it for use the following day. And remember, even if you are using low-resin woods, to have your oven chimney professionally cleaned once or twice a year, depending on the frequency of use.
While daily cleaning can be done on your own, periodic checks from a professional chimney sweep will reduce risk of fire and also help your pies remain consistent in flavor.
You can have the best wood for oven, but it won’t matter if you don’t take care of your oven.
These tips and tricks will help you get started on the path of enjoying authentic, wood-fired pizzas made in your own oven.
Once you master the basics, you can begin experimenting with enhancing your pizzas with fruitwoods, finding out what you like best and sampling different woods and ratios, polishing your technique and discovering your favorites.
Essentially, allowing you to make your own best wood for pizza oven.
Make sure to check out our blog, for more pizza related posts to better help you out!