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Commercial Wood-Fired Oven Basics

commercial wood-fired oven, pizza oven, pizzeria

Commercial wood-fired oven basics

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The Appeal of a Commercial Wood-Fired Oven

A traditional wood-fired pizza oven offers built-in bragging rights, is visually compelling and creates an unmatched ambiance. More and more customers are seeking out establishments that offer artisanal fair – the authenticity and natural simplicity of hand-made food that’s cooked with love.

A commercial wood-fired oven is labor intensive and requires specialized know-how but for restaurateurs who take up the challenge of adopting less-common cooking methods it also offers a natural marketing angle.

Ensure your local regulations allow for a wood -fired pizza oven. A catalytic converter may be required in some areas while other areas allow these ovens only when they have been grandfathered in. Check your local codes as they pertain to venting, oven location, proximity to interior walls and heat exchange.

Discuss your plans with your insurance agent.  This type of oven may not be allowed in your particular location or you may need a special permit.

Oven Size Considerations

Consider the size of the oven in relation how many seats you have and the depth of your menu. Practically, a wood-fired oven may not fit in your restaurant due to size.

Wood

Consider the cost and availability of fuel as well as indoor and outdoor storage options. Choose hardwoods that have been aged for at least six months to one year. On average hardwoods give off three times as much heat as softwoods and burn more slowly and consistently.

Download the Belforno Guide to Types of Wood for Wood-Fired Ovens

Split the logs for a fire that starts easier and burns brighter. Cut the wood into pieces 5” in diameter. Never use pressure treated woods, laminated woods, or fire starters.

Preparing the Wood-Fired Oven and Maintaining the Temperature

Wood-fired ovens take a while to heat up to baking temperature and need to be fed on a continual basis, even on days when the shop is closed. The bricks absorb a tremendous amount of heat and require a steady supply of energy to get warmed up and remain hot. When you combine wood with gas you can  idle the oven at 300°F to 350°F at night, and then fire it up in the morning with wood to bring it back up to baking temperature in three hours. A dual-fuel oven not only achieves the temperature more quickly, it is also easier to maintain than wood only, and maintaining temperature is crucial to having a consistent product.

To maintain a constant temperature of between 800° and 900°F, add the same amount of the same type of wood each time.  A commercial wood-fired oven that gets up to between 800° and 850° F can cook a pizza in 2 minutes. Maintain a careful watch. Keep an eye on the oven temperature and the quality of bake to help determine how often you will need to add more fuel to the fire.

To prevent excessive cooling overnight, place a door over the mouth of the oven. In the morning put five pieces of wood in the oven and leave them for an hour before lighting. This will dry the wood out even more and get a good start to the fire.

The Importance of the Operator

Communication between the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) and fornaio (pizza baker) is key. The fornaio must manage the oven temperature and monitor the pies. Cooking in a commercial wood-fired oven is a specialized skill. Make your bakers are well-trained and knowledgeable. The quality of the pizzas produced will depend largely on their expertise. Every oven is unique. The oven tender learns where the hot and cool spots are and how to rotate the pizzas through the oven to achieve the best bake.

Tips for Cooking in a Wood-Fired Oven

Most critical is using the right dough formula for this style of oven. A high-absorption dough (containing 65% or more water) creates the light and bubbly crust this oven produces best.

Download the Perfect Pizza Dough Recipe

Toppings should be used sparingly as the pizza is in the oven for a relatively short time. Place the pizza on the stone to cook. For a more even bake, bring the pizza to the mouth of the oven and turn it outside of the heat to prevent burning. Place the pizza back on the same spot it was taken from. In this way you reduce the risk of dropping it onto a hotspot and burning the bottom.

Rotate the pizza throughout the baking process to perfect the crust and get an even, crisp pizza. Then finish off the pizza by holding it toward the domed top of the oven where the ambient heat is the highest.

Use your wood-fired oven to cook a variety of menu items, from pasta and wings to focaccia bread and wood-roasted chicken.

Download your FREE copy of the Belforno Wood-Fired Cooking Recipe Book

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Belforno Wood-Fired Ovens
We are a manufacturer of authentic commercial wood-fired ovens that we deliver to your home in a ready-to-assemble kit. Belforno ovens are designed in the Italian tradition using only the finest refractory ceramic materials to hold heat for long periods of time and provide superior cooking results. Contact us for more information.

Other Useful links:
Top Tips for working with wood-fired ovens