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A Guide to Preparing Your Wood-Fired Pizza Oven

Preparing your wood fired ceramic pizza oven by Belforno

So you’ve built your wood-fired pizza oven and now you’re ready to use it. This guide will show you how to choose the best wood for wood-fired oven cooking, start the perfect fire for cooking and prepare your pizza oven for use.

1. Choosing the Best Wood for Wood-Fired Cooking

No pizza oven will operate efficiently without proper heat, so selecting the right wood is very important. Follow these tips when choosing wood for wood-fire cooking:

  • It is important that all fuel is dry so that it burns effectively.
  • Wood gives off energy when it burns, measured in British thermal units (BTU or Btu).
  • Every species has a different heat value. Softwoods are at the low end while hardwoods are at the high end.
  • The lower the BTUs the less suitable the wood is for wood fired ovens.
  • Avoid pine and fir. Because they emit resins they are too soft to form embers, so use small pieces as kindling instead.
  • As a general rule softwoods aren’t suitable for wood-fired ovens. However, hardwoods such as red and white oak are ideal as are some fruit woods such as cherry and apple.

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

2. Starting the Perfect Fire

Step1: Gather the fuel for the fire
For the average brick oven you’ll need 4 or so sheets of newspaper, a good amount of kindling (thin dry twigs), and 16 to 20 pieces of firewood of between 1 and 2 inches in diameter.

Step 2: Form a wood stack
First, build your wood stack 3 pieces high by placing two pieces of firewood parallel to each other, at a distance equal to a little less than the length of the shorter piece. Then add two pieces in the opposing direction, forming a square, and add a further two pieces, again in the opposing direction.

Step 3: Add the kindling
Next, loosely crumple separate sheets of newspaper and place in the center of the wood stack. Then add the kindling to the paper.

Step 4: Add additional firewood
If there is room around the wood stack, add pieces of firewood to the stack on all sides.

Step 5: Lighting the fire
Using a long match, a gas firelighter or a taper, light the paper. It’s important that the paper properly ignites the kindling. Blow gently to add oxygen if necessary.

Step 6: Fuelling the fire
Finally, once the fire is going strong, add 2 or 3 pieces of wood to the top of the stack. The aim is to get a good bed of coals.

3. Preparing Your Pizza Oven for Use

  • Once the wood has burnt use your spade to push the bed of coals either to the rear of the pizza oven, or to one side.
  • For pizza-making your fire should always have live flames to cook the surface of the pizza. It also provides light!
  • Experience shows the correct temperature for a brick oven is between 650 and 900F. That’s a big spread, but a lot depends on the type of wood and how long the fire burns before cooking.
  • Before cooking, use a brush to sweep the ash away from the cooking surface, then use a fairly moist rag or mop to wipe off the residual ash.

Your wood-fired pizza oven is ready for use!

Additional FREE Downloads:
Belforno Wood-Fired Pizza Cookbook
Belforno Perfect Pizza Dough Recipe

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Belforno Wood-Fired Ovens

We are a manufacturer of authentic 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:
Ensure you’re up to speed with the latest regulations regarding wood burning for your state. You can find them here: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/ordinances-and-regulations-wood-burning-appliances

Did you know?
  The cooking of the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (True Pizza Napoletana) must be done exclusively in a wood fire oven which has reached the cooking temperature of 485° C, (905F). Read more here: http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/en/iscriviti