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How Does a Wood-Burning Pizza Oven Work?

Mandi Rogier
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A wood-burning pizza oven is traditionally made from clay bricks. There is a door on the front of the oven. In some cases, this is the only opening. However, many such ovens also have a chimney. More modern wood-burning pizza ovens are made of refractory concrete.

What It Is Made Of

This is a special mix of concrete that is specially made to withstand prolonged exposure to high heat.

How It Works

The first step in using a wood-burning oven is to build a fire inside. The door and chimney flue should be left open during firing. While the fire burns, the interior of the oven absorbs and retains the heat. When the inside of the oven chamber is white-hot, the fire should be allowed to die down. The embers should be swept out, or off to the side. The door and chimney are then closed and the temperature is allowed to even out within the oven. In a few minutes, the oven is ready to bake pizzas.

Baking Pizza

A wood-burning pizza oven will create a crispy, thin crust pizza in only 90 seconds. The maximum length of time that a pizza should be left in the oven is 2 1/2 minutes. The length of time that an oven will retain its heat is determined by the thickness of the walls. Walls that are about 4 inches thick should retain their heat long enough to bake pizzas for about 6 hours. To cook for longer periods of time, a small amount of hot coal can be kept in the back of the oven to maintain the high heat.

Benefits of a Wood-Burning Oven

Wood burning ovens are a favorite for restaurants that specialize in pizza. Not only are they often attractive, and fun for customers to watch, they are extremely economical. A wood-burning oven with a small fire in the back will maintain its heat all day, using only a small amount of wood for fuel. Keeping a traditional oven going for the same amount of time would be hopelessly expensive. Wood burning ovens are also very eco-friendly as they produce no chemical gases.

Other Uses

This type of wood burning oven can often be used for more than just pizza. Meats can be roasted in the oven for long periods of time. As the temperature in the oven lowers, it can be used to bake breads, cakes, and casseroles. Any grease left inside the oven will simply burn off and does not need to be cleaned up. The traditional use for such ovens was to dry fruits, herbs and mushrooms and wood-burning pizza ovens can still be used for these purposes as well.