The only way to celebrate a new wood-fired pizza oven is with an awesome backyard party! Before you send out the invitations and put the beer on ice, you have some preparation to take care of.
We have some great tips on how to pull off the perfect pizza party. First, you need to be in full control of your fire and your oven. Next, you need those pizzas prepped and ready for the flames. Finally, you need to know how to fire those pizzas like a pro.
With our help, you can host the pizza party of the year and make it look easy.
Why Host a Wood-Fired Pizza Party?
Communities have gathered around shared ovens for millennia. The earliest wood-fired ovens date back to Ancient Greece, where villagers and townsfolk would work together to bake bread for the week ahead.
Now it’s easier to go to the grocery store. But that doesn’t mean we can’t recreate a wood-fired baking session for the fun of it. Everyone has a BBQ. You’ve got a wood-fired pizza oven!
Gathering around a fire and channeling our inner caveman is all good fun. But your guests are definitely going to want pizza at the end of it. Pizza is one of America’s favorite foods, loved equally across gender, race and class lines.
Since each pizza is customizable, you can be sure to keep all your guests happy. Even those with food intolerances and allergies can be easily catered to with minimum effort. Everyone’s a winner!
Even when your guests have eaten as much pizza as they can, your wood-fired oven still comes in handy. Residual heat from the oven can be used to bake bread, cook potato chips or warm desserts. The oven will stay warm well into the night, keeping the party going even when the temperature drops.
Best Outdoor Pizza Oven Advice
To get the most out of your pizza oven, learn from our mistakes and follow our best advice.
1) Get Your Fire Going Before Guests Arrive
Depending on its size, it can take up to 3 hours to heat your pizza oven. You don’t want to leave chopping logs to size, building your fire or trying to get the thing lit until your guests arrive.
Fire safety is important. You need to give your fire your full attention, so get started a few hours early. We recommend firing your oven at least once before you invite guests for a pizza party. Every oven is different and it's a good idea to get acquainted with yours without an audience!
Ensure you have enough dry, ready-to-burn wood available to build a decent fire and feed it throughout the night. You’ll also need kindling and natural firestarters. For our tried-and-tested fire building technique, see our post on how to start a fire in your pizza oven outdoors.
2) Manage the Temperature of Your Oven
It’s hard to tell when to feed your oven with more wood and when to let it burn down. Dome-shaped pizza ovens offer the best heat distribution. And the more you use your oven the easier it will become to intuit how to heat it efficiently. To cook pizza, your oven needs to reach a temperature of 700 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s easier and quicker to let an oven cool than it is to heat it up.
When hosting a pizza party, we recommend getting your oven up to a decent 800 degrees before guests arrive. That way you can monitor the falling temperature, rather than adding more fuel and stoking the fire.
Use the oven door to increase or decrease the amount of oxygen getting to the fire. By closing the door, you can slow down the burn. An infrared thermometer is a good investment as you can pinpoint the exact temperature inside your oven without making contact.
3) Get Cooking!
You don’t have to wait for your oven to reach the optimum temperature to start cooking. Everything tastes great cooked in a wood-fired oven. To achieve the bubbly chargrilled crust of authentic Italian pizza, you have to cook it at a very high temperature. But many other foods will cook beautifully in your oven as it comes up to pizza-baking temperature.
Guests arrive at pizza parties hungry so offer them wood-fired appetizers. Simple oven trays filled with lightly oiled and seasoned potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed peppers, and simple vegetable crudites taste amazing when charred in a wood-fired oven. You can also bake simple pita bread and cook potato chips.
Once your oven has reached the perfect 700-degree temperature you can start firing your pizzas. The smallest outdoor pizza ovens cook one pizza at a time while the largest can cook several at once. Depending on the size of your wood-fired oven, it only takes between 90 seconds and three minutes to cook a pizza. Even with a small oven, you can feed a whole party in under an hour!
How to Prepare the Perfect Pizza
Now you know how to get the most out of your pizza oven, we can turn our attention to the pizza itself. Pizzerias churn out hundreds of pizzas a day. Pizza chefs prepare fresh pizza dough, add a splash of pizza sauce and sprinkle on just the right amount of toppings. Into the oven it goes and out comes perfection. It all looks so easy.
These people are professionals! In an attempt to imitate these professionals, we’ve learned a thing or two about preparing the perfect pizza:
Make Your Dough Early. The success of your dough defines the success of your pizza. Don’t buy frozen dough or follow a no-rise recipe. Creating authentic, Italian pizza dough takes a few hours but isn’t labor-intensive. And it’s totally worth it. We like this simple recipe from the NY Times but it only makes two 12 inch pizzas. You’ll need a lot more than that for your party!
Prepare Your Rounds. Even rolling or stretching the pizza dough into rounds takes away from valuable hosting time. Have your rounds ready to go before the party starts by laying them flat on top of each other with a piece of baking parchment between them.
Go Easy on the Toppings. Enthusiastic new pizza chefs make this mistake all the time. You want to create a flavor sensation with your pizza so it's tempting to add a whole host of toppings. But the more toppings you add, the longer it will take the center of your pizza to cook. Too many toppings can lead to a pizza that’s burnt on the edges and soggy in the middle.
Now you know how to handle your new wood-fired pizza oven and prepare the perfect pizzas, your celebration is guaranteed to go off without a hitch. Cheers!