It’s important to season your wood fired oven before you use it for cooking. In fact, the longevity of your oven depends on it. So if you envision yourself using your oven for many years to come, it’s important to get this process right. When done properly, curing your oven will get it to its maximum strength.
Seasoning your oven is a process that will take five days. Over this time, you will build a series of five increasingly larger fires. The goal of seasoning is to slowly dry out and equalise the moisture content of your oven. That’s why the seasoning fire should never get too hot. So when you light a fire in your wood fired oven for the very first time, make sure to build the heat up gradually. Otherwise, you might damage the performance of your oven. You should also make sure the flame does not touch the inside surfaces of your oven during the first 72 hours of seasoning.
You can start curing your fully assembled Californo pizza oven once you receive it. If you are using other ovens, you may have to wait 5 days or more before curing.
It is important that you don’t exceed the temperature for that day’s schedule by more than a few degrees. So it can be a good idea to use a digital infrared thermometer. If you do, you will want to measure the temperature at the dome of the oven, not the side wall or floor.
5 Days of Oven Curing
Day 1: 300°F (149°C)
During this first day of firing, you should only use kindling and thin strips of fuel. This is because you want the fire to burn with a low flame.
You want to make sure that the fire doesn’t get too high, or touch the sides of the dome. So start and maintain the fire in the center of the dome.
Leave the door partly open. You want a gap measuring around 2” once the fire is lit. This will help direct the smoke up the vent. This is because the temperature is relatively low. As a result, the smoke will be heavier.
Make sure the fire burns consistently for 24 hours. Do not allow the oven to cool completely at any point. If you want, it can be helpful to start a rule in your house: whoever goes to bed last has to top up the fire; and whoever wakes up first next day, tops up the fire, too.
Day 2: 350°F (177°C)
This is your second 24 hours of seasoning. Raise the temperature to 350°F. Again, make sure that the fire burns consistently throughout this period.
Day 3: 400°F (204°C)
Raise the temperature to 400°F. As with the previous days, make sure the fire burns consistently.
By the end of today, you should have been seasoning your oven for 72 hours.
Day 4: 450°F (232°C)
Repeat the process of the past 3 days, this time, at 450°F.
Day 5: 500°F (260°C)
This is your last day of curing. Throughout the day, you should slowly increase the intensity of your fire to 500°F.
By the end of the day, you should be finished curing your oven. You will know that your oven is ready for baking once the inside surfaces of the oven turn white, or near white. Celebrate this momentous occasion by cooking your very first wood fired pizza! Split some hardwood logs, and add them to your fire. The logs should be roughly the size of a shoe. This will help your oven get hot enough to cook a pizza.
General Tips for Cooking in Your Wood Fired Oven
What Fuel Should I Use?
You should only use dry, medium or hard firewood. Food grade fire starters are also acceptable aids for starting a fire.
Do not use any of the following in your oven:
- Chipped wood products
- Sappy wood
- Laminated wood
- Liquid fuel (gasoline, kerosene, firelighter fluid, etc.)
How Long Will It Take to Fire up My Oven for Cooking?
How long it takes to fire up your oven for cooking depends on the size of your oven. You will probably have to experiment to find the best time. However, it generally takes 20 minutes to 1 hour.
Should There Be Smoke?
It is normal to see some black smoke the first few times you use your Californo oven. This is just the Olive Oil spray which is used in our de-molding process. The smoke will be heavy for the first 2 days, and will slowly dissipate during the rest of the curing process.
Additionally, when the flame reaches its maximum temperature, expanding gases in the burning wood will produce smoke. So it is completely normal for your oven to produce smoke during the firing process.
If you want to have less smoke, you can also try using smaller pieces of firewood to speed the initial firing process.
What Firewood Should I Use?
To start your fire, you can use pine needles or general kindling. Then, you can add hardwood logs to increase the intensity of your fire. You can also add flavor by using wood chunks.
As mentioned earlier in the article, it is good practice to use food grade fire starters like our Califlame fire starters when you season your wood fired oven for the first time - or any time you would like to avoid having to do a lot of work getting your fire started.