Throwing a backyard pizza party has more chance of success than a party of any other food theme. Add the novelty and superior taste of a wood-fired pizza oven into the mix and your status as “best host of the year” is assured. But every good party takes a bit of planning. Here are our tips for throwing a killer backyard party with a wood-fired pizza oven.
Why Throw a Pizza Party?
In homes and restaurants across the nation, people are eating more pizza than ever before. Pizza is truly one of the nation’s favorite foods. Not only because we’re eating more of it, but because the majority of Americans love to eat it!
One in eight people in the US will eat a slice (or two, or eight) of pizza on any given day. Not only that, statistics show that people eating pizza vary little in terms of gender or race. The only thing that seems to have an impact is age. Older people eat less pizza in general. They don’t know what they’re missing!
Unlike BBQ cook-outs or more formal dinners, a pizza party caters to everyone. Vegetarians, vegans, and people with food intolerances rejoice. Every party guest can have a custom pizza that will suit their particular dietary needs. A considerate host is a good host, after all!
Benefits of a Brick Pizza Oven
Are you considering buying a brick pizza oven with backyard pizza parties in mind? The main thing to consider is size. The larger the oven, the more you can cook at one time. Bigger is better but a larger oven will be more expensive and take up more space than a smaller oven.
Here’s what you need to know about choosing the size of your brick pizza oven:
- Small ovens are usually 21 to 31 inches wide (interior width). These ovens can cook one large or two small pizza at a time and are great for baking a loaf or two of bread.
- Medium-sized ovens are between 31 and 39 inches wide and can cook two large pizzas. These ovens can also handle a whole suckling pig or lamb or similar.
- Large pizza ovens are sometimes referred to as commercial ovens. Up to 59 inches wide, these ovens can cook 4 or 5 large pizzas at a time. Perfect for large parties, these ovens are also used in the catering industry.
You also need to consider materials. Most wood-fired pizza ovens are made from brick or clay. These materials are fuel efficient and cost-effective. Stone wood-fired pizza ovens are available but tend to be more costly than clay or brick. Modern pizza ovens made from steel are the cheapest option and will reach optimum temperature more quickly but are not as fuel efficient.
Consider what you intend to cook in your oven and how many people you plan to entertain. Providing your pizza oven had been heated to its optimum temperature, it takes less than three minutes to fully cook a pizza. The Italian government specifies that certified Vera Pizza Napolenta should be cooked in 60 to 90 seconds and not a second more! When entertaining a large number of people, it’s nice to be able to cook multiple pizzas at one time so a medium or large pizza would be best.
Preparing for Your Backyard Pizza Oven Party
So you’ve got your new wood-fired pizza oven in place and you’re ready to party! But, wait. The perfect party requires a bit of planning. Here are a few steps you don’t want to skip.
Practice Cooking in Your Pizza Oven
You wouldn’t test out a new oven on Thanksgiving so don’t make your pizza party the first time you fire up your pizza oven! Starting a fire in your pizza oven and getting it to optimum temperature can take up to three hours depending on the oven’s size. See our guide to starting a fire in your pizza oven to get your process perfected long before your guests arrive.
It’s also a good idea to practice cooking a few pizzas before the big night. The first pizza of the batch is often a dud as you can’t be sure your oven is too hot or too cold until the dough tells you. Make up a batch of pita bread or a plain pizza dough base to test the temperature.
Make Your Dough
Your guests will accept nothing less than wood-fired pizza perfection. To achieve this perfection your dough has to be absolutely faultless. There are a million different recipes out there for wood-fired pizza dough but we particularly like this one from The Spruce Eats. Sticking to pizza baking masters, the Neapolitans advise, this recipe calls for brewer’s yeast, flour, salt and water with an optional teaspoon of olive oil. If you’re making the dough the traditional way it will take three hours to rise. However, if you have a bread machine you can cut that time in half.
Making your pizza dough is the most relaxing and enjoyable part of the whole process. Get messy and enjoy releasing the tension of the day into that pizza dough!
Prepare Toppings, Sides, and Seasonings
You don’t want to be slicing vegetables and grating cheese when your guests arrive. A classic Margherita pizza features nothing more than tomato sauce, buffalo-milk mozzarella and fresh basil. But for a backyard pizza party, it’s nice to offer a variety. The only limit to pizza toppings is your imagination but bear in mind that a heavier pizza takes longer to cook. Too many toppings can create a burnt crust and sloppy undercooked center. Aka pizza suicide.
In my opinion, all a backyard pizza party needs is pizza. However, you might want to prepare a couple of lighter sides like salad and slaw for when your guests have had their fill of the greatest food on earth. Seasonings such as fresh parmesan, chili flakes, and black pepper are good to have handy too.
Consider Pizza Oven Safety
Nothing ruins a party quicker than a guest being rushed to the ER. Wood-fired pizza ovens are not dangerous but whenever you’re lighting fires and cooking outdoors you should always follow safety guidelines.
It’s a nice idea to give your guests a chance to put their own topped pizza into the oven. Doing this requires placing the pizza on a peel, sliding the peel into the oven and giving it a jerk to slide the pizza into the oven. It takes a bit of skill to get this right so keep an eye on the newbies. Always use long-handled pizza oven utensils to rearrange your fire or move your food.
The pizza will be extremely hot when it comes out of the oven. The oven itself will retain heat for hours and the inner surface and opening will be hot to the touch. Keep small children and any vulnerable people away from your wood-fired pizza oven.
That’s our advice on using your wood-fired pizza oven to throw a killer party. All you need to do now is invite your guests!