Wood-fired ovens are taking over. Chefs from restaurants across the US are leaving the safety of their convection ovens behind and embracing the way of the caveman. Inspired by the flavor possibilities of wood and flame, these chefs believe cooking with fire makes them more conscious and experimental.
But is there a place for wood-fired ovens outside the top kitchens of the Portland or Austin food scene? We think so! Wood-fired ovens offer a fun, affordable and delicious way to cook in your own backyard. And they’re good for more than just incredibly delicious pizza. Here’s why everyone wants a wood-fired oven and soon you will too!
A Brief History of Wood Fired Ovens
Cooking with a wood-fired oven can’t be described as an innovative fad or trend in the restaurant world. They’ve been around for millennia! The first wood-fired ovens were constructed by the inventive Ancient Greeks. The Ancient Romans followed suit, building beautiful dome-shaped ovens from brick and clay.
The preserved remains of wood-fired ovens dating back to the 6th century BC have been uncovered in Pompeii. The Romans used their ovens to cook meat, fish and bake delicious bread, a precursor to Italy’s greatest gift to the world - pizza!
The wood-fired oven reached Europe around the Middle Ages. Villages often had an outdoor communal oven, where families could gather and bake their bread for the week ahead.
Around the 18th century, wealthier Europeans decided to install ovens in their own homes. Oven design changed and smaller white ovens emerged with a separate firing chamber.
The industrial revolution brought metal ovens into the home and the wood-fired oven became, for most, a thing of the past. In certain places, Italy for example, wood-fired ovens have never been out of fashion. And in Naples, it would be sacrilege to cook a Margherita any other way.
Disenfranchised with fast food and turned off by the froths and foams of Haute cuisine, the future of food might be its past. Thanks to a slow food revolution that started in Italy, traditional cooking methods are making a comeback. And you can’t get much more traditional than a brick oven and a roaring fire.
Wood Fired Ovens Don’t Use Fossil Fuels
There are arguments both for and against wood-fired ovens as an environmentally-friendly cooking method. A study published in 2016 looked at the emissions caused by wood-fired ovens in San Paulo, Brazil. The results weren’t good, with experts claiming smoke from the city’s many pizzerias and steak restaurants was harming the environment.
Smoke pollution is also regulated in certain parts of the US, particularly places that are densely populated. Check if your municipality has any wood-burning restrictions before you purchase a wood-fired oven.
On the other hand, wood-fired ovens do not use fossil fuels, offering a clear benefit in terms of global energy consumption. Our reliance on gas and electric ovens to cook our food contributed to fossil fuel depletion. Cooking food using a heat source that does not rely on gas or electricity is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Wood-Fired Ovens Get Very Hot and Cook Food Quickly
To heat a wood-fired oven, build a fire in the center of the dome and wait for it to reach optimum temperature. We have lots of advice on how to do this efficiently. The optimum temperature for cooking pizza is 700 degrees Fahrenheit, at least 200 degrees hotter than a standard convection oven. In a true dome shaped pizza oven, the oven itself is the heat source, not the fire. The clay, brick or stone the oven is made from absorbs as much heat as it can then transmits that heat back into the dome. As a result, a wood-fired oven can cook a pizza in around 2 minutes.
It takes between 1.5 and 3 hours to heat a wood-fired oven to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven reaches this temperature it will stay hot for a long time, unlike a gas or electric oven that cools quickly. This means you can cook multiple dishes or courses using one batch of fuel.
Food Tastes Better Cooked in a Wood-Fired Oven
One major benefit of cooking with a wood-fired oven is taste. The even heat distribution achieved by a dome-shaped oven cooks every surface of your food at the same time.
When you slide a pizza into a hot pizza oven it immediately puffs up. Heat from the bottom of the oven gives the pizza a crispy base. Radiant heat beaming down on the pizza from all angles creates an airy, charred crust and cooks the pizza toppings at the same time. The magic happens in minutes.
A fast cooking time ensures the cheese is melted but not burnt and the tomato sauce is smoky-hot. Vegetable toppings also benefit from a short blast of heat as they will retain the majority of their vitamins and minerals. Yes, pizza can be nutritious too!
It’s Surprisingly Easy and Affordable to Buy Your Own Outdoor Pizza Oven
Wood-fired pizza ovens that can be installed in your own back yard are becoming more affordable and easier to install. Cute miniature versions of the pizza ovens you see in authentic pizzerias are perfect for families.
The smallest residential pizza ovens available can cook one pizza at a time. But remember, it takes less than two minutes to cook a pizza so no one will be waiting for too long!
The largest ovens can cook several pizzas or a whole suckling lamb or pig at a time. Your backyard parties will never be the same again.
You can buy outdoor pizza ovens assembled by master craftsmen, delivered and installed in your own backyard. These ovens are ready for use. Alternatively, you can give yourself a fun DIY project by purchasing an outdoor pizza oven kit. These are generally less expensive than assembled ovens and are fairly straight-forward to put together.
Wood-fired ovens are the only way to cook authentic delicious Italian pizza at home. Everyone else wants one and by now, we hope you do too!