We can throw any wood into our pizza oven, right? WRONG! The choice of wood you choose to burn in your wood-fired oven can be the difference between a deliciously perfect pie or something subpar.
The wrong choice of wood can also affect the oven’s ability to get up to your desired cooking temperature or make a larger mess that will require unnecessary cleaning and effort.
When you put a little thought into the choice of your firewood, you will not only avoid these undesired problems but you’ll be able to infuse your food with the best of flavors.
What's the Best Wood to Use for a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven?
Hardwood is the number one wood to use in your wood-burning oven. Hardwood is dense and burns longer when compared to soft or medium woods.
You have many choices when it comes to using the best firewood in your oven. One thing to consider is if the choices are readily available in your area. You do not want to import wood from other regions.
Why is that?
Well, that’s because the wood could be potentially diseased as a result of insects. So trust us and use wood that is available locally in your area.
There are many different types of hardwood and it can be categorized based on the amount of heat it can produce, flavor if it’s easy to split, and meal pairings. Here’s a quick overview of some of the popular wood choices to use in your wood-fired oven.
Ease to Split
Mild, subtle sweet
Fish, poultry, lamb, sausage, vegetables
Mild, subtle sweet, fruity
Pizza, poultry, beef, pork, game birds, lamb, some seafood
Fish, red meat
Light, mild nutty
Easy to Medium
Fish, seafood, vegetables
Sweet, similar to Maple
Slightly sweet, mild, fruity
Pizza, poultry, ham
Strong aroma, slightly sweet
Bacon, beef, sausage, poultry
Pork, poultry, vegetables
White - 25.7 Red - 24
Pizza, beef, lamb, sausage, seafood, vegetables
Large pieces of meat (tri-tip, ribs, pork belly)
*BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. One BTU equals the amount of energy required to heat one pound of liquid water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Pizza Oven Wood for High Heat
Now let’s dive into each type of wood a bit more starting with those hardwoods that burn at a higher temperature that gets your oven up to temperature faster!
Apple wood is a high-heat hardwood that will burn for a good amount of time, meaning a great choice to use in your wood-fired oven. Due to its popularity, apple wood can be difficult to find and can be a tad expensive. If you have it available definitely try it out the next time you’re whipping up some pies in your wood-burning oven.
It burns for a while and the temperature gets high
Great for pizza, salmon, pork, poultry, and game birds
Hard to get ahold of
Can be difficult to split
This high-heat hardwood is comparable to oak as it has a mild flavor. It tends to burn long and consistent, making it easy to use in your wood-fired oven. It also splits easily when compared to maple or hickory.
Ash wood is a good choice when cooking fish and red meats in your pizza oven. It burns clean with no smoke and can be seasoned in approximately 6 months.
Something to note with ash wood is that if it is damp or in contact with the ground, rotting can become an issue. To get the highest quality ash wood, make sure to store it properly so you can get to cooking up some delicious food!
Burns long and consistent
Splits with ease
Durability - when damp or in contact with the ground
Beech wood is a great choice to use in your wood-fired oven to cook up some delicious fish, poultry, and vegetables. Due to its high water levels, this wood requires a longer seasoning time than other types of cooking wood.
American beech needs to be seasoned for a minimum of one year but we recommend two years for less smoke and optimal BTU performance. Beech wood gives off a slightly nutty and mild aroma.
High heat capacity
Typically readily available
Longer seasoning time than other types of wood
Hickory produces a stronger flavor than oak, but not as strong as mesquite. This wood is a popular choice for wood-fired cooks as it tends to have a unique flavor that is similar to that of bacon. This wood is perfect for cooking up meats such as bacon, sausage, ham, and beef.
If you use too much of this wood you’ll end up with a bitter taste. Our recommendation is to mix this with a milder wood such as oak or pecan.
This wood can also be difficult to split. Our recommendation is to allow it to dry prior to cutting. For seasoning, hickory wood takes approximately one year to ensure a low smoke content.
Unique flavor similar to bacon
Difficult to split
Bitter flavor if you use too much of it
Maple (Sugar) Wood
Maple wood is perfect for cooking due to its high heat capacity and mildly sweet aroma. This wood can be difficult to split, but in our opinion, the mildly sweet flavor is absolutely worth it!
While you can cook a variety of things with maple wood the most popular are vegetables, pork, and poultry. When using this wood make sure to cut or buy more of it due to its lower density.
Mild, sweet aroma and flavor
Difficult to split
Need to use more wood due to its lower density
Mesquite wood produces a lot of heat and has a deep, bold flavor. It produces long-lasting coals and is a popular choice for cooking in a wood-burning oven. However, it’s best to use this wood in outdoor settings as it produces a lot of smoke.
It also takes about 6 months to season this wood but it's worth the wait because you can cook up almost anything with it including steaks, pork, hamburgers, and even fish.
Burns hot and lasts long
Generates a rich, bold flavor
Produces a lot of smoke
If used too much, the flavor can become too intense or unpleasant
This is one of the most popular choices of high heat hardwood because it's typically available in most areas. It tends to burn slowly with little smoke and produces a mild flavor. Making it perfect for cooking up pizzas, beef, lamb, seafood, vegetables, and more!
If you’re unsure what wood to start with in your pizza oven, then go with oak, you won’t be disappointed!
Burns hot and long
Emits very little smoke
Versatile in cooking a variety of different dishes
Available in most areas
Widely considered an "all-purpose" wood. Not suitable for speciality cooking.
Pecan wood has similar characteristics to hickory wood because they are in the same family. Pecan wood burns long and hot, releases little amounts of smoke, and has a fantastic smell to it!
Pecan wood only leaves behind small amounts of fine ashes so it makes cleaning up a breeze in your oven. However, the availability of pecan wood generally is dependent on your area, so if you’re in Kentucky and Texas you’re in luck! Outside of that, and you'll struggle getting your hands on any.
Generally pecan wood can be difficult to split, but this can be dependent on the piece of wood. We recommend a hydraulic wood splitter to make the job a breeze. Once split, it needs about 1 to 2 years to season before it's ready to cook with.
Burns long and hot
Minimal amount of smoke
Easy clean up. Leaves behind small amounts of fine ash compared to other woods.
Difficult to split
Can be expensive
Pizza Oven Wood for Medium Heat
This category does not burn as hot as the high heat category but these can still be a good option to use in your wood-burning oven. Just note, that you will need to use more of it to maintain the oven temperature.
Alder wood is a medium heat wood that gives off a pleasant and sweet aroma. Alder is best used for cooking fish, poultry, vegetables, lamb, and sausages.
While it doesn’t give off as high of heat as oak, this type of wood is particularly known for producing good quality charcoal. It burns relatively fast and is great to mix with other woods in your wood-fired oven.
One thing to note when cutting alder wood is that it can stain you and your clothes orange, so make sure to wear some protective gloves during the process!
Produces good quality charcoal
Can go through a lot of Alder in a short period of time
Can stain clothes and skin orange when cutting
Birch wood can range in quality depending on the species of birch you chose. Yellow and black birch produce the best heat as compared to the other species in the birch family. Birch takes approximately nine to twelve months to season. Our recommendation is to immediately cut and split birch for the most optimal seasoning due to the high sap content. If it is not split quickly it is more susceptible to rot. When seasoned well, birch wood doesn’t produce a lot of smoke. Birch has a similar flavor to maple and goes best with poultry and pork.
Low smoke production
Highly susceptible to rot if you don't split it properly
Cherry wood burns slowly and produces a fantastically sweet aroma. This makes it pair nicely with pizza, poultry or ham.
The downside to Cherry wood is it takes up to a year to season and can be difficult to split, especially when it's green. So, make sure to wait to split it when it's properly dried out. Trust us on this one.
Another thing to note is Cherry wood doesn’t last as long in the fire as oak or ash wood. So if you plan on cooking for a number of hours, make sure to to have a full stack ready and you're tending it closely. It can go pretty quick.
Pro tip:If you're feeling dangerous, we recommend mixing cherry wood with oak or apple. This creates a unique (and delicious) pairing for all types of dishes.
Infuses your dish with a mild, fruity flavor
Difficult to split
Doesn’t last as long in the fire compared to other woods
Walnut wood is clean-burning with a very pleasant aroma. It's best to pair walnut wood with fruits and vegetables to bring out a divine taste.
Walnut wood is easy to split but it needs to be seasoned for about one year before burning in your wood-fired oven. It also doesn't burn long when compared to other hardwoods such as oak.
For this reason, we recommend mixing walnut with another hardwood to keep the fire in your pizza oven going strong for longer.
Doesn’t burn long compared to other woods
What Fuels Not to Use in Wood-Fired Oven
While it is important to know what wood you should use, it is just as important to know what should not be used in your wood-fired oven. Wood that you should not use includes those that have a high sap content. Additionally, you should avoid using pine, redwoods, and cedar. Never use any type of treated wood or laminates, plywood, particleboard, or any wood that has paint on it. These can contain hazardous chemicals that can be released into the oven and can be harmful to your health.
Pizza Oven Wood Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Firewood So Important for a Pizza Oven?
Using the wrong wood can hinder one of the many benefits you receive when cooking in a wood-fired oven. Due to its high heat and fast cooking, nutrients and antioxidants of fruits and vegetables cooked in your wood-fired oven are higher versus if you cook them for longer times in a traditional oven.
Yay for more nutrients!
For this reason (amongst many), the wood you choose will have an impact. What if you choose wood to burn that doesn’t get up to temperature or maintain the temperature? Well, that’ll have an impact on the quality of the food you cook.
Also, as an example from a taste perspective, pizza toppings will retain their texture when cooking at high temperatures. Whereas standard cooking, those toppings tend to dry out. With high temperatures, the bottom of your pizza will cook crisp and the rest of the crust will have a chewy and pleasant texture to it. This is all possible due to the high heat, which brings us back to the most important aspect - the wood!
Why Do You Need to Season Firewood?
Seasoning your firewood is extremely important before burning it in your wood-fired oven due to allowing plenty of time for the moisture to evaporate beforehand. This is a vital step in the process due to the fact that when you burn your desired firewood, the low moisture content will ensure that your fire burns cleanly and efficiently. This has a large impact on not only the quality of the food you're cooking in your wood-burning oven but also the air you breathe!
What is Seasoned Wood?
Seasoned wood is green wood (freshly cut) wood that is left to dry for a long period of time. On average, wood needs to be left to dry for at least twelve months but this can vary a bit depending on the wood you choose to cook with. Seasoning the wood removes moisture from the freshly cut wood.
Why Does Wood Have to be Seasoned for a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven?
Properly seasoned wood burns hotter and it is easier to ignite. It also burns clean so it won’t create a lot of soot or excessive smoke.
Seasoned wood is also lighter in weight. When burning wood that is not seasoned, energy is wasted through the evaporation of moisture if the wood has higher than necessary water content. That energy could have heated your oven up to temperature!
Always ensure you are using seasoned hardwood for your pizza oven.
How Do I Know if I'm Buying Good-Quality, Seasoned Wood?
The best-seasoned wood has a moisture content of approximately 15% and is never higher than 18%. When buying seasoned wood, ask your firewood provider how long the wood you are buying has been seasoned to ensure you are getting top-quality wood.
The Appearance of the Wood
All wood has different appearances according to its species. However, if the wood is green it will usually have yellow or green patches. There may be some faint cracks in the surface but none that are prominent. You won’t be able to see the growth rings easily and the wood will probably still have its bark.
Wood that has been seasoned properly will have deep cracks and a dark grey or brown color to it. The bark falls off easily and you can really see the growth rings. There should be no signs of rotting or mold or mushroom growth.
The Wood's Odor
When it comes to the smell of the wood, seasoned wood will have very little odor. While greenwood will have a strong odor.
The Feel of the Wood
If you touch the ends of the wood that has been seasoned it will feel dry and warm. Green wood will feel like the opposite.
The Sound of the Wood
Tap two pieces of the wood together. Seasoned wood will create a clear sound. Green wood will not.
Can I Season Pizza Oven Firewood Myself?
In order to properly season wood, it has to be stacked in a dry place where the sun can warm it and the wind can blow through it. You’ll also want to make sure the wood is off the floor by using a pallet or larger pieces of wood as a base. A few quick tips when setting this up include:
Place your wood in a sunny spot off the ground
Place a tarp loosely over it to protect it from rain, but remove it when it's not raining to maximize airflow
Point the logs outwards (this helps it dry out by pointing it towards the wind)
Crisscross your wood to ensure maximum airflow. Allow the wood to dry out at least once per year.
It's important to note that seasoning time will vary based on the type of wood you're using. If your wood isn't properly seasoned then it'll effect the performance of your oven.
Should I Use Kiln-Dried Firewood in a Pizza Oven?
Kiln-dried wood is often what you’ll find at the store. It has been pre-seasoned to the appropriate moisture content to be used in a wood-fired pizza oven.
Kiln-dried wood produces less smoke than wood that isn’t properly seasoned. Rather than seasoning it for a long period of time by yourself, it is seasoned in a ceramic kiln that expedites the process.
Below are the pros and cons of using kiln-dried firewood in your pizza oven:
Wood is immediately ready to burn
Availability is high
Requires no treatment/effort
Free of insects and mold
More expensive than splitting and seasoning it yourself
What Size Wood Do You Use in a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven?
Size does matter when it comes to the wood in your pizza oven! The size of the wood you need to use will depend on the model of your pizza oven and how wide and tall the mouth of the oven is.
On average wood pieces should be two to three inches around and between fourteen to eighteen inches long.
How Do You Store Pizza Oven Wood?
It's important to store the wood for your pizza oven in a dry area and off the ground. It needs to be protected from the weather to prevent moisture uptake.
Is Sycamore Wood Good for Pizza Ovens?
While it is a medium heat hardwood and you CAN use this wood in your wood fired oven, we recommend to avoid it.
While it produces good heat as a fire starter, it doesn't hold a flame and dies down very quickly. Sycamore also doesn't give food a pleasant flavor and produces a moderate amount of smoke.
Choosing the Best Pizza Oven Wood: To Sum it Up
In all, make sure that you are using seasoned hardwood in your wood-fired oven. If you’re unsure where to start, Oak wood is a popular and safe choice.
Now that you’re knowledgeable on wood for your wood-fired oven, let’s go make some delicious meals!
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