Using Your Wood Burning Oven Incorrectly: 4 Common Questions

You’re finally getting the hang of your new outdoor investment. You’re whipping up delicious pies and a variety of other recipes that create that wow factor for you and your guests. But lately, your food isn’t coming up quite to par with what you imagined. You may be asking yourself a variety of questions that all boils down to using your pizza oven correctly and in the best way possible. So buckle up and read on to bring your oven up to its maximum potential and to make your next pie your best pie.

Why Does My Pizza Oven Smoke So Much?

When you’re using a traditional pizza oven some smoke is to be expected. However, you should not see SO much smoke that it appears uncontrollable or interfering with your cooking. If the latter is you, this could mean one or more of the following:

You are not using the right type of wood for your pizza oven:

There are many options when it comes to wood for your wood burning outdoor oven. The following things are a big no no and should be avoided:

  • Using greenwood
  • Using wood that has too much sap or resin
  • Using softwood instead of hardwood
  • Using wood that has been treated or contains chemicals
  • Using wood that is known to be high smoke producers: Some fruit woods have this tendency   
  • Not removing the bark from the wood if it is the type of bark that tends to smoke a lot
  • Adding too much wood at once
  • Adding too much kindling to start with or not using the right kindling

You are not building the fire correctly

There are several different methods and techniques you can use when building a fire for your pizza oven. Some can produce more smoke than others such as the teepee method. A better alternative to the teepee method would be to use the top-down method. Check out our guide on8 steps on How to Use a Wood Fired Oven to see in an in depth guide to building a proper fire. 

Not curing your pizza oven correctly

During the curing process for your wood fired oven, you will notice a lot of smoke. Curing is extremely important to do in your oven prior to cooking in it. On average, the curing process will last 5 days. See the specific manufacturer recommendations on how to cure your wood fired oven. Once the curing process is complete, this should no longer be an issue.

Why Am I Getting Soot Building Up In My Pizza Oven?

Another sign of a wood burning pizza oven not being used properly is too much build-up of soot. This can be as a result of:

  • Using the wrong wood
  • Not bringing the oven up to temperature
  • Improper use of the flute
  • Adding too much wood
  • Not cleaning the oven properly or when needed
  • If the soot is forming on the outside the fire is being built too close to the front of the oven floor.

Why is My Pizza Oven Not Coming Up To Temperature?

 This is a common question asked by some wood burning cooks and could be a result of:

You are not using the right wood for fuel

While we know that using the wrong type of wood can cause smoke, it can also inhibit the temperature in the oven. To ensure that your pizza oven is getting up to temperature you’ll want to opt for hardwood over softwood due to its high density and longevity for the fire. The quality of the wood is also important when getting the pizza oven up to its ideal temperature. The wood should be dry and have a moisture content that is no higher than 15%.

The fire has not been built properly

The way you set up your wood structure prior to burning can have a great effect on the temperature of the oven. You’ll want to ensure airflow by not packing the wood too closely together. When you pack the wood too closely together, the fire will burn unevenly and can negatively affect the temperature of the oven.

The instructions for setting up the pizza oven have not been followed correctly

Every wood burning pizza oven comes equipped with its own instructions. You may be anxious to begin using your new oven and tempted to skip some of these, but every step is important to ensure you get the maximum potential out of your new wood burning oven.

Not using the proper temperature gauge

Many quality wood burning pizza ovens come equipped with a built-in temperature gauge. However, when cooking in a wood fired oven you’ll want to check the temperature of the different areas of the oven such as the floor and space you’ll be cooking your food in. In order to get the most accurate temperature readings you’ll want to have aninfrared thermometer heat gun.

Why Is My Food Not Turning Out Great?

There is something remarkable about cooking in an authentic wood fired oven. Some say the textures and flavors achieved are something like true love. If your food isn’t living up to its expectations then there is a good chance that the oven is not being used properly. This could be a result of:

  • Not bringing the oven up to temperature before cooking
  • Not maintaining the temperature that the specific food being cooked calls for
  • Not positioning the food correctly in the oven
  • Not moving the fire to the back or side to allow access to the cooking surface
  • Not using the right type of pizza dough for a wood burning oven. Wood burning pizza ovens reach extremely high temperatures, thus it is necessary to use grade 00 Flour.
  • Putting too much flour on the pizza peel. If you put too much on it’ll stick to the bottom of the pizza and cause it to burn.
  • Not keeping the oven at a consistent temperature. Cooking in a pizza oven is an art and takes time. You’ll want to make sure when you’re feeding the oven that you don’t add too much at once as this can cause fluctuation in the temperature while cooking.

Final Thoughts

It takes some time to master cooking in a wood burning pizza oven. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a built-in model or a countertop version, the basics are the same. Using your wood fired oven properly can eliminate unwanted effects such as subpar food, excess smoke or soot in the oven. When you’ve achieved the proper way to use the wood burning oven, you can have complete control over the different temperatures needed to cook delicious pies and all types of foods in your authentic pizza oven.

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