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The Best Wood For A Pizza Oven

We can throw any wood into our pizza ovens 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 temperature or make a larger mess that will require more 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 enhance 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 fired oven. Hardwood is heavier and burns longer when compared to softwood. 

You didn’t think we’d stop there did you? Well, the good news is that you have many choices when it comes to using the best firewood in your oven. One thing to note 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 to 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.

 

Wood Type

Heat Level

ApproximateBTU*

Flavor

Ease to Split

Meal Pairings

Alder

Medium

17.5

Mild, with subtle and slightly sweet flavor

Easy

Fish, poultry, lamb, sausage and vegetables

Apple

High

26.6

Mild, subtle sweet, fruity flavor

Not always due to density.


Pro tip: split as soon as you can, if you split it dry it’ll be more difficult

Poultry, beef, pork, game birds, lamb and some seafood

Ash

High

23.6

Light, unique flavor

Easy

Fish and red meats

Beech

High

27.5

Light, mild and Nutty

Easy to moderate

Fish, vegetables and seafood

Birch

Medium

20.3

Similar to maple

Easy

Pork and poultry

Cherry

Medium

20.4

Slightly sweet, mild flavor

Difficult


Pro tip: wait until it's dried out and use a hydraulic wood splitter if you have one!

Poultry or ham

Hickory

High

27.7

Strong aroma and slightly sweet

Difficult


Pro Tip: Allow to dry first before cutting

Bacon, sausage, beef and poultry

Maple (sugar)

High

24

Sweet flavor

Difficult

Pork, poultry and vegetables

Mesquite

High

28

Bold flavor

Easy

Steaks and pork

Oak 

High

White - 25.7

Red - 24

Balanced, not overpowering

Easy

Sausages, beef, lamb, seafood, vegetables and  pizzas

Pecan 

High

28

Sweet and smooth flavor

Difficult


Pro Tip: split the wood early, waiting will make it much harder

Larger pieces of meat 

Walnut

Medium

20.2

Strong and bitter

Moderate


Pro Tip: Let it dry completely before splitting

Fruits and vegetables

*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. 

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:

Apple wood is a high heat hard wood 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 salmon in your wood burning oven.

Pros:

  • Burns for a while and temperature gets high
  • Great for salmon, pork, poultry and game birds

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Hard to get ahold of
  • Can be difficult to split

Ash:

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!

Pros:

  • Burns long and consistent
  • Splits with ease
  • Readily available
  • Fast seasoning

Cons:

  • Durability - when damp or in contact with ground 

Beech:

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 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.

Pros:

  • High heat capacity
  • Affordable
  • Typically readily available
  • Pleasant aroma

Cons:

  • Longer seasoning time than other types of wood

Hickory:

Hickory produces a stronger flavor than oak, but not as strong as mesquite wood. This wood is a popular choice for wood fired cooks as it tends to have a unique flavor that is most similar to that of bacon. This wood as you can expect 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 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.

Pros:

  • Burns hot
  • Unique flavor similar to bacon

Cons:

  • Difficult to split
  • Bitter flavor if using too much of this wood

Maple (sugar):

Maple wood is perfect for cooking due to its high heat capacity and a mild 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 is vegetables, pork and poultry. When using this wood make sure to use more of it due to its lower density. 

Pros:

  • Burns hot!
  • Mild sweet aroma and flavor

Cons:

  • Difficult to split
  • Need to use more wood due to its lower density

Mesquite:

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. It’s best to use this wood in outdoor settings as this wood produces a bit of smoke. It takes about 6 months to season this wood. Cook up almost anything with mesquite wood including steaks, pork, hamburgers and even fish.

Pros:

  • Burns hot and lasts long!
  • Generates a rich bold flavor

Cons:

  • Produces a bit of smoke
  • If using too much, the flavor can become too intense or unpleasant

Oak:

This is one of the most popular choices of high heat hardwood as it is typically available in most areas. It tends to burn slowly and produces a mild flavor. It produces little smoke and is perfect for cooking up some pizzas, beef, lamb, seafood, vegetables and more! If you’re unsure what wood to start with in your pizza oven, go with oak, you won’t be disappointed!

Pros:

  • Burns hot and long
  • Emits very little smoke
  • Versatile in cooking a variety of different things
  • Typically available in most areas

Cons:

  • Since its an “all purpose” cooking wood it’s not suitable for speciality cooking

Pecan:

Pecan wood has similar characteristics to the hickory wood as they are in the same family. Pecan wood burns long and hot, releases little amounts of smoke and has a fantastic smell to it! This wood only leaves behind small amounts of fine ashes which makes clean up a breeze in your oven. The availability of pecan wood generally is dependent on your area, so if you’re in Kentucky and Texas you’re in luck! 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. Pecan firewood needs about 1 to 2 years to season.

Pros:

  • Burns long and hot
  • Only leaves behind small amounts of fine ash compared to other woods
  • Little amounts of smoke

Cons:

  • Difficult to split
  • Can be expensive

 

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:

Alder wood is a medium heat wood that gives off a pleasant and sweet aroma. Alder is known best for cooking fish such as salmon, poultry, vegetables, lamb and sausages. While it doesn’t give off as high of a heat capacity 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!

Pros:

  • Sweet aroma
  • Produces good quality charcoal

Cons:

  • Go through a lot of alder in a short period of time
  • Can stain clothes and skin orange when cutting

Birch:

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.

Pros:

  • Low smoke production
  • Splits easily

Cons:

  • If you do not split right away, it is highly susceptible to rot

Cherry:

Cherry wood burns slowly and produces a fantastic aroma in the air. This wood can be difficult to split, especially when they’re green! Make sure to wait to split them when they’re dried out. Cherry wood typically doesn’t last as long in the fire as oak wood or ash wood, so make sure you’re tending to the fire when burning this wood. This wood takes about 6-8 months to season but we recommend a year. This wood adds a slightly sweet flavor and pairs nicely with poultry or ham. We recommend mixing cherry wood with oak or apple for a delicious pairing!

Pros:

  • Delicious aroma
  • Infuses food with a slightly fruity flavor

Cons:

  • Difficult to split
  • Doesn’t last as long in the fire as other woods

Walnut:

Walnut wood is a clean burning wood with a very pleasant aroma. Pair walnut wood with fruits and vegetables for a divine taste. Walnut is split very easily and needs to be seasoned for approximately one year before burning it in your wood fired oven. Walnut doesn't burn as long when compared to other hardwoods such as oak. For this reason, we recommend mixing walnut with another hardwood to keep the fire in the pizza oven going!

Pros:

  • Splits easily 
  • Pleasant aroma

Cons:

  • Does not burn for a long time when compared to other woods

 

Why Is the Fire Wood So Important for the 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. If you choose a wood to burn that doesn’t get up to temperature or maintains 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 The 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 off 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 It Have To Be Seasoned For The 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 a higher water content. That energy could have heated your oven up to temperature! Always ensure you are using seasoned hardwood for your pizza oven.

How To Know You Are Buying Good Quality Seasoned Wood

The best seasoned wood has a moisture content of approximately 15% and never higher than 18%. When buying seasoned wood, ask your firewood provider how long the wood you are buying has been seasoned for to ensure you are getting top quality wood.

The appearance of the wood

All wood has different appearances according to their species. However, if 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 grow 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 grow rings. There should be no signs of rotting or mold or mushroom growth.

The odor

When it comes to the smell of the wood, seasoned wood will have very little odor. While, Green wood will have a strong odor.

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

Tap two pieces of the wood together. Seasoned wood will create a clear sound. Green wood will not.

Seasoning the Wood Yourself

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 includes:

  • Place your wood in a sunny spot off the ground
  • Place tarp loosely over it to protect it from rain, but remove it when not raining to maximize airflow
  • Pointing the logs outwards (this helps it dry out by pointing it towards the wind)
  • Criss cross your wood to ensure maximum airflow

Allow for the wood to dry out for on average at least one year. It is important to note that some woods may vary on seasoning time and to follow that specific woods seasoning time before attempting to burn it in your wood fired oven.  

Kiln Dried Firewood

Kiln dried wood is often what you’ll find at a 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 a 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. Check out our top pros and cons for using kiln dried firewood in your pizza oven.

Pros:

  • Wood is immediately ready to burn
  • Availability is high
  • Require no treatment/effort
  • Free of insects and mold

Cons:

  • Higher cost than seasoned wood

The Size of the Wood

Size does matter when it comes to the wood in your pizza oven! The size of the wood you need to use will partially depend on the model of your pizza oven. On average the wood pieces should be two to three inches round and between fourteen to eighteen inches long.

Storing Your Wood

It is 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.

What Not To Use In A Wood Fired Oven

While it is important to know what wood you should use, it is just as important to know what you should not be using 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 woods or laminates, plywood, particle board 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. 

To Sum It Up

In all, make sure that you are using a 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 pies! If you’re needing some inspiration check out the latest recipes on thePro Pizza Oven blog to get your creativity flowing!



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