Build a Good Fire
Even in California the fall is showing off its first chill and some rain. It pays off to have a good stack of dry wood saved, especially as the holidays are approaching and there’s a lot of baking to do. And that’s the key to heating up the oven properly: a nice stack of dry hardwood. What is hardwood? See the list here for the most common kinds of hardwood.
Place the wood pieces crosswise, with the smaller pieces on the bottom, in the middle of the oven floor. You will need about 10 or so, smaller pieces of split wood and one or two larger ones. Place a non-toxic fire starter cube on the bottom of the stack and light it.
Keep the fire burning, adding about another 5 split logs as it burns. After about one hour the fire is down to mostly ashes and coals. Now is the time to push the fire, or what is left of it, to the left or right side of the oven.
Wait about 10 minutes, and then brush (with a natural bristle brush) the remaining ashes off the floor to the side. Take a temperature read with your infrared laser thermometer and you can start cooking. You can bake your pizza right on the oven floor or you can roast meats, fish, vegetables in pans, sliding them into the oven.
If you are planning to roast a turkey for the holidays, you will need to make sure you have given the oven an opportunity to accumulate an extra amount of indirect heat inside the walls and floor. So let that fire burn for an extra 15 to 20 minutes beyond the hour.
You can then scoop out the embers from the oven and place the meat inside to slowly roast with the oven door closed.