Starting the Fire in Your Pizza Oven
It’s funny how you can repeat a process for years and then suddenly your are hit with the “Aha!” moment. Our insight into firing up our pizza oven came when Peter decided to improve his box fire construction by placing three extra pieces of wood along the perimeter. Let me explain…
You’ve made your pizza dough or prepared your chicken and eagerly walk over to the oven to fire it up. You have your good stash of very dry, split hardwood set aside and you pick out about 7 choice pieces, about 2.5 to 3″ wide and 15 to 20″ long.
Now try Peter’s method: Place three logs in each corner of the pizza oven, close to the walls, (see photo A.) Then build a box fire in the middle of the oven floor by alternating two logs diagonally one way and two logs the other way on top, repeat (see photo B.). Put a piece non-toxic fire starter under the wood and light the fire.
A good thing to do when the fire is starting up, is to lean the metal door outside on the arch (see photo C.), this way the initial smoke is channeled up the vent. It will soon be very hot in your oven and the smoke will naturally flow upward into the chimney. Part of Peter’s method at this point is to sit back and relax, listening to the fire… his way of celebrating the upcoming feast, sort of the quiet before the storm of cooking. The pizza dough that he prepared the day before and kept in the fridge overnight, is now next to the oven, rising and ready to shape into pies.
You will notice that the wood in the middle ignites first and then the heat in the oven will ignite the split wood pieces around the perimeter and this will create a wonderful radiant heat all around the floor and the walls. Your wood fired oven will absorb this heat created by the fire burning out in the next hour and then the oven will slowly release this accumulated heat for many hours of cooking cycle, gradually cooling off.
When the fire will have burnt down you can move the coals and ashes with your ash stick either to the right side or the left side of the oven. (If you are planning to bake pizza, then place a small wood piece onto the coals to keep a small flame throughout the pizza making process.) Check the temperature with your handheld laser thermometer provided in your Los Angeles Ovenworks’ kit. Start your cooking feast! You can have a lot of fun experimenting with different woods:
- Alder: Imparts a light flavor that works well with fish and poultry.
- Apple and pear: Nice and subtle flavor, use with pork and game.
- Apricot, Plum, Peach, Nectarine: Flavor is milder and sweeter than hickory.
- Hickory: The most famous smoking hardwoods, imparts a strong, hearty flavor to meats, used mostly for pork shoulders and ribs.
- Maple: Mellow smoke fragrance traditionally used for poultry, pork and seafood.
- Mesquite: Produces a very hot flame perfect for grilling steaks.
- Pecan: Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory, but not as strong.
- Oak:Favorite wood of Europe, strong but not overpowering. Used for beef or lamb.
- Walnut: Heavy smoke flavor, great to bring out the natural goodness in mushrooms, potatoes and vegetables. Mix with lighter woods like almond, pear or apple to dilute the smoke flavor if needed.
Buon appetito from Los Angeles Ovenworks!