With all our how-to guides and information/links to buy your own wood-fired pizza oven, pizzaovenhub.com has everything covered when it comes to building or buying a wood-fired pizza oven.
But what wood do you use in your pizza oven once it’s up-and-ready?
This is a question we’re often asked, and there isn’t one specific answer – different woods can impart different flavours, so you can treat them as another ingredient to your pizza or other dish, tweaking the wood you use to achieve different flavours.
There is one golden rule:
ONLY USE KILN-DRIED, HARDWOOD
If you experience fizzling, crackling and a poor flame when burning, then this is a sign that you are using ‘green’ wood.
Green wood is classified as recently-cut wood that has not yet had chance to properly dry from evaporation of internal moisture – hence the fizzling and crackling, this is the internal water effectively escaping and evaporating in the heat.
Green wood doesn’t burn at a very high temperature and causes excessive smoke production when burning.
Using kiln-dried hardwood ensures minimal moisture remains in the wood, which leads to a more effective fire.
Also avoid high sap-producing woods like pine or white birch – unless they are properly cured and seasoned to minimise sap content. Removing the outer bark also helps to reduce sap.
High-sap content woods can create soot and creosote that coat your oven floor and chimney. This can be burnt-off with a higher-heat producing, clean-burning wood like oak if you have made this mistake before.
So – you don’t want wood with too high of a moisture or sap content, but what about really dry wood?
If your wood is too dry, this can also cause issues – leading to too high a smoke output, potentially ruining the food you’re cooking in your pizza oven.
The ideal moisture content for firewood is around 20% – so it really is a fine balance to achieve the right burn and smoke output.
A great way to check if your firewood is too dry for your pizza oven is to see if your wood has darkened cut ends and small radial cracks. If it has, then don’t use it – it’s too dry, and will create too much smoke and will not produce the same heat output as firewood with a 20% moisture level.
If you collect your own wood for your pizza oven, the best season to collect is in the early Spring or late Winter, so it has the Summer to dry out. Sap is also in the roots in the off-season, so you can reduce sap content this way.
A wood moisture gauge can be a really useful tool for those people harvesting their own wood – to ensure that fine balance of moisture level is achieved.
Fresh cut wood should be given at least 6 months to dry in order to be used for a fire.
Alternatively, we would recommend buying your wood from the Green Olive Firewood company in West Sussex – they have the right expertise and varieties of wood to produce a high-heat, moderate-smoke fire for your pizza oven (more on these guys later in this post).
Storing your Wood
If you follow our ‘How to Build your Own Pizza Oven’ guide, you’ll build a pizza oven with plenty of room underneath to store your wood reserves and shelter it from the rain.
Alternatively, if you are looking to buy a pizza oven, try to find one with ample storage space for your wood – unless you have a shed or garage where you can keep your wood stores sheltered.
Try to order your firewood one ‘cord’ at a time for maximum value.
A cord is a stack of firewood 4ft high, 4ft wide, and 8ft long.
Prepping Your Wood for Burning
Always cut your wood into sizes around 3inch diameter and no more than 15inch long before burning – cut wood always burns faster, brighter, and catches light easier than round logs.
Use even smaller pieces of kindling to get the fire started, combined with natural firelighters if need be.
Avoid using leaves and twigs to get your fire started, these will create too much smoke and twigs can be highly resinous. Resin can hinder the burn of the wood, and can damage your pizza oven floor.
Top tip: If your wood is damp due to rainfall, stick it in the kitchen oven (or even in your pizza oven, at the opposite side of the fire, at the end of cooking when the flames are dying) to bake and dry it out prior to cooking with it.
We hooked-up with Andy Fisher from Green Olive firewood in West Sussex to get his professional input on the best firewoods that he recommends for pizza oven use.
Here’s what he came back to us with:
For home users that email us we recommend 2/3rds kiln dried hardwoods like our beech and birch, and 1/3rd seasoned olive wood for the pizza oven. The kiln dried ensures a great clean burn, and the olive wood gives a longevity to the fire as extremely dense and light/sweet smoky flavours. As the olive wood is seasoned to around 20% moisture it gives a little more smoke than the kiln but not too overpowering like an oak.
Thanks Andy for your tips!
Note: Earlier in our post we mentioned ‘natural firelighters’. Well, Andy’s company sell some amazing eco firelighters made from just vegetable oil and compressed sawdust – making them perfect for lighting your pizza oven fire – with no creosote or residue to ruin your oven floor!
We personally like the idea of using olive wood, given the flavour it could potentially deliver to your food.
This is the truly exciting part of using a wood-fired pizza oven – not only does it produce the most traditional-tasting thin-crust pizzas, but you also have the flavour input of the wood you use for the fire, and the freedom to change this in order to alter the flavour of the cooked dish.
It truly is an exciting, rugged, and rewarding way of cooking.
Just make sure you follow the tips above regarding your wood fuel, and you too can be enjoying delicious food from your own wood-fired pizza oven.
Check out our recipes page for more ideas on how to get adventurous with your wood-fired pizza oven.