How you bake your pizza will directly impact the quality of the pie on your plate.
While you can cook pizza serviceably in a gas or electric oven, if you use a traditional wood-fired pizza oven. It’s only with a dedicated pizza oven that you’ll achieve the searing temperatures you need to perfectly char the crust of your Neapolitan.
Now for the good news: setting up a classic wood-fired pizza oven isn’t that hard, and it needn’t be intimidating. Beyond this, you’ll be able to cook so much more than pizza if you invest in one of these powerful and highly capable wood-fired ovens. From baking breads and roasting meats through to racking up fish or veggies, imagination is your only limitation.
A pizza oven is equipped with a domed ceiling and a circular base. The heat is reflected down from that ceiling to more efficiently cook your food. The floor of the oven allows for a neatly organized space when you’re cooking.
These ovens allow the door to remain open during the cooking process. You’ll need to keep a fire stoked inside, though, or the oven will cool down. This allows you to turn and move your pizza around as it cooks. The circular design of the oven floor means you can keep the fire offset to one side – at the point where the roof slopes down – and this will leave the majority of the oven floor free for your pizza.
Now, assuming you’re prepared to invest in a wood-fire oven, maybe you’re concerned that using it will be beyond you. Don’t let this fear put you off, though, as using a wood-fired oven to create first-class pizza really isn’t that hard.
How to Cook Pizza in Your Wood-Fired Oven in 6 Easy Steps
- Making your pizza dough
- Heating and preparing your oven
- Cooking your pizza
- Topping your pizza
- Placing your pizza into the wood-fired oven
- Slicing and serving your pie
1) Making your pizza dough
The key to a great pizza is using the best possible pizza dough.
While it’s possible to buy decent pre-made pizza dough, you could very easily make your own pizza dough at home. While the overall process is reasonably time-consuming, the largest part of that time is waiting for the dough to rise.
If you have no idea how to go about this, check out our guide to making pizza dough at home.
Once you have mastered the basics, part of the fun of making pizza dough is adding your own twist. Whether that’s simply adding a glug of olive oil, or going all-in with focaccia crusts, feel free to experiment.
When your dough has finally risen, you should stretch it out so it’s shaped in a 12 to 14-inch circle. All you need is to pack plenty of patience.
2) Heating and preparing your oven
As the dough is rising, this is the perfect time to start preparing your oven.
Use several sticks and create a fire in the center of your pizza oven. Allow this to burn.
The soot inside the oven will vaporize when the temperature hits 700F. When all this soot is completely burned off, your oven is hot enough for your pizza.
Expect this phase of preheating to take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours or more, depending on the type of pizza oven you have.
As soon as the oven is up to temperature, use a scraper with a long metal handle to shepherd the coals over to one side of the oven. You should also use a brush with metal bristles to sweep up any ash from the floor. While some purists suggest wiping the oven floor with a damp cloth, this will simply reduce the heat, so avoid this.
By adding a stick of well-seasoned hardwood at 10-minute intervals, you’ll maintain a consistent temperature in your pizza oven.
To monitor the temperature inside your pizza oven, you should buy an oven-safe thermometer.
3) Cooking your pizza
When you’re shaping your pizza dough you should use your hands. If you use a rolling pin for this job, you’ll end up with a disc that’s thin and tough.
Also, work your pizza dough quickly. Overhandling the dough tends to make it tough.
Take a dough ball and leave the other balls covered. Place it onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Dust your hands with flour, too. Ensure the disc is at least 8 inches across before you start handling the rim.
Use both hands to lift and rotate your disc of dough then return it to the work surface. Make sure the unpressed side is facing up. Keep stretching the dough until it measures 12 inches across.
4) Topping your pizza
You should resist the temptation to go over the top when it comes to pizza toppings.
A classic margherita is topped with tomatoes, basil, and buffalo-milk mozzarella.
Feel free to add any other toppings to taste, but avoid using too many or it will weigh your pizza down and lead to uneven cooking.
Now it’s time for the main event: how to cook pizza in a wood-fired oven.
5) Placing your pizza into the wood-fired oven
You should use a pizza peel to help you more easily place your pie into your wood-fired pizza oven.
Make sure you lightly dust your paddle with flour and then jerk it quickly to transfer your pie to the floor of the pizza oven.
You’ll see the crust start to puff up and cook within less than a minute. This is where you benefit from that lengthy preheating time. This is also why placing a pizza into a cold oven is a recipe for a soggy and unappetizing disaster.
After 30 to 40 seconds, slide your pizza peel under your pie and flip it through 180 degrees. Resist the urge to move your pizza to another area of the oven, as it could burn if you do this.
Pizzas are cooked in as little as 90 seconds using a traditional and authentic wood-fired oven.
6) Slicing and serving your pie
With the wait over, it’s time to slice your pizza and kick back with a movie.
We would strongly recommend picking up a pizza cutter for this job. You’ll get crisper and cleaner cuts without damaging the crust or the toppings.
As a final tip, if you have any pizza dough leftover, or if you like to make larger batches, you can easily freeze pizza dough for later use.
We very much hope today’s brief guide has showed you how to easily cook pizza in a wood-fired oven to the extent that you’re tempted to buy yourself a wood-fired oven this summer.
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