How to build a wood fire in your pizza oven
The best wood for use in your pizza oven is Iron Bark or Black or Grey Box as they burn very regular which helps with temperature control, and slow which means it will retain the heat for longer. However you can use other types of high density hard wood, as long as it has not previously been painted or treated, and always make sure the wood you use is well seasoned and thus very dry. There are some woods you do need to avoid such as pine and cypress etc. And we do not recommend using wood from hardware stores or fuel stations. They are ok for fire pits and such, but just not for wood fired ovens.
Prepare the wood: small to medium-sized branches or smaller wood chops to start up the fire, and thicker branches and logs to keep the fire going. The smaller branches and wood chops burn quickly and then light the larger branches underneath. The bigger pieces and logs are useful to maintain the temperature without having to continuously add wood to the fire. Be careful not to use anything else than wood or wood of dubious origin because your food would inevitably be polluted. Even to light the fire: do not use firelighters, newspapers or magazines as they contain chemicals and thus are not suitable for use in cooking areas.
Then, build a “castle” of wood in the center of the pizza oven by placing the larger pieces at the base and the smaller pieces on top (see pictures). In wet conditions it is necessary to reduce the size of the pieces of wood. Bear in mind that in winter and in wet seasons it will be harder to light a fire, but in summer it becomes extremely easy and there’s no need to put the wood inside the oven to let it dry a little.
To light the fire without any hassle see our fire torch in Accessories.
Once the fire is lit, you should keep adding a bigger log every now and then to maintain a lively fire for at least 30 minutes. Then you move the fire to one side and keep it going more moderately now for another 30 minutes, meanwhile you start preparing the cooking area in the pizza oven by scooping and brushing ash and coals to the fire. Generally you can start cooking when the flames are weakened and the walls of the pizza oven turned grayish to white. But before putting in the food remove ashes by blowing through a pipe of about 1 meter. This is only necessary for food that you place directly on the oven floor, like pizza, focaccia, breads.
The total heat up time depends a lot on the wood you use: the higher density hard wood will heat up your pizza oven faster then a “softer” hard wood. Don’t get the wood in bags from hardware stores or from fuel stations as that is wood for heaters and it won’t get your oven hot enough. If you don’t know where to buy good high density hardwood, just ask you local pizzeria where they buy their wood from (if they have a wood fired pizza oven that is…). We can give you some addresses for the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne area, just ask us.
For wood fired cooking, log sizes of 5-8cm by around 25cm long are the best to avoid overheating the oven. Un-split pieces do not burn as well and tend to go black on the outside before going out altogether.
After cooking, when the oven is at about 120 to 130 degrees and the fire is extinguished, put some wood opposite from the coals and leave it there to dry for your next cooking. Especially handy during wet seasons.
My-Woodfiredoven provides you with more detailed instructions and tips with the purchase of your pizza oven. It explains the different ways of building and maintaining the fire specifically for baking pizza, for baking breads, for cooking roasts and stews.
You will see how easy it is once you “get it in your fingers”.