All You Need to Know About Pizza Ovens

5476
About Pizza Ovens
Photo by lasse bergqvist on Unsplash.com

At the end of a hectic day, that’s when the cheese cravings strike! There’s nothing you can do but reach for the phone to order your favorite pizza. 

You know it would take less than thirty minutes to reach you, but wouldn’t it be great if you could bite into it freshly baked, toasty golden-brown crust, soft and juicy with bubbly strands of melted cheese and crisp toppings, straight out of the oven?

The best part of homemade is knowing that it wouldn’t carve a slice out of your monthly budget. 

While there are many differences between the commercially made and the homemade, you can’t deny that there are huge advantages in using fresh ingredients and a clean and hygienic cooking environment. 

History of Pizza

Most cultures worldwide have some form of flatbread, and many of them have been eaten with toppings since ancient times.

Legend has it that pizza was born when Persian soldiers fighting for their king Darius the Great in the 6th century baked flatbread with dates and cheese on the surface of their battle shields! You can read more about it here.

The Ancient Greeks stepped in with their version of flatbread known as “plakous” topped with herbs, cheese, onions, and garlic – as close to the modern pizza as you can get. 

The Chinese “bing,” the Indian “paratha,” Asian “naan,” and “roti” are very similar, and open pies such as the quiche are variations on a common theme. In the 16th century in Naples, flatbreads with toppings were sold on the streets to poor people, 

Another culinary legend attributes the birth of the Margherita pizza to honor Margherita of Savoy, the consort of the king of Italy. This now-classic recipe uses the same ingredients – tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese which are the colors of the Italian flag. 

You’ll be surprised to know that pizza toppings were largely sweet until well into the 19th century, and only by 1927 were pizzas exclusively savory in nature. 

What’s The Mystique Behind Perfect Pizza?

Is it the secret sauce? Pungent garlic or fragrant herbs? Or the olive oil, mozzarella from Naples, sun-dried tomatoes?

The deep, dark mystery to a great pizza lies in the crust – and that’s where the home cook falters. Our ovens don’t reach the optimum temperature of 800 F that the commercial pizza oven can. To get that rich tawny gold crust, it takes intense, perfectly distributed heat on the crust’s surface that crisps without scorching the toppings. 

You could, of course, use your grill or backyard BBQ oven, but most often, you’ll find that the toppings are left under-done while the base gets cremated!

The solution is a purpose-designed pizza oven that uses reflective heat to bake the toppings while baking the crust to perfection. You can use regular logs if you have the space for a large outdoor pizza oven or opt for wood pellets in a portable table-top model. 

All About Pizza Ovens

Your pizza oven can be the glorious centerpiece in your backyard cook-out space or patio, and you’ll find that it enables family bonding time as nothing else can! 

Pizza Ovens
Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash.com

Traditionally, the pizza oven is a free-standing dome-shaped masonry structure fueled by wood, coal, or gas. It usually has a ceramic, stone, or brick floor used as the cooking surface. This floor pulls the moisture out of the dough as the oven reaches the intense temperatures needed to crisp the crust.  

Gas and coal ovens are also available in table-top models with a reflective top to radiate heat downwards onto the topping. You can also find portable models that use other fuel types such as wood chips, wood pellets, or charcoal. 

For pizza connoisseurs, wood-fired pizzas are the absolute pinnacle of the art. Wood fueled stoves are used in a traditional pizzeria and heated by wood burned over a flat cooking surface. Once the desired temperature is achieved, the burning wood is removed to allow the pizza to cook on the searingly hot surface. That’s how you get that unmatched smoky taste, which you don’t find in pizza cooked on gas/coal/electric fueled stoves. 

These stoves are larger, need lots of space and ventilation, with proper safety measures. They are not portable, very heavy, and are semi-permanent fixtures in your yard. For these reasons, portable table-top models were invented so that you don’t burn the house down. The flip side is that you lose out on flavor and authenticity. 

Using Wood Pellets In Pizza Ovens

Wood is used for cooking pizzas because it traps smoke as it cooks, enhancing the subtle flavors of meats, cheese, and sauces. It reaches high temperatures quite fast, so the ingredients retain their individual flavors better. The proteins are not lost because of the intense heat that seals the surface of the meat very quickly. 

Traditional logs can be substituted quite well with wood pellets. These are compressed pellets made of organic materials, including tree bark, sawdust, virgin timber, wood shavings, and other discarded wood products. 

They are a great product to use as fuel for your pizza oven, especially if you have a smaller portable one. Most portable ovens have a compartment with a feeder attachment to hold the pellets. You can get them at most hardware stores, camping/outdoor cooking sections in departmental stores, and you can also order them online. 

Ensure that you read the labels to know the type of wood they’re manufactured from. This is a cheaper, cleaner, and easier method of cooking a wood-fired pizza. Make sure that you carefully check the labels so that no chemical binding agents or additives are used in the manufacturing process. 

Dedicated portable pellet-fueled ovens don’t need electrical power and can be used anywhere. 

The Right Wood Pellets To Use

There are commercially available wood pellets exclusively manufactured for pizza ovens and grills. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you can always produce your own in small quantities at home. 

It’s important to use pellets made from hardwood, as they burn more evenly and they burn cleanly, without much ash residue. Some wood pellets available commercially are a mix of soft and hardwoods, and these should be avoided because they don’t burn evenly.

You can choose hardwood chips made from oak, birch, maple, or hickory. Another option is mesquite, cherry, apple, or pecan fruitwoods.

Burning wood gives off its own unique flavors, and woods such as mesquite add a Southern flavor, while others provide a delicious fruity or nutty fragrance that adds to the appeal of your pizza. For instance, the most commonly found chips are made from beech, and they’re good to use because they burn fast and evenly, adding a mildly smoky fragrance that blends well with the flavors of your pizza toppings. 

You have to ensure that the pellets are lit from the top, unlike traditional logs in a fire or cooker. The fire has to be built from the bottom so that the heat remains intense, consistent, and long-lasting. Pellets can last through 7-12 hours of continuous cooking. 

Want to read more of our latest posts? Check out these 4 tips on crafting a great delivery menu.