Wood Burning Ovens

November 4, 2007 13 Comments

Wood Burning Ovens

We Love Our Wood Burning Oven

My wife always wanted an outdoors pizza oven so this summer we had a wood burning oven built as part of our patio. I was a little “reluctant” because I thought, “How many pizzas does she think we will be eating?”

I have since learned there is a lot more to a wood burning oven than just pizza. You can bake bread, roast meat and chicken (I may try to roast our turkey this Thanksgiving), braise, just about anything you can do in a conventional oven.

We purchased our oven from Wildwood Ovens and I just posted an interview I did with Michael Gerard, the Chef/Owner who has been teaching me how to cook in my oven. The first time I tried making pizza was a disaster. My wood was wet and I couldn’t get it hot enough. The next experience went much better. My pizza still needs work, but I braised some short ribs overnight that were incredible.

If you want to learn about the advantages of cooking in a wood-burning oven and read some of Michael’s tips on how to do it right, check out my Novice2Pro Interview with Michael Gerard.

What Makes Cooking In A Wood Burning Oven Better?

According to Michael, making pizza in a wood burning oven is better because, “The higher temperatures afforded by our ovens (700º F), cause rapid rise spring to the dough, this produces a crust that has dimension and structure, crispy on the edges and bottom and tender and forgiving on the inside. Bubbles and air pockets run through our crust, many describe as light as air.

According to Alton Brown in his great reading cookbook and a must for home cooks, I’m Just Here For The Food, he thinks the advantage to roasting anything in a earthen oven is even heat distribution. He says with traditional metal ovens, “it’s almost impossible to get all this heat into the food evenly. Some ovens are better at it than others, but I’ve never seen a metal oven that roasts as well as a pile of dirt (be it in the form of clay, ceramic tile, or what have you).”

He goes on to describe how a metal oven cannot generate heat beyond 500º F or retain heat; only reflect it off its walls. A clay or earthen oven can be heated up to 700 degrees and will radiate the heat evenly over time thus roasting foods that taste better.

Chef Brown even shows you how you can build your own miniature makeshift clay oven in your kitchen oven using firebricks. You get the bricks really hot by using the self-clean setting, then turn off the oven and roast your food. He does mention he has not found a single manufacturer condoning this technique but if interested, you should check out I’m Just Here For The Food.

I have not roasted anything in my oven yet but you can be sure when I do I will be letting you know if I can taste the difference. I did braise short ribs with some onion, fennel, tomatoes and brown stock that was incredible.

After making some pizza at 700º F, I let the oven cool down to around 500º F and put in my Le Creuset enameled cast iron oval French pot filled with short ribs I prepared in the house, covered the front opening of the oven and let them cook all night with just the heat held by the oven.

When I woke up the next morning, the short ribs were tender and after removing most of the fat rendered from the meat, I had a wonderful, flavorful sauce. I can’t wait to try some other braises. I will post some recipes once I get a little better at this style of cooking.

My Le Creuset 6¾ quart enamel pot has a handle on the cover made of heat resistant plastic that Le Creuset says should not be used in oven temps higher than 450º F so I removed the handle from the cover and used a layer of aluminum foil under the cover to help seal it. It seemed to work just fine.

Last modified on Wed 30 July 2014 10:00 am

Filed in: Large Appliances

Comments (13)

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  1. Frank Mazzuca says:

    Hi there…I am one of Michael’s (Wildwood Wood Fired Ovens)biggest Fans in Kleinburg Ontario Canada. We have been enjoying our Oven for the last 3 months with glee…. love love love it. I photographed the “making of” the oven and shoot all the food I make to log a journal of levels….love it. Just ask Michael about us….we even went down to CAL to cook with him in his outdoor test kitchen….Frank

  2. Mark Graban says:

    I agree with you completely. My wife and I put in a wood burning oven (from Forno Bravo) in our Texas backyard about a year ago, we love it. Pizza, roasted foods (chicken, meatballs in a La Cruset, bread), it all turns out great.

    mypizzaoven.blogspot.com has links to photos and stuff

  3. ray Collins says:

    We have just rebuilt our traditional oven in Arodes, a village in Cyprus. Great fun for involving all the family in cooking good food. See the pictures of cooking our Easter Flaones (Cheese pies)

  4. joan cornell says:

    Hi, My husband has built a clay oven here on Cape Cod. He wants me to make more home made bread. Being an experience colonial cook I have baked in a brick oven many times but find that our clay oven seems to be hotter. So we keep trying. I would like to find a good recipe for multi grain and seeded bread to use instead of the traditional white. To guess at the temperature we stick our arm in the oven and if we can count to 10 we think we have the right temperature but it still seems too hot, we still burn our bread. Any ideas?

  5. mario says:

    Hi, I built a portable brick oven here in south carolina the temp. that it reach 1200 their was a function at a near college that requested my pizza and the amount of pizzas was at the end of the event 85 yes 85 pizzas in a 4 hour period and my family met the challange head on and my pizza oven did great I could only make a 12″ pizza we had a ball with over 200 students they had never seen a portable oven it was great.

  6. bill nutter says:

    Mario, would be very interested in how you built this oven. Could you give me some information. thanks Bill

    Hi Bill, the oven was purchased from Wildwood ovens and shipped to us in a big crate. It was then built into a concrete foundation designed by my contractor and me. There are many important steps you have to take to make sure it’s properly insulated and structurally strong enough to hold the actual oven but the oven company sends you all that. RG

  7. Wood Fired Pizza Ovens says:

    Wood burning oven is very convenient to use as you can bake bread, roast meat and chicken very easily with excellent taste. Thanks for sharing wonderful post.

  8. Jason says:

    My wife and I purchased a wood burning pizza oven and we purchased it with the thought of going green but it also enhanced flavors and food quality like you wouldn’t believe. I recommend the alfaovens which we bought the traditional one and its great.

  9. Peter says:

    I just built a wood burning oven still trying to make some tools ( its winter and not the right time for me to lite it up) I can’t wait to try some of your recieps I read – – as I move along I would love to share.

    Hey Peter, would love to try some of your recipes. You can email them to me from my web site. I have found you can use your oven just like you would in the house only managing the heat is a little tricky but for braising, it’s a breeze. Look forward to hearing from you. – RG

  10. Peter says:

    Oh yea I live in NJ Mild winter so far but not exactly summer – – I live at the Jersey Shore — so this is going to be real nice in the summer and fall – – – -Having a little trouble thinking about how to finish the hearth opening – – – – – I was thinking about using sea shells ( we are at the beach) but I thought the smoke would reaslly stain the shells – — I would love some ideas

  11. Lisa says:

    We are a new company that offers an affordable and easy to assemble wood fired oven. You can be up and baking in just 2 hours! I also write a blog with the many foods I have made wood fired. Cooking with a wood fired oven is so much more then pizza!

  12. Dave says:

    Peter, shells will work fine and yes they probably will darken but after all it is a WFO. If your oven opening is proportional to your dome height (63%) you probably won’t have much of a problem

  13. Wes says:

    I have had my wood fired oven for 6 months, and use it a lot. Last night I fired it up for pizzas, then let the oven cool a bit and made pretzels, the best I have ever had. Finally, I roasted a pork loin, that was marinated in a brown sugar whiskey marinade, it was caramelized on top in 20 minutes, I flipped it over for another 20 minutes and it was done. The Floor temp was 550 f and with the door closed about 700 f. There is so much you can do in a WFO in one night.

    Thanks Wes, would love to compare notes sometime. – RG

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