Wood-fired pizzas have a rich historical and cultural heritage. The use of wood-fired ovens for baking bread and pizzas dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in various culinary traditions worldwide. The aroma of the wood smoke and the warmth of the oven has long been a focal point for many social gatherings where people can come together to share in the delicious feast. Wood-fired pizzas offer a distinct taste and texture that is difficult to replicate with other cooking methods. Additionally, their fast cooking times make them a popular and practical choice when you lots of mouth to feed! However, mastering the art can take time, so we have put together some top tips to get you well on the way to being a culinary whizz!
1. Kiln-Dried Hardwood
Using quality firewood is essential to mastering the authentic wood-fired pizza flavours. Kiln-dried Hardwoods are recommended for use in your pizza oven as they burn hot as well as imparting delicious, natural flavours.
2. Firewood Placement
Make sure you arrange the firewood so as to promote good airflow and an even heat distribution. Create a hot central area for cooking the pizzas and a cooler side for resting and preparation.
3. Preheat the Oven
Pre-heating the woodfired oven is crucial to success. Allow the firewood to burn until you have a sufficient bed of hot coals and the oven reaches the desired temperature, usually around 370-480°C.
4. Stretch the Dough
Stretch the pizza dough into a thin, even round shape. Work the dough gently, being careful not to press out the air bubbles, as they contribute to a light and airy crust. Practice makes perfect with dough, so don’t be disheartened if you first couple of attempts aren’t quite to your liking.
5. Simple, Quality Toppings
Go lightly when adding toppings so as not to overwhelm the pizza with too many ingredients. Choose a few complementary, high quality toppings that allow the flavours to infuse, without weighing down the crust.
6. Use a Pizza Peel
A pizza peel is a long-handled wooden or metal paddle used for sliding pizzas in and out of the oven. Sprinkle the peel with flour or semolina to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the stretched dough on the peel before adding toppings to ensure a smooth transfer to the hot oven.
7. Monitor Cooking Time
Wood-fired pizzas cook very quickly, usually in just a few minutes. That means it is essential to keep a close eye on the pizza while it’s cooking, rotating it occasionally to ensure even browning.
8. Embrace the Charred Crust
The wood-fired oven’s intense heat produces a charred and blistered crust that adds flavour and texture to the pizza. Embrace the char as it brings authenticity and character to your wood-fired pizza. However, be careful not to over do it as it can leave a bitter after taste.
9. Let It Rest
By now, your mouth will be watering, but if you can refrain from tucking in straight away, the pizza benefits from a brief rest. During this time the flavours meld, and it helps the pizza hold its shape when sliced. It also prevents the toppings from sliding off immediately.
10. Get To Know Your Pizza Oven
Every wood-fired oven behaves differently, so take time to experiment and understand its nuances. Learn to adjust the firewood placement, oven temperature, and cooking time to achieve the desired results.