Pick Your Wood
What wood you use in your wood-fired pizza oven matters. If you’ve noticed that your oven just doesn’t get as hot as it should, or tends to smoke a lot, chances are, you need to change your fuel. The best pizza comes from a hot, smokeless fire and it’s easier than you might think to get that.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
Hardwood trumps softwood, hands down. Hardwood tends to be a bit pricier, but it’s well worth the expense. After all, it will burn longer than softwood, so it all works out in the end. Most importantly, hardwood burns very hot and, when properly aged, is nearly smokeless.
Look for wood that has been kiln-dried and is meant for burning. It’s never a good idea to use treated or laminated wood in your wood-fired pizza oven. It may seem like a good way to save if you toss in old flooring, or painted wood from a construction project, but it’s not. You could end up with some pretty nasty toxins in the pizza, which is not only unhealthy but ruins the flavor.
Best Hardwoods for Pizza Ovens
Now you know to look for hardwood, but which varieties are best?
Oak: This type of hardwood is the simplest to find in most areas and it is one of the hottest burning woods, as well. It will give you a nice, crisp crust on your pizza.
Apple: Fruitwoods are pretty popular, thanks to the added flavor that comes with it. Applewood burns nice and hot and gives your wood-fired pizza a lovely, subtle fragrance. Unfortunately, it can be tough to find apple wood, but if you get a chance to use it, grab some.
Maple: You can find maple wood just about anywhere. It’s a nice dry wood and burns very nicely for pizza ovens. It tends to be a little less costly than oak or fruitwoods.
Ash: Looking for a decent wood that will crisp up that pizza crust and heat the refractory bricks? Ash is the wood to get. It’s hot, long-lasting, and it is fairly easy to find. This is may not be the first pick, but if you’re looking for wood on a budget, it’s an excellent choice.
Cherry: Another fruitwood, cherry can be pricey, but again, it lends flavor to the food. It is a fairly hot burning wood, but you may need to look for thicker logs in order to get the same heat as oak.
Hickory: We usually think of hickory as a wood for smoking and that’s thanks to its lovely aroma when burned. In the pizza oven, you’ll be using full logs and it will be dry, so you won’t get the hickory smoked flavor, but it still imparts a lingering flavor to the pizza that gives it that special touch.
Try a few different types of wood out and see which you prefer for your pizza baking. There are plenty of options to test and you never know when you’ll find the perfect choice for your wood-fired pizza oven.