6 Secrets for Great Wood-Fired Pizza
With the right fire building skills, your wood-fired pizza oven can achieve extremely high temperatures that far exceed those found in the typical kitchen oven. This difference is just part of the appeal of wood ovens, but it does mean pizza recipes and cooking strategies have to adapt to the recommended cooking temperatures that range from 600 to 900 degrees F.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at six secrets for great wood-fired pizza.
- Make the dough.
Pizza dough needs time to rest to achieve the right density and texture. The entire process can take three hours or more, so you may want to prepare dough early in the day or the night before. There are numerous recipes, but many chefs favor fine Italian or white bread flour for light, tender and crispy crusts.
- Start the fire.
Build the fire in advance, since it can take one to two hours to achieve the desired oven temperature. Once the fire is burning to your satisfaction, shift your attention to food preparation. Consider investing in a hand-held laser thermometer to more accurately gauge oven temperature.
- Pick a baking surface.
You can “bare bake” pizza on the oven floor, but some cooks prefer to use a baking stone or baking steel engineered for high-temperature cooking. Place the stone or steel in the bottom of the oven until it’s thoroughly heated and cook the pizzas directly on it for dough seared to crusty perfection without ashy residue.
- Limit toppings.
The better the sauce and cheese the better the end result, so choose accordingly and apply sauce sparingly to avoid soggy crusts. Experts recommend restraint, suggesting only two or three additional toppings. Distribute them evenly over the pizza surface and avoid heaping them in the center, because the edges will be crisp and done long before mounded toppings cook.
- Stay put.
Use a peel to rotate pizzas to make sure they cook evenly in the center and on all sides. Don’t get distracted or walk away: They cook in as little as two to eight minutes depending on their size and the oven temperature.
- Make notes.
To perfect your wood-fired pizza making skills, do what the pros do: Log relevant details such as wood type, oven temperature, cooking time, ingredients used and other key details. These notes will help you refine your technique, so you can produce fabulous wood-fired pizza every time.