Pizza Oven Operation Guide
Do Not leave the pizza oven unattended while burning wood in the oven
Do Not overload the oven. Smaller fires are best for even heat distribution
Never pour water on or in the oven while hot - this will crack the oven
TIPS and tricks to a great tasting pizza
Begin With the Right Wood
Use seasoned (meaning air-dried) hardwoods for your fires — never pine or other conifers. Seasoned hardwoods like oak, maple, beech, birch, hickory, ash and walnut burn at higher temperatures so your oven heats faster. And unlike conifers such as pine, cedar, spruce and fir, hardwoods don’t emit sap (which can gum up your oven) or terpenes (which can result in unpleasant odors and funky-tasting food).
Start the Fire
The oven takes 2 - 4 hours to heat, so start your fire early. Working in the center of the oven floor, start your fire with kindling. This is the one time pine wood is okay to use, though crumpled-up newspaper works as well. Add a few pieces of hardwood on top of the kindling, and light the fire with a cube or bundle of non-toxic fire starter. Never add scrap wood like particleboard, plywood or other treated woods, even if it’s just to get the fire going.
Keep the Fire Going
Once the fire gets going, add a few pieces of hardwood at a time to keep up a lively but not roaring flame. Keep the oven door open during this phase so plenty of oxygen can enter. Use wood that’s no more than two to three inches in diameter — it will burn more quickly and help the oven heat up faster. Keep the fire in the center of the oven. Do Not leave the oven unattended during this time!
Distribute the Heat Evenly
How much wood you need to burn depends on how long you plan to cook and how many pizzas you want to make. Push the burning wood and embers to the left or right side of the oven, or divide between both sides, and make sure there’s always at least a little bit of flame to the fire — you don’t want just smoldering embers.
To ensure an evenly-heated cooking surface, it is recommended to spread a layer of red-hot charcoal with an oven rake over the center of the oven, where the pizzas will cook. Close the door for about 10 to 15 minutes and let the embers go to work heating up the cooking slab.
Cool Down the Oven, If Needed
At first, the oven deck may be too hot to cook. Once you’ve pushed the embers aside, do a quick test by tossing a handful of flour on the surface. If the flour catches fire or burns black right away, the surface is too hot and will burn your pizzas. Correct this by leaving the oven door open for 20 minutes or so, then trying the flour test again. In the unlikely event that your cooking surface becomes too cool, reheat it with another layer of embers.
The safest way to clean the pizza oven is to let it cool down completely, even overnight. Using metal dustpan and a brush, scoop the cooled ash, embers and wood refuse out of the oven. For cleaning any spots of baked-on food, only use a brass or copper brush head because other metals will damage the stone or brick heating surface. There’s no reason to introduce water into a brick or masonry wood-fired oven. Do not leave food scraps or dirty dishes in the longhouse overnight. This attracts rodents which are a problem on the docks.
Remove the ashes and put into the fire pit
It won’t take many firings for you to accumulate quite a pile of wood ash. Gather ash in the metal pan under the bar-b-que. Rich in lime and potassium, wood ash is a great fertilizer and can also be put into the outhouse. If you use it, clean it!
Lastly, check the wood bins in the longhouse, and if required, please stock the bins with wood from the fire pit.