How do our ovens work?
OK that sounds obvious, you put wood in, light it and it gets hot. Well yes that’s basically it. But it helps to understand what is going on in your oven to be able to get the best from it. Lighting up is very simple. The basic rule to success is dry wood. You will never get a fast and easy light up if your wood is damp. Technically speaking below 20% moisture content. There are a couple of methods that work well. The Teepee and the Log Cabin. Fairly self explanatory. lighting1 In the middle of the oven start with a fire lighter and build up with kindling ending with larger sections. Use plenty of dry timber and get a good bonfire going at this point. Let the fire build adding more wood as needed until cooking temperature is reached.
Heat up can take as little as half an hour if conditions are very warm and the oven dry. Up to a couple of hours at the start of the season when the oven may be damp or when new. Once you reach around 400c you are ready. Well how do you know its near 400C?..good question. You can of course using one of our infrared thermometers check the temperature directly. But a good clue is to look at the ceiling of the dome. The soot that is created as the oven is heating up will start to burn off as it approaches working temperature. Once this happens you can be fairly sure you are hot. lighting2 Now slide the burning timbers to one side. Its a good idea to alternate sides from time to time to ensure an even heat pattern in the oven. After a few minutes, the flames will start to lick up and around the dome. Fairly soon they will arch all the way around to the opposite side of the oven. The soot should by now be burning off nicely. lighting4 Now you are ready to cook! Let the base cool off a little, about 350, and you are ready to make pizza. Its a good idea to make a flat bread first, garlic bread is ideal, just to test the temperature.
- Reflected heat
- Convection heat
- Conductive heat
The three heating systems work together to cook a pizza in 90 seconds. The wood smoke adding that special unique flavour!
Reflective –The flame from the live fire is “reflected” off the dome onto your pizza, baking the pizza from above, and fusing the sauce, cheese and oil to a wonderful rich brown color and deep flavor. This reflective heat is hot enough to “cook” a fresh tomato sauce on top of the pizza.
Conductive – We line our base with fire bricks. Like a storage heater the bricks will absorb heat, naturally the longer you leave it the hotter they get. This heat is released slowly once the fire is moved to the side. This high heat in contact with dries out and cooks the base at the same time.
Convection – Just like your oven at home, the ambient heat in the oven soaks into the food. This is the predominant heat that you use when making bread for example, once the oven is cooler.
How long does this take? If your oven is very dry and the ambient temperature warm you can be hot in as little as half an hour. If your oven is cold and in any way damp then it will take much much longer. Up to a couple of hours especially if its not been used for a while. If you want to be sure of getting up to heat quickly say for a party, light your oven early in the day and give it a short burn just to warm it up ready for lighting later on. This will help drive any mositure out and get the base warmed up. You need to get the oven to around 400C to start cooking. You can easily tell when this is achieved as the soot will start to burn off the dome.
Ash clear with the small peel
You will of course have lots of ash and embers on the cooking hearth, before you start cooking you have to get rid of these. If you have a hearth brush you can use this to “sweep” the hearth… We tend not to bother with a brush! Take a peel and use it like it were a fan bouncing it up and down on the hearth. This causes all the ash and debris to waft into the chamber and get carried out by the hot air. Ever so easy! Watch the pros in a restaurant this is an old trick!
Unique to our oven the fire bricks provide a barrier to the ash and keep it off the cooking area.
As the fire dies down add another log to keep things nice and hot. Little and often is the key. This is the time, if you have a selection, when you can use denser logs that take a little longer to burn. Remember pizzas like it hot! You can’t expect to maintain high heat levels unless you keep adding fuel as its expended. If you want to roast or bake then naturally you can let the flames reduce and along with it the temperature. This is also the time when you will want to use the oven door to maintain and control the heat level. Without the door the oven will of naturally cool down much quicker.