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How to clean a pizza oven

It is normal when cooking in any oven that spills or stains occur, but when cooking in a wood fired pizza oven you also have the issue of cleaning out the ashes after use. To ensure your pizza oven continues to work properly and deliver you flavoursome foods time and time again you need to clean your oven regularly. Whether that’s wiping down the exterior, removing any debris or scrubbing the stone, we’ve put together a handy guide on how to clean your pizza oven properly. Cleaning a pizza oven may seem common sense but it does differ from cleaning a normal kitchen oven – there are things you can’t do and chemicals you can’t use. If you don’t follow the correct advice when cleaning you could damage your oven or potentially harm yourself when cooking in it after. In this guide, we look at the dos and don’ts and explain why they are important to follow. 

Cleaning inside the pizza oven

This may sound strange but before cleaning your oven, raise the temperature and let it continue to burn for an additional 30 minutes. This will burn off any debris so you can scrape it out of the oven easier later.

The most important thing when cleaning a pizza oven is to ensure it is cool first. While there are some tasks you can do while the oven is cooking – e.g. removing any spills or debris with a long-handed brush, in order to clean your oven properly it is better to wait for it to completely cool. Pizza ovens reach high temperatures and you risk injury by not giving them enough time to cool. Please be aware that some pizza oven types take longer to cool than others. For example, clay and stainless steel are better insulators and so can hold heat for longer periods than brick.

When the oven is cool, use a scraper to scratch off any residue on the stones. If you’ve burned the oven at the highest temperature this should come off relatively easy. You should then be able to remove any debris with a brush. Alternatively, you could use a handheld vacuum cleaner to make sure all remnants have been removed. You should remove any ash or spills on a daily basis, if you don’t you risk a build-up of smoke which will cause ventilation problems and will also increase the chances of burning your food. 

How to clean the pizza stone

How often you clean the stone will depend on its condition and how often you use the stone. If your stone is covered in cheese and sauces it’s pretty obvious you will need to give it a wipe down after use. If you don’t have any spills you will only need to give it a clean once a week if you use it regular or once every five uses.

Firstly, you need to allow the stone to cool down fully after use. If you attempt to clean a hot stone you may burn your hands but you also risk causing cracks in the stone. If you wanted to remove it from your oven to quicken the cooling process you should use heat resistant gloves and place the stone on a heatproof surface.

If you have burnt on pieces of food stuck to the stone use a plastic spatula to gently scrape them off. Be careful not to use abrasive materials or scrub too vigorously as you may scratch the stone.

If you’ve spilled liquids or have hard to remove stains on the stones inside the oven you will need to get a scrubbing brush and hot water to clean. Don’t use any soap or cleaning products when trying to remove stains as the stone may absorb these chemicals and transfer to your food when cooking. Instead hot water and a brush should do the job. Ideally when cleaning you will use as little as water as necessary. Excess water trapped in the stone can cause cracks to appear when cooking. You will need to ensure your stone is thoroughly dry before cooking again after cleaning.  

If you can’t remove your stains or lift the burnt food pieces using the method above you can try soaking or washing your pizza stone with baking soda. As pizza stones can easily soak up water, soaking would be a last resort, it takes quite a while to ensure the stone has dried completely so we recommend you wait at least a week before using again. You could also try cleaning with a baking soda paste as opposed to just plain water. Mix an equal amount of baking soda and water together in a bowl until you get a thick paste. It will help to lift any tough substances from the stone but won’t pass any chemicals. Apply the paste to the problem areas of the stone and use a brush to gently scrub the stains. If it doesn’t remove it, wipe clean, apply more paste and scrub again. It is important to ensure you wipe the stone clean of any baking soda traces and to make sure it is dry before use. It may take a couple of days to try thoroughly. 

Cleaning the outside of the pizza oven

Cleaning the exterior of your pizza oven is dependent on the material your oven is built from. Bricks and stone won’t easily rust and they won’t show dirt easily. You may however have to cure a brick or stone oven every now and again to ensure no cracks occur. Stainless steel ovens however may be subject to rust, they will also show smudges and fingerprints quite easily.

Stainless steel pizza ovens

Stainless steel is one of those materials in which will display even the faintest marks. Smudges and fingerprints are the norm with these types of outdoor ovens and while this may not bother you as much if you use your pizza oven for home use, in a commercial environment you will probably have to wipe down the shell of your oven on a daily basis. As smudges are easier to create than get rid of it is recommended you use a damp cloth only when wiping clean. Make sure the cloth isn’t too wet and after wiping you will need to take a dry microfibre cloth and buff the oven.

Brick/Stone pizza ovens

When you first build or purchase an oven made from bricks you will need to cure the oven to get rid of any moisture. If your oven contains a large percent of water and reaches high temperatures, the likelihood of cracks appearing is quite high. If there has been a large amount of rain, cold weather, or you haven’t used your oven in a while, you may want to heat your oven at a lower temperature an hour or two before use.

If you are keeping your oven outdoors and want to keep maintenance minimal we might recommend you look at pizza oven covers. Just as you would cover a barbecue to keep it in top condition you can also purchase covers for your pizza oven.

How often should you clean your pizza oven?

You should scrape out any debris and brush your oven clean on a daily basis. This prevents any larger build up and any deeper problems. In terms of cleaning the pizza stone you should do this properly once a week although if any spills happen and you want to continue using the oven clean immediately. If you leave it and continue to burn the oven the stains will be more difficult to remove. The longer you have a pizza oven stone the more discolouring you will start to notice. This is normal and not a problem although if you clean the stone regularly and deal with any spills early these stains can be limited.

In regard to the exhaust stack you should clean this properly once a month (providing you use it on a regular basis, if you only use it for home use every now again this time frame will be a lot longer) to ensure the oven is safe to use. Soot can build up in the flue and unless this is cleared can block ventilation and become somewhat of a fire hazard. Cleaning the exhaust is a very similar process to sweeping a chimney so if you know what you’re doing you can do it yourself. It is recommended however you seek professional advice.