How to Cook in a Pizza Oven?

Cooking in a pizza oven has multiple benefits. They are spacious and can cook several dishes at once, they have the ability to reach soaring high temperatures and can cook your food faster than a conventional oven, and pizza ovens as a whole cook food more evenly, allowing you to cook everything to perfection.

How you cook in a pizza oven depends on one of two things, your fuel type and the food you are cooking. Let’s begin by looking at the different fuelled pizza ovens. You can choose between gas or wood fuelled pizza ovens, each has their own benefits.

How to cook in a gas fired pizza oven

Gas fired ovens are relatively new to the UK but they are a convenient cooking option. Rather than having to light a fire and monitor the temperature continuously when cooking you use a digital controller to select the temperature you want your oven to be at. Gas pizza ovens are great for consistency when cooking however they deceivingly do take longer to heat. Gas pizza ovens have a burner in the centre of the oven and while your dome and ceiling will heat relatively quick, unlike with a wood fired oven where the fire starts on the floor and then the heat rises, the floor of a gas pizza oven will often take longer to heat. You need to check this is the right temperature before cooking because otherwise you may be left with a soggy pizza base.

When you want to use a gas oven then use the controller to select the temperature and wait for the recommended time until your oven heats. Do remember to check the floor temperature however before starting to cook

How to cook in a wood fired pizza oven

Wood burning pizza ovens are the most traditional and most popular type of pizza oven. Outdoor cooking enthusiasts enjoy the smoky aromas that enrich your food after cooking in a wood burning oven. Wood fired pizza ovens do require a little more attention however when cooking. You need to light the oven and make sure the temperature for the oven is right when cooking.

Firing your oven

  1. Place some screwed pieces of paper (newspaper is fine) on the floor between two good-sized pieces of kindling (ensure it is dry!) placed lengthwise in the oven and light the paper with a match. 
  2. Place a handful of kindling across (perpendicular to) the first two pieces of kindling. 
  3. Once the kindling is well lit - place two split hardwood logs (not too big – about 4 or 5 cm diameter) across the kindling pile and top with one or two more once established and lit. Remember to maintain the crossing pattern so that the air can circulate through the wood – this is very important. 
  4. Push the woodpile deep into the oven with your pizza peel or poker. The fire should be just back of the centre of the oven. The flames should hit the top of the dome and cascade to the sides. 
  5. Let this fire burn for approximately 20 minutes, adding several more pieces of wood to keep a large rolling flame going. Your goal is to introduce an appropriate amount of heat into the oven and establish some red-hot coals. You need to burn wood in this manner until you see a small circle directly above the fire that is no longer black (carbon build up from the fire). This “white spot” is your indicator that the oven is ready. 

At this point you can either push the fire to the back of the oven, or to the side rear or around the perimeter of the oven. 

Outdoor pizza ovens should be very hot, keep an eye on your temperature gauge to ensure that the oven does not slip – if your temperature does start to drop, add a piece of wood and keep doing so until you reach the desired temperature.

Also bear in mind that on colder, damper days it will take longer to reach temperature and more logs to maintain it.

Once your oven is fired up and ready to use you can start putting the food you want to cook into the oven. You can place pans into the oven, leaving the handle slightly outside the exterior so you can easily lift, you can put pizzas on the stone or can use baking trays to cook also. Be careful when lifting things in and out of the oven. If you’re moving pizzas or bread in and out of the oven, we recommend you use a pizza peel; if you’re using casserole dishes or baking trays we recommend you use oven gloves for transferring in and out of oven.

The key thing to remember about cooking in any pizza oven is giving it enough time to heat properly. Pizza ovens are renowned for quick cooking times and evenly distributing heat but in order to benefit from this cooking experience you need to let it heat properly. 

Using your pizza oven as a rotisserie

Pizza ovens can be used to cook multiple dishes, not just pizza. Pizza ovens reach higher temperatures and cook evenly throughout so often people like to use their ovens to cook joints of meat – the easiest way to do this is by using a rotisserie.

There are multiple ways you can use your pizza oven as a rotisserie and this will be dependent on the type of oven you have. For example, some ovens already have holes in the walls so you can simply purchase a rotisserie and fit it into the oven. If your oven doesn’t accommodate rotisseries and is a material like stainless steel, adding holes to the walls yourself wouldn’t be advised. It could cause issues with the oven. Instead it would be recommended you create a rotisserie construct that you can place inside of the oven on the stone. If your oven was made from brick or stone you could drill into the walls and create holes for the rotisserie. Adding a rotisserie to the oven is a possibility, the type of oven will dictate however what method you use.

If your oven has premade holes, you can purchase electric or battery powered rotisseries. These rotisseries tend to all be a similar size so it’s just a case of installing. Electric or battery powered rotisseries are ideal as these take away the manual task of rotating the meat and continually watching your food to ensure it cooks evenly. Electric rotisseries make cooking more enjoyable. Normally when you build a rotisserie it will mean you have to manually turn the meat, however you may be able to build a stand to hold an electric rotisserie. When you place this in your oven it is recommended you position on top of a foil tray or baking tray. This will catch the juices and fat from your meat and are easier to clean than your pizza stone. Foil trays are perhaps less hassle as you can dispose of them after use. 

Cooking Equipment

Your pizza oven will come equipped with a pizza stone inside. While this is fine to cook dough based foods on, when it comes to cooking other meals it might be preferable to use alternative equipment. Your pizza stone can be quite difficult and time consuming to clean so if you wanted to cook marinated meat or sauce based dishes you may want to use baking trays or pans within in your oven. Your oven is large enough to fit cooking equipment inside and it makes cleaning a lot easier. 

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