How to Use a Pizza Oven to Make the Perfect Slice
The crisp, charred dough. The bright, herbaceous sauce. The soft, gooey, buttery cheese. It’s nearly impossible to identify exactly what it is that makes oven-fired pizza the best. But one thing is certain— when these elements come together over an open flame, flavors sing together like a symphony and the end result is one worth sinking your teeth into.
In order to start making cheesy-goodness slices for your friends and family, it’s time you learn how to use a pizza oven. This is crucial if you want to produce a perfect fire-roasted pizza every time because if done wrong, your pizzas will end up tasting more like a clashing combination of charcoal and cinders.
We’re here to help to turn even the newest of outdoor oven enthusiasts into super-skilled pizza slinging veterans. With the right set-up, a few basic techniques, and a willingness to learn, we’re confident anyone can make delicious and perfectly-cooked pizzas that satisfy the senses!
We’ll cover everything you need to know about using a pizza oven for the first time in just a moment, but first let’s discuss the types of outdoor pizza ovens there are to choose from.
Gas Fired vs. Wood Fired Pizza Ovens: A Guide for Beginners
Identifying the type of pizza oven you have (or will have) is a critical first step, since any guidance on how to use an outdoor pizza oven will depend on the model you’ll be using.
Here’s what you need to know about gas versus wood pizza ovens:
1. Gas Fired Pizza Ovens
Most people choose gas pizza ovens for the convenience and ease-of-use they provide. You do not need to build a fire by hand with these units. Instead, you ignite them with a simple flick of a button or turn a knob — making them ideal for homecooks who prefer a less primitive approach.
These ovens are also easier to clean since there’s no wood, coal, or ash to dispose of. This is why families looking to quickly churn out pizzas with minimal maintenance or time spent tidying typically opt for a gas fired oven.
So what’s the setback? Gas fired pizza ovens don’t produce the authentic charred flavor traditional ovens are known and beloved for. If your Italian nonna will be tasting your pies, or if you care about replicating the age-old, artisanal thin-crust pizzas Italy is celebrated for, a gas fired pizza oven may not be the best option for you.
2. Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
The benefits of wood fired pizza ovens are primarily related to the food experience they provide. Most folks who choose wood for their outdoor pizza oven set up have an appreciation for the old-world charm they bring to al fresco dining, as well as the distinct rustic taste they give to pizzas, vegetables, breads, and a variety of other dishes.
Additionally, wood fired pizza ovens tend to be hotter than gas variations, allowing users to achieve a scorching sear in a matter of minutes. The high temperatures also seal in tenderness and flavor, which ultimately prevents your food from drying out or sweating away those scrumptious seasonings!
Using a Pizza Oven For the First Time: Tips and Tricks
Your first foray into fire roasted pizzas will undoubtedly be one of mishaps and lessons learned. Don’t expect to get it right on the very first try! Instead, focus on learning the fundamentals. Once you have a solid understanding of how to use outdoor pizza ovens, creating delicious pizzas for your family and friends will be a breeze.
Here are the basic skills you’ll need to know:
1. Lighting a Fire
Unfortunately, starting a fire in a wood burning pizza oven isn’t as simple as throwing in a couple of logs, dousing them in kerosene, and lighting a match. You need to start a fire that’s safe, sustainable, and big enough to sufficiently heat the entire oven.
We recommend following these steps:
- Make sure the smoke control vent and the door to your oven are both open.
- Lay kindling at the bottom of your oven (twigs, pine cones, cotton balls, and dried leaves are all excellent options).
- Light a match and place it on the kindling, ensuring it catches fire.
- Place a couple of smaller logs over the kindling, leaving space between the logs where oxygen will be able to flow.
- Carefully add larger logs without smothering the existing fire.
- Monitor the temperature until it has reached between 800-900° F (450-500° C).
- Close the smoke control vent.
Move the hot coals to either the side or back of the oven with a rake or pizza oven brush.
2. Gauging Temperature
Ask any pizza oven aficionado and they’ll tell you, being able to test and accurately identify the temperature of your oven is a must if you want to master how to use a pizza oven.
One way to gauge the temperature of your oven is the flour test — a tried and true method that has been used for generations. Simply place a dash of flour on the cooking surface of the oven and monitor how long it takes for the flour to burn. If your oven is at the correct temperature, it should only take a couple of seconds for the dough to ignite and turn to ash.
Another method is to use an infrared thermometer to get a quick, highly accurate reading (without needing to get too close).
3. Maintaining Heat
One of the biggest mistakes newbies make when learning how to cook in a pizza oven is forgetting to maintain the fire, which results in a temperature drop and, ultimately, a poorly-cooked pizza.
As a general rule of thumb, adding two logs of wood every twenty minutes should maintain your desired temperature, and it is ideal to have between 8-12 inches of flame above your coals.
How to Cook Pizza in a Pizza Oven
Now that we’ve covered how to use wood fire pizza ovens, it’s time to get to the fun stuff — how to make incredible Italian-style pizzas your friends and family will love. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out via trial and error alone. There are plenty of tips and tricks you can follow to fine-tune your pies!
Here are our top recommendations:
1. Don’t Overlook The Dough
Hours of researching how to use a wood fire pizza oven won’t do you much good if your pizza dough is too dry or under proofed. This is why, above all else, you’ll want to memorize a trusted dough recipe you can confidently whip up at any time. Remember, less is more when it comes to dough. All you really need is yeast, water, flour, and salt.
2. Get Yourself a Pizza Peel
A pizza peel is a tool specifically designed with a large, flat head, that’s used to take pizzas in and out of an oven. The expansive surface area of the tool allows the user to transfer pizzas with ease and prevents spilling, allowing the pizza to lay flat and secure.
Since your pizzas will be piping hot when they’re ready to come out of the oven, a pizza peel is the safest and most effective way to retrieve them while also preserving their shape and preventing a mess.
3. Practice Perfect Timing
Ideally, it should take 2-3 minutes to cook your pizza in a traditional wood burning oven. You’ll also need to rotate the pizza every 20 seconds or so to ensure a consistent bake and to avoid burning the edges. Timing really does make all the difference when learning how to use a pizza oven, and the more you use yours the more you’ll intuitively know when your pizza is ready or when more heat is needed.
Get Fired Up with Grillscapes
Whether you’re curious about how to use a metal pizza oven or you’re looking to compare models to find the best solution for your needs, we’ll make sure you get the answers you’re looking for. We have been helping outdoor kitchen enthusiasts turn their backyard dreams into a reality for years, and we do it while providing the highest level of service and the best products.
If you’re looking to invest in a pizza oven, we welcome you to browse our comprehensive selection of outdoor pizza ovens, including natural gas, propane gas, and wood-burning models.
Additionally, if you need more information to make your decision, you can always reach out to us. One of our personable and knowledgeable customer service representatives will be happy to explain the various options available to you and provide personalized recommendations for your unique lifestyle goals and preferences. Get your friends and family fired up for your next pizza party with Grillscapes.