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Help with wood burning pizza oven

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
My friend is opening a restaurant this week. The location she purchased came equiped with a fabulous wood burning pizza oven that was built on the premise. It is somewhat mobile, a large dome sitting on a steel frame.

Does anyone have any tips for controlling ash/mess in a woodfire oven? Any grates/tray systems, or box like structures out there? There must be a better way than what she's currently doing... building a fire on the floor itself. Really gets ashy.

Help! Opening's this coming Thursday!
post #2 of 16
Building the fire directly on the deck is the correct way to work this oven. It's the direct contact of the coals on the deck that heats the deck. Very important, especially for cooking pizza. Placement of the fire is important here; if the fire is built on either the far left or right, you will have less trouble with the deck being dirty. Build the fire in the back of the oven and you are asking for it. Have her order this: oven brush . When the deck gets dirty, put a wet towel under the brush and use that to clean the deck. Does she plan on using the oven primarily for pizza or for entree's or both?
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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Actually she's opening an Indian restaurant. The oven will be used for pizza type entrees as well as naans etc.
post #4 of 16

Help

I cannot speak from a pro chef standpoint. But I can speak from a cook standpoint that has vast experience with wood-burning pizza ovens.

You want the fire in the rear of the oven, not off to either side. This approach will require more wood as it will burn faster when placed towards the back. This wood placement will also allow a faster cook temp goal. Example: Today, I brought a wood-burning oven up from 400 to 620 in less than 30 minutes... I started the fire with the usual stack of wood in the center of the oven, as soon as the logs started, I broke down and pushed the whole stack back. I had, as planned, as I've done for many years, a thin stack of wood at the back of the oven blazing. Of course that wasn't enough to get the oven to temp, so I threw a few more logs on the blazing fire... hence the 220 degree increase in 30 minutes.

If you place your fire left or right in a true wood-burning oven you will use up a lot of space... you can't load pizzas into the fire.

Trust me.
post #5 of 16
i havent personaly cooked with a wood-fired pizza oven before but i do frequent a restaurant that utilizes one in my area. i often go for the sole purpose of talking to the chef there. he informed me that the ash you speak of is not always a bad thing. acording to him you actualy should leave a thin layer of ash on the bottom of the oven because it provides the pizza dough with a lot of flavor. he also tells me that it helps to make them easier to manuever, because the ash keeps the dough from sticking at all. this of course only aplies to when the pizza is first placed into the oven.
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i pledge my professional knowladge and skill to the advancement of our profession and to pass it on to those that are to follow..... ACF pledge
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post #6 of 16
Gosh, this stuff is mind expanding and I really mean it! I mean, how many out there know strategies of conflagrations?

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #7 of 16
Yes, I believe ash would add flavor. I'm pretty sure it's a flavor that could be done without. As far as the sticking part is concerned, it works the same as a piece of meat on a grill; initially the dough will stick, but after a minute or so of baking it will move around all you want.

Back to the placement question, now. No matter where you have the fire, it will take up the same amount of space. Yes if it's on the side you can't load pizzas into the fire. If it's in the back, same thing. As far as the wood burning faster in the back. I'd venture a guess that this is not true. Fire needs air to burn faster and I'd be willing to bet there is more air circulating through a fire built on the side (where it is closer to the flue) than in the back.
Aquote from Woodstone, the manufacurers of the most popular type of wood-fired ovens in the U.S.A: " The oven is heated more evenly and effectively by the fire positioned on the side rather than in the rear of the oven." Click here for complete article.
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post #8 of 16

Ash, et. al.

I differ with the above opinion. For one... if there is ASH on the stone it is a sign of bad oven management. What most call ash is actually flour that has been burned... the flour that lets the skin slide off the peel. My oven has no ASH on the stone... burnt flour, yes, but not burnt wood ash.

I agree that the oven stone should be cleaned with a wet towel on the end of an oven brush.

I will also add that the best location of the fire depends on the type of oven one has... natural draft or forced draft... the location of the flue at the front brings oxygen to the fire at the back. A forced-flue has a fan drawing out the exhaust of the burning wood. A natural-draft oven... I have no clue.

I will add that a fire in the back of MY oven burns hotter and faster than a side fire. One can plainly see the convection current going on with a back fire... The forced flue draws oxygen to the pile... cold air (what is drawn in) is fed to the fire... the exhaust (what is the result of burning) is drawn out by the forced flue.
post #9 of 16
I have had the fortune of being the chef in 2 restaurants with wood burning display pizza ovens . In one of the restaurants we even did dessert pizzas . In both ovens I used oak and kept the fire in the back . I also used the brush and the brush with the wet rag technique . The only thing i have not heard mentioned is the use of pizza screens . This is what we used to build the pizzas on and then fired them in the oven . The screens keep the ash from getting on the dough while still getting that even crisp crust .
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #10 of 16

PIZZA SCREEN

Please describe a PIZZA SCREEN. Never heard of it.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #11 of 16
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #12 of 16

downdraft

How do you prevent downdraft? There was a place here that used a small oven to do pizzas and whenever it got really windy outside, smoke would pour out of the front of the oven. The building was old and didn't have a new HVAC system to keep a positive air pressure in the dining room. I had the chance to buy the oven for a cheap price, but did'nt want to have to pay for upgrading my HVAC system to prevent downdraft.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #13 of 16
a few links on downdrafts - for fireplaces but the premise should still work the same way for wood burning ovens

http://www.volko.com/downdrafts.htm
http://www.chimneys.com/burnsec/chapter7.html
http://www.nzhha.co.nz/downdraf.htm
post #14 of 16

Thanks to everyone

My friend has a woodfire oven in her rental property, one day we spontaneously decided to make woodfired pizzas. Although the result was dissapointing it was extremely fascinating since it was our first time.

So we all read up on woodfire burning techniques - I read this particular forum last Friday. On Sunday, after much research we got had the fire going in the middle of the oven, had it roaring for 1-2hours until the oven walls turned white. It was a shame we didn't have a thermometer to test the temperature. We waited till the wood burned into ash and push everything to the back and spread it a bit around the side. We continued to feed the fire for the next 4-5hours as we made pizzas !!!!!!!! it was the best pizza i ever had :-)

Thanks for all the tips it was extremely informative. Now our next mission is learn how to make the base of the pizza crispy. We weren't sure if it was the heat of the oven? the dough? or too much topping? too much water in the tomato base?

Any idea how to achieve a crispy base?
post #15 of 16
Yes and Yes. For a crispy crust you need a very hot oven ! Also good dough!
Here is a good dough recipe for 1 large pizza.
3 and 2/3 cups all purpose flour.
1/8 cup whole wheat flour.
1 and 1/3 cup warm water.
1/2 tablespoon yeast.
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt.
1 tablespoon Olive oil.
pinch of sugar.
You first add the yeast to the warm water with the pinch of sugar , stir until dissolved and let it do its thing for about 5 minutes.
Next I add the WW flour and half of the AP flour stirring with a fork as Im adding it .I let this sit for about 15 minutes and then I add the salt, olive oil and while stirring with a fork the rest of the flour gradualy until you have a ball formed that you can start kneading by hand. Turn this ball out on a floured work table or cutting board and start kneading(adding hits of flour as needed) until you have a nice elastic shiny kind of ball (about 15 minutes).
wash and dry your mixing bowl and add a good hit of olive oil ,swirl it around the bowl and put that pretty piece of dough into it upside down to coat the top and then flip it over and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let this sit until the dough doubles in size(about an hour or a little more depending on your homes temp).Then punch it down and knead into a tight ball again and leave this setting on your work table covered with a towel . When this ball doubles in size all you have to do is push it down in the middle and pick it up by the top and start squeezing and rotating this in yor hands . Gravity will slowly stretch this dough . When it gets big enough(very quickly, maybe one turn) you then can start with both fists under the dough and start stretching and tossing . When it reaches the desired size I put it onto the pizza peel which has a dusting of cornmeal on it , top it ,brush some olive oil on the edges and then onto my pizza stone in my oven which I preheat for about a 1/2 an hour on the top temp. Check it about 7 minutes out cause this cooks quickly.You can also make this dough ahead and wrap in plastic wrap and hold in the fridge for a few days . Some people say that this helps with the flavor of the crust . Me and my kids like it both ways.
Hope this helps , Doug..................
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #16 of 16
I'm a huge fan of NYC style pizza. If that's what you are striving to replicate, then you want a relatively lean dough (oil only for the bowl) and bread flour.

I don't know how much effort you want to put into this, but if you really want the best pizza you've ever had, buy some bread flour/fresh yeast from your local baker.
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