Unsure of how to go about lighting a wood fired pizza oven? We've got everything you need to know to get one up and running this summer!

When British summer time is on full swing, is there any greater joy than firing up a wood fired pizza oven and cooking up your own delicious cuisine right in your own back garden? We don’t think so!

Outdoor pizza ovens are hugely popular at the moment, offering the perfect way to just relax and take it easy while making authentic food for all to enjoy.

However, one reason we find that people are wary of making the investment in an outdoor oven is they aren’t entirely sure how to use one - is it worth buying one if all they end up with is some smouldering logs and burnt dough?

In truth, pizza ovens are really easy to use once you know what you are doing, and are completely worth the time and money.

To help you out, we’ve even put together this easy guide to lighting a wood fire pizza oven, including how to cure it for the first time and how to cook your pizza.

Let’s get started!

How to Light a Wood Fired Pizza Oven

Premier Wood Fired Pizza Oven with Stand & Table

Lighting a wood fire pizza oven does take time and a little patience - the key is to build it up slowly, gaining heat gradually and safely.

Here is our step-by-step guide to lighting a pizza oven...

  1. Open the door of your pizza oven and the chimney smoke control vent - both need to be kept open throughout the fire lighting process
  2. Place some kindling in the centre of the oven. Three or four small logs with a few pine cones or other kindling material should be fine. Arrange them in a teepee shape, and place some firelighters in the middle.
  3. Light your match. Carefully light the firelighter and leave the match placed by it, still in the centre of the kindling. Stand back and allow it to fully catch fire.
  4. Add a few more logs. Once the kindling is burning well, add another three or four small-medium size logs, slowly increasing the fire size.
  5. Wait as the pizza dome turns black. This is down to the smoke being produced by the fire. You will also notice the firewood gradually turning white.
  6. Continue to add more logs. Keep growing the fire across the full floor of the pizza oven to distribute the heat out. Caution: the fire will really be heating up now, so use suitable tools and gloves to stoke the flames. Always be careful the flames don’t get out of hand and have an extinguisher on-hand.
  7. Allow the temperature to continue to increase. As it gets hotter, you should notice the inside of the dome turns from black to white. Move the fire to ensure all the wood is burning and the entire oven floor is covered. At this point, it should be around 350-400°C. Use a laser thermometer to check this - don’t try to test it with a regular thermometer or you will burn your hand!
  8. Close the oven’s smoke control. Now it’s up to temperature, this will keep the heat in and you are ready to prepare your cooking area!
  9. Move the fire embers to the side. Once the flames have died down and reduced to embers, move them to the sides and back of the oven to make space for roasting your food. If you are cooking pizza, move the embers to the back of the oven so you can place the pizza at the front.
  10. Check for embers still burning. If there are still flames or embers, leave the door vent open for a few minutes - or, if you don't have one, leave the door ajar to avoid too much smoke inside the oven.
  11. Place your food inside. The oven should now be ready to cook your food! A good wood fired oven should stay hot for at least 2 hours - perfect for slow cooking as well as pizzas.

Lighting a Pizza Oven - FAQs

Still got some concerns over how to light your wood fired pizza oven? Take a look at these FAQs for some more information...

Can you use firelighters in a pizza oven?

Yes, you can use firelighters in a pizza oven, but it’s best to choose a natural firelighter. A standard white firelighter you would use in your stove will likely have chemicals in it that could affect the taste of your food. Natural firelighters are made from compressed wood shavings, making them odourless and safe for use in an oven. Never use kerosene, lighter fluid or any other highly flammable substance to light a pizza oven.

Related: How to Make Your Own Kindling & Firelighters with Vincent Thurkettle

How do you use a pizza oven for the first time?

Before using your pizza oven for the first time, it needs to be cured properly beforehand. This minimises the chance of your pizza oven dome cracking when you fire it up fully on its first usage.

Each pizza oven should have its own instructions for curing the first time, though typically it involves lighting a series of small fires, gradually increasing in size and heat over around five days. This slowly allows any moisture to evaporate from the dome - if all the moisture is forced to evaporate all at once, it can cause irreparable damage.

You only need to cure your pizza oven the very first time you use it. In future, it won’t be necessary. If you haven’t used your pizza oven for some time or it has been sitting out in the rain, you can dry it out before use by burning a small fire inside first - but this can be done the same day and doesn’t require the full five-day process.

How long does it take to heat up a wood fired pizza oven?

It usually takes up to 1 hour to fully heat up a wood fired pizza oven. However, this does depend on the size and design of your pizza oven, the wood used and the weather outside. Smaller ovens can be heated up in 40 minutes, larger ovens could take as long as 2 hours or even more to heat up to the right temperature.

Can you use charcoal in a wood fired pizza oven?

Always check with your manufacturer before using charcoal in a wood fired pizza oven. Charcoal can produce a fiercer heat than wood, so be sure that your stove is capable of burning it without cracking.

Charcoal fired pizza ovens can also create a different style of pizza. Due to the heat, they often produce a crispier pizza, cooking quickly with a chewier inside and crunchier crust. Wood fired pizzas are typically softer with a slightly charred edge.

What is the best wood for a wood fired pizza oven?

The best wood to use in a wood fired pizza oven is one that produces high heat and low smoke. This makes hardwoods much more suitable than softwoods. Woods such as ash, birch and oak are all ideal for a pizza oven, while many people love the mediterranean aroma of olive wood.

Most importantly though, no matter what wood you use for your wood fired pizza oven, it must be fully dry and well seasoned. Green or wet wood that still contains high levels of moisture will produce too much smoke and won’t burn hot or fast enough to create the conditions you need.

Related: How to Stack, Store and Season Firewood

How hot does a pizza oven have to be?

To cook a pizza in a wood fired oven, you need a temperature of at least 400°C. The hotter the temperature, the thicker the crust will be - though too hot, and your dough will burn too quickly.

At the right temperature, a pizza should cook to perfection in around 90 seconds - giving you a crispy crust, melted cheese and a gooey centre.

If you want to roast meat or fish, you will want to aim for a temperature of around 230 - 280°C. For slow cooking things like ribs and pulled pork, you will want your wood fired pizza oven much cooler, at around 100 - 120°C.

Lighting a pizza oven - Warnings:

Never use gasoline, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid or similar flammable substances when lighting a fire in a pizza oven.

Don’t throw water on the fire to lower the temperature or extinguish the flames.

Only use dry, seasoned wood, not resinous wood, treated wood or wet wood.

If the pizza oven is wet, allow it to dry out with a weak fire before building it out for cooking.

Are you looking to buy a new outdoor pizza oven this year? Be sure to see our range at Direct Stoves for top quality products with free delivery.

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