How to Use a Pizza Oven: A Complete Guide
By Robert Parsons March 8th, 2023
You know what? Cooking a pizza in an oven is like performing alchemy!
First, you combine the right ingredients. Then, you heat up your oven. And with patience, you now turn seemingly ordinary things into a crisp and delicious pizza. But to do so, knowing how to properly use your pizza oven is a must!
So, you’re a fresh newbie wandering into the wonderful world of pizza baking? Or it’s been a long time since you last baked seriously, and now you just forgot the craft? Then this ultimate guide on how to use a pizza oven will be of great help.
Let’s dive right in with the very first important thing which is…
How Does a Pizza Oven Work?
I guess you’re a pizza lover like me, right? Have you ever wondered how pizza ovens actually function to bring you all those delicious pizzas? Well, truth is, pizza ovens use high heat and careful insulation to bake the pie crust to crispy perfection while simultaneously cooking (but not burning) your toppings.
The full-size pizza ovens you see are often insulated with layers of bricks and tiles. Thanks to this, it’s easy for your oven to reach 480 degrees C inside. Meanwhile, portable pizza ovens, like the Ooni, are made of insulated carbon steel. And they can reach temperatures of up to 510 degrees C.
The insulation in the walls helps retain the heat inside the oven so it can circulate around the food, as opposed to having an open flame cook directly on it. And due to this technique and the very high temperature, you shouldn’t leave your pizzas inside long, or they will burn! You should also consider precooking any topping items that require additional cooking time, depending on their type, as well as using a dough recipe that is meant for high-heat baking.
Also, some pizza ovens come equipped with a top stone or plate that sits above the pizzas as they bake. This stone helps radiate heat from above as well as below for an even bake every time – allowing you to achieve perfect results each time!
How to Start Using a Pizza Oven (A Step-by-step Guide)
First, remember to set up a proper pizza kitchen
With the right setup and equipment, baking delicious pizzas that rival any restaurant in quality and taste isn’t an impossible task, for sure.
Begin by finding a well-constructed, heatproof surface for your oven. Measure the dimensions of the oven, then purchase or build an outdoor table that’s slightly larger than the pizza oven and tall enough so you don’t have to crouch down when launching or retrieving pizzas. It’s important to consider what type of fuel you will be using: wood, charcoal, or gas. Different types of fuel will require different setups and should be taken into account when purchasing an oven or building one yourself.
Next, select a prep station near your oven. This way, you don’t get frazzled while stretching and topping the dough. You can make it as simple as two sawhorses with a jumbo cutting board on top. Or you can invest in stainless steel countertops for a more polished look.
Also, be sure to keep enough space for ingredients like cheese, sauce, and toppings. Your dough will need plenty of room as well, keep that in mind.
The tools of the trade you will need
There are many tools that pro pizza makers use to bake their pies. And you should equip them too if you’re serious with your own pizza game.
First, an infrared thermometer is an essential tool for measuring your pizza oven’s temperature accurately and safely. You can easily use it to monitor the oven temperature. And the range from 370°C to 540°C for making crisp and delicious pizzas is perfect.
You’ll also need a pizza peel for sliding the topped dough into the hot oven quickly and easily. A long-handled offset spatula is another must-have, as it will help keep the dough from sticking to the peel as you transfer it into the oven.
Heavy-duty heat-resistant gloves are a must to protect yourself from burning your hands on hot oven walls or stones. Finally, you’ll need a long-handled oven brush or scraper for cleaning off the ash and burnt toppings from the baking stone.
Having these essential tools on hand will ensure that your pizzas turn out perfectly every time!
Baking pizzas with an oven (a step-by-step guide)
1) First things first, you’ll need to fire up your pizza oven. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and light it according to their directions. Once lit, let it heat up until the cooking stone reaches 370°C – 540°C on an infrared thermometer.
2) Now it’s time to prepare your dough. You can try using either store-bought dough or making your own homemade dough is fine. I recommend a 12-14 inch round dough stretched on a lightly floured surface. Then, you can transfer it onto a pizza peel for easy transportation into the oven. Now, bring your favourite ingredients to top it with. You can try from the marinara sauce, cheese, and herbs, to more adventurous toppings like salami, peppers, and onions.
3) Now comes the tricky part – transferring your pizza to the hot oven! Make sure you hold onto the pizza peel firmly as you do this – use a quick forward-and-back jerking motion to slide the topped dough off of the peel and into the hot oven.
4) Next, let your pizza cook until its crust is evenly browned and crisp. You should rotate it every 10- 20 seconds. This makes sure all sides are cooked evenly. The whole process would be around 1-6 minutes depending on how hot your stone is and how thickly layered with toppings your pizza is. When done, carefully remove it from the oven using either a long spatula or even two large wooden spoons if needed.
5) Give it a few minutes to rest before slicing and serving!
Safety-first Measures When Baking Pizzas With Your Hot Oven
First, you should make sure the oven is installed and used correctly. Portable pizza ovens need open space around them for proper ventilation and should never be used indoors due to fire hazard risks. It’s your duty to read the product instructions thoroughly. This is very important for safely using the oven down the road.
Next, you must always keep children and pets away from the oven when in use. A pizza oven can reach temperatures of up to 260 degrees C, so it’s important to ensure that young ones don’t get too close to the hot appliance or touch any parts of it while in use.
Also, a fire extinguisher put nearby would be your best buddy in case something catches fire. Watching some Youtube videos on how to use it is a good option if you don’t wanna read. You won’t have time to read once things are on fire, remember that!
Last but not least, you should avoid overcrowding the oven with pizzas at once. Because this can cause smoke to build up. Or even cause the appliance to overheat and catch fire due to excessive heat buildup inside the chamber. When cooking several pizzas consecutively, you should allow for short breaks between each one. This will help disperse some of the excess heat and prevent any potential hazards in the process.
By keeping these safety-first measures in mind, you can enjoy delicious meals without putting yourself or anyone else in harm’s way!
Other Important Things About Pizza Ovens You Should Know
The Many Types of Pizza Ovens
Did you know? Pizza ovens often come in a few popular shapes and forms.
For those looking for convenience and portability, portable pizza ovens are a great option. They are small and lightweight in general. And they make great choices for camping trips or other outdoor events. Many brands sell their products in various sizes and shapes. However, these ovens may not be able to reach high enough temperatures for certain types of pizzas requiring longer bake times.
If you’re looking for an even hotter baking experience, then consider investing in a real pizza oven kit. These kits include all the materials necessary to construct an authentic brick oven right in your own backyard. The high temperatures they can reach will give your pizzas that perfect crispy texture while still being able to melt the cheese just right. Besides being able to make delicious pizzas, these kits also add aesthetic value to your home while doubling as decor.
Next, if space is an issue or you’re just looking for some quick cooking time indoors then countertop units may be better suited for you. With their impressive temperature range, they can cook quality pizzas quickly in the convenience of your own kitchen without breaking the bank on the price tag, unlike many outdoor models.
What Heat Source Should You Choose For Your Oven?
Wood-fired, pellet, and gas. These are the common heat sources that pizza ovens use to bake your pies.
Are Neapolitan-style pizzas your preferred choice? Then I bet wood-fired ovens would be your best friends! These devices can reach temperatures up to 480°C and maintain even heat throughout the cooking chamber, giving you maximum control over your temperature. On the downside, they require a bit more effort to use as you’ll need to tend to fires and flare-ups before each cook.
Pellet ovens are another story. These ovens can bring you the same level of heat with much less hassle. This type of oven uses pellets made from compressed sawdust that is ignited by an electric starter and burned like charcoal.
They can shoot up to 540°C and provide a more consistent temperature compared to wood-fired models. So, you want a smoky flavour without having to stoke the fire every time you cook? Pellet ovens are the way to go.
Gas pizza ovens are a great option if convenience is your top priority. They allow you to quickly adjust the temperature with minimal effort. You can simply adjust the burners or dial in your desired temperature setting with a digital controller. Gas pizza ovens also have short preheat times compared to other models so they’re ready faster than ever before!
The funny thing here is, you won’t find that smoky flavour with gas ovens. It’s understandable since you’re not ‘smoking’ anything here, right? So, keep this in mind.
Ultimately, choosing between these three types of pizza ovens comes down to personal preference and what kind of pizza you’d like to make. If convenience is key then go for a gas model, but if you’re looking for authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas with all that smoky flavour then either wood-fired or pellet options will be the way to go.
What’s the optimal temperature to bake a pizza in a pizza oven?
In short, you’d want your pizza oven to be between 450 to 500°C. This temperature range enables the crust to get the right amount of crispy texture. Also, it allows the cheese to be evenly melted over the entire pizza.
If you use too low of a temperature, your pie won’t cook properly. On the other hand, using too high of a temperature can burn the crust or even the entire pizza pie.
Thinking about using a larger wood-fired pizza oven? Then I highly recommended you put on the fire a couple of hours earlier. This will give you plenty of time for your oven to reach its optimal baking temperatures.
Smaller tabletop pizza ovens that use wood pellets as fuel, usually have much quicker heat-up times so you don’t have to wait as long. If you opt for a gas-fired pizza oven instead, they tend not to take as long either, but still require some time before it can reach its optimal baking temperatures.
What types of wood are best to use in a pizza oven?
For wood-fired pizza ovens, I usually choose hardwoods. Things like oak, maple, ash, beech, and birch are good options.
These hardwoods have been seasoned (dried out) enough that they will burn cleanly and efficiently in your pizza oven. Wood chips or wood pellets can also be used to help get the fire started as kindling or fuel – just make sure they are untreated so that you don’t release hazardous chemicals into the air.
When building a fire in a larger wood-fired pizza oven with logs, stacking them in a criss-cross pattern will create an efficient ‘well’ for the kindling to sit inside. It is important to build your fire with care and tend it well for optimal results when cooking your pizzas!
If you have a smaller pellet-fed pizza oven then this will come with a hopper which will allow you to feed pellets directly in for easier management of temperature and fuel usage.
How long should a pizza be baked in a wood-fired oven?
The answer is about one to two minutes.
It’s optimal time to ensure your pizza won’t burn while remaining cooked. Wood-fired ovens generate very high temperatures which cook the entire pizza evenly. Since the heat is distributed evenly as we discussed earlier, it’s extremely difficult to overcook or undercook specific parts of the pie.
And with this type of oven, you will have an extra crispy crust to munch on. To ensure your pizza doesn’t burn and gets cooked properly, you should turn it two or three times with a pizza peel every minute until it’s bubbly and golden brown.
How many toppings should you place on your pizza before baking it?
My mantra is always less is more for pizza toppings. Too many toppings can lead to an excessively heavy pizza that’s difficult to crisp up and bake evenly.
I usually use only 2-3 spoons of sauce and maybe 4-5 ounces of cheese for a 12 or 14-inch pizza. I will shred the cheese into small pieces or cut it into cubes so it melts quickly. You should avoid piling on thick layers of sauce, cheese, or any other toppings. A rule of thumb is you should still be able to see raw dough here and there.
Don’t overload the dough because too much will prevent your crust from getting crispy! As you add each topping, shimmy your peel periodically in a circular motion to make sure the dough doesn’t stick as you transfer it onto the hot stone.
In conclusion, baking pizzas in an oven is not a difficult task. The key is to heat your oven properly and transfer the topped dough skillfully into it. With the right setup and tools, you can make delicious pizzas with ease.