How to Make Pizza in a Wood-Fired Oven

Young to old, pizza is one of the top favorite dishes we love. It’s cheesy, delicious, and melts right in your mouth. Given the hype around this dish, we thought to share some tips on how to make a creamy home-based pizza that will have your loved ones asking for more! But not just any pizza-wood-fired pizza to be exact.

Wood-fired pizza is unlike any other because it’s made in a wood pizza oven. The method follows the traditional Italian style however it is one of the most rewarding in terms of flavor. And you’re just about to find out how to make one from scratch. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Here’s Everything Necessary

Just like with any recipe, you need to gather your ingredients and tools for the task ahead. It’s so that you are prepared and don’t end up missing any important detail.

Wood-fired pizza is not any different from your regular pizza except that you’re going to need a special cooker. This is what sets it apart.

That said have a checklist of the following items;

• A wood-burning pizza oven (preferably)
• Pizza paddle
Chimney starter
• Lighter/ matchbox/eco-friendly fire starters
• Small sticks of hardwood kindling
Charcoal lumps or heat beads
• Pieces of hardwood firewood
• Fire poker
• Heat resistant gloves
• Ingredients for your pizza base and toppings

Now, if you do not own a traditional pizza oven, the next best substitute would be a gas wood pellet oven. The results are nearly as close. One particular kind that we recommend is the Ooni Koda 12 Gas Powered Pizza Oven. It reaches very high temperatures in a short period and that way your pizza cooks equally fast. Not to mention, the oven will fit in any outdoor space and is conveniently light.

Related: A comprehensive review of the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven

Always Go for Your Own Pizza Bases

The secret behind a good pizza lies in the base. Get it wrong and you might as well have ruined your entire pizza. It’s advised that you make your own pizza base from scratch. Of course, there are easier ready-to-go options in the supermarket that make the work easier, but in this case, take time to do it yourself. Homemade crusts come off chewier, and crispier. Also, think of it as an opportunity to improve your dough skills.

To help you start things on the right foot, get the right flour.

The Right Flour

Always-Go-for-Your-Own-Pizza-Bases

While there are so many kinds of pizza flours in the market, narrow down your selection to type ’00. This is what a lot of Italian-based pizzas use because it works best for the dough.

To explain better, type ’00 flour has a very fine texture. Its particles are tiny and that is why it feels smooth to the touch. This trait is what gives the dough a good stretch without it tearing apart. You can easily work the dough from end to end without causing a hole in the process.

If you were to go with other lower grade types (such as type ‘2) the coarseness of the particles would hinder dough flexibility and possibly even cause hardness.

We recommend the Antimo Caputo Chefs Flour as one of the top flours in the type ’00 category. It has strong elastic gluten that allows the dough to widen smoothly without springing back. As a plus, the wheat flour has no additives whatsoever, instead, it is made strictly from natural ingredients.

Use it to bake a crusty flavorful crust that’s also great for bread, pasta, and cakes. When cooked, the dough also bubbles up nicely to become puffy.

Make Your Dough

Now that you have determined what kind of flour to use, the next step is to get into making your dough. Get salt, caster sugar, extra virgin olive oil, dry active yeast, lukewarm water, and finally a workbench or bowl.

The traditional way is to use a workbench so that there’s ample surface area and this is okay if you have one. But if you’re looking to save time on cleaning, a bowl works just fine.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients first, that is your flour and salt together. Once stirred well, create a hole in the center where the wet ingredients will go in. You want to mix your water, oil, yeast, and sugar in a separate jug and leave for a few minutes until you start to see some bubbling.

At this point, the solution is ready to go in. Pour gently as you use your hands to mix everything. A bread maker may come in handy in the initial stages. The goal is to keep kneading until your dough is soft and smooth so this could last anything between 5-10 minutes.

Time to let your dough rest. Drizzle some oil around the edges of a clean bowl and transfer the dough here. Leave it for around one hour for the yeast to work its magic or until you notice an increase in the size by double.

Why this is important is so that the dough develops flavor and a better crust texture. It shouldn’t be rushed or else the pizza base won’t be easy to work with. In case you are pressed for time, prepare the night before and let the dough sit in the fridge without hurry.

Knocking Back the Dough

It’s good that your dough has risen but it doesn’t end here. Knocking back the dough is a special technique intended to work the excess air out. Pull it out from the bowl, lay it on a flat surface that’s been floured, and knead some more.

Depending on the size of your dough, split it into smaller portions that can easily fit into the oven. From here, allow another hour before you’re ready to cook. Alternatively, shove the balls into the fridge until a later time if you do not need them right away.

Be sure to wrap in cling foil as opposed to leaving them open in cold air. Take the balls out 30 minutes before time when you’re ready to use them.

How to Build Pizza Oven Fire

How-to-Build-Pizza-Oven-Fire
Photo credit: theownerbuildernetwork

Congratulations on reaching this far! This next step involves building an oven fire to the right temperature. Keep in mind that a wood-burning oven is not like the typical kind back in most modern homes. This one works best under very high temperatures. In that case, aim for a range of 700F.

There are 2 ways to go about heating your oven. The first involves starting with a good coal base right away while the other applies a longer formula. We’ll be looking at both so that you have a good idea of how to go about either.

Let’s start with the easier method;

Method 1

  • Grab your bag of charcoal briquettes and pour a good amount right in the middle of the oven.
  • Use a chimney starter to light a couple of lumps that will activate the charcoal base you have set up.
  • Once you have a flame growing, throw in some hardwood splits to maintain the fire. It’s good to use different-sized splits.
  • Once you have a hot raging coal bank, get your fire poker and use it to push the coal to one side of the oven. For safety purposes, also have your fireproof gloves on just in case the poker gets hot.

Why it’s important to build your fire in the center of the oven is so that the bricks in this area get conveniently hot. The heat here is what will go into cooking your pizza base evenly. As for the top part of the pizza, the cooking is left to that coal base you just pushed to the side.

The flames will roll up over and across the top of the oven thereby supplying enough heat to melt the cheese and whatever other toppings you used. The beauty of this arrangement is that it coordinates in such a way that everything bakes steadily. The base doesn’t burn in the process whereas the cheese has ample time to melt.

Method 2

This method is longer for the reason that it starts with hardwood kindling as opposed to charcoal lumps. It’s only after the kindling sticks have burnt to ash that you get a nice ash base. Whichever approach you choose is entirely up to you and the effort put in will surely pay off.

The steps to follow here are;

  • Start by arranging the kindling sticks at the base one layer at a time. Use 3-4 sticks per layer and ensure they are spaced a few inches apart. Remember this should be done in the middle of your oven as well.
  • In between the sticks, place a good number of eco-friendly fire starters. Refrain from non-organic materials made from plastic because they easily provoke an odor and smell that’s not going to be good for your pizza.
  • The kindling structure you are building should get to about 3-4 stories high before lighting it up using a BBQ lighter or a long match.
  • Have the door or vents of your oven completely opened for maximum airflow. Doing this promotes a cleaner, healthier fire.
  • Once the kindling is fully flamed, it’s time to throw in your firewood gradually. Start with smaller splits as you graduate to thicker ones.
  • After a while, you should have a nice coal base that’s ready to be pushed to the periphery. Your oven is now ready!

This entire process should last about an hour or so. Unless you can afford to spend this duration just prepping the oven, it’s better to go with the first method.

Check our guide and find out how to easily build your own pizza oven

Prepare Your Pizzas

Remember the balls that we mentioned earlier? Now is the time to get to stretching! This process is usually done by hand so ensure to have washed thoroughly before getting into it.

You’ll see professionals go through this step very fast by flicking the dough between the palm and forearm. It’s not as easy as it seems. On the contrary, it takes a lot of practice and muscle memory to master the technique.

Use your fingertips to push the dough outwards bit by bit. If the disc doesn’t take to a perfectly round shape, it’s okay. Provided you attain about ½ an inch thickness and have the edges slightly higher than the center, you’re good to go.

Go on and grab your pizza paddle, dust it with some coarse flour to prevent the dough from sticking. From here, baste your base with some tomato paste then build with your favorite toppings and cheese.

Pro-tip, do not overdo the toppings. This is because too much can cause sogginess at the crust. Stick to about 4 ingredients before crowing with some generous cheese. A blend of buffalo mozzarella cheese and cheddar are great selections.

It’s Cooking Time

It takes under 5 minutes to have your pizza done when the fire is hot. To be sure you are at a good range; get a thermometer gun to confirm this so that you are not merely guessing.

Once satisfied, use your paddle to transfer the pizza safely into the oven without dropping it and let the cooking begin. Because the fire is primarily coming from one side, at some point you’ll have to spin your pizza.

You’ll know the pie is ready when you notice a rise and browning of the crust. The cheese will also fully melt at the surface. If you like a slightly charred bottom, have it cook until the crust starts to turn darker.

Serve with your favorite drink and enjoy!

Wood Fired Pizza Oven Substitute

Wood-Fired-Pizza-Oven-Substitute

If you have no access to a traditional wood oven, you could still use a BBQ grill as a substitute. You’re going to need a pizza stone for this since the dough will burn if placed directly on the grates.

The Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe are good brands that retain heat very well. They also get to high temperatures better than competitor models. As for the pizza stone, this 14 inch round plate is a superior choice.

Feel free to add some wood to boost the flavor if you like, but most importantly do not forget to preheat your grill beforehand. The cooking duration here takes a bit longer than with a wood oven, however, as long as you keep a close eye on your pizza; you should get good results anyhow.

Favorite Wood Fired Pizza Recipe

Italian-style-pizza

To sum it up, we have the perfect recipe for some delicious Italian-style pizza.

Ingredients;

  • 4 cups of 00 flour
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups of water (lukewarm preferably)

Instructions

  • Mix the flour and salt before pouring in the wet ingredients in the center.
  • Knead the dough thoroughly with your hands for 5-7 minutes to form a large silky ball.
  • Transfer the dough into a clean bowl that’s been oiled and let it rise to double the size.
  • Knock the dough for a couple of minutes before cutting it into smaller balls.
  • Stretch each of these using your fingers and proceed to add your tomato base and favorite toppings.
  • Cook in a preheated wood oven or grill until desired color changes.
  • Garnish with some flavored oil and basil. Slice it up and enjoy! Cheers!

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