To heat your brick pizza oven it is best to start with cheap, fast burning wood like pine or cedar, whatever is local in your area. Be sure NOT to use laminated woods or anything that has glue holding the wood together. Once your oven is heated, switch to “good” wood like oak. Split the wood into approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter pieces. Do not use anything 4 inches or larger in diameter because you want to create a lot of air flow. The secret to a good fire is fast burning wood and a lot of air flow!
Start with putting the good wood in and pushing the fire to the back corner of the brick, exposing more surface area of the hearth to cook. Rake your coals over the hearth to heat the bricks as the fire builds in the back corner. Feed the fire with good wood as you clean and sweep your hearth.
Clean bricks are good! Black oven soot is common. At 750 degrees the black soot begins to burn. After about 2.5 hours of firing, the soot should burn away and leave you with a clean oven. Once the dome of the oven is clear of black soot, you are ready to start cooking!
An aggressive burning fire with a flame curling over the dome with an ambient temperature of 600-750 degrees is perfect for cooking thin pizza – vera Napoletana pizza. Remember the flame cooks the top of the pizza while the bricks cook the bottom! Slip the pizza in and be sure to watch the back of the crust. Watch for the crust to start to release moisture. Once you start seeing steam the pizza is ready to turn. Most pizza will be done within 3 minutes!
Wood fired brick ovens can be used for more than just cooking pizzas! High heat with lower flame allows you to not only cook thicker pizza with more toppings but you can also roast veggies, steaks and fish. An ambient temperature between 450 to 600 degrees is perfect for searing meat and browning veggies or casseroles. To roast, bring up your oven to about 700 degrees, the same temperature you would use to cook pizza. Then allow the temperature to drop and the fire to burn down, but not completely out. Push the coals to the side. Your oven should have a clear dome, medium size bed of coals and a small 2 to 4 inch high flame. For short roasting times (less than an hour) you may leave off the oven door. To regulate heat for multiple hours of roasting, place the door inside the arch opening . Add small pieces of wood as needed to maintain temperature.
Mild to moderate flame can be used to cook larger roasts like roast chickens and larger cuts of meat as well as delicate appetizers. Desserts, pasta and slow roasted items can be cooked with just the coals. No flame required hear!
A clean hot oven without fire or coal can be used to bake bread with exceptional crusts! Baking usually takes place at 500 degrees and lower. To bake with your brick oven, fully fire your oven then rake the hot coals and brush out the oven. Your oven can now bake with the retained heat of the bricks in the dome and hearth. The oven can bake either one fully loaded batch of bread or multiple batches in smaller quantities. Make sure to close the door tightly against the oven opening to retain heat and steam!
There are a lot of different uses for brick ovens. From pizza to steak to dessert, everything tastes better when it’s been wood fired in an authentic Renato Brick Oven!