I just finished my oven a couple of weeks ago and I dont think i’m heating my oven correctly. I seem to have hot spots. Can you explain how to correctly heat the oven before my july 4th party.
Properly heating the oven is uber-crucial when cooking in a wood fired oven! The only way to attain that mouth-watering taste and crunch of real wood fired pizza is to make sure your oven is evenly heated to the perfect temperature before you slide that first pizza in.
Ideally, you want your cooking surface (hearth) to be between 600 – 750. Hearth floor temps will vary depending on how you built your oven and/or which oven model you built. For example, dome ovens reach crazy-high temps, so their cooking hearth temps are much hotter than an open face Mattone Barile series oven (but closing off the front of the oven will retain even more heat). At the same time, the Mattone Barile barrel style ovens work amazingly well as BBQ’s, Smokers and large game cookers (those are not a dome oven’s strong-points).
So… on to “How to Heat the Hearth Surface”…
After you have started your initial fire and have a good 2 or 3 pieces of firewood burning, wait until those pieces start to char and burn down a bit. While your wood is burning, take a couple of minutes to spray or soak the head of your wood broom with water. Make sure it is thoroughly soaked.
Now head back to your oven, turn your brush head sideways (shake off any water) and beat the embers off the firewood and spread them in a circle. Blow on the fire / embers until they glow and add 3 more pieces of firewood. Grab a Diet Coke and wait about 10 or 15 minutes for this firewood to char. Once it looks like it’s starting to die down, grab the brush and beat the embers off the firewood. Again, spread them in a larger circle, blow the embers / fire to build it up and then add 3 more pieces of firewood.
You should be seeing a pattern now…
After doing this 4 – 6 times and your oven is at your desired cooking temp, break off as many embers as you can and spread the embers EVENLY over THE ENTIRE HEARTH SURFACE about 1” – 1.5” thick. Let these embers burn and glow for a good 10 or 15 minutes before you push everything to the rear or side of the oven… scrape the hearth surface clean of embers and ash… ADD 2 more SMALL pieces of firewood to the pile of red-hot embers and blow-off any ash that has landed on the hearth.
After some time has gone by, you may need to reheat the hearth (you can usually tell by pizzas taking longer to cook and/or not-so-crusty crust. Easy fix… pull some of the glowing embers back onto the hearth, add 3 or 4 pcs of firewood and let the fire roar once again! Once you are ready, repeat the Push, Add and Blow steps from before.
As time goes by and you really start to learn your new oven, you’ll know exactly how to fire the oven… where to move the wood / char for different baking methods… and when your oven is just the right temperature so the party can start!