I’ve tried four times now, each time getting better but it still seems it’s taking too long to cook and the middle is still soft. Dough, not hot enough? Here is what I’m doing.
Stack about 4-5 logs in and get them going really good in the front center. When it’s falling apart (20 minutes or so) I push it around and throw in another 3 pieces, all with the door off. Again, when this is burned off I put in another 3-4 logs and wait until it’s basically small chunks of goal. The walls are white. I push the goals and maybe a log that’s left to the back and wait a few minutes for the bottom to cool down. I then use the door to keep the heat in and start the pizza. Usually the pizza will take 6-8 minutes to finish and each one after that seems to take a little longer. I followed the instructions including the blanket wrap. Any tips, I have a IR heat measure gun, what should I be checking?
Keep in mind, wood-fired oven pizza is not like pizza from Pizza Hut, Papa Johns or any other brand that is delivered in a cardboard box (or even pizza you make in your kitchen oven). It does not have a thick crust with a ton of multiple / heavy toppings that take a long time to bake.
Next time you fire-up your oven, roll the pizza dough to the same size / diameter, but make the dough thinner and use less sauce and less toppings. Don’t try to make one-big “Super Pizza”… make multiple lighter pizzas with various toppings. The pizzas will cook faster (about 90 seconds - 3 minutes to fully cooked) and your guests get to enjoy many different types of mouth-watering and CUSTOMIZED pizzas vs one big take-it-or-leave-it pizza.
I’m having the same problem and think I know the cause - recurrent moisture/rain water getting into the sand layer beneath the fire brick floor of the oven, possibly seeping in through cracks in the mortar around the outside of the oven. We had this issue right after completing our build last Fall. The floor fire bricks were getting warm but not hot, even after going through the full curing process over a week’s time. Finally, after several more days of trying, the fire brick floor starting getting hot, the crust got baked and somewhat crispy in the middle. The first pizza still took at least 6 minutes to cook. We followed instructions to the letter when building our oven. One thing we learned in hindsight was that vermiculite absorbs water but perlite does not. Of course, we’d used vermiculite in the base insulation layer.
Here in TN it’s now mid-March and time to fire-up the oven after keeping it draped with a tarp over the winter. And, yes, we did allow air space between the tarp and the oven itself. Well… same problem as before. I’m considering building a roof over the oven but I may first try to put a layer of stucco over the base’s perimeter of brick and then coat it with a liquid sealant.
First and foremost, follow Kevin’s great advice and consider doing a thinner crust, with fewer toppings. It sounds like you’re kinda on that track anyway, but it also sounds like you’re allowing your oven flames to die out and so the oven is cooling down.
I ran across this description of the “Pizza Oven Environment” in Andrea Mugnaini’s excellent book The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking:
Floor temperature of 650-750*F with a flame rolling to the middle of the stone.…The entire dome should be void of any black soot [which it sounds like you’ve got], the coal bed should extend 8-10 inches from the oven wall, and a live flame should be rolling to the midpoint in the dome.…The door remains off.
…Expect to add one to two pieces of wood every 20 minutes to maintain the live flame.
They measure temperature with the IR sensor, like yours, and they measure temperature on the floor of the oven, nowhere else.
It sounds to me like you are firing your oven to the required temperature, but then allowing it to cool and counting on the door to retain the heat. That’s more what you would do if you were baking, which requires a lower temperature and more consistent temperature control.
So in addition to Kevin’s excellent recommendation about the dough (I like to be able to see my fingers through my dough once it is stretched!), I’d suggest trying Andrea’s formula for creating a hot, live-flame environment. One other wrinkle is that your flame should be on one side of the oven, toward the rear, to get your floor to the kind of temperatures worth building a pizza oven for. But don’t wait for the bottom to cool off, and don’t count on coals to bake your pizza—you need live flames.
Also consider @Peter 's discovery regarding moisture getting in to the sand under the floor. The sand itself is used for leveling, not insulating, but he’s figured out by observation that possibly there’s enough moisture getting into the insulating space under the sand to cool things down. I’m not quite convinced, but then again you said it’s “getting better each time.”
Hope you are on your way to turning out world-class pizza!
Great advice, as the snow melts I’m getting really anxious to get that oven fire up again. By the end of the season I was able to pump out some really quality pizzas but I still had the issue of the oven cooling down by the end, I’m guessing I’m not doing a great job of keeping the oven heated with flames. Since I have the smaller oven it’s hard to get logs in there while still fitting the pizzas. I probably just need more experience.
The sand comment is interesting as I noticed rain does get into the front of the oven and saturate about 3-4 inches in. My plan this year it so build some kind of lip so the door sits under that to prevent rain from getting in. I’m not sure if it affects temperatures but it’s nasty to have the wet bricks either way.