This is for those who enjoy hosting a barbeque party for their family and friends. In case you didn’t know, grilling meat over fire isn’t the only available option for some outdoor cooking. If you are willing to be a little more ambitious, you can host wood fire pizza party at any given time in your own backyard. Here, The Week shows you how.
This certainly isn’t going to be as easy as pushing a button and turning some knobs on your oven but fans of wood fire pizza know the required effort is more than worth it. The heat from firewood creates ripples and bumps on the dough, making the cheese dance as well as giving that smoky flavor.
There are those fans who actually to go great lengths to build a proper dome oven with plywood, cement, or mortar. Some may have even bought various outdoor ovens but there is an option for those looking for an easier, more economical and practical alternative.
We can DIY our way to a mortar less pizza oven. The concept here is to stack clay bricks to create a chamber. It’s similar to the firewood stoves that Nepali families in rural areas have been known to build to cook their food.
So to begin with
Find a location. This is important as your brick pizza oven needs to be steady. You will need a sturdy platform and an even solid ground. Some prefer to prop commercial lightweight cement board on slightly elevated surfaces for convenience.
The next thing to do is to collect 100-250 regular clay bricks. It’s best to have a few spare bricks as some clay bricks can crack under extreme heat. It is very important that the clay bricks are all of the same size. Now we can begin building the base, that is the bottom of your DIY oven. Simply lay out the bricks, side by side to create a square or rectangle.
Next, we move on to creating a chamber, meaning you will have to put up the walls. Place the bricks vertically on top of the base. It’s best if your walls are 18-20 inches in height. Add bricks accordingly. If you can think of ways to make the walls sturdier, you can apply them as well.
It is crucial to maintain the heat while making wood fire pizza so you will need a roof. The simplest way to achieve this is by getting some (4 or 5) angle iron. This will help stabilize the roof of your DIY oven even without cement and mortar. Lay the angle iron down with the bend in the metal facing up. Then begin laying bricks between them. If you space the angle iron as tightly as possible, there will be minimal gaps for cold air to get in. To help the oven retain more heat, you can add a second layer of brick on top.
Baking firewood pizza can be tricky but with practice you can get it right.
Tips for cooking in the firewood oven
You will need to prep your wood fire oven. First thing you want to do is start your oven early, say two to three hours before cooking because high temperature is crucial for wood fire pizza. Start by building your fire at the back of the oven.
It’s best to keep your pizza simple. Don’t overload the base by going crazy with the toppings. Spread the tomato sauce, perhaps put in some bacon or sausage, drizzle your cheese and add some chilly. Another pro tip is to always put olive oil on the herbs before placing it on the pizza. This will help transfer the flavors better.
Never forget to flour the base of your pizza dough. Always put generous amount of flour underneath the pizza prior to placing on the fire.
If you are attempting to make a wood fire pizza, devise yourself a paddle. It’s what cooks do. It will help you place the pizza near the fire.
The placement of the pizza needs to be close to the flame. Not close enough that it will immediately catch fire but you have to get your pizza close enough to the heat so that it is going to start lifting right away. You also want char on the bottom of your pizza crust so that you don’t have to eat a doughy pizza.
On average, your oven will go up to 450°C-500°C. The latter temperature can actually cook your pizza in a minute. Needless to say, you need to keep an eye on the pizza. Pay particular attention to the part of the dough that is facing the fire because it will catch. A little char adds to the flavor but there is perhaps only a second or two’s difference between tastefully charred pizza and a plain burnt one.
Soon as the pizza looks set to you, use the paddle to take the pizza out. We are doing this only to turn it around. And place it back again. You can do this a few times. Use your judgment. Aim to make sure each side is cooked. Later on, to get that crispy edge, you can even place the pizza on the paddle and lift it right over the fire for a few seconds.
In 10 minutes or so, expect the heat of the oven to soften a little. This means it might take you a little longer to cook your next pizza. So, wood management is important. Make sure you have spare wood for restocking purposes.