There’s nothing quite as tasty as a pizza made in your own pizza oven.
It’s satisfying to eat something you cooked yourself over a proper wood flame. It’s easy, too. Just stick some wood in the oven, light it, and you’re all set, right?
It’s important to use the right wood in your pizza oven. Using the wrong wood can lead to clouds of smoke, a damaged oven, and an unpleasant pizza. Use hard, well-seasoned wood for the best smoke-free flame. Then choose your ideal flavor from the list below.
While there are some basic pizza guidelines, your choice also depends on personal taste. Curious how wood affects flavor? Read on to learn more.
Why Wood Matters
Every type of wood burns differently. In your pizza oven, that can be the difference between a perfect pie and a perfect disaster.
Different species of trees are more or less dense. They also produce varying levels of sap, moisture, and scent chemicals. That leads them to burn faster or slower, hotter or cooler, and produce different amounts of smoke. Ideally, the wood you burn in a pizza oven should burn hot and slow, without producing too much smoke.
There are two major differences to watch for in your pizza oven fuel. First, is the wood a hardwood or softwood? Second, is it green or well-seasoned? This will make all the difference for your final pizza.
Hardwood vs. Softwood in Pizza Ovens
It’s best to use hardwoods in your pizza oven. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the fall. These trees tend to be more dense and produce less sap. That makes them heavier, which in turn leads to a hot, steady, long-lasting burn.
Avoid using softwoods in your pizza oven. Pine trees are softwoods. They produce a lot of sticky sap, and they are relatively light. Because of that sap, burning softwoods leads to a lot of unpleasant smoke. Softwoods also burn much more quickly than hardwoods without generating as much heat.
This is why you want to avoid using generic firewood in your pizza oven. Unless you’re able to identify wood at a glance, it’s hard to tell what tree your firewood came from. While it may work just fine on your campfire or in your fireplace, unidentified firewood is a wildcard in your pizza oven.
Make sure you know where your firewood comes from, so you can predict how your pizza oven will work.
Green Wood vs. Seasoned Wood
The drier your wood, the better it will burn. It’s always better to use dry, well-seasoned wood in your pizza oven. Seasoned wood is wood that’s been left to dry for months. It takes time for moisture to escape from dense logs like hardwood. Seasoning is the process of letting all that extra water escape before you burn it.
Green wood is bad for pizza ovens. It’s difficult to light, because it’s still relatively moist. If it does light, it will burn unevenly and produce a lot of steam. It can ruin your pizza, and even pop and break your pizza oven. Avoid burning green wood in your pizza oven.
Which Wood to Choose for Your Favorite Pizza
There are plenty of types of hardwood to choose from for your pizza oven. Different woods offer different smells and tastes to your pizza. The wood you choose can seriously affect how your pizza tastes. Depending on what you’re after, you can use different woods for every bake.
Standard hardwoods are the most common fuel for pizza ovens. Hardwood logs are easy to find, burn hot and clean, and there are a variety to choose from. Depending on where you live, different hardwoods might be easier to find than others.
Oak: Oakwood is considered the standard for many log-burning ovens of all types. It’s found all over, it burns cleanly and efficiently, and it produces impressively high temperatures. It doesn’t add much of a flavor compared to other woods, so it’s a safe choice for all types of pizza.
Birch: If you can’t find oak, you can probably find birchwood. It doesn’t burn quite as hot as oak, but it still produces a steady, even heat. Birch is another cleanly-flavored wood that won’t leave ash on your pizza.
Maple: If you want a standard hardwood that offers a lot of flavor, maplewood is the way to go. It adds a hint of sweet, maple syrup flavor and scent to things cooked in its fire. That makes it a great choice for pizzas like Hawaiian and other with pineapple, as it’s a nice complement to fruity flavors.
Hickory: Hickory is deeply associated with bacon, as it adds a pungent note that compliments pork. All types of meat can benefit from hickory, but pizzas with pork, bacon, or ham are the best use of hickory logs.
Fruitwoods are a specific subset of hardwoods. They come from fruit trees that had to be cut down. Most fruitwoods add a bit of their fruit’s flavor to whatever they’re cooking, so they’re a great choice for adventurous cooks.
Mesquite: Mesquite is a common wood to find in log-burning ovens. That’s because it adds a strong, earthy flavor that’s ideal for smoking meats. It also adds a southwestern flair to dishes. Any pizza with red or dark meat on it can benefit from being cooked over a mesquite fire.
Cherry: Cherrywood adds a lightly sweet flavor with just a hint of fruitiness. Just about everything can be cooked over cherrywood, and meats in particular absorb its flavor well. It burns evenly, better than many other fruitwoods.
Apple: Applewood is a standby for big pizza restaurants. It burns extremely hot, so pizzas are cooked in no time. However, it has a tendency to pop and spark that can be a little alarming for people with smaller pizza ovens.
Pecan: Pecan is a little stronger than cherrywood, but not quite as intense as mesquite. It adds a subtle nutty flavor to anything cooked with it. Many people enjoy poultry and lighter meats cooked over pecan wood, so it’s a perfect choice for chicken alfredo pizzas.
Some pizza ovens run on pellets, especially smaller, portable models. These pellets can be bought special, or you can find them at hardware stores. It’s important to make sure that your pellets specify what wood they’re made of. Some wood pellets can include mixed hardwood, or even softwood. That won’t lead to the results you want.
If you look, you can find hardwood pellets from a variety of trees, but beechwood is most common. Beechwood burns cleanly, evenly, and adds a mild smokey flavor to anything cooked on it. It’s a pleasant flavor that complements every pizza.
Pizza ovens are a great way to make cooking dinner an event.
They make parties feel fancier, they make pizza feel special, and they’re an efficient, tasty way to cook.
Using the right wood helps pizza ovens do their job more effectively. With the right log, you can easily take your pizza to the next level. Whether you’re looking for a crispy, sweet experience or a soft but smoky pizza, there’s a wood for you.
If you’re looking to upgrade your pizza oven, you have plenty of options, too. You can check out portable pizza ovens here at our full, free guide. If you’re considering a bigger, more permanent addition, I have a huge collection of reviews for all types of ovens that you can consider here.
I hope this has helped you develop a better pizza-cooking technique.
Have a great day, and thanks for reading!