What Is The Best Wood For Pizza Ovens? (2023)
You may not realize how much that smoky flavor adds to the homemade pizza experience until you try it yourself. We've switched between wood pizza ovens and gas pizza ovens, and the difference is very noticeable. The type of wood or charcoal that you use can make a big difference, too. Charcoal creates a lot of soot and doesn't provide the distinct flavor that wood offers, so we prefer wood over charcoal or gas. Hardwoods work best.
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If you're looking to buy a wood-fired pizza oven, you probably wonder what type of wood is best. Many different types of wood can be used in a pizza oven, but some are better than others. We will discuss the various options and which ones work best for making delicious pizzas!
What Is The Best Wood For Pizza Ovens?
You may not realize how much that smoky flavor adds to the homemade pizza experience until you try it yourself. We've switched between wood pizza ovens and gas pizza ovens, and the difference is very noticeable.
The type of wood or charcoal that you use can make a big difference, too. Charcoal creates a lot of soot and doesn't provide the distinct flavor that wood offers, so we prefer wood over charcoal or gas. Hardwoods work best for various reasons, which we will discuss in detail below.
Is A Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Best?
Wood-fired pizza ovens create better flavor than gas-fired pizza ovens. The biggest reason is that the wood smoke infuses the pizza with a unique flavor that simply can't be replicated by gas. As we will find out, this infused flavoring is so unique towood-fired pizza ovens that changing the type of firewood that you use will actually change the flavor of the pizza crust.
An outdoor pizza oven that is gas-powered does have its benefits. The heat generated by a gas burner is much more consistent and controllable than the heat from wood. This allows for a much more precise cooking temperature, essential for making perfect pizzas.
Wood-burning pizza ovens require much closer attention while cooking your pizzas, or a flare-up may burn your pizza. Still, gas pizza ovens will never produce the authentic experience and flavor a wood-burning pizza oven provides.
If you are not sold on needing to monitor wood each time that you cook, you can always opt for a multi-fuel oven to cook pizza. A multi-fuel oven provides the convenience of gas when you are in a hurry and the wood flavor when you have the time for cooking pizzas the best way.
Some people also prefer pizza ovens that can use the best lump charcoal, but we recommend sticking with wood.
Built-in Pizza Oven vs. Portable Pizza Oven
Deciding on the best woods for your situation will largely depend on how you intend to use the wood. Wood-burning ovens create the most authentic smoky flavor for your Neapolitan-style pizza, but there is a wide range of wood-burning ovens.
You may be fortunate enough to have a built-in pizza oven in your backyard or cooking space. If log size is of no concern because you have a full-sized pizza oven, you are probably more interested in which flavor is best. We will discuss this below.
Traditional firewood logs will fit just fine in a purpose-built pizza oven dome. In this case, softwood is the only wrong wood because it will burn too quickly and produce overwhelming smoke. For a nice mild flavor, consider hickory or mesquite firewood. For a slightly sweet flavor, consider utilizing fruitwoods.
Instead of having a portable pizza oven, such as an Ooni or Roccbox, you can either use purpose-cut pizza oven firewood logs or wood chunks. You can purchase chunk wood at your local hardwood store, while you may need to buy pizza oven logs online.
Brick Oven Pizza
For the most authentic experience, you may consider an outdoor brick pizza oven that is a permanent fixture in your backyard. You can build a stand for your brick pizza oven, or you could build a fireplace with a brick oven combo already installed. Several companies sell DIY kits.
A brick pizza oven will fit wood logs that are much bigger than those that might fit in a portable pizza oven. The other difference is that a portable pizza oven has a pizza stone, while the built-in pizza oven has a brick floor. They accomplish similar things (maintain heat and absorb moisture from the crust), but brick is the most authentic experience.
Best Hardwoods For Cooking
If you set out to discover the best wood for pizza ovens, you are likely convinced that hardwood is the way to go. Still, there are a few other decisions to make. First, you have to decide whether to use wood chunks or purchase specially cut pizza oven firewood logs.
The next decision is all about flavor. Several fruit-bearing trees create excellent firewood, including apple and cherry trees. If you like your pizza to have a slightly sweet taste, this is the way to go. Otherwise, one of the other options listed below will do.
Dried And Seasoned Hardwoods
The bottom line is that coking with dried and seasoned hardwoods is best, but red oak provides different flavoring than fruit woods or olive wood, so deciding which flavor you desire is vital.
On the bright side, you've obviously realized that wood is the best pizza oven fuel, and gas can't match the flavor. Based on that, you are ahead of the game.
The last thing you should consider before picking a flavor is what types of pizza toppings you like to use. If you like pineapple on your pizza, you might like fruitwood to complement the fruity flavor, but we recommend that you consider one of the more savory woods to offset the sweetness of the pineapple.
In the same way, some pepperoni is spicy, while other pepperoni carries a slightly sweet taste. Adding a light applewood flavor to a spicy pepperoni is a nice balance, but regardless, once you decide on your favorite pizza toppings, it's time to pick your preferred wood.
Oak firewood is extremely popular for cooking or smoking meat because it doesn't overpower the flavor of the meat. The same is true for pizza.
Oak firewood will still provide some complexity to the flavoring, but your chosen pizza flavors will shine. When you are making artisan pizzas, this is worth considering.
Great pizza starts with great ingredients. True pizza lovers will use 00 flour and San Marazano tomatoes alongside fresh mozzarella cheese. If you put this much care into your pizza ingredients, you certainly don't want your pizza flavoring to be overpowered by a smoky taste.
Red oak is often considered the king of hardwoods, and this is where it shines. Smoke from the red oak will still provide nice savory flavoring, but it won't overpower your pizza.
Mesquite wood burns hot while still burning slowly, perfect for smoking meats or cooking pizzas. Mesquite is a very dense wood that will work as well for your backyard bonfire as it does your backyard pizza oven.
Mesquite wood has a more robust flavor than oak does, and it is a flavor often described as earthy.
As you might imagine, mesquite smoke is very popular with ranchers in Texas and other areas, where rustic BBQ flavors are a way of life.
This works well for pizzas too. If you plan to use a portable backyard pizza oven instead of a custom-built brick oven, utilizing mesquite wood is one way to add a little authenticity to the experience.
And since mesquite wood is one of the hottest burning woods, you should have no problem reaching temperatures perfect for cooking a crispy crust.
Hickory wood is very popular for cooking, and we are personally big fans of hickory firewood. When you consider the best wood for pizza ovens, hickory wood is right at the top of the list.
We love a good savory pizza, and hickory smoke creates a very savory, even hearty flavor. Some have suggested that hickory smoke infuses food with a bacon-like taste. Who doesn't like bacon?
You can use hickory firewood with everything from pork shoulders to brisket, and it works incredibly well as wood for pizza ovens.
Hickory firewood will provide a noticeable flavor difference for your pizza, but the flavor won't be overbearing. It has a stronger flavor than something like red oak but not as strong as some fruitwoods. The hickory taste is medium-strength.
As you may or may not expect, smoke from an applewood fire is sweet and fruity. The fruit flavor isn't overbearing, but it is noticeable to most people.
As noted above, apple wood will work well with some toppings more than other toppings. Apple firewood is sometimes used for cooking pork, but it may not meet most people's preference for their pizza.
It is still worth experimenting if you are cooking alone and love pineapple, sweet onion, and other sweet ingredients. If others are loading up meat lovers and other savory pizzas, you are better served using oak or hickory.
In this regard, the one good thing is that the apple smoke is a very mild flavor. It won't knock you off your chair in surprise, so don't be afraid to try something new.
Apple and cherry firewood create a fruity flavor. I honestly never expected that the wood the fruit is born from would also have a fruity taste, but it does.
Cherry wood flavoring and applewood flavoring are very similar. Some might like it, while others will not. Still, others will like it just fine for barbecuing chicken but prefer that it not be used for pizza.
The overall flavor profile is light and sweet. If you want to get complicated, you could also try pairing cherry with something more neutral, like oak or hickory.
When it comes to picking a suitable wood for pizza, we recommend that you let the pizza do the talking. Avoiding the fruity flavor and sticking with oak and hickory may be the smartest and most straightforward move.
Pecan wood sits apart from apple and cherry firewood because even though it is sweet, pecan wood has a nuttier and less fruity flavor. It's uncanny how the smoke flavor aligns with the fruit or nut that the trees bear.
And nuts aren't as foreign to pizza as some people might think. Pistachio pizza is trendy, and in fact, it is one of our favorite artisan pizza combinations.
Pecan wood pairs nicely with pistachio pizza since it infuses that nutty flavor into the crust, but it is also a universal flavor.
Pecan smoke flavoring is a little more rustic and earthy than some fruit-bearing firewood, so it is an excellent middle ground between mesquite and apple. Pecan smoke flavoring can add a little sophistication to the overall taste of your pizza.
Olive wood has a distinct yet mild flavor. It isn't as easy to find as something like mesquite wood, but the taste is a bit milder than something as strong as mesquite. The milder flavor makes it popular for use in wood-fired ovens.
Olive wood is dense, which means it burns much longer than many, even the best kinds of wood. When olive wood burns, it creates a pleasant aroma, which makes outdoor cooking even more enjoyable than it might be otherwise.
Can Wood Be Too Dry For Cooking?
All wood contains some level of moisture. When cooking (smoking and grilling) with wood, the best results will occur when the moisture content is below 20%. Still, some wood may be too dry for cooking. Why? If there is too little moisture content, the wood will cook too quickly, and you will spend more time managing the fire than cooking.
How does this even happen? Well, some of the best wood used for producing wood chips, wood chunks, and wood pellets may not have been cut down with the intent of creating firewood. The lumber may have initially been intended for furniture or other purposes, and then the scraps were repurposed for firewood.
Overly dry wood may frustrate your outdoor cooking experience just as wet wood. This matters because the wood may not have been purposed dried for cooking. This can impact the quality of the wood and the remaining moisture content when it is sold.
Finding kiln-dried hardwood that was always intended for cooking is best.
Chunk Wood vs. Wood Pellets
People love the idea of cooking great pizza at home, but then they purchase a pizza oven only to realize that they have no idea what type of wood to put inside. After all, most pizza ovens aren't all that big, so it's not like you can buy firewood at the local hardware store to throw inside.
And some pizza ovens are specifically made to work with wood pellets, while others are not. Some online vendors are making small logs specific for pizza ovens, but most people start looking for wood last minute, and the most common solution is to use chunk wood.
If you don't have logs specifically cut down to sizes small enough to fit inside a pizza oven, we recommend you use chunk wood before using wood pellets. If you prefer to use wood pellets, just check the manufacturer's information before doing so.
What is Chunk Wood?
Wood chunks originate from hardwood trees and are primarily used for meat smokers, small fire pits, and grills, including pizza ovens. They are frequently used for adding flavor to the grilling and smoking process, which gas and even charcoal cannot replicate.
Wood chunks have also been called "smoking chunks," and "chunk wood" and are used in places where wood logs are too big to fit correctly. Wood chunks last longer than smaller pieces of wood because they maintain some of the wood mass while being much smaller than traditional firewood logs.
Wood chunks are generally available at your local hardware store in the grilling and smoking section. While pizza oven-sized logs may be ideal, chunk wood will be more accessible to find when you are in a rush.
Chunk Wood vs. Wood Chips
Chunk wood is bigger than wood chips. Wood chips will burn too quickly and are better suited to provide flavoring inside a traditional smoker. Wood chips are not usually exposed directly to the fire because they will burn too quickly.
It is OK to expose wood chunks directly to the fire because they are usually made from hardwood and kiln-dried. Additionally, because wood chunks are much larger than wood chips, they will last significantly longer than wood chips if exposed directly to the fire.
For a pizza oven, wood chunks are preferred to wood chips. Most wood chunks you will purchase at the local hardware store will be kiln-dried and ready for your wood pizza oven.
If you decide to purchase local wood, ensure you are not drying wet wood. If you choose to buy wet wood, develop a plan to properly dry the wood before using it, or you will have a tough time cooking.
Wet firewood isn't pleasant to work with and may result in you giving up before you get going. Slightly damp wood may still work if the core wood is appropriately dry.
Will Wood Pellets Work For Pizza Oven?
Some portable pizza ovens are specifically designed to work with wood pellets. The Ooni Fyra comes to mind as a compact pizza oven with a built-in pellet hopper.
The Ooni Fyra is unique because of its small size. It is designed explicitly for its portability, but it is too tiny even for chunk wood because of its smaller size. Do you know what is much smaller than wood chunks? Wood Pellets are much smaller and often sit in a specific pellet hopper, so they don't even need to sit in the pizza oven itself.
In such instances, wood pellets are an incredible alternative to chunk wood because you can get that smoky flavor you want, even if you are using a smaller appliance or on the go. Many small pizza ovens are gas-powered due to their limited space, but gas-powered ovens don't provide the same flavor as wood ovens.
Opt for a multi-fuel oven with a pellet hopper. Some larger multi-fuel ovens also come with wood pellet hopper accessories. If you want your pizza oven smoking your signature pellet mix, just ensure there are no manufacturer warnings against utilizing wood pellets.
How Much Wood Should I Put In Pizza Oven?
Determining how much wood to put in your pizza oven will depend on how long you want the pizza oven to run, how dense the wood is, and whether the wood is dried.
To start with, add just enough kindling and wood to get the fire started. The best wood burns hot, but it may not burn quickly. After you get your fire going, you will need to monitor your oven temperature. We recommend using an infrared thermometer, also called an IR thermometer.
Neapolitan-style pizza tastes best when cooked at high temperatures approaching 900 degrees Fahrenheit, so the amount of wood you put in your pizza oven will depend on the temperature of your fire and how long you want the fire to burn.
Safety is imperative. You don't want too much smoke billowing out of your oven, so don't overload it. You also don't want your fire to burn much longer than needed to cook your pizza. Hot burning temperatures are essential for achieving that slightly charred flavoring, but it is crucial to properly manage your fire so that it doesn't get out of control.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
In comparing hardwoods and softwoods, hardwood is substantially better for burning, whether in a fireplace, fire pit, or pizza grill. Hardwood burns slowly and often give off a more pleasant aroma. In contrast, softwoods burn quickly and produce too much smoke.
Smoke can provide great flavor to food when used appropriately, but too much smoke can be a distraction and maybe even a nuisance when burning wood. Softwood is known for leaving behind resin and building up wherever you use it.
So dried hardwoods not only provide the best taste but will also provide the best overall cooking experience. Here are five things to consider when comparing hardwood vs. softwood.
- Hardwood is a more dense wood and can withstand higher temperatures than softwood.
- Hardwood burns slowly and lasts longer.
- Softwood is lighter in weight and less dense, which means it burns more quickly.
- Softwood produces an excessive amount of smoke when it burns.
- Hardwood is known for its tasty flavorings, such as mesquite and hickory.
In our estimation, if you are researching the best wood for pizza ovens, the choice is clear. Dried hardwoods are the way to go, and there are plenty of options. Something like cherry firewood will produce a slightly sweet taste, while burning hickory firewood will add a savory element to your homemade pizza.
One thing to keep in mind is that wood creates an ashy mess. Learning how to properly clean your pizza oven will result in a better cooking experience. It will also prevent debris from making its way into your pizza crust.
What Is Softwood?
Softwood trees include pine, fir, cedar, and spruce trees. You might find it surprising that softwood is not always soft, which is good since softwood represents about 80% of the world's timber production.
The differences between hardwood and softwood are related to their structural makeup. Since softwood is less dense, it burns much faster. The other side of the coin is that hardwood takes about twice as long as softwood to dry adequately.
Still, for the best experience while cooking pizza, either properly season your hardwoods, or buy hardwood that has been properly seasoned or dried.
Where To Buy Wood For Pizza Oven
If you are using a full-size brick oven in your backyard, you might be able to get away with full-size logs, but most people are using much smaller ovens. With this in mind, traditional firewood is likely too large to fit in the ovens.
If you are in a pinch for time, wood chunks are your best bet. Oak wood chunks are popular, as are hickory and mesquite wood chunks. Wood chunks are also used for meat smokers, so you should be able to find chunk wood at local box stores.
Firewood For Pizza Oven Online
A few online retailers, such as www.cuttingedgefirewood.com, sell custom pizza oven firewood, including both full-size logs and mini logs. Cutting Edge Firewood has hickory, pecan, cherry, maple, and apple cooking wood splits available, and we highly recommend that you try Cutting Edge out.
If Cutting Edge Firewood is too expensive for you, do a quick search on Amazon. Carolina Cookwood is another brand worth considering, but there is no shortage of options.
Woods To Avoid
Not all wood is created equal, which is especially true when it comes to cooking and grilling. The best wood for pizza oven includes dried hardwood, such as hickory or mesquite.
You should never grab scrap would from your garage to start cooking.
Avoid Totally Green Wood
Green wood is essentially wood that was only recently cut. And in case you've ever wondered, the term "green wood" has nothing to do with the actual color of the wood. Newly cut wood has too much moisture to burn effectively.
The wood needs to be seasoned well before you try to burn it. If you try to burn freshly cut wood, the moisture content will make it nearly impossible, so avoid attempting to do so.
Avoid Painted Wood & Laminated Wood
You should never start a fire with painted woods because doing so will release unwanted chemicals that you may not want to breathe. This is especially true when you are cooking.
Laminated wood falls into the same category. Laminate wood contains chemicals that would be harmful if breathed in, so stick to wood chunks or wood logs that have been specifically harvested for cooking.
Cooking Pizza With Wood-Fired Ovens
Cooking pizzas in your backyard with a wood-fired pizza oven is a great way to make authentic pizzas, but it is also just plain fun. Determining the best wood for your pizza oven is part of that fun. If you like sweet flavor, you might try something like pecan wood. On the other hand, you might try mesquite wood for a distinct and earthy flavor.
It's not just your food that benefits from the aromatic hardwoods. These beautiful smells create an incredible outdoor atmosphere for hosting family and friends.
Fire pits and backyard pizza ovens both add to an exciting backyard experience.
Flavor From A Wood-Fired Oven Is Unbeatable
Wood-fired ovens provide an unbeatable flavor that you cannot get from a gas oven. The wood adds a delicious smoky flavor to your pizza, but it also helps to create a crispy crust when you cook at high temperatures.
Gas ovens are great for convenience and ease of use, but if your dream is to grill authentic Neapolitan-style pizza from your backyard, cooking with a wood-fired oven is non-negotiable.
Which Wood-Fired Pizza Ovens Are Best?
Brick ovens are expensive to build in your backyard, so the easier way to buy a portable wood-fired oven is unless you are a restaurant. A few brands stand out among the rest.
For years, consumers compared the Roccbox and Ooni before deciding on a pizza oven, but there are new players in the field. Ooni isthe pizza oven company, but Gozney makes a very refined pizza oven (the Roccbox) with a silicone outer skin popular among restauranteurs.
Now, Solo Stove entered the field with the pizza oven to complement their selection of smokeless fire pits. Solo Stove's bread and butter are fire pits and camp stoves, and they offer a variety of sizes. Still, in their quest to own the backyard, they introduced a very innovative backyard pizza oven called the Solo Stove Pi.
There are cheaper brands, as well, such as Bertello and Stoke. Among the more affordable brands, Stoke is the best pizza oven. Still, Ooni and Solo Stove pizza ovens are our favorites, with Stoke coming in as our third favorite because of its affordable quality.
Among fire pits, Breeo is the best for outdoor cooking, as it has an available sear plate and cooking grate. For pizza ovens, go with Ooni, Solo Stove, or Stoke.
So, What Kind Of Wood Do You Use For Pizza Oven?
Dried hardwoods work best for fireplaces, fire pits, and pizza ovens. We recommend that you consider pizza wood explicitly cut for a wood-fired oven. It is available in full-size varieties and mini-size logs.
If you need wood sooner than the internet allows for, you can also pick up www.cuttingedgefirewood.com or wood chunks from your local hardware store. The key is that the best woods have low moisture content and are sufficiently dense for hot burning temperatures and a long burn time.
When considering the best wood for pizza, our favorite is hickory, but you might try pecan if you are interested in trying something earthy but with a slightly sweet flavor.
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