By Sarah Wilson
Learn how to use a pizza oven and you'll soon realise there's nothing like cooking your pizza in an outdoor oven. Whether friends and family choose to stay indoors and watch out of the window while it cooks or come outside to join you there will be lots of happy customers. Did someone mention pizza pop-up?
Creating that authentic pizza taste is easy once you get the hang of cooking in the best pizza oven, but there are also some quick hacks that will take your offering up to the next level. Such as, did you know you should cook pizza on one side of the oven? The heat from the floor of the oven gives it that lovely speckled crust, while the heat from the dome will cause the cheese to bubble but you need to be able to keep a close eye on your pizza while it cooks. So slot it in to one side and you can turn it easily with the peel so it cooks evenly and you'll get the best results.
We've come up with five quick ways to improve your pizza oven performance, so read on to find out how to up your game. Need some inspiration for what to cook in your pizza oven? Head over to our best pizza oven recipes for tasty dishes that are guaranteed to be a hit with family and friends.
What is the perfect temperature to cook a pizza in a pizza oven?
High heat is necessary for making great pizzas and there are many reasons for this. You want the pizza to cook completely and the cheese to melt, but you don’t want the oven too hot or the crust will burn. The optimum temperature in the pizza oven tends to be 450 to 500 degrees Celsius.
For larger wood-fired pizza ovens, it's generally good to start your fire a couple of hours before you want to cook, although many smaller tabletop pizza ovens that use wood pellets as a fuel have much quicker heat up up times. There's also the option of gas-fired pizza ovens, which won't require such long heat up times either.
When you cook pizza at the right temperature, the crust gets the correct amount of crispy texture, without being brittle or dry. Another reason to use a blisteringly hot oven is so the cheese is evenly melted over the entire pizza. So getting the oven hot enough before you start loading the pizza in is crucial. An infrared temperature gauge that accurately measures the temperature of your oven is useful although as you get to know your oven you'll be able to see when it's ready.
What's the best wood to use in a pizza oven?
The wood needs to be really dry so it burns cleanly. The best woods are seasoned hardwoods such as oak, maple, ash, beech and birch. Wood chips and wood pellets can also be used as kindling and fuel provided they’re untreated. Avoid using anything that will release hazardous chemicals, makes it hard to keep the temperature consistent, or leaves a soot build-up that presents a fire hazard.
If you're using logs in a larger wood-fired pizza oven and want to get a good fire going quickly, build a stack with the logs arranged in a criss-cross pattern in alternate directions and fill the central 'well' with kindling. Build your fire with care and look after it to get the best results with your cooking.
Some smaller wood pellet pizza ovens come with a hopper so you can feed pellets directly into the oven as and when required to keep the flames going.
How long does it take to cook a pizza in a pizza oven?
In a wood-fired pizza oven, it should only take one to two minutes because of the very high temperatures. These ovens are designed so that the entire pizza gets the heat evenly and is also cooked at a very high temperature, which doesn’t happen in an ordinary oven. But if the temperature is not even one side of the pizza may burn while the other side remains uncooked. So keep your eye on it and turn it two or three times using a pizza peel until it looks suitably bubbly.
What accessories do you need for cooking a pizza in a pizza oven?
You will ideally need a good pair of heavy duty gloves to protect your hands from the heat, as well as thick pan holders to double up with as cooking utensils get really hot. A long handled pizza peel is a versatile accessory as you can use it for pretty much everything else as well as pizza, including adding logs to the fire and moving embers around when you need to. A long handled wire brush is great for keeping the floor of the oven clean. Our guide to the best pizza oven accessories has all the top buys for you to choose from.
Go easy on the pizza toppings
Your pizza needs to fit on the pizza peel so resist the temptation to supersize it. Be careful how generous you are with the toppings you pile on too. Remember you'll be sliding it in and out on the pizza peel several times and you don’t want it shedding everywhere in the process.
It’s always easiest to build the rolled out pizza dough directly on a floured peel, gently stretching the dough to fit, then adding your toppings. Ease gently into the oven and with one swift motion, jerk the peel back out from under the pizza. Keep your eye on it until you see the cheese start to bubble. Ease the peel back in and slide the pizza out to turn it. You may have to turn it one more time but three turns is generally the most you'll need to do. The result? One perfectly cooked pizza that will taste amazing!
Our top-rated pizza ovens
Love the idea of a garden pizza night? Check out our top pizza ovens below for info on where to buy them at today's best prices.
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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