Wood Ovens

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A Guide to Understanding Wood Ovens

Wood ovens, also called wood-fired ovens, wood-fired grills and pizza ovens, are less and less common in today's cooking society. They are mostly seen at camping sites or in big Italian bakeries and restaurants. However, one of the oldest cooking methods in existence still has its benefits. The wood firing provides a unique, authentic taste to your food, one that many diners enjoy.

Wood ovens take a while to heat up to their full temperature, but the height of the flame temperature is usually somewhere between 500 and 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the high temperature and the intense and direct heat, cooking generally goes quickly and rarely takes more than two to five minutes. The oven's intense heat will also burn away all the grease produced during the cooking process, meaning that the oven itself does not need intense cleaning very often.

Types of Wood Ovens

  • Black ovens are heated by burning wood in a chamber where the food is cooked alongside the fire while it is still going, or in the heated chamber after the fire and coals have been swept out.
  • White ovens are heated by heat transfer from a separate combustion chamber and flue-gas path, so the oven does not collect any direct coal residue and is therefore considered "white."
  • Fireplaces, also called firepits, are not just indoor heating tools. Outside, you can use a wood fireplace, bordered most commonly by brick or stone, to cook with a rotisserie, skewers or a grill placed directly over the open flame.

Wood Oven Design

Most wood ovens have a basic design that includes a dome-shaped chamber built on a base. There are also corner wood ovens that can be fitted to the room edges of your home for a sleek, customized look. Wood ovens can be simply designed, with just brick or stucco material, or they may include very ornate embellishments. This depends on your preferences and the manufacturer who provides it to you.

For travelers, there are also portable wood ovens. For portable wood ovens, you'll have a trailer hitch that includes a storage bin, and atop that bin sits your dome oven. The oven is still made of brick or mortar, making it sturdy and authentic, even on the road. Modular wood ovens and assembled wood ovens are becoming increasingly popular, as well. They are for homeowners who would prefer to not have a wood oven installed and would like to do it themselves. There are many difference packages and styles available, and due to the increase in available materials, are relatively inexpensive.

Design styles can range from the basic brick or wall oven to a stucco house, gabled house, barrel vault, brick house and many other custom designs. Outdoor wood ovens have the most flexibility with design, and some people will even shape their wood ovens to look like miniature houses, food stands and the like.

Wood Oven Precautions

Because wood ovens involve live flames, whether direct or indirect, they are at increased risk for human injury and fire hazard. Always follow the installation and maintenance instructions from the user manual exactly, and hiring a professional to do the installation is highly recommended. All wood ovens must have a hood placed over the flame oven or have a chimney-type exhaust. Many gas ovens will have air flow built into the design itself, but be sure of the available air flow in whichever location you will install the device. If you have a hood, then it has to fit certain measurements, depending on your model, and fire regulations require that the hood's rear wall be protected with a 22-gauge stainless steel insulated panel.

The wood for wood-burning ovens should never be kept in the same room as your oven. Storage should be in another area completely, and only a day's worth of wood should ever be in the same room as the oven at any given time. Because the oven can get extremely hot, it needs to be monitored at all times during use. If at any time the heat reaches over 1,000 degrees or there are flames shooting out of the door, then the oven should immediately be put out using emergency measures such as a fire extinguisher, which you should always have in the room. The type of wood you use should only ever be seasoned or dry, and the ashes need to be removed daily and the cooking plate wiped down lightly after it has cooled.

Last Updated: January 18, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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