In the world of wood fired pizza ovens, there's a lot of discussion about which perfect combination of cheeses, toppings, and crust creates the most delectable flavors and textures. On the other hand, there are not many people talking about an aspect of the process that in some respects is just as important: the fuel that's used in the cooking.
There are several reasons why using good quality kiln dried hardwood is the way to go for both home and commercial pizza ovens.
First and foremost, it's about taste, temperature, and texture. A wood fired pizza oven is designed with thick walls and a rounded dome top, which help to store heat and distribute it to the right places. In a domed pizza oven the heat is distributed evenly over the dome, and the floor of the oven remains somewhat cooler. This distribution of heat, in conjunction with the right fuel, is what makes fantastic pizza possible.
In terms of fuel, the key is using wood that burns hot and clean. In the environment of the pizza oven, this allows for quick, even baking that creates pizzas with bubbling melted cheese, sizzling hot toppings, a crispy outer crust, and a deliciously soft inner crust.
The type of fuel you burn in a wood fired pizza oven will naturally depend in part on what's available in your area, but assuming you have the choice, some types of wood are definitely better than others.
In a typical commercial wood fired pizza oven kiln dried hardwood is the preference, but apart from this, the type of wood that's being burned isn't quite so important as that the wood be very well seasoned and very dry. This is because dry, seasoned wood burns quickly and cleanly, to provide the high level of smokeless heat that cooks pizza to perfection. It also tends to produce less ash and ember “spitting”, which makes it easier to maintain a live fire in the oven while pizzas are cooking.
Some commercial ovens use a combination of fuels, by using wood as the primary fuel and natural gas as a secondary source. This is done in very large ovens to ensure even heat distribution. For home use, however, this isn't necessary, because home ovens are typically not so large that uneven heat distribution is a problem.
When choosing firewood for cooking in a home pizza oven, choose wood that is kiln dried, and very dry. This is key, because it allows the wood to burn at the high heat needed to get the pizza oven to the right temperature, and it ensures that the flavor of the pizza won't be affected by excessive amounts of smoke. Of course, adding smoke into the flavor mix can be fun to experiment with, not to mention delicious, but in general, reducing the amount of smoke the fire generates is the ideal.
In a nutshell, this requirement for a hot and smoke-free oven is why your choice of fuel is so important, and why kiln dried logs are so perfect for the task. Using kiln dried logs for a pizza oven ensures that you're using good, dry wood that gives you the heat you need for the perfect pizza.