If you want to give your pizza a unique flavor and texture that electric and gas ovens can’t match, cooking with wood is an excellent option.
A wood-fired pizza oven can make all the difference in the cooking speed and getting a thin well-cooked pizza with an authentic taste.
But what is the best wood for a pizza oven?
There are different types of pizza oven wood, and it’s important to know that you can’t use just any wood or wood pellets for your pizza oven.
The wood you use can affect whether or not the oven reaches the desired optimal temperatures, how long it takes to get heated up and cook the pizza, and the effort and cleaning required.
The best wood for pizza ovens should allow you to cook a pizza in a fraction of the time taken by other ovens, even if you use cast iron skillets, and give you a delicious chargrilled flavor.
Whether you’ve invested in a new wood-fired pizza oven or found one in a sale and are ready to fire it up, read on to discover the best wood pellets for pizza ovens.
Does The Type Of Wood Really Matter?
Absolutely. Although you can use any wood in wood-burning ovens, not all types of wood are suitable as pizza oven wood.
Some firewood can be dangerous to your health, including painted or laminated wood, pressure-treated wood, or any firewood with chemicals.
Here’s the deal.
Chemicals on the wood can be hazardous and toxic, and woods with high sap content can produce soot and too much smoke.
Although it may be suitable for smoking meats, you don’t want pizza oven wood that gets too smoky and compromises combustion and the taste of your pizza.
Here are a few reasons the type of wood matters:
You need a hot oven to cook your pizza sufficiently in just a few minutes, ensuring the center is cooked before the outside burns.
Traditional wood-fired pizza ovens are brick and stone, with a substantial thermal mass reaching 300 to 350 degrees Celsius.
Studies have found that the perfect temperature to cook a pizza is 330 degrees Celsius when baked in a wood-fired brick oven.
It ensures that when you slide in your pizza, the slab, walls, and oven roof are hot enough to cook the pizza in a few minutes.
What does this mean?
The type of wood you choose should be capable of producing such heat when combusted.
This alone is enough reason to choose the perfect type of firewood for your pizza oven.
The best wood for pizza ovens is usually dense hardwood that can reach such heat levels and perfectly cook your pizza.
Hardwood produces greater heat and has longer burn times than softwood. Ensure you only use dry wood instead of recently cut firewood to avoid too much smoke and inadequate flames.
The types of wood you choose for your pizza oven can influence the taste of your pizza.
The wrong firewood can give your pizza a harsh, bitter flavor that can put even the most devoted pizza enthusiast off.
Therefore, choosing an appropriate type of wood for the taste you aim to get is essential.
Fruitwoods can make excellent additions to your regular hardwood in wood-burning ovens.
Popular choices include apple, pecan, and plum, and they can bring an extra dimension of flavor to your pizza.
Remember, they don’t burn quite as hot or as long as hardwood but can make some of the best wood pellets for pizza ovens.
Mix them sparingly with your hardwood of choice to add a hint of flavor without making it overpowering.
You can experiment with different fruitwoods to determine the flavor that best works for you, depending on your taste buds or favorite toppings.
The type of wood you choose will determine whether or not you have an easy time cooking your pizza.
The best wood for a pizza oven should be easy to get lit and ready for cooking.
Unsuitable firewood can be difficult to ignite, and it will be a chore to get a fire going.
Even if you manage to start the fire, you may have to wait a long time to get to the appropriate temperatures if it’s not dense enough to burn very hotly.
Hardwoods are dense and produce more heat than softwoods for the same quantity of wood, making it easier to create the hot temperatures needed for cooking pizza in wood-burning ovens.
How much Wood Do You Need?
5 to 10 pieces of wood can be enough for a pizza oven, depending on your cooking or baking needs. You can use small amounts of the best wood pellets for pizza ovens to get the fire started.
Pellets of smaller pieces of wood make it easier to start your fire before adding more prominent pieces.
The length of the wood used for cooking in pizza ovens is usually 12 to 18 inches, with a thickness of 2 to 3 inches. The higher the temperature you try to achieve, the more wood you need.
When you need to fuel your wood-fired pizza oven, you can choose to cut the firewood yourself, purchase a rack or two of wood at a time or buy a truckload.
Although it’s the least expensive, cutting up firewood will take a lot of time and effort, while purchasing a rack at a time is not cost-effective.
Most firewood is sold as a cord of wood or fractions of a cord. It’s a legal unit of measurement accepted in most US states, and a cord of hardwood can range from $50 to $100 depending on the availability and location.
The total costs can reach up to $150 or more when you factor in processing, handling, and transportation.
Generally, it’s better to buy pre-cut hardwood in large quantities for your pizza oven, and you can find online specialty stores that sell premium firewood for your oven.
Always try to find the best pizza oven wood to ensure you get a high heat output and superior flavor.
Alder is a flowering tree from the birch family and produces some of the best pizza oven wood if you’re looking for medium heat.
Alder wood gives off a sweet and pleasant aroma and is best known for cooking poultry, lamb, sausages, vegetables, and fish like salmon.
Although it doesn’t have a high heat capacity like other hardwood options, it produces good quality charcoal and burns relatively fast.
It’s mild and great for mixing with other pizza oven wood for a pleasant, sweet, smokiness taste or a custom aroma.
If you’re only using Alder wood, you may need lots of it to maintain the oven temperature, and if you’re cutting it yourself, it can easily stain your clothes, so ensure you put on some gloves and protective clothing.
Pepperell wood is a favorite in smoking blends for chicken, beef, or meat. It can make good pizza oven wood with high heat levels and little to no ash.
It can give your pizza a garlic flavor without being too overpowering.
You can also mix Pepperell with other oven wood options if you’re using vegetable toppings to get a nice roast or grill.
If you want to add an aromatic taste to your pizza, butcher’s wood is an excellent choice.
It produces a fantastic smoky flavor when mixed with fruitwood but tends to burn hotter when combined with other wood varieties.
You must be vigilant when cooking pizza or other food options like chicken wings using butcher’s wood since they’ll dry out faster because of the high heat.
Cherry wood will give you a slow burn and a delicate, sweet flavor, especially when paired with other pizza oven wood like maple or almond.
The slow burn is excellent for baking bread or pizza since it allows you enough time to check on your results before adding more firewood.
Cherry wood is heavy and dense, making it easier to keep dry than lighter wood options.
You must wait until it’s completely dried out in around 6 to 8 months or a year before splitting because it can be challenging to split green cherry wood.
It’s usually easy to find and can make excellent pizza oven wood, but it won’t last long in the fire, so ensure you tend to your oven when burning this wood.
Cherry wood can give your pizza a delicious aroma and infuse it with a slightly fruity flavor.
Maple has a high heat capacity, making it one of the best wood for pizza ovens. You can combine it with other hard or fruitwoods like applewood or oak or burn it alone.
It can give your pizza a smoky sweetness with a mild and sweet flavor reminiscent of maple syrup.
It works well with many pizza toppings, including vegetables, BBQ chicken, ham, and pork.
Maple wood is a favorite for smoking meat since it burns slowly with very little smoke and can maintain high heat levels for a long time.
It doesn’t leave an unpleasant aftertaste and is also suitable for burning during the winter.
Maple wood can be difficult to split, but you don’t have to worry about that if you’re buying pre-cut firewood.
One thing to remember is that there are different maple wood species and they can have varying levels of sap content.
Since maple contains sugar, the sap can caramelize when burning, and higher quantities can affect your pizza’s taste.
Choose red maple, soft maple, boxelder maple, and silver maple to get good, even-burning, and refined flavors.
A dried elderberry tree burns very quickly and can burn well when only partially dry.
It can sometimes be challenging to ignite, and you may need to use accelerants or lighter fluid to start the fire.
Elderberry trees mixed or blended with other fruitwood can give your pizza a pleasant aroma and taste.
They make some of the best wood pellets for pizza ovens, and you can pair them with other hardwoods like oak.
The elderberry tree is often riddled with myth and folklore, especially in Europe, but it’s hard to overlook its potential as firewood for a wood-burning oven.
Unless you’re scared of witches, the elderberry tree can be an excellent source of fuel with wood that burns fast and hot with a desirable aroma.
Hickory burns hot and fast with minimal smoke, making it one of the best wood for pizza ovens that require high temperatures.
The hickory hardwood is readily available in most states thanks to its popularity with over 12 varieties native to the US.
Hickory is popular among cooks who use wood-fired ovens because it can burn at high temperatures for a long time and create a unique, smoky aroma.
It adds a rich, hearty tang to meats and is suitable for bacon, sausage, chicken, and beef.
Hickory wood is one the best pizza oven wood if you’re using pizza toppings that inherently lend themselves well to smoky flavors.
However, its strong smoky flavor can overpower slightly delicate ingredients like light cheese or fish.
The taste also intensifies the longer you burn it, and you can have a bitter taste if you put too much in the pizza oven.
If you ask experts what is the best wood for a pizza oven, they’ll likely mention Mesquite among the top choices.
It has high heat levels and adds a sharp, distinctive flavor to your meals.
You want your pizza oven wood to burn hot and fast to ensure the pizza and toppings cook evenly, and Mesquite can help you achieve this.
It gives a bold flavor to meats and is an excellent choice if you’re using pork, steak, pepperoni, or fish toppings.
Mesquite wood is primarily suitable as an outdoor pizza oven wood since it produces a large amount of smoke.
It’s among the most potent firewood, so add some fruitwood for a milder flavor if you don’t want a heavy wood scent.
Pecan shares some characteristics with Hickory, but it features a hint of nuttiness and a more subtle flavor, making it one of the best wood for pizza ovens.
It’s a popular choice for many wood-fired ovens and is often cultivated for wood and fruit.
Pecan is smoother and less intense than Hickory, with a fantastic smell and aroma that goes well with pizza.
However, despite being a solid and dense hardwood, it doesn’t burn as hot or as long as other hardwoods like oak.
Using pecan alone as your pizza oven wood can be a struggle, so it’s better to pair it with other hotter burning wood.
Pecan wood is widely available across the Southern US and is suitable for dark meat pizzas and the classics like pepperoni or BBQ chicken.
If you’re looking for clean-burning wood with a pleasant aroma, walnut wood is your best bet.
It makes one of the best wood pellets for pizza ovens if you’re using vegetable or fruit toppings on your pizza.
It brings out the flavor of fruits and vegetables like potatoes, mushrooms, and onions and is an excellent wood to use for a divine taste.
However, walnut doesn’t burn as long as other hardwoods, so you’ll need to mix it with other hardwoods like oak to keep the fire going in your oven.
It’s easy to clean from your oven since it only leaves behind small amounts of ash in your pizza oven.
We’ve saved the best for last. Oak is easily the best wood for pizza ovens since it ticks all the right boxes.
It’s readily available in most areas, dense and heavy with a very high heat value, and produces consistent heat for extended periods, creating the ideal temperatures needed in pizza ovens.
And that’s not all.
It burns slowly with a mild flavor and produces little smoke, making it an all-around excellent choice for pizza ovens.
It will give your oven a consistent temperature, and you can never go wrong with oak as pizza oven wood.
Oak will give the perfect aroma and smokiness to your pizza and toppings, including beef, vegetables, lamb, and seafood.
If you’re unsure what is the best wood for a pizza oven or don’t know what to start with, choose oak, and you’ll not be disappointed.
Tips For Choosing Wood
Each pizza oven wood has unique characteristics, and you’ll have a wide range to choose from. Some vital things to consider when choosing include:
No matter what wood you choose, ensure you only select kiln-dried hardwood to avoid disappointments.
If it’s not hardwood and it’s not completely dried, the pizza oven wood will not burn hot enough to cook your pizza perfectly.
Even if you don’t get the best wood for pizza ovens, you can still achieve excellent results if you stick to dry hardwood.
If you choose pizza oven wood with high sap content, it will likely release a toxic wood combustion by-product known as creosote, which gradually builds up in the pizza oven.
Softwoods are notorious for their high sap content and can produce too much smoke when burned or even fail to light up.
If you must use softwood, curing, removing the bark, and seasoning can help reduce the sap content.
If the wood isn’t thoroughly dry, it’s not a suitable pizza oven wood.
Pizza requires high temperatures for a short cooking time, and you can’t achieve this if there’s a high moisture content in the wood.
You’ll likely end up with a soggy mess instead of a crisp base.
You’ll also create a lot of smoke if you burn damp wood and only get relatively low amounts of heat.
If you’ve seasoned the wood at home and are unsure of its moisture content, a moisture meter can help you determine the correct moisture levels.
You should aim to achieve a moisture benchmark of 20% for the best cooking results.
Excessively Dry Wood
You also don’t want your pizza oven wood to be too dry. A moisture level below 15% is considered excessively dry for wood-burning ovens and can create excess smoke and soot.
Although it’s less common than moist wood, you’ll want to avoid overly dry wood because it can burn too fast and make it difficult to control the fire.
If you have too dry firewood, you can mix it in bit by bit with some of the best wood pellets for a pizza oven to balance out the whole load.
Treated or Painted Wood
You should avoid using any treated, painted, or laminated wood with any trace of chemicals or glue in your pizza oven.
Such types of wood can burn dangerously and unpredictably and increase your risk of ingesting harmful toxins.
Only use wood you’ve bought from a trusted source or harvested personally.
The best wood for pizza ovens is dry hardwood with a smoky flavor. Some popular choices include oak, pecan, Mesquite, Hickory, walnut, maple, and cherry.
They’ll give you a high burn, add a delicious aroma to your pizza and toppings, and make it easy to bake in a few minutes.
Here are some excellent ideas on making the perfect dough and recipes you can try out once your pizza oven is fired up.
With the best wood for pizza ovens, you can easily achieve a delicious, thin-crust pizza without breaking a sweat.