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What Kind of Firewood for Pizza Oven Use?

You found a wood burning pizza oven for sale and after your wood fired oven’s arrival, you’re ready to fire it up and start cooking those delicious wood fired pizza recipes like an almond wood smoked chicken and spinach pizza. Wait a minute!  I think you can agree that spending an hour trying to heat a smoky oven isn't your idea of a good time!

But, it doesn't have to be that way if you have the best wood to use in your pizza oven.  Not all wood is fit to use in a wood fired oven and not all firewoods contribute to the savory blends of wood fired cooking flavor.  

Best wood for a pizza oven

In this blog post, we’ll focus on the best woods to use for your residential outdoor wood burning pizza oven. Hopefully, after you've read this post, you’ll know the dos and don’ts of using wood for pizza oven use.

Woods to Avoid When Cooking in Wood Fired Oven

Cooking in a wood fired oven is a healthy choice so don’t negate that by using firewood that is dangerous to your health.  Laminated woods, pressure treated and painted woods, or any wood that has chemicals are never to be used in a wood fired oven.

Why does this matter?

These woods have hazardous chemicals that can be toxic.  Also, avoid woods that have high sap content, like pine. Sap produces soot and creosote which coats the oven floor and is bad for humans.  This is especially important when using various woods in commercial wood fired pizza ovens.

Best Wood for Pizza Oven

Now that you know the types of wood that you don’t want to use, you may be asking “what is the best fuel for pizza ovens”?   

Wood burning in a large pizza oven

The best woods for pizza ovens are seasoned and dried hardwoods. Hardwoods, which usually contain broad leaves on the trees, are a better option than softwoods, which usually have needles and cones.

One reason hardwoods are better for cooking in a pizza oven is that they are cleaner and last longer than softwoods. The best examples of hardwood are maple, oak, ash, hickory, walnut, birch, and beech.

That's not all...

If you love the aromatic effect wood has on your food then fruitwood is highly recommended and can greatly affect your meal. Fruitwood, as the name implies, comes from several fruit-bearing trees.  

Fruitwood includes apple, cherry, plum, almond, pear, hickory, maple, pecan, mesquite, chestnut, avocado, alder, apricot, and nectarine.  These woods can really add to the flavor of your next dinner!

Flavored Wood for Pizza Oven

According to The Forest Encyclopedia, often the wood flavor is influenced more by the climate and soil in which the trees are grown rather than the species of wood.  This means that the differences between maples grown in Tennesse and maples grown in Colorado may be greater than the differences between maple and pecan that are grown side by side in a region.

With that caveat, different fruitwoods have different smells so they season your food in a different way. Therefore, some fruitwoods are a better match for certain types of food.  Below are some popular fruitwoods and the most popular types of food to cook with them in your wood fired oven.

Alder Wood 

Alder tree provides wood for cooking

Alder is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs belonging to the birch family.  

Alder is very mild with a subtle, slightly sweet flavor making it the perfect go-to smoke flavor. Some people like to mix Alder with other types of wood to create custom flavors. Alder works well with fish, poultry, vegetables, lamb, and sausage as it provides a light flavor.

Alder Wood Smoked Salt Salmon Recipe

Try this recipe for Alder Wood Smoked Salt Salmon

Apple Wood

Apple tree used for cooking wood

While very popular in the US, the Apple tree originated in Central Asia.  European colonists brought the Apple tree to North America.

Apple is often used by pizzerias to enhance aroma and flavor because this wood burns very hot. Foods can also be smoked for longer periods of time due to the mildness of this wood. This makes Apple wood an excellent choice for cold smoking cheese and meats.

Applewood Smoked Chicken Recipe

Try this recipe for Applewood Smoked Chicken

 

Hickory Wood

Hickory tree used for cooking wood

There are approximately 18 species of Hickory throughout the world.  It is believed that as many as 12 Hickory trees are native to the United States.

Hickory has a strong aroma that is slightly sweet but not too bold. Hickory is popular for cooking bacon and sausage dishes but it also pairs well with beef and chicken. Since Hickory has a very strong smoke flavor, it can overpower some dishes.

Hickory-Smoked Chicken Recipe

 Try this recipe for Hickory-Smoked Chicken

 

Maple Wood

Maple tree used for cooking wood

The Maple tree is one of the most recognized with it's large colorful leaves.  There are approximately 128 species of Maple with most native to Asia.

Maple has a sweet flavor and mild aroma reminiscent of Maple syrup. With that smoky sweetness, it naturally pairs well with pork but is also commonly used with poultry and vegetables.  One item to note with Maple is there are multiple species with each containing varying levels of sap content. This sap will caramelize when burning (more sap = more caramelization) so it can affect your food's taste. The higher the caramelization, the higher the possibility of a slightly bitter taste.

Maple Bourbon Smoked Ribs Recipe

Try this recipe for Maple Bourbon Smoked Ribs

 

Mesquite Wood

Mesquite tree used for cooking wood

Mesquite trees are native to Mexico and the southwestern United States.  These trees can survive in desert conditions because they have extremely long roots allowing them to find water very far underground.

Mesquite is popular because it is a very hot burning wood. It is a favorite when cooking steaks or pork as it gives a bold flavor to meats.  It is also a stronger wood so some think it can be a bit bitter or harsh. 

Recipe for Mesquite Smoked BBQ Ribs

Try this recipe for Mesquite Smoked Bbq Pork Ribs.

 

Oak Wood

Oak tree used for cooking wood

There are approximately 600 species of Oak trees with the largest number of Oak species in North America.  Mexico boasts 160 species while China contains approximately 100 species. 

Oak is one of the most popular of all the woods used in wood-fired ovens as it is usually readily available in most areas. It burns for the longest time and gives off a great aroma for your food. Oak wood is typically used for ribs, lamb, and beef as it is the perfect complement to most meat seasonings.

Oak Smoked Prime Rib Recipe

Try this recipe for Oak Smoked Prime Rib

 

Peach/Nectarine Wood

Peach tree or Nectarine tree for getting wood

The Peach tree is native to Northwest China.  The Peach tree belongs to the genus Prunus which also includes the plum, apricot, almond, and cherry trees.

Peach gives a fruity and slightly sweet flavor to white meats, seafood, and fish so it often used by competition Pitmasters. It is often combined with Oak or Hickory when cooking beef, chicken, or pork. It is commonly used to smoke game birds.

Recipe for Whiskey Peach Smoked Pulled Chicken

 

Try this recipe for Whiskey Peach Smoked Pulled Chicken

 

Pecan Wood

Pecan tree used for cooking wood

Well-known in parts of the United States, the Pecan tree is often cultivated for its fruits as well as its wood.  This species of Hickory is native to the Southern United States in the region of the Mississippi river and also can be found growing in northern Mexico.

Pecan is widely used for wood-fired ovens. It gives a sweet flavor that is a little smoother than hickory. Because it is not as strong and doesn't burn as hot, it is great for smoking larger pieces of meat, such as pork roasts and Thanksgiving turkey.

Pecan Wood Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe

Try this recipe for Pecan Wood Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich

 

Walnut Wood

Walnut tree used for cooking wood

Walnut trees can grow extremely large with many being as tall as 131 feet.  Half of the world's total number of walnuts are produced in China.

Walnut is the perfect match for cooking fruits and vegetables. It brings out the flavor of vegetables and fruits, especially mushrooms and potatoes. If you love your food to have a great aroma, this is a great wood to use! 

Texas-Style Smoked Brisket Recipe

Try this recipe for Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

Does Moisture Content Affect Wood Fired Cooking?

Did you know that the moisture content of your firewood affects not just your food but also your wood-fired oven? YES, it does! The ideal moisture content of the best wood used in wood-burning ovens is 20% moisture. This means that under-dried or over-dried woods are not recommended.  There should be a nice balance, not too dry but not totally green wood.

Why Is My Pizza Oven Smoking?

One of the main complaints we hear from new wood fired chefs is that they have too much smoke coming from their pizza oven.  While this may be perfect when smoking meats, this isn't what you want when having a pizza party.  Even the best wood fired pizza oven will smoke if you are using the wrong wood.   

Pizza cooking in a smoky brick oven

Here's the deal:

Greenwoods are those that have been just cut recently and not had the chance to dry yet. This type of wood is NOT what you want. It doesn’t produce the right amount of flame needed inside the oven and will produce lots of smoke.  

To avoid too much smoke, use hardwood that is kiln dried to ensure the balanced moisture and dryness of the wood you use.

Using information from an AmazingRibs.com article, the following table shows the basic smoke, embers, and burning energy for the various types of fruitwoods. 

Wood Type Smoke Energy Embers
Stack of Alder Wood
Alder Mild Low Fair
Apple Wood Logs for Cooking Apple Medium High Excellent
Hickory Wood Logs for Cooking Hickory Strong High Excellent
Maple Wood Logs for Cooking Maple Mild High Excellent
Mesquite Wood Logs for Cooking Mesquite Strongest High Excellent
Oak Wood Logs for Cooking Oaks Medium High Excellent
Peach tree or Nectarine wood for cooking Peach Medium Medium Fair
Pecan Wood Logs for Cooking Pecan Strong High Good
Pear wood logs for cooking in a wood fired oven Pear Medium High Fair
Walnut Wood Logs for Cooking Walnut Strong High

Good

 

Best Wood for Wood Fired Pizza Oven Cooking

Great food depends on the wood you use when it comes to cooking in your wood-fired pizza oven. Cooking in your pizza oven with hardwood brings other benefits as well;  every wood fired oven seasons differently over time, just like a cast iron skillet, so each will produce food with subtle differences.

Basically, your wood burning oven will acquire its own environment and personality, infusing your food with flavors you can't find anywhere else.  

Other factors including the quality of your meat, oven temperature, spices used, and any added sauces will impact the final taste of your meal as much as the type of wood used.  So, spend time experimenting with different woods in addition to all the other factors.

How Much Wood for a Pizza

So, how much wood do you really need when cooking in your oven?  Here comes the dreaded answer... it depends.  Usually, you can start with about 5 small pieces of wood to get your fire going and your oven up to temperature. 

Depending on your oven's heat retention (ie, brick ovens hold heat better than stainless ovens), you may only need to add a few other pieces of wood to maintain the temperature or you might need to continually add a piece of wood as necessary while you are cooking pizzas.

When purchasing large amounts of wood, it is usually sold as a "cord".   A full cord is when the wood is stacked four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.).

Measurement for a cord of wood

The name cord comes from the use of a cord or string to measure it. A “cord” is traced back to the 1610s when wood was sold in bundles tied with a cord. Usually stacked on a pallet, the wood pieces are arranged so they are parallel, touching and compact, so they occupy a volume of 128 cubic feet.  

Where to Buy Wood for Pizza Ovens

Always try to find the best wood for cooking in your pizza oven.  If searching online for firewood, you can search for "where to buy wood for pizza oven".  There are websites on the internet like www.firewood.com, www.premierfirewoodcompany.com,  and minnesotafirewood.com that sell great firewood for using in your pizza oven.  We also carry a great selection of Apple, Cherry, and Oak perfectly cut for use in a pizza oven.

If the shipping costs prohibit you from purchasing from an online store, you can usually find wood locally by checking your local Craigslist or through word of mouth.  Just make sure to ask if it's a hardwood for cooking that has been seasoned and dried.

Experiment with different woods and various flavors to find what tastes best.  Trust us, your family and friends won’t mind being guinea pigs for the delicious meals you are creating! 

Comment below with your favorite wood you use for your wood fired recipes!

Learn more about cooking with different pizza oven temperatures.


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  • Thank you. All the information I needed in one very well written article.

    Shelley Ross on

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