You’ve got yourself a wood-fired pizza oven, and you’re ready to start creating delicious homemade pizza. But where should you begin? What wood should you be using? Where should you get it? And does it make any difference?
Well, the answer to that is yes, it does make a difference. You can’t use any old logs in a wood-fired pizza oven. Some wood won’t sustain heat long enough, leaving you with undercooked, unpleasant pizza, and some woods can even be dangerous to your health.
But if you choose the right wood – dried hardwood such as oak, ash, or maple – you’ll get the perfectly cooked, restaurant-quality pizzas of your dreams. And then, you can even start to play around with different hardwoods, changing the flavor of your pizza until you come up with something unique to your oven.
We’ll talk through this in more detail in this post about the best wood for pizza ovens. We’ll give you some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your wood, and we’ll also tell you our favorite places to buy it online – places who deliver it to your door pre-prepped, cut to size, and ready to go. Let’s get started!
Hardwood vs. Pellets vs. Charcoal
Of course, wood ovens are not the only way to cook great pizza. You can choose a variety of methods, ovens, and fuels, and which one works best often comes down to personal choice, taste, and budget. Cooking with hardwood is an enjoyable experience and creates pizzas with wonderful flavors and crusts different to those cooked with charcoal. And some people much prefer one over the other.
Wood was the original cooking method, so traditionalists and fans of Neapolitan-style pizzas generally prefer it. And it allows you to play with flavors by using different woods. But many people enjoy the benefits of charcoal. It’s convenient, easy, and doesn’t require any additional prep. However, you don’t necessarily have to choose between the two. So long as your oven is built for it, you can build fires that combine wood and charcoal to get all the flavor of wood-fired pizza at a higher heat.
If you like wood-fired pizzas but don’t want the hassle of storing or chopping wood, pellets are a convenient option. Made of compressed, dense wood, they burn cleaner, hotter, and longer than logs and create less ash and waste. They’re becoming increasingly popular as small, portable ovens become more widespread. However, pellets don’t give quite the same experience as cooking with logs, and they are going up in price as their popularity rises.
But it’s a personal choice, and we suggest experimenting as much as possible before committing to one over the other.
Best Types of Wood
So, once you’ve decided to cook with wood, you need to know which wood to use. And there are many options out there, so it can seem overwhelming. But it’s simple, really – you need to use dried hardwood and only dried hardwood.
- You need an extremely hot oven to cook pizza, and hardwood is much denser and burns hotter than softwood.
- The wood needs to be dried because if there’s too much moisture, it won’t burn quickly or hot enough to get your oven to temperature. And it will create too much smoke.
- The perfect wood should have no more than 20% moisture. That way, it will not only burn well but light easily too. If you’re not sure about your wood, you can purchase a Moisture Meter to ensure it’s in the ideal condition.
- Kiln-dried wood is ideal because the drying process also kills any insects or fungus in the wood, so you know you aren’t bringing any pests into your home or storage area.
Which dried hardwoods?
When choosing between hardwoods, you’re looking at the speed and heat of burning, how much the wood smokes, and what flavor it imparts to the food.
Cooking pizza is not the same as smoking. Pizzas cook very quickly, so while they do absorb some flavor, they aren’t in the oven long enough to take on the traditional ‘smoked’ flavor associated with barbeque or smoked meats. For that reason, it’s not worth paying extra for specific smoking woods, which tend to be more expensive.
Instead, try one of these popular wood fire hardwoods. And don’t feel like you have to stick with only one. Experimenting with different woods for different flavor profiles is part of the fun. Try mixing them together to create a taste that’s unique to your oven.
Oak is the most popular wood for wood-burning ovens, and if you’re just starting out it’s the best place to start. It’s a dense hardwood that burns hot and clean and is readily available. It smells lovely while burning and will impart a classic flavor to your pizza.
Maple is a popular choice that burns almost as well as oak but imparts a more nuanced flavor. It has a sweet, slightly smokey flavor that goes well with vegetable or fruity pizzas.
If you want to experiment, there are many different species of Maple, so try different ones and see how the flavor changes.
Although not quite as hot as oak, Birch burns steadily and has a clean flavor profile.
Hickory is used worldwide for smoking since it’s one of the hottest burning woods and imparts a strong, rich flavor. It’s an excellent wood for cooking or smoking meat – especially pork, so consider it for meat-heavy pizzas.
Ash is a clean-burning, easy to light wood, almost as popular as oak. It has a delicate, light flavor and is a good wood to mix with other more robust flavors.
Wood from fruit trees – such as apple, plum, and apricot – is extremely popular for wood-fired pizzas because of the delicious aroma and wonderful fruity flavors they impart. Cherry wood is a popular choice for its mild, sweet taste, while Apple is traditionally used in pizzerias since it burns extremely hot and has a lovely flavor. Fruitwoods are commonly mixed with other woods to create unique flavor blends.
Mesquite burns hot and fast, so it’s perfect for pizza ovens, although it produces more smoke than most other commonly used woods. It’s popular because of its robust and earthy flavor, which works wonderfully with red meat. If you’re cooking something with a more delicate flavor, tone Mesquite down by mixing it with other, milder woods.
Best Pizza Oven Wood
Top Pick: Cutting Edge
The team at Cutting Edge loves nothing better than a perfect wood fire, and they want you to love them as well. These guys understand that in a wood oven, the logs are as important as any cooking ingredient. So they ensure their wood is properly treated, kiln-dried, stripped, and packed to eliminate bugs, mold, funges, bark, mess and to maximize cooking potential.
You can shop for wood chunks or logs and choose from Oak, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan, Apple, and Maple. Or select the Pizza Cut Cooking Wood for a box of ultra-premium-dense kiln-dried oak. It lights easily and burns cleaner and hotter for longer than your average oak. The standard pizza box comes with kindling, firestarters, and matches and includes enough wood for 30 pizzas. If that doesn’t sound like enough for you, opt for the Pizza Rack, which will keep you going for 200 pizzas!
Cutting Edge studied the art of wood-fired pizza making with professional chefs, and together they worked out the perfect size and shape for pizza oven logs. So now they cut their wood accordingly, and it comes to you ready to use with no additional prep needed. Choose regular logs or mini – the same high-quality wood, cut to 6″ logs perfect for portable pizza ovens.
These guys sell top-quality wood, consistently get great reviews, and offer excellent customer service. We love working with them.
It’s no secret that we’re fans of Ooni pizza ovens, and we’re not the only ones. They are consistently amongst the top-ranked pizza ovens on the market, yet they continue to innovate in search of the ultimate pizza oven experience. So it comes as no surprise that the Oven Fuel these guys sell is high-quality stuff. Much like their ovens, Ooni’s fuel is not limited to one size or style but comes in charcoal, hardwood pellets, and wood, so you can choose the one that fits your pizza oven setup.
If you opt for wood, you’ll receive Ooni premium oak from 100% FSC-certified, sustainable sources. It’s chemical-free, kiln-dried, burns hotter for longer, and gives your pizzas a subtle smokey flavor.
Choose the Ooni Premium Assorted Oak Pack for kindling, wood chunks, and varied sizes of logs perfectly cut for the Ooni Karu 16 oven. Plus, firelighters made from wax-coated natural wood shavings, free from harmful chemicals.
If you’re working with a different oven style, opt for the Ooni Premium 5″ Oak Log package, which contains enough wood to cook dozens of pizzas.
Hot Box Cooking Wood
With over thirty years of experience in the cooking wood industry, the Hot Box team knows their stuff. They perfected the art of extra splitting wood to create the perfect cooking wood, and their method became popular with professional chefs and commercial pizza restaurants.
But they didn’t stop there. Noticing the growing popularity of backyard and portable pizza ovens, they saw people’s frustration at only being able to buy wood that was too big. And the extra hassle of having to chop and prep logs before being able to cook.
So they took their wood splitting skills and turned them to making tiny wood for tiny ovens. They now sell their premium, kiln-dried oak hardwood in 6″ logs, perfect for use with many of the most popular portable ovens on the market. And one Hot Box contains enough wood to make 20 pizzas.
But it’s not just the size that matters. The wood is quality oak that lights easily and burns hot with little smoke. It’s kiln-dried to ensure the perfect moisture ratio and remove any pests or fungi growing inside the logs. The Hot Box team also understands the importance of protecting our world, so they only use sustainable, locally sourced wood. Plus, for every box they sell, they plant a tree!
Like Ooni, Gozney doesn’t just create quality pizza ovens, they also provide the perfect fuel to go in them. Their wood is kiln-dried to below 9% moisture. It’s dense and provides a hot, consistent burn, with low smoke output and a big flavor. Plus, the wood is pre-cut small enough – 1.5″ x 5.5″ – to work with both their Gozney Roccbox and Dome ovens.
Unlike the other companies on our list, Gozney’s Roccbox Wood does not stick with just oak. Instead, their wood boxes contain a blend of 25 different hardwoods. Now, that might not be to everyone’s taste, especially people who like blending their own woods. But if you’re not bothered about creating your own personal flavor profile, or if you’re just starting out with a wood oven, this is a great product.
If you’d rather know exactly what you’re getting, try the Gozney Dome Wood. A blend of ash and beech kiln dried to a moisture percentage of 15%.
Carolina Cookwood bucks the trend by offering air-dried rather than kiln-dried wood. Despite the advantages of kiln-dried wood, not everyone is a fan. The drying process happens at high heat, and some say that this affects the natural flavor of the wood.
If you feel that way, try Carolina Cookwood, whose locally harvested premium white oak is naturally cured and air-dried. It is still easy to light and burns at a consistent, high temperature, but it gives a smokier burn which is popular with barbecuers.
You can choose between boxes of 6″ or 12″ pizza oven splits depending on the size of your oven and whether you like prepping the wood yourself or not. And if you’re a multi-discipline chef, you can get smoking wood chunks and splits in a range of air-dried woods, including apple, cherry, hickory and maple, and natural hardwood charcoal too.
Tips for wood-fired pizza ovens
Before you head off to start backyard baking in your hardwood-fired oven, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience.
Woods to avoid in pizza ovens
We’ve talked about choosing hardwood over soft, but there are several other woods you shouldn’t use. Avoid:
Wood with a high sap content, such as pine. When sap burns, it gives off soot and creosote, which coats ovens, clogs chimneys and flues, and can be harmful to humans.
Wood with too much moisture. Pizza ovens have to be at high temperatures to work properly. Wood with too much moisture does not burn fast enough or hot enough to do the job. Instead, it will smoke too much, take too long to heat your oven, and your pizza will be soggy and undercooked.
Laminated, painted, or chemically treated wood. When you burn wood containing hazardous chemicals like paint or glue, the toxins will come out. Those toxins can be dangerous to people around the fire, plus they can get into the pizzas, taste horrible and make people ill.
Why is my oven smoking too much?
The most common reason for a pizza oven smoking too much is that you are using wood with too much moisture – such as ‘green’ wood, which has been cut down recently and has not had time to dry properly. Instead, switch to dry, seasoned hardwood with less than 20% moisture.
Spills, food remnants, and sap drips in an oven can also cause smoke. Try giving it a good clean before starting again.
How much wood should I use?
Start with about four or five pieces of wood, then add one log at a time as needed until the oven is hot enough to cook your pizza.
How do I light it?
- Place firelighters, paper, and a small pyramid of kindling in the center of your oven,
- Arrange 3-5 logs on and around the kindling in a larger pyramid, touching the kindling but leaving plenty of space for airflow.
- Light your match or taper and touch it to the paper and kindling.
- Keep going with your match until the fire has taken hold in a few places.
- Sit back, ensure there’s plenty of airflow and watch until the fire takes hold.
- Watch and maintain the fire, adding more logs as needed until the oven has reached the ideal temperature.
How should I store my wood?
- If you didn’t purchase it pre-cut, split it before storing.
- Store it off the ground on a rack or pallet to keep it dry.
- Stack it in a criss-cross or ‘jenga’ pattern with plenty of airflow between logs.
- Use a wood store or tarpaulin to keep rain off.
- Don’t cover it entirely, or stack it against walls, as you want to allow consistent airflow.
- If you didn’t purchase dried wood, buy it well in advance so it has plenty of time to dry before you want to use it.