Wood-fired pizza is an excellent meal that you can cook yourself if you have a home alfresco pizza oven. You can make the pizza exactly how you want. Choose the perfect base and crust, sprinkle on as much cheese as you want and add plenty of your favorite toppings. However, getting a great result can be tricky if you’re new to cooking pizza using a wood fire. Of course, practice makes perfect but it also helps to know a few easy wood-fired pizza cooking tips too. We’ve put together a list below of some key tips we follow to get a perfect pizza every time.
- Make the perfect base
Your dough is the foundation of your pizza, so make sure you get it right. We recommend using a dough mixture made from four cups of flour, a cup of warm water, a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and about 30 grams of baker’s yeast dissolved in the warm water.
To make the dough, dig a well in the middle of your flour. Then add salt and olive oil. Next, pour in the water and yeast mixture. Mix it all up and be ready to spend plenty of time kneading the dough. You want the dough to become smooth and stretchy. This should take about 10 minutes or so.
Make a few balls of dough (these will be your pizza bases) and place them in a bowl. Add a little oil to the sides of the bowl to stop the dough balls from sticking. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave the bowl in a warm place for two hours.
Your dough is ready to rolled out once it has doubled in volume. Start by stretching the dough balls out with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll them out into bases about 30 centimetres in diameter.
- Add quality ingredients
Once your base is ready, you can start adding your favorite ingredients. The best ingredients to use are those of a high-quality. You can visit your local farmer’s market for organic vegetables, and artisan meat and cheese to use, for instance. And don’t forget to use some seasonings to take your pizza to the next level.
For instance, forget about a boring cheese pizza with store-bought mozzarella. Instead, try using buffalo mozzarella. Add some sliced cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of basil and oregano to make a delicious Margherita that everyone will enjoy.
Get creative with the toppings you choose and experiment with new flavors. For example, try adding spinach or chicken to your pizza. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try jack fruit or eggplant for a vegan-friendly topping.
Along with your toppings, don’t forget about using a good quality pizza sauce. You can buy a range of pizza sauces from the supermarket or try your hand at making your own. And you don’t have to stick with the traditional tomato paste. You can also use barbecue sauce, alfredo sauce or pesto.
- Get the temperature right
Before you start cooking, your wood-fired oven needs time to preheat. To ensure your pizza is cooked to perfection, it should not go in until the oven reaches the desired cooking temperature. Typically, this will be around 350–370°C. You then need to keep the oven at this temperature while the pizza cooks.
- Prepare the oven floor and position the fire
For an even cook, you need to get your fire in position. Have the fire in the center of the alfresco pizza oven so that all the sides of the oven are evenly heated.
Similarly, you also need to make sure your oven is clean so that your pizza won’t get covered in ash. Ideally, do this before you preheat the oven. But you may need to quickly scrape out any piles of ash before you put your pizza in.
- Put the pizza in the oven
The best and safest way to get pizza into your wood-fired oven is to use a pizza peel. The pizza peel is a wide, flat tool designed to transfer pizza and other dishes from your counter top to the oven. Sprinkle a little flour on the peel to avoid your pizza sticking to it. Then you can lay the pizza on the peel and put it into the oven.
Gently angle the peel so that the pizza slowly slides off the peel and into the oven. Give this task your full attention to avoid dropping the pizza or burning yourself.
When your pizza is ready, slide the pizza peel under it and pull the pizza out.
Read here to know how to use a wood-fired oven.
- Keep an eye on your pizza
To avoid overcooking your pizza, or even burning it, you need to pay close attention to your pizza as it cooks. Watch for the edges starting to turn golden brown. If it looks like one side is cooking quicker than the others, use the pizza peel to rotate the pizza around or reposition it so that it cooks more evenly.
Use the tips above to enjoy delicious wood-fired pizzas every time. Remember to take good care of your pizza oven too so that you can use it for many years to come.