The traditional wood-burning oven is a bread oven, a pizza oven and a barbecue. The wood oven also acts as a smoking room and allows the fruit to dry. It is an incredible cooking tool that is often underused.
However, with a little technique and experience, cooking with a wood fire becomes a real moment of pleasure and sharing, and even an art of living.
COOKING OVER A HIGH HEAT IN A WOOD OVEN
Cooking over high heat is a very high temperature cooking – about 350°C – fast and suitable for short cooking times for foods that need to be searted. It requires leaving the oven open to allow the fumes to escape and, above all, to monitor the cooking.
WHAT TO COOK IN AN OPEN OVEN?
Use this cooking method to cook pizzas, fish and seized meats.
- After the fire is lit, heat your wood-burning oven to temperatures of about 350°C or even 400°C.
- Maintain this temperature by adding a few logs of wood for about ten minutes for a cast iron wood oven.
- Push the fire back to the bottom of the oven, or around its edges, to distribute the heat and flames and to create an area for your dish.
- Place your dish in the open space near the embers or near the entrance if the oven is really too hot.
- Monitor your cooking.
While you are enjoying your grills and other pizzas, the temperature of the wood-burning oven will drop to temperatures closer to 250°C and allow the kitchen to cook in low heat, with the oven closed.
SLOW COOKING IN A WOOD OVEN
For this cooking there is no more high heat. The residual heat accumulated by the wood oven is used; the downdraft cooking is a slow, closed oven cooking.
THAN BAKING IN A CLOSED OVEN?
Cook all dishes that need to be simmered, gratins, pasta such as breads, brioches, cakes and meat dishes such as roasts, poultry, beef fillets, lamb legs. It is also a cooking method suitable for desserts.
After heating the oven or, after baking with the door open, remove the remaining embers or ashes to use the entire surface of the oven.
To do this, take the necessary precautions by using containers that can withstand the heat of any embers still present in the ashes.
Clean the sole with a brush to remove any residual dust. You can also use a damp cloth.
When your oven is ready, keep the door closed to conserve heat and open it only when the desired temperature is reached.
Bake and… wait for the baking time, avoiding opening the oven.
It will take experience but it is all the charm of cooking in a wood-fired oven!
Baking times in a wood-burning oven are generally shorter than in a conventional oven.
Note that many meats can be cooked at very low temperatures, about 150°C, for very long periods of time. For example, you can put a braised beef or poultry in the oven at night and pick up the dish the next morning!
Tip: Feel free to cover your dishes with aluminium foil so that they do not burn on the surface if the oven is very hot.
Example of organization: If you have to be away between 10am and 12pm, turn on your oven around 7am, prepare your kitchen between 8am and 10am. When you return at noon, put your dishes back in the oven to reheat them. The residual heat from the furnace will be more than sufficient. Simple and practical!
HOW TO KNOW THE TEMPERATURE?
The easiest thing today will be to use a thermometer. It gives an indication of the temperature in the oven. Your learning and experience with your oven will complement this, and there are many empirical techniques available to provide a temperature indication. The most common method is flour. A handful of flour thrown on the sole should brown and then blacken without burning, the temperature is then close to 250°C. It’s the temperature of loading the bread.
WHICH THERMOMETER FOR YOUR WOOD OVEN?
Get a high temperature thermometer that can measure temperatures up to 500°C.
There are nowadays laser sight thermometers but it is necessary to be very careful about their use because depending on the surface targeted the temperatures can be wrong.
WHICH ACCESSORIES TO USE?
Get a minimum of accessories and dishes to work serenely.
Don’t hesitate and take a set of at least 4 accessories. That’s all it takes, but these 4 below are really essential:
- The wooden shovel
- The stainless steel shovel
- The squeegee
- The brass brush
Use the wooden shovel to put bread, pizzas and other flour-based culinary preparations in the oven in general. However, to remove your bread and pizzas from a wood oven, use a stainless steel shovel. This makes it easier to remove breads and pizzas from the sole.
The squeegee is also an essential accessory. It simply allows the fire to be moved during the various firings. Finally, it is useful for removing embers and cleaning the wood-burning oven at the end of use.
Last accessory: the brass brush. It is used to clean areas where the pizza topping has overflowed. Use the brush to clean and push back into the fire what has been spilled.
Apart from these 4 accessories, bring an ash bucket. It’s a metal bucket. Be careful to store this bucket on a non-flammable surface and away from flammable materials (twigs, dry foliage,…). The bucket may contain hot embers and you must avoid any risk of fire.