STYLE

Tips for buying and using pizza ovens

06/15/2015 01:30 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT
Outdoor pizza ovens must meet CSA/UL certification standards, but care is required for all appliances and especially one that gives off so much heat.

The recommended fuel is dry hardwood.

Recommended tools include a long-handled shovel, rake and brass brush to move burning wood or hot coals around; two long-handled pizza "peels" (paddles) — a square one to slide the uncooked pizza into the oven and a round one to slide under the partially cooked pizza when it's time to turn it. The peels can be aluminum or wood, depending on your preference. Heavy heatproof gloves for handling pots or skillets are also advised.

Cast-iron or clay pots and skillets are best in high temperatures.

Required maintenance is very low because there are no moving parts (except maybe doors) on many pizza ovens. The high temperatures will burn off a lot of the ash and soot, although you may want to clean out the oven periodically. The most important thing is to ensure there are no cracks on the outside of the unit caused by damage or weather. If one occurs, seal it immediately.

You can't control the heat with a thermometer, but you can monitor it. The temperature will only keep increasing when the fire's burning, so if you want a mid-range temperature for baking, for example, heat the oven about 37 C (100 F) more than you want it, then let the wood settle into coals and monitor the temperature until it is roughly where you want it.

Especially until you get used to the vagaries of an outdoor oven, it is important to closely monitor food you're cooking. Because of the high temperatures and the heat radiating into the food from all sides, it will cook not only faster but differently from a stove oven, where the heat typically comes only from below.

Source: Allan Ham, owner of Outdoor Pizza Ovens, Shanty Bay, Ont.

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