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I'm planning to build a small traditional wood fire oven, and I'm wondering how is the correct usage of the fuel (I'm planning to use regular firewood):

Do I have to wait, until all the wood burned down to charcoal or can I close the oven front door with some logs still burning? I don't want smoke to interfere with my cooking. I'm mainly thinking of cooking stews or making roasts, so cooking time will be about several hours, so do I have to wait until the logs are transformed into charcoal?

The oven will be located outside on a terrace and looks similar to this picture:

Traditional wood oven

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    Yes to waiting for charcoal. When I had a woodburning oven it cost me exactly one pizza to learn that it was no bargain to put the food in too early. (Conceivably this would be different if you food was in a closed container, but I wouldn't risk it.)
    – adam.baker
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 13:16
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    Some Italian pizza restaurants will have a fire ongoing while operating their services, but these ovens have a) more space and b) try to maximize the heat over a long time (= serving pizza all evening). But it’s tricky, second the „avoid it“.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 20:55

2 Answers 2

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A lot of the cooking with an oven like that is intended to make use of residual heat stored in the brick, etc. The process of burning the wood down to coals heats up the brick oven itself which provides a easier, more consistent radiant heat. You're not really looking to do "campfire" or "fireplace" cooking here. Letting the logs burn down will also help reduce smoke, etc. As an aside, on a very high level, (not strictly pertaining to food preparation) we're looking at the differences between how an oven is intended to work as opposed to how a furnace operates.

You might need several hours to get the oven up to temperature to do any actual baking. Or, you could cook something like a lunch pizza making use of the smoky fire while the oven is heating up, and then slide in your dinner stew/roast to cook as the oven begins to cool down. Properly constructed the oven should hold heat for many hours. In some circumstances ovens like yours are kept at temperature for days on end and used for multiple baking tasks throughout the day.

Here's a breakdown of how to get the most out of residual heat and meal planning for wood https://www.fornobravo.com/brick-oven-cooking/brick-oven-cooking-techniques/retained-heat-cooking/

I imagine you might already be aware of this website (Forno Bravo) but it's a great source of information on wood-fired brick oven cooking, construction, and other resources. It also has a vibrant community of enthusiasts. There are many others available as well.

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  • I didn't know about the link you mentioned, I've got completely hooked on "wilderness cooking" when I saw it for the 1st time. They use all these traditional cooking techniques and I decided to have one of these ovens :)
    – Vickel
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 2:13
  • Two different things really... but very similar in a lot of respects. There is a lot of content on YouTube that concerns building and cooking with various kinds of ovens and techniques.
    – gnicko
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 2:22
  • You might find this especially useful: fornobravo.com/brick-oven-cooking/brick-oven-cooking-techniques/…
    – gnicko
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 2:25
  • Does that mean that (in the example picture, say) once ready for actually baking (which would surely take hours and hours), the actual bricks on the outside, if you touched them with your hand, they would be extremely hot? Is that about right?
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 14:04
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    @Fattie - Not if the oven is built right. There should be two layers of brick with substantial thermal insulation between to not only prevent the outside from becoming hot to the touch, but also to mitigate heat loss to the outside world and keep the internal brick as hot as possible.
    – gnicko
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 14:21
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Wood burning ovens generally need to be preheated. Depending on the size of your oven, and the fuel you are using, this could take some time. You are going to have to get a feel for how your oven behaves. You'll want to get a good fire going at first, preheat, then (for stewing or roasting) feed the fire just enough to maintain the desired temperature (or, perhaps not at all if the residual heat holds long enough for your cook). If you have a chimney, such as the one in the picture, (and a reasonably hot fire or bed of coals) smoke should not interfere, but it is possible that you will pick up some wood smoke flavors...depending on what and how you are cooking.

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