Many people just think that traditional wood fired ovens (in Italian “Forno”) are just for cooking pizza which is not true at all.
These ovens can cook anything you can cook in a traditional oven, even better! The high dry heat of a WFO (Wood Fired Oven) adds a delicious crust and the wood fire adds a wonderful light smoke aroma to your dishes. Good Wood Fired Ovens are very easy to cook in once you get the hang of it – just takes a little practice, if you already BBQ then you are well on your way with your outdoor Wood Fired Oven. Here are some tips on how to cook with various techniques in your Wood Fired Oven/Forno.
To cook in your Wood Fired Oven, simply bring the oven to its maximum temperature (typically over 1,000 degrees F) then let it cool down until it reaches your ideal cooking temperature. This technique is called “regulating the oven”.
The ideal cooking temperature will depend on what you’re planning to cook:
• Pizza (555°F to 650°F for NY Style, 905°F for Neapolitan): Build up a large bed of red-hot embers and maintain a large rolling flame (you will need to add smaller pieces of wood approximately every 10-20 minutes to keep it going). The floor should read about 750°F on your handheld thermometer. There shouldn’t be any visible black carbon build-up on the dome and the flames should reach the middle of the oven. Bake your pizza on the oven floor, right next to the fire. Always leave the door off the oven when baking pizza.
• Roasting (300°F to 425°F optimum air temperature): Prep your oven to reach high pizza temperatures to sear meat (cover your food to protect it from burning) and then allow the temperature to drop for slow roasting. You’ll want a medium sized bed of embers and a small flame about 2 to 4 inches high (without any visible black on the dome). If you’re roasting for less than an hour, you can leave the oven door off. If longer, you can position the door inside the arch to help control the heat (experiment with the exact placement of the door so that the fire does not go out or keep too much smoke inside the oven). If you need more heat, add more wood to the fire and open the door more. Push your food further into the oven if you want it to benefit from more heat, or bring it forward if you want it to cool down.
• Baking Dishes (floor temp 350°F-750°F ) Prep your oven to reach pizza oven temperatures then allow the temperature to drop for baking. The idea is to bake using the heat retained in the oven dome and floor. You don’t want a live flame but some glowing embers are fine. Position the door inside the arch to completely close the oven. A floor temperature of 750°F works well for baked pastas, casseroles or fruit cobblers. Simply place your dish in the oven and close the door. If there are glowing embers in the oven, keep the door open a crack to reduce the smoke. It may be a good idea to place it on a trivet or inverted sheet pan, so it doesn’t overcook.
• Baking Bread (350°F-400°F floor temp) To maintain the baking temperature, keep the oven door closed for 30 minutes, then open it to check the floor temperature. If the oven is too hot, leave the door off for 10 minutes, then put the door back in place for a further 5 minutes before checking the temperature again. Bake your bread on a floured tray.
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