Our little family loves freshly baked pizza as much as any other. After much deliberation, we decided to test our devotion by committing to building our very own wood-fired pizza oven - from scratch.
It is said that the pizza is the emergency room of the stomach. I have no idea what this means, but I do know that the fiery glow from a pizza oven is a metaphor for comfort food.
There are undoubtedly easier routes to pizza than building your own forno oven from scratch. You could consider pre-built units like the gorgeous ones imported by Beauty Fires, or you could hire professionals like Papa'z Oven'z to build a bespoke solution that best suits your available space.
Before investing in a pizza production procurement project, you should firstly consider how big you want to go. Firing more than two pizzas at a time takes a daunting amount parallel processing and is not a one-man operation. Also, a well designed oven should be able to cook a pizza to perfection in under two minutes. The occasion will be rare when a single-pizza sized oven will not suffice.
Secondly, you need to think about the space available for your oven. Indoor options are available but outdoor or patio ovens offer more design freedom.
You should spend a little time over at Forno Bravo to learn from the acquired wisdom (mistakes) of that passionate community before you make your plans final. Ovens can be either domed spherically or built as a barrel vault. The choice of the oven shape does not matter significantly so long as the chimney is not in the centre of the oven. This is a common design flaw which will reduce the efficiency of the oven. The oven's chimney should ideally draw from near the oven door, improving the circulation of hot air inside the oven. We chose the barrel shaped design as this offers a rectangular internal layout, which makes fire management easier, and it lends itself to better chimney placement. An added bonus is that the oven's construction is also much simpler. You can find our design plans here.
You will need a few simple accessories to complement your oven. The most important item is a good quality pizza peel. Pizza peel selection can become a little overwhelming for the uninitiated. If you are building your own outdoor oven it would be safest to start with a single wooden peel of at least 900 mm long. Shorter peels of 600 mm or less are commonly available as these are useful in indoor and regular ovens, but things could get a little hairy (or more likely hairless) when trying to use one of these in a larger oven. Wooden peels are useful for building pizzas on directly and then transferring them into your oven. When making more than one pizza at a time you may need additional peels or just one metal one, onto which the already built pizzas can be slipped for transferal into the oven. The issue of square versus round peels will also arise. Round bladed peels are only really useful for rotating the pizzas in the oven during cooking, while square bladed peels are great for placing and removing your pizzas. I have found that the square peel works adequately for both scenarios while the round peel is a little too specific in its application. If you're only planning on buying one type you should consider the square bladed peel first. Head over to our store at www.thegoodhome.co.za as have made and tested our own long handle peels for you from locally seasoned wood.
Our appreciation for the simple neapolitan pizza has grown enormously. We have learned that great pizza is about the bread and not the toppings. We have not only discovered that the simplicity of this pizza demands the freshest ingredients but that the making of pizzas for any number of guests becomes a group activity. Our new weekend ritual of Sunday night pizza has also become we all eagerly anticipate.