What is the Best Wood for Your Pizza Oven?

burning wood in a pizza oven

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Choosing the best wood for your pizza oven can make a huge difference to your pizza’s taste, texture, and cooking speed. 

While there’s plenty of advice on smoking woods out there, many people don’t pay enough attention to the wood they use for cooking pizza. 

In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know to choose the best wood for your pizza oven. 

Choosing the best wood for your pizza oven

You need a very hot oven to cook pizza. 

This alone is the main reason for carefully choosing specific firewood for your pizza oven. Only dense, dry hardwood can provide the kind of heat that you’ll need to cook your pizza to perfection. 

Oak and maple are both safe choices, but read on for our full list of approved wood choices.

To get the screaming hot temperature,  build up a good coal bank, and use hardwood splits to keep the fire burning throughout the cook in your pizza oven.

Aside from heat alone, there are other factors that make getting the best wood for your pizza oven a no-brainer. 

We have a detailed guide to building your pizza oven fire you can check out in our recipe for wood fired pizza.

The type of wood affects the flavor

Firstly, you have the way the wood impacts the pizza’s flavor. 

The type of wood that you burn can influence the taste of your pizza, so it’s important to ensure your wood gives out the right kinds of flavors.

Unsuitable wood will leave harsh, bitter notes that could even put a confirmed pizza lover off. 

The right kind of wood makes things easier

Secondly, using the right kind of wood for your pizza oven will make it nice and easy to get it lit and ready to cook. Wood that is not suitable will be more difficult to ignite and can make getting a fire going into a laborious process. 

Even if you get your wood burning in the end, if it’s not dense enough to burn very hot then you’re going to have a long wait on your hands until your oven finally builds up to 800-900°F… if it makes it.

Types of wood for a pizza oven

If you don’t use the best wood for your pizza oven, you could end up with an oven that doesn’t heat up enough, leaving your pizza doughy and soggy. You could also end up with excessive soot and creosote build-up, an unpleasant, off-putting flavor, and a very long wait for an inedible result. 

On the other hand, for a superior flavor, a high heat output, and a crispy, evenly cooked base, these are the types of firewood you need for your pizza oven. 

Seasoned and dried hardwoods 

The best woods for burning in your pizza oven are undoubtedly seasoned and dried hardwoods such as oak, maple, and ash. 

hardwood for pizza oven on a metal rack

Hardwoods are usually much denser than softwoods (duh). This means that they give off more heat for the same quantity of wood, making them an ideal choice as they are capable of providing the scorching temperatures required by wood-burning pizza ovens.

Note that we have specifically stated seasoned and dried hardwoods. The best wood for your pizza oven must be fully dry in order to hit those higher temperatures and to burn consistently, without excess smoke. 

In general, oak is probably the most popular type of wood for cooking pizza, as it is readily available and burns very hot. However, it also comes down to what is available in your local area, and of course, your personal preferences. 

Fruitwoods

Aside from your regular hardwoods, fruitwoods can also make a nice addition to your pizza oven, bringing an extra dimension of flavor. 

Pecan, apple, and plum are all popular choices for adding a subtle element of extra depth to your pizza’s flavor. 

apple wood chunks

Note that not all fruitwoods burn quite as hot as some of the aforementioned hardwoods and in general, these are best used sparingly and mixed in with your oak or other hardwood of choice. This allows you to easily maintain heat levels while adding a hint of aromatic flavor, without it becoming overpowering.

Used in this manner, you can experiment with different types of fruitwood, seeing which flavors work best with your favorite pizza toppings and working out what’s the best concentration ratio for a flavorsome enhancement rather than an overly strong taste. 

Apple is possibly the most popular thanks to its high burning temperatures, mild flavor, and pleasant aroma. 

However, once again which fruitwood works best for you all depends on your taste buds.  

Which wood is best for pizza ovens?

Here’s a closer look at some of the most popular firewoods for pizza ovens. 

Read through and pick the ones that appeal most to you, before checking out your local availability. These are all highly recommended firewoods for pizzas, so don’t be afraid to try out different types and combinations.

Oak

Oak is a very heavy and dense wood, ideal for the high temperatures required by pizza ovens. 

Oak wood is generally easy to source and burns very hot, imparting a clean, earthy flavor. If you opt for red oak over white, then expect a more pronounced flavor with more intense smoke. 

Oak is generally the best all-round wood for your wood-fired pizza stove, and it can be used alone or with small amounts of fruitwood added for a more nuanced flavor. 

If you’re unsure which wood to go for, go for oak firewood for your pizza oven, you won’t be disappointed.

Maple

Maple is another excellent choice for your pizza oven. You can burn it alone or in combination with oak or applewood. 

Maple has a mild, subtly sweet flavor that works well with a variety of pizza toppings, including pork, chicken and most vegetables. 

There are over 100 different species of maple, with the so-called “soft maples”, red maple, silver maple, and boxelder maple providing some of the finest flavors and good, even burning.

Apple

If you’re after reproducing an authentic pizzeria taste at home, then applewood is going to be at the top of your list of fuels for your pizza oven. 

Many top pizzaiolos swear by applewood, thanks to its hot burning temperatures, in addition to its aroma and flavor-enhancing capabilities. 

Prized for its slightly sweet, fruity flavor, applewood goes with just about every topping. The only downside is that it can pop rather intensely, which could drop a little ash over your pizza if you have a pretty small home pizza oven. 

However, we most definitely wouldn’t let this put you off.

Hickory

One of the most popular cooking woods around, hickory is also one of the hottest burning hardwoods. This makes it a popular choice for pizza ovens where very high temperatures are needed. 

Most varieties of hickory tree are native to eastern states and given its high popularity, it is readily available. Clean-burning with a strong flavor, hickory burns like oak but with a much more intense flavor. 

Add hickory to oak for a more flavorsome taste, thanks to their similar burn rates and complementary flavors they are often paired together. 

Ash

Ash trees are native to eastern and central America. 

Ashwood is comparable to oak in that it burns hot and has a mild, neutral flavor, making it an excellent choice for your pizza oven. 

Not only does it burn hot, it also burns long and consistently, making it nice and easy to use. It is also fairly easy to light, for a hassle-free pizza evening without having to keep too close an eye on your fire. 

Add in a few chunks of mesquite for a bolder smoky flavor, or for a hint of sweetness, mix in some apple or plumwood. 

Mesquite

One of the most plentiful woods found in Texas, where it is especially popular, mesquite has a distinctive, sharp flavor. 

High in lignin (a complex organic polymer that makes plants rigid), it produces a large amount of smoke, making it possibly the smokiest of all the most commonly used cooking woods. 

As it burns hot and fast, it’s a great choice for your pizza oven. Just be sure to either mix it with some milder flavored wood or match it to some of your most flavorsome toppings that can take on its intense, earthy flavor.

Plum

Plum has a good amount of heat output making it a great choice for your pizza oven. 

Slightly sweet and mild in flavor, add it to oak or combine it with pecan and allow its subtle flavor to bring extra depth. 

Often paired with poultry, it is also a good choice with vegetarian toppings and pork, plumwood makes an excellent choice for wood-fired pizza ovens.

Pecan

Pecan is actually a variety of hickory, however, it imparts a much more subtle flavor with a hint of nuttiness that goes great with pizza. While it is a strong, dense hardwood, it does not burn as long as other hickory woods or oak. 

For this reason, you may struggle using pecan alone in your pizza oven. However, it is an excellent addition to other hotter burning, complementary flavored woods such as oak, plum, or apple.

For this reason, you may struggle using pecan alone in your pizza oven. However, it is an excellent addition to other hotter burning, complementary flavored woods such as oak, plum, or apple.

For more information check out this video on different types of wood to use.

Which wood should you avoid in pizza ovens?

With so many fantastic options, you may be wondering which woods you need to avoid burning in your pizza oven. 

The short answer is to avoid anything that is not kiln-dried hardwood. If it is not completely dry and a hardwood, then it’s not going to burn hot enough to get your pizza perfectly cooked. 

Basically, if you stick to dry hardwood, even if it’s not the very best wood for your pizza oven, you’re still going to end up with great results. 

Let’s take a look at the types of wood that you should definitely avoid in your pizza oven:

Wood with a high sap content

Woods with a high sap content aren’t good for cooking as they release creosote (a toxic by-product of wood combustion) which can build up in the pizza oven over time. 

If you really want to use softwood, seasoning and curing can help to reduce the sap content, as well as removing the bark. 

Woods with a high moisture content

If the wood you set aside still hasn’t thoroughly dried out, then it’s not a good idea to use it in your pizza oven. 

As pizzas require a very short cooking time at a very high temperature, wood with a high moisture content just won’t cut it, leaving you with a soggy mess rather than a crisp base. 

Burning damp wood creates a lot of smoke and relatively low amounts of heat. This excessive smoke causes soot and a build-up of creosote in your oven. 

Use a moisture meter to ensure that your home seasoned wood has reached the 20% moisture benchmark for perfect cooking results.

Woods that are too dry 

On the other hand, you don’t want to use wood that has a moisture level under 15%, which is considered too dry for use in wood-fired ovens. 

While it is less common than moist wood, overly dry wood creates excess smoke and creosote, as well as being too fast burning, creating a very hard to control fire. 

If you have some offcuts that are overly dry after being stored in a hot place, you could mix them in, bit by bit, with your regular firewood, thereby increasing the moisture levels of the full load. 

Treated woods 

This one is a definite no! 

Laminated wood, treated wood or any wood with traces of paint, glue, or chemicals should be thrown out. 

Not only will these types of treated wood burn highly unpredictably and often dangerously, the particles that they release when burnt are harmful. 

If you’re not sure of any wood’s provenance, it’s best not to risk ingesting potentially harmful toxins. Make sure you use wood you have harvested yourself or bought from a legitimate supplier. 

Any wood that looks like it’s been treated should most definitely be avoided at all costs. 

Wrapping it up

When it comes to pizza ovens, heat is the be-all and end-all, so dried and seasoned hardwoods make an excellent choice given their dense construction that gives us that long, high burn. 

Making a pizza in a wood-fired oven can be an expensive, time-consuming learning curve. It would be such a shame to fall at the final hurdle, finding the best wood for your pizza oven. 

While it’s not always viewed as a top priority, finding the best wood to cook your pizza is an essential step towards pizza perfection. 

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