A wood-fired oven is incredibly versatile, you can use it solely as an oven, with a huge range of temperatures, from super hot 400ºC that will cook a pizza in 90 seconds, medium heat for cooking breads and roasting, and slow cooking meats. Temperature control is more about fire control and patience than turning a dial.
The wood you burn in your wood-fired oven has a very important role, it needs to be good quality hardwood, the drier the better, younger wood will be smoky, and will not heat up enough. My choice of wood is kiln dried silver birch, you get a wonderful heat, and the smoky flavour it adds to food is simply mouthwatering. NEVER use softwoods, the resinous flavours will ruin your food.
A Tuscan grill is a great way to add a grilling ability to a wood-fired oven, it’s a cast iron grill grate on legs, that can sit above a bed of embers, and you can grill lamb, steaks, chicken, fish and vegetables. Another way of grilling at high heat, is to cook steaks dirty style, straight on the embers in the base of the wood-fired oven, this gives a wonderful seared smoky crust to steaks, and is definitely worth a try.
Wood-fired ovens are usually quite expensive to buy, but it is incredibly satisfying to build your own, you can use cobb, brick, or mostly recycled materials such as night storage heater blocks, like I did when building my own How to Build A Wood-Fired Oven
A great resource for people looking to build their own, buy and cook in wood fired ovens is the UK Wood-Fired Oven Forum.
Words by Marcus Bawdon from CountryWoodSmoke