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Lester 07-13-2006 06:49 AM

All things being equal
 
With all things being equal, the amount of heat, the temperature, the incrediants; why do the different heating methods make the food have different textures and flavors. Why does the same pizza cooked in a gas oven taste and feel different than a pizza cooked at the same temperature in a coal or wood oven? What makes each heat source have its own unique signature if everything else is the same? Inquiring minds want to know... :)

jengineer 07-13-2006 08:02 AM

dang now you gonna make me buy another book from Robert L. Wolke

A few years ago I was going on a long boring plane ride and needed something to entertain me. I have a tendancy to devour books so i try to stay away from book mongers but I said to myself hey gotta feed the beast. Unfortunately I had no idea what would amuse me, vey bad sign usually has a high $$ associated with it. Well a book title "What Einstein Told His Cook" grabbed my attention, well really it was the brand new Bunsen burner.

It does not quite answer your question but it does tell you the differences between coal and gas BBqs and if you buy gas what the real minimum BTU you sould buy and why.

http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/spring02/001183.htm
partial quote
In (the chapter titled) "Fire and Ice" you will learn how to buy a range and the difference between charcoal and gas for grilling.

So Now I have jumped onto his web page and found this tidbit, it came out a year ago and no I don't have it....yet
http://www.robertwolke.com/cooktwo.html
and I quote -
Are brick-oven pizzas really better?
Yes, because brick and stone have high heat capacity and high emissivity—they retain a consistent level of heat and absorb far less infrared radiation than metal ovens. Because infrared radiation doesn’t penetrate beyond the surface of materials, more infrared radiation striking the pizza dough results in better browning and crisping of its surface.

Lester 07-13-2006 01:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jengineer
So Now I have jumped onto his web page and found this tidbit, it came out a year ago and no I don't have it....yet
http://www.robertwolke.com/cooktwo.html
and I quote -
Are brick-oven pizzas really better?
Yes, because brick and stone have high heat capacity and high emissivity—they retain a consistent level of heat and absorb far less infrared radiation than metal ovens. Because infrared radiation doesn’t penetrate beyond the surface of materials, more infrared radiation striking the pizza dough results in better browning and crisping of its surface.

That is an interesting piece to the puzzle, but only adds to the question: Why does a brick oven that is fired by wood produce food that is different than food produced in a brick oven fired by gas or coal? I get the stone/brick part, but am very curious about they heat and the 'whys'.

james 07-14-2006 01:14 AM

A few ideas on why brick oven cook so well
 
Hey Lester,

The science of how ovens work and how food cooks is interesting, and I am looking forward to learning more. From a practical, hands-on perspetive, I can add a few things from what I have experienced.

1. Any refractory oven cook better than steel ovens with either an electric coil, gas burner or a convection fan. Retained heat ovens absorb the moisture and heat from a wood-fire and reflect fire back into the oven chamber. The heat in a retained heat masonry oven is moist and gentle, compared with the dry of a modern oven. You can put your hand in a wood fired oven and actually "feel" the moisture. Retained heat ovens can cook at a higher temperature than a modern oven, without burning or drying out your food. Consider hearth bread. If you take two loaves of bread made side by side, and put one in a brick oven at 550F, and the other in a modern convection oven at 450F -- the exact same dough will produce a beautiful hearth loaf in the brick oven, with a crisp crust and a well developed, yet moist crumb. You can see the extended strands of dough in the crumb, with well formed holes that result from the oven spring of a moist oven. The crust of the loaf shows the carmelized sugars that only form at higher temperatures.

If you bake that same dough at a high temperature in a conventional oven, it will simply burn. That same dough will make a very ordinary, even bad, loaf of bread in a conventional oven. No oven spring; no crust; no crumb texture; no holes.

Now, apply this same logic to gnocchi, lasagna, a roast, grill or a vegetable gratin. You get a nice, light, moist dish -- and you can see the difference between a brick oven version and a conventional oven version. Make two lasagne, and cook them in the two ovens, and you can definitely see the differnce.

2. With fire-in-the-oven cooking, a brick oven cooks three ways. You get conduction from the cooking floor, where moisture in the dough is converted to steam -- essential for great pizza or bread. You get reflective heat from the dome. The fire in the oven reflects heat evenly down on the cooking floor, and on your pizza (or roast or appetizer or grill pan). The shape of the dome and the round floor are essential for this type of cooking -- you simply cannot do this with a rectagular bread oven. The oven is one of the elements what makes Italian pizza the authentic product that it is. Finally, your wood-fired oven draws in cold air through the bottom of the opening and exhausts hot air out the top half. Inside the oven, hot air moves, creating natural convection. This helps all the food in your oven cook nicely and evenly. The rectangular bread oven is really bad at this, and does not provide even heat on the cooking floor.

My experience is that is it almost impossible to make really good pizza in a brick bread oven, and this extends to all fire-in-the-oven cooking.

3. Wood-fired dome ovens give a definitely better flavor and texture than gas-fired dome ovens. I think this is true for a couple of reasons. First, wood-fired ovens tend to cook hotter. It's easy to keep a Forno Bravo oven at 750F -- they cook at that temperature all day using wood. Most of the gas-fired ovens I have seen cook between 500-650F, which just isn't the same. Gas is good for the San Francisco Zoo, where they cook frozen pizzas in a gas dome oven at 500F (5-7 minutes each), but not for you. Second, wood-fired ovens breath better, making a better, and ligher pizza that cooks in about two minutes. The wood-fired flame laps further in the dome than the gas flame, and it's hotter -- giving you that authentic dark brown crust and melted cheese. It's the point where dough, tomato, mozzarella and olive oil "fuse" that makes great pizza and you can't do it in a gas oven. Last, wood gives you a little nice, smokey flavor from the wood fire. It isn't huge, but you can taste it.

It's definitely easier to cook in a 500F gas dome oven, but it really isn't the same thing -- apples and oranges.

Whadya think?
James

CanuckJim 07-14-2006 05:15 AM

Analysis
 
James,

A very thorough and well thought out analysis. I agree entirely with what you've said about the differences between wood and gas. From a bread baking point of view, the chief advantages are: oven spring, moisture and caramelization. You can spot a gas fired oven hearth loaf from fifty feet because the crust is browned but not caramelized. Apples and oranges indeed.

Jim

Muti 09-18-2006 10:48 PM

great info!
 
Thanks a lot James!

Sincerely appreciated!

THICKCRUST 02-03-2007 11:36 PM

Re: All things being equal
 
Never hurts to put a frozen pizza in a brick oven for a for my girlfriend :eek:

Saves me lots of time,

Then again....I miss my blonde girlfriend, telling her microware frozen pizza was brick oven was no problem

stuart 04-26-2007 06:31 AM

Re: All things being equal
 
Though I'm not cooking with a pizza oven...yet, I can attest to the superior cooking in a wood fired, ceramic grill/smoker over gas fired metal grill.

I've used a komodo style smoke/grill for almost 10 years, fired with lump charcoal. My friends have always raved about the flavor and moist qualities of the meat. I make pizza on it too, a little difficult as the heat source is under the pie, but worth the effort until I build the real pizza oven.

Last August we moved into a new house, which was equipped with an outdoor kitchen, including a 48-inch DCS grill. Friends with lesser grills all oooh'd and ahhh'd over the thing. It took me 3 months to even fire it up when curiosity finally got the best of me. No comparison. I've used the gas job 3 times in 8 months, while the Big Green Egg gets used each weekend or more.

I'm in the design phase of remodeling the kitchen to accommodate the pizza oven, and while the gas grill will be retained, it will only be for those times when we want to grill some dogs for the kids and need the ease of twisting a knob.

galaxy51 09-25-2007 11:15 AM

Re: Analysis
 
Jim, Could you try to explain the difference between browned and caramelized bread? Doesn't caramelized refer to a darkening of sugars? Thanks, Cory
"You can spot a gas fired oven hearth loaf from fifty feet because the crust is browned but not caramelized. Apples and oranges indeed."

CanuckJim 09-25-2007 12:38 PM

Re: All things being equal
 
Galaxy,

This is easier to show than to explain. A browned crust is just that, brown and dry. Caramelization is mahogany brown and shiny, like the top of a creme brulee. On my loaves, it usually occurs in a ring (I use banneton) just above the bottom of the loaf. Sometimes, too, you can see it on the upper portion of the loaf and on the flap of the grigne. The flavor enhancement is just what you would expect from caramelized grain sugars.

Jim


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