More questions than answers...
Okay...some questions on wood.
What types of wood are best to use? I've got access to pine, orange and olive woods. Is any one better than the other? Seems like I could find some spanish oak as well.
What size of wood do you use? Start small and add larger pieces. But how big a piece should be considered? What do you consider to be too big around or too long?
Where do you best build the fire? At the entrance under the dome is what I'm seeing. I expect to move it to one side once the oven us up to temperature.
Do you ever leave the door open when initially firing. Mine is removable but my sense is to keep the door on and use the fresh air damper.
Thanks for your thoughts and advice.
Wood and Fire...
Jim, welcome aboard. You will find that this is a wonderful place and all of the members here are more than helpful.
As to wood, stay way from pine, although you may be able to get away with using some of it as kindling to get the fire going. When you get to the cooking stage, hardwoods are the best; oak, walnut, hickory, citrus, etc. Olive for sure - I have not tried it but I will be going to a supplier in Los Angeles this week and will pick some up for the holiday pizzas [sure to become a tradition now that I have a wood burning oven].
I suppose that as long as you can get through the door, size may not matter [did I just say that ]. I typically use logs [split and otherwise] that are 1-1/2" to 4" in diameter and 16" to 24" long. I start the fire in the front, with the door off. About the time the flames start licking out the opening, I move the fire closer to the middle of the oven. When the dome is about 60% to 75% white, I'll move the fire to a rear corner, stoke it up and get ready to cook.
You'll find lots of posts on wood here. Just do a search. There's pine and then there's pine. What you don't want is a resinous type, like red pine, that gives off oily smoke as it burns, whether it's well seasoned or cut standing dead. Other types, yellow pine for example, is fine for kindling and a bright underlayer for your main fire. This one should be hardwood, from about, as JW says, 1 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. You do want a bright fire, with lots of flame, and smaller diameter wood will give you that quicker. The most important thing is to make sure that your woods are well seasoned and dry. Length will depend to a large extent on the size of your oven floor. You do want the fire to begin at the front and burn toward the back. I use pieces about six to eight inches shorter than the depth of my hearth (my case: four feet). My normal procedure is to get the fire burning well toward the front of the oven, then push it about a third of the way back.
I have no experience with either olive or orange, but I assume they have a fair bit of oil in them (like most fruit woods). Here, I get cherry, pear and apple, and if they're cut green, I try to air cure them about six months before burning. Maple is what I use most, and this takes about three months when cut green.
If you're buying wood from a supplier, make sure it has been seasoned. The cut ends should not look like the fresh cut end of a 2x4. Rather, the ends should be discoloured and dull, and there should be a radial pattern of cracks or, more properly, checks in the cut ends. There are timber moisture meters out there that will give you the moisture content at which the wood is ready to burn.
Denser southern pines
Thanks Jim, I agree on the pine. The pine available here is a southern pine, very dense grown in a hot climate. I have used it in the past in open fire to cook lamb roasts, grill meats and even shrimp. I note that our favorite place that cooks with wook has piles of pine branches that they let dry and then use for cooking!
I'm an old wood burner from the UP in Michigan....we always tried to find oak for burning as most dense and heat, then maple but it produces a lot more ash than oak...others were birch and ironwood or hornbeam? a very dense but smaller tree. Pines up there is not for woodstoves except for kindling...and I'd used it in my sauna stove for quick heat.
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