Bella wood fired pizza oven cooking techniques

Wood fired pizza oven cooking techniques

You can cook anything in a stainless steel pizza oven you can cook in a traditional brick oven. However, the recipe and techniques will vary slightly from one oven type to the other.  To keep this simple introduction limited to the differences, we will only discuss Vera Pizza Napoletana.  

Wood fired pizza oven cooking techniques differ between a stainless steel pizza oven and a traditional brick oven in a few key ways:

  • Temperature differences
  • Thermal mass
  • Heat retention / fire maintenance

Temperature differences in a steel pizza oven vs a brick oven

A Bella stainless steel pizza oven will not sustain the higher temperatures a traditional brick oven will achieve.  This is because a steel oven heats up and cools down much faster than a brick oven.  Also, a brick oven will have much more thermal mass than a steel oven, which means it can cook more food without losing heat.  

Also, a stainless steel pizza oven will have a higher temperature differential between the dome and cooking floor than a traditional brick oven.  A good comparison is a brick oven cooking pizza napoletana can easily reach and maintain a 900° Fahrenheit dome and 800°F floor.  A steel pizza oven will typically reach an 800°F dome and 650°F floor.  This means your crust will require a little more time to bake before “doming” your pizza.  This is why the Bella portable outdoor pizza oven takes 2 to 3 minutes to bake a pizza, whereas a Forno Bravo brick oven takes 90 seconds.

Does this alter your dough recipes?  It can. Typically, at lower temperatures, you will need a slightly lower dough hydration level, so the water doesn’t steam out too fast.

Thermal mass differences between steel ovens and brick ovens

A Bella stainless steel portable pizza oven will heat up faster than a traditional-style Forno Bravo pizza oven.  This is because the steel oven achieves temperature by “reflecting” the heat from the dome immediately back down to the ceramic or fire brick cooking surface; where a brick oven seeks to achieve thermal equilibrium by saturating the refractory dome, and then distributing that heat within the oven chamber.

We like to think of thermal mass like a battery.  A steel oven is a smaller battery – fast to charge, but also fast to deplete.  A brick oven is a larger battery. You want to fully charge it before using it, but once charged, it will last a very long time.  Every time you take food out of an oven, you are reducing the battery’s charge.  In a Bella steel oven, this means you have to re-charge the battery with fire more often than you do in a refractory oven. (You can do this by keeping the fire active, and also by pulling hot coals out onto the cooking floor between pizzas.  When you are ready to cook your next pizza, just push the coals back, give the floor a quick sweep with a copper brush, and place your next pie on the hot floor to bake.)

So how do you decide between the two pizza oven types?  Simple — ask how many people do you need to feed in an hour or how many loaves of bread do you want to bake?

We have put together a simple chart for you to compare.

The steel oven is the first column / the brick oven is the second:

Pizza oven size 28″ 32″ 36″ 40″
Heat up time 15 / 20 20 /30 25 / 40 30 / 45
Pizza bake time 2.5 / 1.5 2.5 / 1.5 2.5 / 1.5 2.5 / 1.5
Time to make 10 pizzas 27 / 27 28 / 35 31 / 43 35 / 48
Time to make 20 pizzas 40 / 35 36 / 40 37 / 47 40 / 51
Time to make 30 pizzas 52 / 42 45 / 45 43 / 51 45 / 54
Time to make 40 pizzas 65 / 50 53 / 50 50 / 55 50 / 57
Time to make 50 pizzas 77 / 57 61 / 60 56 / 59 55 / 60
Time to make 60 pizzas 90 / 65 70 / 60 62 / 62 60 / 63
Time to make 70 pizzas 102 / 72 78 / 65 68 / 66 65 / 66

Heat retention in a steel oven vs a brick oven

As you can see in the chart, if you are cooking a small number of pizzas, the Bella pizza oven is slightly faster than the Forno Bravo refractory oven, but as your volume increases, the brick oven becomes more efficient.

A Bella wood fired pizza oven will cool down in a couple of hours without a fire.  After about 2 to 3 hours, the temperature could be as low as 200°F.  A Forno Bravo refractory pizza oven will retain its heat for a very long time. The next day after a pizza party, some of our pizza ovens remained as hot as 600°F, with most residential ovens being in the 400°F range.  This makes it a great choice if you want to bake a lot of bread the next day without needing to make another fire.

If you plan on baking a lot of bread baking or roasting food frequently, a Bella portable pizza oven will do the job well, but will require more attention to the fire to maintain proper temperature levels than in a refractory oven, the same goes if you are cooking higher volumes of pizza.

Learn more about Bella Steel Pizza Ovens

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