The Wood-Fired Blog

How to Start a Fire in a Wood Fired Forno Bravo Oven

Mar 22, 2022Posted by klint

Starting a fire in a wood fired oven requires a few materials and tools, like wood, a firestarter, thermometer, ash shovel, and oven brush. After you have everything you need, there are straightforward steps that will allow you to heat your oven to the perfect pizza-making temperature. Learn the best temperature for making Neapolitan pizza, how to reheat a pizza oven, and more so you can have delicious meals using your Forno Bravo oven. There are several methods you can use to accomplish this fundamental task, but we have found that this one works exceptionally well!

Materials and Tools for Starting a Fire in a Wood Fired Oven

  1. Small and large cut pieces of wood, which should be a hardwood like oak or apple, not something pitchy, like pine.

  2. Pressed, cut pieces of wood go on the top of the wood stack and produce a great deal of heat.

  3. Firestarters or kindling, like dry sawdust in a brown paper bag help get the fire going without creating flying ash or embers (like loose paper can do.)

  4. Grill gun, which is like a torch, to light the fire quickly and with gusto!

  5. Electric charcoal starter to feed oxygen to the oven and create a larger flame.

  6. Thermometer gun to easily and accurately check the oven floor and dome temperatures to know when to start cooking.

  7. Ash shovel (or cheap metal peel) to shift the fire from the mouth to the center, and then to the side of the oven. Also used to add additional wood later.

  8. Oven brush for gently sweeping off ash from the center of the oven before cooking for a tastier pizza.

How To Start a Fire in a Pizza Oven

  1. Lay the smaller pieces of cut wood down at the mouth of the oven for easy accessability.
  2. Stack bigger pieces of cut wood on top of the smaller pieces for better oxygen flow.
  3. Put the pressed wood on top. They produce a lot of heat and allow enough air to get into the wood fired oven.

  4. Create a firestarter by putting dry sawdust in a paper bag. Roll the paper bag and tuck it under the wood.

  5. Use a grill gun, like a torch, to start a fire in a wood fired oven. (Alternately, you can use a long-handled butane lighter to light the bag. It just takes a little longer to get going.)

  6. Feed oxygen into the pizza oven with the electric turbo charcoal starter, which produces a larger flame quickly. (Hand-pumped fireplace bellows will accomplish the same task.)
  7. Allow the fire to burn for about five minutes. 
  8. Use an ash shovel to shift the fire to the center of the oven to produce the most heat and air at the top of the dome. Lift the wood on the fire with the ash shovel to spread the fire throughout the oven more evenly and heat the oven evenly. Don’t use the peel you are making pizza with because it may damage it. Instead, use an ash shovel or a cheap metal peel to shift the fire.

  9. Let the fire burn for several more minutes. 
  10. Shift the fire off to the left or right side of the oven. 
  11. Use the oven brush to gently sweep ash off of the center so you don’t get ash on the bottom of the pizza. Don’t use a wet rag because you will crack the stone. Don’t use a dry rag because it will catch on fire. If you don’t have an oven brush, you can use extra pizza dough as a floor cleaner.
  12. Get an electronic starter thermostat gun (also called an infrared thermometer gun.) Note: If your wood fired oven has a wall or door thermometer, it is measuring the air temperature in the dome only, not the cooking floor temp. With the infrared gun, you can read the floor and ceiling temperature to know the exact oven temperature in different locations, and determine when and where to start cooking a pizza in a wood fired oven with confidence.

Temperature Guide for Wood Fired Ovens

Non-Pizza Wood Fired Dishes

There are a plethora of non-pizza recipes for wood fired ovens. The chart below shows the various temperatures for different types of dishes. Remember, once a refractory pizza oven heats up to high temperatures, it will take time to cool back down, even without an active fire (multiple hours.) You will need to plan your meal preparation accordingly.

Centigrade  Fahrenheit  Mississippi’s  Description Type of Cooking
70C 160F Many Very cool Keep food warm without drying out
90-120C 200-250F Many Cool Slow-roast meats, beans, and stews
150-175C 300-350F 6 to 7 Warm Desserts, scones
200-230C 400-450F 4 to 5 Moderately hot General baking, enriched breads
260-290C 500-550F 2 to 3 Hot Roasting, focaccia, hearth breads
320-350C 600-650F 1 Very hot Fast-cooking vegetables, baguettes, tapas
370C+ 700F+ 0 Pizza hot Pizza, fast-cooking tapas

Best Temperatures for Different Types of Pizzas

Although your Forno Bravo refractory oven may reach over 1,200 degrees F, you don’t have to hit that heat to start cooking your wood fired pizzas. Many chefs stay in the 600-800 degree F range for better control, especially when cooking multiple pizzas of different styles. Also, a little more time at a slightly lower temperature typically yields a slightly crispier crust that many people prefer. An example of style affecting temperature choice is the NY-style pizza, or Pizza Classica. The best temperature for these styles is 600-700 degrees F (or 315-370 degrees C.) 

New York Style Pizza

Likewise, the best temperature for making a Neapolitan pizza in a wood fired oven is 905 degrees F (or 485 degrees C.) At this temperature, you can bake the Neapolitan-style pizza the traditional way in about 60 to 90 seconds!

Neapolitan Pizza

  • Best temperature for making NY-style pizza: 600-700 degrees F
  • Best temperature for making Neapolitan pizza: 905 degrees F

Maintaining Fire in a Wood Fired Oven 

Now, that you understand how to start a fire in a pizza oven, what about maintaining the fire? Every time the dough touches the oven floor, heat is transferred from the oven to your pizza and the floor will cool a bit. (This is why you should always put the pizza back in the same place on the floor after turning it to reduce scorching.)

You will want to add fuel to the fire now and then to maintain the heat. To make this process easier, you can pre-heat wood by placing a piece on the inside of the oven near the mouth, on the side away from the fire for a few minutes. Then, move it over to the main pile and it will quickly combust with little smoke. This technique can help keep the oven temperatures more stable and consistant than adding cold wood to the fire.

Use an infrared thermometer to check the temperature to maintain consistent heat for your pizza and non-pizza dishes. 

How to Reheat a Pizza Oven

Are you curious about how to reheat a pizza oven after starting a fire in a wood fired oven? Most Forno Bravo ovens stay hot overnight after an evening of cooking pizzas. We recommend letting the fire go out, and then putting the door on the oven to keep the maximum heat inside. It will frequently still be 200-350+ degrees F in the morning! Thus, reheating a pizza oven doesn’t take as much effort as starting a fire in a cold wood fired oven. Simply, start a small fire in the oven, and then shift it to the center and the side like usual. Keep track of the temperature with an infrared thermometer. 

You can bake bread, cinnamon rolls, a breakfast frittata, or reheat a leftover pizza using the residual oven heat. Alternately, make that small fire to bring the oven temp up a bit, and bake anything you would like! The options are endless.

Check out our Community Cookbook for recipes, or explore the Cooking Resources section of the website for more tips and ideas.




Have any questions?