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A perfect pizza needs proper pizza oven fuel

Alt text A crispy pizza set against a background of burning pizza oven fuel

Pizza is linked to life. Fact. Seems like an overstatement? Let’s check the records. Travelling back in time, the word pizza actually dates back to 997 CE, where it was first mentioned in a Latin text. These circular delights travelled from Italy to The United States of America after World War Two thanks to returning American GIs. Moving into crime and politics, pizzerias were used as a front for illegal mafia activities and governments have used pizza delivery services to spy on journalists and politicians. The first pizza ordered by computer was eaten in 1974. And man even delivered a pizza into space in 2001. We could go on but you get the point.

Yet this is only part of the story. We always focus on the flavour, culture or history. Yet we don’t often hear about the fabulous force that has made all this happen – pizza oven fuel. That’s right, without pizza oven fuel there would be no pizza obviously. It is the marvellous method behind the melted madness. So what about pizza oven fuel? Why is it so important? What is the best pizza oven fuel for you? You know us by now. You know what we do. Strap in, switch on and join us for a pizza oven fuel frolic.

What is the best fuel to burn? Can I use coal in a pizza oven?

First up we’re definitely pizza purists. This means that although gas and coal have their advocates, we believe (when taking all factors into consideration) that nothing beats a pizza born from a wood fired oven. We’re talking about creating the optimal conditions for a crispy base, a magnificently melted centre and a perfectly puffy crust. Authenticity is everything and a wood fired pizza oven delivers.

Pizza oven fuel burns lighting up a delicious pizza in the foreground

Now you don’t need to have a degree in Pizza-ology (yes there is such a thing, just check your search engine) to know what comes next. If the most authentic and delicious pizzas come from wood fired ovens, then it could be argued that wood is the best pizza oven fuel. So what’s the best wood to burn in a pizza oven? As all Big K fans know by now, the world of wood is diverse. In other words different woods have different properties and characteristics, meaning different burns and heat performances from type to type. If you don’t know your kiln dried wood from your seasoned, or hardwood from fruitwood, don’t worry. We’ll dive into the detail so you don’t have to. Let’s unpack pizza oven fuel and get to the insights.

Moisture is the enemy of pizza oven fuel

Just a quick meander up obvious avenue, using ‘wet’ wood for pizza oven fuel is a no no. Ok this is elementary stuff but we still have to say it, just in case there are any fresh faces to the fuel game reading this. Assumption is the mother of misery after all. It’s easy – firewood in its different forms should have a moisture content ranging from about 3 – 30% to produce a range of optimal burns. Damp wood leads to a poor burn and large amounts of excess smoke. So what’s the specific connection with pizza oven fuel? Pizza ovens must reach between 450 and 500°C for pizza perfection, so you need high performing and consistent heat from high quality ready to burn wood. Plus you don’t want to be lost in the smoke waving your arms around, looking like an extra from an 80’s rock video. Finally burning moist wood will taint the flavour and look of your pizza leading to uneaten circles of disappointment.

With pizza oven fuel it pays to use a seasoned pro

If you want to treat your pizza oven to the fuel it craves, dry, seasoned hardwoods such as beech, birch, maple, ash and oak will do the trick. To break down the lingo for you, seasoned wood is simply wood that has been dried out naturally in open-air conditions. And hardwood is basically wood from a tree that sheds its leaves every year.  Hardwoods will reach the required temperature faster and offer a more steady and high performing burn than woods from conifers, known as softwoods. We’d say that oak is probably one of the safest, reliable and easy to source hardwoods for the job. No need to open Google Maps and look for your nearest forest of oak trees.  We’ve taken this fundamental insight and created our Seasoned British Oak logs to help you get your ‘Za on. Sustainable, ethically sourced and made from 100% natural British oak and with 30% moisture content, these hard working helpers will fuel your pizza oven to perfection.

Add some fruity flavour to your pizza oven fuel

Fruitwoods are fast becoming a must for pizza preparing enthusiasts. The list is long from apple and almond to pear and pecan. As fruitwoods are hardwoods, they posses the same burn characteristics but with a fragrant twist. When burned their aroma infuses with the pizza, adding hint of fruit into the mix

Wood pizza oven fuel burns brightly with flames

This pizza oven fuel is a bit of a dry customer

So now that you’re schooled in the mathematics of moisture, it’s time to meet a wood type that’s even dryer than its seasoned relative. Introducing kiln dried wood. Again to unravel the lexicon here, Kiln dried logs are just logs that have been dried artificially in a controlled environment within a specialised kiln. This process is quicker and more powerful than seasoning, leading to logs with an even lower moisture percentage of about 20%. A lower moisture percentage means a hotter and longer burn – and ultimately fewer logs used.

Now we wouldn’t be a main player in the fuel scene if we didn’t have kiln dried covered.  Our in house fuel fanatics have developed something super specific for the task – Big K Kiln Dried Natural Pizza logs. They are 100% natural, produced from UK grown timber as well as sustainably and ethically sourced. Finally they have meagre moisture content of below 20% giving you a beautifully hot burn and beautifully crispy pizza bases. 

Turn on the afterburners and fuel your pizza oven

The essential pizza oven fuel trinity is completed with pizza oven heat logs and briquettes.  What makes these guys unique to the equation is their production. They are made by compressing wood sawdust into a particular uniform shape. They usually contain no binders, chemicals or accelerants, making them a more natural form of pizza oven fuel.  As they are manufactured, and due to the compression process, pizza oven heat logs have a mind-blowingly low moisture content of less than 5%. 

Such a low moisture percentage means that briquettes and heat logs are the heating kings, producing three times as much heat per log compared to kiln dried logs.  Yes they are easy to light and yes they are long lasting, but we’d say that the best things about pizza oven heat logs and briquettes are consistency and control. The uniform shape of every log or briquette means that they behave and burn in exactly the same way, unlike the slightly more irregular shaped seasoned or kiln dried logs, so you know what to expect in terms of performance. Feed your inner control freak with Big K Forno Pizza Oven Logs

We’re talking about 100% natural and compressed sawdust heat logs, manufactured in the UK from sustainably sourced UK timber, with a less than 5% moisture content. Use these in your pizza oven for control, consistency and blazing heat.

A quick side note on preparation time and smoke control areas

As you can now see, there are many factors at play when fuelling up your pizza oven. We’re hoping that you will be firing yours up soon, so we thought we’d give you a super rough timetable to get things going right. Usually you would need about need about 10-20 minutes to heat your pizza oven depending on your chosen fuel. Then it should take about another 30-40 minutes of burning in order to reach the optimal temperature range for pizza heaven.

Again we’re stating the obvious here, but the end goal is to get gooey gorgeous pizza not a load of trouble for burning the wrong fuel in the wrong location. If you don’t live in a smoke control area, then the rules don’t apply to you. If you do live within a smoke control area, then it is vital that your pizza oven is outdoors and not part of a building or house to be exempt.

Three perfectly made pizzas lie in view with pizza oven fuel burning in the distance

What’s the best wood for me to burn in a pizza oven?

With all this information you might still be asking yourself, ‘How do I know what wood to use in a pizza oven?’ Well, there’s not one universal answer to this question. We’d say different horses for different courses at the end of the day. However if we were to try to unpack this equine reference, one way we could do so would be to suggest making your choice of fuel based on your pizza oven experience. If you are a first timer or beginner, we’d recommend seasoned hardwood. Have a few pizza oven burns under your belt? Kiln dried logs might be the way to go due to the increased heat output per log and more powerful burn produced. Finally, if you are very experienced or a pro looking to tweak you technique, saw dust briquettes or heat logs fit the bill, offering an even greater heat plus more consistency and hands on control capabilities. If you want to delve even deeper into things, explore our full range of pizza oven fuel here.

We hope you’ve devoured these slices of pizza oven fuel insight. And we’re sure that you’re ready to fire up your pizza oven and start making some circular joy givers (we’re tired of saying pizza) for everyone. Stay positive and stay tuned for our next blog, coming soon