8. Firing the Oven

Burning Kindling in the oven entrance

Burning Kindling in the oven entrance

I discussed the process of firing the oven in a previous post but I thought it warranted its own posting because if you don’t get this right – you wont be cooking anything!

This is the way I do it.

  1. Prepare a nice big pile of kindling
  2. Roll some balls of newspaper and pile them just inside the mouth of the oven in a cone shape
  3. Pile kindling sticks around the newspaper like you are constructing a wigwam
  4. Light the newspaper and let the fire catch.  Now at this stage I have a handy cheat that you might find useful.  I have a weed burner which I bought a few years ago and never used and it is perfect for getting these fires going in the oven.  It isn’t very Eco-friendly through so I won’t encourage you to buy one but if you have one lying around and some spare gas then go for it!
  5. Gradually keep adding kindling to the small fire until it builds to a nice little blaze.  At this stage you can move it a little further back into the oven.  I push the fire using a shovel or, and I find this works well, my bakers peel.
  6. The process is then to gradually add more wood (gradually larger pieces) and when roaring, push it back more until the fire is blazing near the back of the oven.  This might take about 40 mins to an hour.  Be careful when you are pushing the fire backwards as it has a tendency to go out.  If you find it has died back try adding some small pieces of kindling and blowing and/or some balls of newspaper.
  7. In order to get the oven up to temperature (and I mean so that it is capable of retaining heat, without a fire burning in it for several hours) you need to keep the fire blazing for at least another 1.5 to 2 hours.  If you intend to cook with a small fire still burning (how I cook pizzas), the oven will be ready after about an hour.
  8. If you intend to remove the embers and use the oven without a fire burning it’s a good idea to spread the glowing embers across the floor of your oven for 10 minutes before removal.  I then scrape them out with the peel or shovel and dump them into a metal bucket to cool.
The fire is roaring at the back of the oven

The fire is roaring at the back of the oven

Hot embers spread across the floor of the oven before removal.

Hot embers spread across the floor of the oven.

Finally a word of warning.  If you have any sort of hair on the front of your head and want to keep it that way WEAR A HAT OR CAP when you fire your oven.  You will need to keep looking into the oven and when it is throwing out 450-500 degrees Centigrade of heat you will singe your hair.  You may not find this as hilarious as my wife did! 


45 thoughts on “8. Firing the Oven

  1. Really helpful advice – thanks alot. I’ll be starting my first pizza oven project this summer with locally dug clay. So the total wall thickness is approx. 21cm? including all three lays, 7cm each? Seems quite thick?

  2. I’ve just started experimenting with heat and my first pizza’s have been a disaster. My oven internal is about 75cm, so not too big. The problem I’m having is getting the oven hot enough and also finding the space to put the pizza. I’ve tried with just wood and cooking with flames, I’ve found you need a lot of timber to keep this going for hours. I’ve also mixed wood with coals. Hottest I’ve had is 300c, the problem I have is space in the oven. Any advice?

    • Hi Ollie

      75cm internal diameter is not too small really. My oven is 80cm and works fine. The problem might be the height of the oven door (or even the width). Ideally it should be 63% of the hight of the internal dome and the width, half the diameter. What dimensions do you have? Are you building the fire in the mouth of the oven until it is blazing and then very slowly pushing it to the back of the oven? The whole process should take about an hour. the oven might not be roaring hot until about 90 mins are lighting.

      Cleaning the floor, sweep with a brush and use a wire brush to remove any debris or melted-on cheese!

      Let me know how you get on.


      • Thanks Simon,
        I’ll get back on the full dimensions, though I’ve rechecked the internal; width, 65cm, depth 50cm (not inc. oven entrance.) In hindsight, I would have liked a slightly larger oven. Are you suggesting the height of the door might be too high allowing too much heat out? I am going to try a bed of coals and place metal pizza tray on top, although this would be bitter sweet I feel. It just seems like keeping a roaring fire in the oven requires a LOT of timber and also leaves very little room for a pizza.

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