Jessica DeMay

Best Wood for Pizza Ovens

Pizza ovens get extremely hot, which is why it’s important to choose specific firewood for fuel. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, but we narrowed it down to eight types that work best in a pizza oven.

Takeaways

  • The types of wood that work best in a pizza oven are seasoned and dried hardwoods and fruitwoods.
  • Avoid using treated, painted, or laminated wood in your pizza oven.
  • Pay attention to the moisture content of the wood you are using; you want to avoid using wood with too much moisture, but you also don’t want wood that is too dry.

The type, as well as the quality, of wood you use in your pizza oven, affects multiple factors:

  • Heat – Wood-fired pizza ovens cook pizza at extremely high temperatures. You need dry, dense wood to create that level of heat.
  • Flavor – Clean, dry wood imparts a natural flavor that varies slightly depending on the specific type of wood. Woods like apple, mesquite, and oak are popular fuel choices because of their flavorful aromas.  
  • Consistency – The right fuel will allow your pizza oven to maintain a consistent temperature, which results in the most evenly cooked pizzas. Wood that is wet or that burns too quickly will cause the temperature inside your oven to drop. 
  • Time – Choosing the right wood for your pizza oven means less time spent getting it to light. High-quality, dry, dense wood will light quickly and easily.  

Best Woods to Use in Your Pizza Oven

Seasoned and Dried Hardwoods

Seasoned and dried hardwoods are the best woods to use in your pizza oven. Hardwoods are great for cooking because they are typically cleaner and burn for longer than softwoods. The most popular types of hardwood used in cooking are oak, maple, hickory, ash, birch, walnut, and beech. This wood is perfect to use with the wood-fired Ooni ovens.

Fruitwoods

Fruitwood is also great for cooking because it imparts more flavor into your food. This type of wood comes from numerous fruit-bearing trees like apple, plum, cherry, almond, maple, hickory, pecan, chestnut, mesquite, alder, apricot, avocado, and nectarine. 

Firewood Moisture Content

An important factor to consider when choosing which type of wood to use in your pizza oven is the moisture content. Wood with too much moisture forces your oven to use its heat to dry the wood, rather than heat the oven. You also want to avoid using wood that is too dry. To ensure your oven heats properly, use wood with less than 20% moisture.

Wood That Shouldn’t Be Used in a Pizza Oven

Using certain types of wood in your pizza oven is not only bad for your oven, but bad for your health. Pressure-treated, laminated, and painted woods should never be used in a wood-fired oven because they contain toxic chemicals that can leach into your food.

You should also avoid using woods with high sap content. These woods, like pine, produce soot and creosote that builds up on the floor of your oven and is also bad for your health.

Best Wood for a Pizza Oven

There are many different types of wood that work great in a wood-fired pizza oven. The type you choose will affect the flavor of your food, how much smoke is produced, and how much work is required based on the burn time of the wood. 

Wood SpeciesFlavor
MapleLight, sweet, smoky 
OakBold, classic
HickoryDistinct, full-bodied
PecanSweet, nutty
AlderSubtle, sweet
AppleMild, fruity
MesquiteIntense, earthy
AshLight, natural

Maple

Maple Wood

Maple is a flavor that is most commonly attributed to maple syrup. When it comes to firewood, maple has that signature sweetness with a hint of smokiness. 

One important thing to remember with maple is that the amount of sap it contains varies depending on the species of maple you use. Sugar maple and black maple are referred to as hard maple. Silver maple, red maple, and boxelder are known as soft maple. 

In general, maple is an excellent wood for smoking and cooking because it produces a moderate level of flavor. It works especially well with pizza toppings like chicken, pork, and most vegetables.  

Pros

  • Subtle, sweet flavor – The subtle, sweet flavor of maple firewood works especially well with pork and chicken, as well as most vegetables. 

Cons

  • Lower density than other hardwoods – Maple isn’t as dense as other hardwoods, such as oak, which means you will have to use more of it to keep your fire going.  

Oak

Oak Wood

Oak is the most popular of all woods used in wood-fired ovens because it burns for the longest time and has a very mild aroma. It lacks a distinct flavor, which is the main reason people turn to other woods for cooking. Oak also produces little smoke and burns cleanly.

Pros

  • Burns for a long time – Oak is an excellent fuel for a pizza oven because it burns for longer than other woods. 
  • Widely available – Oak is common in most of the United States and is easy to find.

Cons

  • Can be difficult to light – Getting your oak firewood to light can be frustrating and time consuming.  

Hickory

Hickory Wood

Hickory is among the most popular woods used to smoke meat. Because it burns for such a long time, it works well when slow-smoking large cuts of meat. It’s also a popular choice for pizza ovens that need to reach very high temperatures. 

Hickory burns clean, with an intense flavor. Hickory is often paired with oak because the two types of wood have a similar burn rate and complementary flavors.

Pros

  • Strong smoke and excellent embers – Hickory is a great option if you’re a fan of that strong, smoky flavor. 

Cons

  • The flavor might be overpowering if you use it by itself – Hickory produces adds quite a bit of flavor to your food when you use it by itself. Unless you prefer a strong aroma, it’s better to mix hickory with other types of woods for a milder flavor. 

Pecan

Pecan Wood

Pecan is a milder variety of hickory that works well in a pizza oven. Pizza cooked in an oven fueled by pecan wood has a pleasant, slightly nutty flavor. Unfortunately, this dense hardwood doesn’t have the same burn time as other hickory woods. Because of this, pecan is a great wood to burn together with other, longer-burning woods like oak or apple. 

Pros

  • Great for pairing with other complementary-flavored woods – Pecan is a great wood to add to other complementary-flavored woods like oak, apple, or plum. 

Cons

  • Shorter burn time – Pecan is a dense hardwood, similar to hickory or oak, but doesn’t burn as long. 

Alder

Alder Wood

Alder is a member of the birch family and a popular choice for people who prefer a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Alder is native to the Northwest and produces a sweet, light smoke that makes it ideal for cooking fish, chicken, sausage, and vegetables. It is often used together with other types of wood to create unique flavors and aromas. 

Pros

  • Sweet, light smoke – The light smoke flavor of Alder is great for more delicate toppings like seafood and vegetables because it won’t overpower their natural flavors. 

Cons

  • Burns quicker than other options – Alder burns through quicker than other woods with a similar flavor, like oak. Its shorter burn time means you will need more wood to maintain the temperature of your pizza oven. 

Apple

Apple Wood

For authentic pizzeria flavor, applewood is the best wood to use in your home pizza oven. Applewood is a popular choice among pizzaiolos because of its hot burning temperatures and the flavor it imparts on pizza.   

The apple tree is very popular in the United States but originated in Central Asia. Apple is great to use in pizza ovens because it burns very hot and enhanced the flavor of your pizza. It’s also an excellent wood to use when smoking meat for a long time because of its mildness. 

Pros

  • A top choice among pizzaiolos – Applewood is favored by many pizzaiolos because of its hot burning temperatures and its signature aroma, as well as the flavor it adds to pizza. 

Cons

  • Intense “pops” – Popping isn’t uncommon when burning wood, but applewood tends to pop so intensely that you might end up with some ash on your pizza, depending on how small your pizza oven is. 

Mesquite

Mesquite Wood

Mesquite is a dense wood that burns hot and fast. It adds a distinctive, heavy kick of flavor to your food, which is why it is usually used when cooking pork and red meat. For some, mesquite smoke is overpowering and detracts from the flavor of the food itself. 

Pros

  • Intense, distinctive, sharp flavor – Mesquite is especially popular in Texas because of its distinctive flavor. The intense, earthy aroma of mesquite is too much for some people, but many people enjoy it. 

Cons

  • Produces a lot of smoke – Mesquite is one of the smokiest cooking woods. The large amount of smoke it produces contributes to its intense flavor, which can be too intense for some people. 

Ash

Ash Wood

Ash is a lesser-known pizza oven firewood, yet it’s regarded by many as one of the best for this particular purpose. Ash has a low moisture content, is easy to split, and produces a good amount of heat. Because of its mild, neutral flavor, ash is great to use in a pizza oven and is oven paired with other types of wood for a more complex flavor profile. 

Pros

  • Neutral flavor – Ash is a lot like Oak in that it burns hot and has a very mild flavor. Because of its neutral flavor, ash is a great choice for pizza ovens.  

Cons

  • Limited availability – Because ash isn’t used as firewood as often as other woods like oak, apple, or hickory, it’s harder to find.  

How much wood do I use in my pizza oven?

How much wood you should use depends on the oven you are using. It’s better to start with 3-5 small pieces of wood to get the fire going. As the temperature inside your oven increases, you can add larger pieces when necessary. You may only need to add a few more pieces to maintain your oven’s temperature or you might have to add a piece or two of wood during the cooking process.

Conclusion

To get the best results with your wood fire oven, the most important thing to remember is that dried and seasoned hardwoods are the optimal choice. Dense hardwoods provide a long burn time and high heat, which is what a pizza oven needs to churn out the most flavorful, evenly-cooked wood-fired pizzas.

As for what type of hardwood to use, it comes down to your personal preference in terms of flavor. Woods like oak and pecan impart mild, subtle flavors, while woods like hickory and mesquite produce more intense, earthy smoke. Consider what toppings you’re adding to your pizza and the flavor profile you are aiming for, then select a wood that you think would work best. Fortunately, you can always try a different wood the next time you fire up your oven if you don’t enjoy the results the first time.

Jessica DeMay
Jessica is the lead content creator of Dishcrawl. She has lived in Italy (Napoli) for 7 years and has since become absolutely obsessed with pizza.
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