Best Wood for Pizza Oven: 10 Smoky Wood Options

July 27, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The best type of wood to use in a pizza oven is hardwoods like oak, or maple because they produce high heat and hold up well in the oven.

The firewood you use in your wood-fired pizza oven can impact the flavor of your pizza. For this reason, it's important to use the right type of wood to get the best flavors from your dish and reduce off-putting smoke. The wrong wood will give your pizza a bitter taste and may produce toxic smoke that can irritate the eyes. Moreover, your oven may not reach the desired oven temperature, or it may create a mess if you use the wrong wood.

I've been a chef for over a decade, and I've found that you need a very hot oven to make the best pizza. That's why I recommend hardwoods as the best wood for a wood-fired pizza oven. Read on to find out more about the best woods to use and discover ten options to choose from.

best wood for pizza oven

The Best Wood Types for Pizza Oven

It's crucial to use the best wood possible for your wood-fired oven to avoid having soggy pizza due to poor burning of the wood. Additionally, you can have an excessive buildup of soot, and a foul odor if you use the wrong type of wood for a pizza oven. That said, I'll mention the best types of wood you can use for your oven below.

1. Hardwoods 

Hardwoods like oak, maple, and ash that have been dried out and seasoned are unquestionably the best to use in your pizza oven. These firewoods are more energy dense than softwoods, meaning they can produce the optimal temperature required for cooking pizza.

Keep in mind that the hardwood you choose must be properly dried before it can burn consistently at high temperatures without producing too much smoke. Here are excellent hardwoods you can use for your wood fired oven.

The Best Types of Hardwood

Ash

Ash wood is a great option for your pizza oven because it burns hot similar to oak and has a moderate, neutral flavor.

You can enjoy making a stress-free pizza without continually watching the fire because it burns well for a long time. It is also easy to ignite. The highest quality ash wood properly cooks meats and fish in a pizza oven.

On top of that, ash wood can be seasoned in six months and burns cleanly without producing any smoke. Note that ash wood should be handled with caution since it rots quickly when wet or touches the ground. For this reason, it's essential to store ash wood elevated from the floor in a cool, dry area.

Birch

The type of birch you choose will determine the quality of the wood. Compared to the other birch species, black and yellow birch wood produce the most heat. While the bark can generate a strong wood-fired cooking flavor, the wood's sugar content imparts a sweet flavor to any dish. In my experience, I’ve found that birch pairs best with pork and poultry.

Beech

Beech wood is a great option for cooking fish, veggies, and poultry in a pizza oven. Bear in mind that this type of hardwood needs more time to season than other types of wood because of its high water levels.

American beech requires a minimum of one year to season; however, we advise two years for the best burning performance and minimal smoke. This wood has a subtle, moderate scent that is slightly nutty.

Hickory

Hickory wood has a more intense flavor than oak wood but is not as strong as mesquite wood. This is one of the most widely used and hottest burning hardwoods for cooking because it has a distinct flavor. I love using this wood to cook meats like sausages, ham, bacon, and beef.

However, too much of this wood can leave you with a bitter taste, so ensure you use it sparingly. That said, I advise combining it with milder smoking wood, such as oak or pecan. You'll need about a year to season hickory wood to ensure low smoke emissions.

Oak

Oak is dense and heavy and works excellently at producing the high temperatures needed for wood-burning ovens. Oak is one of the most widely used hardwoods because it is readily accessible.

It is ideal for cooking different foods, including pizza, fish, lamb, beef, and veggies, because it burns slowly and has a mild flavor. If you're not sure what kind of wood to use first in your pizza oven, I recommend choosing oak wood.

Brick Oven with Fire Burning Inside
Pecan

Although pecan is a species of hickory, it has a much more delicate flavor with a nuttier undertone that pairs well with pizza. It is a sturdy, solid hardwood, although it burns more quickly than oak or other hickory woods. This makes using only pecans in your pizza oven a challenge. However, it complements other hot-burning woods like oak, plum, or apple.

Maple

Maple wood has an excellent heat capacity and mild sweetness which make it another great choice for cooking in your pizza oven. Even though this wood is challenging to split, the slight sweetness makes it worthwhile.

You can also cook a wide range of foods with maple wood, including chicken and pork. Note that you'll need more of this wood when smoking in a wood-burning oven because of its lower density.

Mesquite

Mesquite is one of my favorite woods to use in wood-fired ovens. This hardwood has a peculiar, sharp flavor. Moreover, it produces a lot of smoke, making it arguably the smokiest of all the most widely used cooking woods. The reason this high-heat hardwood is so smoky is that it is high in lignin, a compound that makes the wood rigid and produces a lot of smoke.

Mesquite burns quickly at high temperatures. Just be sure to pair it with some wood that has a milder flavor.

2.   Fruitwoods

Fruitwoods can also be a lovely addition to your pizza oven in addition to your standard hardwoods, adding a unique taste.

Generally, it is best to use fruitwoods moderately and mix them in with your preferred hardwood because not all of them burn as hot as some of the hardwoods we've discussed. Combining fruitwoods and hardwoods gives your dish a hint of aromatic flavor without overpowering the dish’s flavors while maintaining the ideal heat levels.

Doing this also makes it easier to experiment with various fruitwood varieties to determine which flavors pair well with your preferred pizza toppings. My favorite fruitwood to use is applewood.

However, your preferred fruitwood will ultimately depend on your personal taste. That said, let's look at some of the best fruitwood you can use in your wood-burning pizza oven.

Pizza Cooked in a Wood Fire Oven

The Best Types of Fruitwood

Apple

Applewood should be at the top of your list of fruitwood if you want the traditional pizza flavor. Applewood produces an intense burning temperature and a pleasant aroma. Moreover, this fruitwood is excellent for practically any topping, including pork, salmon, and poultry, because of its slightly sweet and fruity flavor.

The drawback is that it breaks easily and, if you have a tiny oven, may leave some ash on your pizza. Moreover, applewood can be expensive and challenging to find.

Plum

Plum is another good fruitwood for your pizza oven because it produces a good quantity of heat.

Its flavor is moderate and somewhat sweet; add it to oak or mix it with pecans to give dishes more depth. Plum wood is a great option for cooking poultry and is also a fantastic choice with pork and vegetable toppings.

Wood You Shouldn’t Use In Pizza Ovens

Understanding which kind of wood for pizza ovens is as important as knowing which wood to avoid.

  • You should never burn pressure-treated wood, laminated wood (such as plywood), or painted/chemically treated wood. You can use untreated wood as kindling to keep your firewood burning. If you're not sure if the wood isn't chemically treated, I advise you to throw it away. Not only are these types of wood bad for your oven, but they also pollute your food and the environment.
  • You shouldn't use charcoal in your home pizza oven because it emits more carbon monoxide than firewood. Carbon monoxide is a health and safety concern, and it is difficult to detect. Even though charcoal burns hotter than firewood, it doesn't transfer heat efficiently through the oven.
  • Avoid using resinous woods that contain a lot of sap or oil. This kind of firewood will produce a lot of soot, which will cover the chimney flue and the outdoor pizza oven in creosote. Luckily, you can burn it off with hotter, cleaner-burning firewood, such as oak. Sappy or oily woods include pine, eucalyptus, fir, cedar, etc. That said, if you still decide to use oily wood because of its unique flavor, make sure you remove the resinous bark. This will make the wood burn cleaner.
  • Make sure you avoid woods with high moisture content because they produce low heat, a lot of smoke, and low heat. Also, avoid overly dry wood, as it also emits excess smoke.

How to Store Firewood?

It's important to keep your firewood dry if you want to store it for later. I suggest building a 2-inch foundation to keep the wood elevated and prevent it from getting wet. Storing firewood under your oven is also a good option. However, you can't really store a lot of firewood here because of the limited space. 

If you have a lot of room, you can build a woodshed to store all your firewood. The woodshed should have a waterproof roof and coverings, as well as a raised floor with gaps to allow optimal airflow. 

With that said, you can still salvage wet wood if you find it within a few hours. Simply place the wet firewood in a preheated oven and keep the door slightly open. The pizza oven wood should be dry enough to use the next day.

Chopped Firewood on a Stack

Why Should I Season Firewood?

Seasoned wood is recently cut wood that has been dried out for a considerable amount of time. Typically, wood needs to be allowed to dry for at least a year; however, this can change a little depending on the kind of wood you use for cooking pizzas.

Seasoning your firewood is crucial because it gives the moisture plenty of time to escape. This is a crucial step since the low moisture content will guarantee that the firewood burns efficiently and cleanly. This has a significant effect on the air quality and the quality of dishes you cook in the pizza oven.

How to Season Wood?

The key to seasoning wood properly is to utilize the natural elements including sun and wind to dry the logs. Let's look at the steps required to season wood.

  • First, chop the wood into smaller logs to quicken the drying process. Larger logs take longer to completely dry.
  • Stack the chopped wood logs in a suitable log arrangement.
  • Store the wood logs in a dry, sunny location with excellent airflow. 

You can read more about the process here.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I Use Softwood in Pizza Brick Ovens?

Although they burn quickly and with a bright flame, softwoods like pine and cedar don't generate enough heat to properly cook pizza.  Instead of using softwoods as your main fuel source, they work best as kindling to aid in starting the fire.

2. What Moisture Content Should Firewood Have?

Although burning any firewood with a moisture content under 20% is safe, it's always better to use drier firewood for pizza. We advise using kiln-dried logs with a moisture percentage of under 15% for the best possible pizza experience.

3. What Size of Firewood is Recommended for a Pizza Oven?

The length of the firewood pieces should range from fourteen to eighteen inches, with an average diameter of two to three inches.

Final Thoughts

Heat is vital when it comes to cooking in wood-fired pizza ovens. For this reason, hardwoods are the best choice for pizza ovens. Simply put, hardwoods are better choices than softwoods such as spruce, pine, juniper, etc. Why? Hardwoods are denser and allow a long, intense burn.

You can never go wrong with oak if you’re unsure of the hardwood to use. Now that you know the best wood to use for a pizza oven, knead your pizza dough, add your toppings, and enjoy the complete pizza experience. 

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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