Consultant Q&A on Wood-Fired Ovens

Consultant Q&A with Dan Bendall, principal at FoodStrategy, Inc., Rockville, Md.

FE&S: What are the benefits of wood-burning ovens?

DB: These units are all about the show and flavor, with customers seeing the wood fire. For this reason, it’s important that the ovens are in view of guests and angled or tilted so the flames and embers are visible. These are not inexpensive units so, if spending the money, operators need to show them off.

FE&S: What are the size considerations?

DB: It’s important to purchase the appropriate size for an operation, which means nothing too small that can cause a bottleneck with production, yet nothing too big that wastes space, money and fuel.

FE&S: What should operators be aware of with ventilation requirements for these ovens?

DB: The wood-burning oven ventilation requirements are different than with gas ovens. These require a hood that’s separate and exclusive than those used with griddles and fryers on the cooking line. Not only does the duct and fan system need to be separate from all gas equipment due to the combustible products, but spark arrester filters are required.

FE&S: Are there local codes that prohibit the use of these ovens?

DB: Some jurisdictions have more restrictions for these units due to pollution requirements. In these cases, operators may still be able to utilize wood-burning ovens but will need added filtration or air cleansing systems to remove the smoke. This can make the ovens more costly to purchase and operate.

FE&S: What should operators be aware of in terms of fuel for wood-burning units?

DB: It’s necessary to have wood on hand, so this needs to be constantly purchased as well as stored. For this reason, prior to purchasing a wood-burning oven, it’s a good idea to make sure wood can be easily sourced and there is space to safely store it. Some localities have requirements for storing wood on-site, as this is a combustible. Also, certain types of wood burns
better than others, so that needs to be taken into account.

FE&S: What are the concerns with cleaning these units?

DB: Disposing of the ashes is a critical factor. A steel or metal ash bin that is sealable is needed to store ashes from these ovens to prevent risk of fire.

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