Wood-Fired Ovens

Types: Gas-fueled and gas-assisted stone-hearth ovens come in many different configurations to meet a variety of production requirements. Modular units are designed for pre-existing operations where it would be difficult to bring in large equipment. Pre-assembled ovens are easy to install, require less space and are lighter-weight.


Capacities/Footprints: Pre-assembled and downsized ovens are designed for use in metropolitan areas, where restaurant layouts are most often small and/or irregular in shape. Pre-assembled models generally offer interior cooking spaces ranging from 23" to 64" in diameter. When not preassembled, wood-fired ovens can be built-in or freestanding.

Energy Source(s): Wood-fired ovens can reach temperatures of 800°F., producing up to 240 pizzas per hour. Installing purely wood-fired ovens, however, presents a concern for most urban settings and large buildings. In major cities, it is almost impossible for a foodservice operator to use an oven that solely burns wood unless the facility has an old fireplace flue. Otherwise, operators will most likely need to get a special variance. Thus, gas/wood combination ovens or all-gas units make more sense for operators and are much easier to train staff to use.

Manufacturers recommend using only seasoned hardwoods with a moisture content of 20 percent or less. Softer woods, such as cedar and pine, will cause residue buildup throughout the oven's exhaust system.

Manufacturing Method: Wood-fired ovens, as the name implies, consist of an insulated cavity that contains burning wood. The heat is retained by brick or stone blocks and dispersed evenly. Most units are extremely heavy and must be custom-manufactured. The interior can be made of adobe, refractory fire bricks or refractory concrete that is heat-resistant. The ovens' construction can accommodate high temperatures and 24/7 use. Cooking cavities range from 9-sq.-ft. to more than 40-sq.-ft. Walls are generally 40" to 60" thick. Modular units are available with either concrete block or steel frame assemblies.

Standard Features: Modular wood-burning ovens can be easily assembled. Some come with expanded clay for use as a natural insulating material around the oven, and with refractory cement for grouting and for setting floor pieces. Traditionally available options include a ledge near the cavity door that provides additional workspace and a box for storing wood. A metal dolly provides a safe way to move and store wood ash. Also available are digital or dial temperature gauges and stainless-steel flue adapters and custom finishes.

New Features/Technology/Options: At least one manufacturer offers a thermal design that allows these ovens to maintain a temperature of 500°F. overnight, reducing start-up time the next day, while also cutting wood consumption. One model has an Italian-made burner and can be used as either a gas-fired or gas-wood combo oven. Accessories include design artwork, custom facades, chargrills, viewing windows, doorway extensions, granite or stainless-steel hearths, custom oven-mounted exhaust hoods, spark arrestors, spray filters/flue scrubbers, stainless-steel or glass doors, built-in digital/analog thermometers, high-temperature fans, internal spotlights and wind cowls.

Key Kitchen Applications: These ovens are best suited for roasting and baking a wide variety of foods, including meats, poultry, fish, stews, vegetable dishes and breads.

Purchasing Guidelines: The cooking surface size determines the oven's capacity. For example, a cooking area of 10.2-sq.-ft. can accommodate six 12" pizzas, while a larger area of 28.9-sq.-ft. can hold 15 of the same size pizzas. The larger ovens can accommodate up to 240 pizzas per hour.

Maintenance Requirements: Some floors may need to be reinforced in order to accommodate wood-fired ovens, which can weigh between 5,000 lbs. and 10,000 lbs.

End-users should use a long-handled brush to sweep away food particles that accumulate on the floor of an oven during use. Staff can clean the oven floor with a damp rag. Regularly clean the oven tools, mantle, night doors and doorway using warm, soapy water. In addition to cleaning the ash, the ductwork above the oven should be cleaned regularly.

Food Safety Essentials: The UL2162 standard for Wood- Fired Baking Ovens-Refractory Type and the Standard ANSI Z83.11-2002 for Gas Food Service Equipment are the most recently developed standards for wood-burning ovens. The UL737 standard for Fireplace Stoves is no longer valid for wood-fired pizza ovens. In addition, these ovens need to be vented independently from other equipment.

To alleviate food safety threats, these ovens should be heated up to approximately 600°F. until all signs of stuck-on food are gone; scraping should not be necessary.