Starting you journey with a new pizza oven is cause for celebration! Welcome to the exclusive community of outdoor chefs who have brought the timeless tradition of wood-fired cooking into their homes. As you stand on the cusp of culinary greatness, armed with your new oven, you may be wondering where to begin. Fear not, for this exciting initiation into pizza oven cooking can be navigated smoothly with the invaluable tips and tricks passed down through generations of home pizzaiolos.
Drawing from new outdoor oven owner experiences, we understand the initial uncertainties and mishaps that come with mastering the art of wood-fired pizza.  Learning from those experiences, we're eager to share some top-notch advice to ensure your first pizza oven experience is a resounding success!
To ease into wood fired cooking, a great way to start is to practice with a favorite recipe that you are comfortable with.  In most brick pizza ovens, you can cook almost any dish that you would cook in a traditional oven…only with the enhanced flavor of natural wood.  If you are looking for a few easy dishes, try these out 5 Easy Wood Fired Oven Dishes – Firefly Pizza Ovens.  When you are ready to start your pizza journey, a classic Neapolitan-style pizza (a traditional Italian pizza) serves as an excellent initial choice. Now to get started...

Select Your Wood Wisely

It is important to select quality, dry hardwood such as maple, oak, hickory, ash, beech, or fruit woods like cherry or apple. Avoid softwoods like pine and spruce, as they burn quickly and produce excessive smoke. Use small pieces of kindling and ensure the wood is thoroughly dry to minimize smoke.  For more detailed information on the best wood to use in your pizza oven, find our full article here What is the Best Wood to Use in a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven – Firefly Pizza Ovens

Let’s Get That Fire Started

Note:  If using a clay or brick oven, to avoid damage it is extremely important that prior to preheating your brick oven, you have properly cured your oven.  For more information about curing your oven, see our article below.
Now that your oven is cured, let’s get that fire going!!! Preheat your wood-burning oven for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on its size and insulation. Gas and wood-burning ovens heat differently, so understand your oven's dynamics. Gas ovens will typically heat the dome of the oven quicker with the floor heating at a slower rate while wood burning ovens will heat the floor quicker but take more time to heat the dome. Of course, every oven is different and many other factors including external weather, amount of air entering the oven, etc. will impact your preheating process but you will learn the timing of your specific oven soon!  It’s always best, especially as you are learning, to light the fire earlier than you think necessary to avoid delays when you're ready to cook.

Achieving the Right Temperature

For optimal results, most pizza makers like to maintain a dome temperature between 700° and 800°F when cooking pizzas. Experiment with wood types like cherry for unique smoke flavors. Ensure the oven floor reaches at least 650°F.  Some users prefer a hotter pizza oven to produce pizzas faster.  This is also okay but be mindful that you watch your pizza so that it doesn’t burn.  Use dry hardwood for the best temperature control without excessive smoke.  The heat from the wood fire will warm the oven floor where you will cook your pizza.  Even if your oven comes with a built-in thermometer, we strongly recommend using an infrared thermometer as well to make sure you are getting accurate floor temperature readings.   As you spend time and practice with your pizza oven, you will find the cooking temperature that works best for you!

The Cooking Process

Now you are ready to cook!  You have found your perfect dough, all your favorite toppings and have your pizza peels ready.  Most of our customers prefer to use a wooden pizza peel to launch their pizza into the oven.  Whether you use a wooden peel or a metal one, make sure there is ample flour on the peel to help make it a smoother transition.  For a crispy crust and perfectly cooked toppings, embrace the high heat of your wood-fired oven. Maintain a floor temperature of at least 650°F.  Cooking times vary based on oven temperature as well as size and style of oven but typically cook in about a minute and a half to four minutes.  You will want to “turn” or rotate your pizza throughout this cooking time for a nice, even browning on all sides.  The preferred tool for turning your pizza is a metal peel, ideally the smaller, round turning peel.  Once your cheese and toppings are cooked to your liking and you have that beautiful leopard pizza crust, you are ready to remove your pizza!  Use your regular metal pizza peel to safely and efficiently remove your pizza from the oven.  Allow your pizza to cool for a minute or two before slicing.   

Keep Your Oven Clean

After each use, sweep away ashes to prevent buildup and potential damage. Periodically (once it has cooled) use an ash vacuum on the entire oven for a thorough cleaning.  You can find our pizza oven cleaning tools under our pizza oven accessories tab.  We also have wood burning oven accessory kits that include cleaning tools. 

Troubleshooting Undercooked Bottoms

This is a common concern when starting your pizza cooking journey and can occur for several reasons.  The first step when troubleshooting is to check your oven temperature and especially your oven floor temperature to ensure it is properly heated prior to cooking.  If the ambient temperature in your oven is too hot, it has the potential to cook the top of your pizza too quickly, not allowing the bottom of the pizza time to properly cook.  Always make sure your pizza stone/pizza oven floor is properly preheated.  Some gas pizza ovens will offer a booster burner under the cooking stone such as the Witt Rotante Pizza Oven.  In a wood fired oven you can move embers onto your cooking location to heat the area.  Sometimes you will need your oven to come back up to temperature between bakes to allow for heat lost during the cooking process. 
If your oven temperature is where it needs to be, you might want to consider your dough recipe and/or toppings.  Some vegetables have a high-water content that cook out and thick layers of toppings can make it more difficult for the heat to thoroughly cook your pizza before burning the top.   Another option is to consider making smaller pizzas for individualized flavor combinations. Smaller pizzas also prevent sogginess, allowing everyone to enjoy their creations. 

For tips on toppings and dough, we love these articles by The Pizza Heaven. Related Article - How to Top a Pizza the Right Way - The optimal order of toppings (

Related Article - Pizza Dough - The Pizza Heaven


Embrace Experimentation

Wood-fired ovens offer versatility beyond pizza. Experiment with different recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques. The learning process is ongoing, providing opportunities for continuous improvement and culinary exploration.
Armed with these tips, you're ready to master the art of wood-fired pizza. Whether hosting a pizza night or exploring the culinary possibilities of your oven, embrace the journey and savor the delicious results.  So, grab your ingredients and as we say in Louisiana, “Laissez les bon temps rouler”!
If you are looking to join the world of pizza oven owners or are looking to upgrade your existing pizza oven, we have a pizza oven for any need at!  Check out our article What to Consider Before Buying a Pizza Oven – Firefly Pizza Ovens.  If you have any questions, we are here to help!  Email and we will be happy to walk you through the buying process or answer any questions you might have!