There are various structural and design elements to consider when selecting your wood-fired pizza oven. Let's walk through them...
1. Shape & Size
The shape of a pizza oven is usually half-spherical to best facilitate circulation of air inside. The dome shape forms a small pocket where the hot air generated from the fire circulates above the pizza and that heat is transferred back down onto the pizza, as radiant heat. The heat from the fire on the floor of the oven climbs the walls to the top of the dome, and that heat is also redirected back down to cook pizzas evenly in just a few short minutes. The heat generated by glowing embers is absorbed by the oven’s high-mass refractory materials. The internal diameter of pizza ovens usually measure approximately 60 inches, but a variety of sizes are available depending on the number of pizzas you want to bake at a time.
Wood-fired Alfa ovens are made of refractory materials, which contain minerals that are able to withstand very high temperatures and absorb and retain a lot of heat. Refractories are of the utmost importance to resist thermal shock when temperatures change quickly.
3. Weight & Stability
The weight of your oven will depend on the materials used. Masonry ovens reach very high temperatures and have a lot of thermal mass, but portable ovens are also a great option when you'd like to wheel your pizzas in and out of the house, or want the flexibility of using your pizza in other locations in the future.
4. Door Opening
The mouth of the oven must be large enough to easily move food in and out, and to manage the fire, but not so large that a lot of heat will escape. With a door you can easily control the air flow and, as a result, the oven temperature. A good door must be equipped with a heatproof handle and be heavy enough to be stable when placed at the mouth of the oven.
5. Heat-Up Speed
The speed at which the oven heats up depends on its structural characteristics, and such factors as the type of firewood and the ability to manage the fire. The best wood-burning ovens reach high temperatures quickly, and maintain their heat for a long time.
6. Low Energy Consumption
Firewood is a low-cost and renewable resource, but be sure to choose high quality and well-seasoned wood as this will pay off handsomely when it comes to heat and energy efficiency.
7. Even Cooking
Pizza bakes from below via thermal conduction and from above by way of thermal radiation. To make a perfectly cooked pizza, you must balance the two so the bottom crust and the toppings finish cooking at the same time. An oven that combines high temperatures with a refractories’ properties of thermal and radiating heat, provides even cooking for pizzas; even cooking is all the more important when cooking many pizzas at once!
8. Reheating Between Loads
When baking, heat is transferred from the oven floor to the pizza, causing a slight drop in temperature when baking. When you want to cook several pizzas in quick secession, you'll need to consider the loss of floor heat and how quickly the oven will return to the ideal baking temperature between loads.
9. Heat Retention
Wood-fired ovens retain heat so long that once pizza cooking is finished, you can manage the falling curve of temperatures to bake multiple dishes. At 480° F (250° C) you can bake bread, at 350°F (180° C) roasts or fish can be prepared, and so on. It's a rewarding achievement to squeeze every drop of energy coming from your wood-burning oven!
10. Outdoor Living Spaces
A wood-fired oven is an outstanding focal point to your garden or backyard, and can turn your outdoor living space into a terrific cookout venue!
Remember that cooking with a wood-fired oven is an art and a science! Experiment, trust your judgment, and adjust details as you go to enjoy the experience to the fullest!