Pizza – How to Achieve a Wood Burning Oven Effect at Home

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 85,222
    Pizza expert Ruth Gresser demonstrates how to make a pizza at home with a wood burning oven effect.

    Ruth Gresser

    Owner and chef Ruth Gresser grew up cooking with her mother, who owned a catering business in Baltimore, Md. Ms. Gresser cooked her way through Grinnell College in Iowa before moving to San Francisco, where she cooked for several years at Friends a Cafe and at Le Trou Robert. In 1987, she graduated summa cum laude from Madeleine Kamman's Classical and Modern French Cooking School in Glen, NH. She then moved to Washington, DC, where she has helped open four popular restaurants: Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont Circle, Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown, Blue Plate and Obelisk. Ms. Gresser has been the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the Women's Chefs and Restaurateurs Madeleine Kamman Scholarship and a guest chef appearance at Alice Waters' renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. She has also been profiled in The Washington Post Magazine, The Washington Business Journal and by Georgetown University Television. Ms. Gresser has been a chef demonstrator, contributor and panelist for The Smithsonian Institution and for FreshFarm Markets in Washington, DC. She is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.

    Hi, I am Ruth Gresser from Pizzeria Paradiso, we have been making pizza today, and now it's time to put them in the oven. I am going to show you how to bake the pizza in our wood burning oven here at the restaurant. Obviously, not everyone has a wood burning oven at home, so, let me just talk about the difference between the two ovens. First of all, to stimulate the wood burning oven what I would suggest you do is turn your oven and make it as hot as you can get it. If it goes to 450, put it at 450, if it goes to 550, put it at 550. The closest thing that I have done to replicate the wood burning oven at home is I have a gas oven that has a broiler below the oven itself, and I actually turn my oven to broil. Because the broiler setting keeps the gas fire on the entire time that the pizza is cooked, the oven gets even hotter than it might if you were to set it at a particular temperature, because your oven will naturally turn off when it reaches that temperature. The temperature in the wood burning oven is -- we try to keep it around 650, so the pizza is cooked very quickly, because the fire is actually right in the oven, next to the pizzas as they're cooking, and the oven itself gets very hot. We cook it right on the surface of the oven where the fire is also sitting. So, the pizza in this oven is cooked from below, from being on the floor of the oven, and also cooked from the heat thats maintained within the oven. To replicate that at home, I would take a flat baking pan and put it in your oven and preheat the oven with the pan in it. If you have a pizza stone, you can use a pizza stone as well. Thats why I have had you make your pizza on the peel, so that when you are putting the pizza into the oven, you are actually putting it onto the surface, onto the baking surface, rather than making the pizza on the pan, which is then cold, and putting a cold pan into the oven. So, that's as I said the best way to replicate this kind of cooking atmosphere. So, the thing to keep in mind when you are putting the pizza in the oven is that you want it to come off of this peel. So, you need to make sure that the pizza isn't stuck. We have put flour on the peel, underneath the dough, and again, if you just shake the peel slightly to make sure that the pizza itself moves, then you know that when you go to put it in the oven it will stay in the oven and the peel will come out. So, what you are going to do is you are going to take the tip of your peel and put the tip of your peel just past where you want the pizza to land, because what you are going to do is you are going to pull out the peel, and the pizza is basically going to drop onto the surface, of either your cooking pan in your oven, or the floor of my oven right here. So, I am going to put the pizza peel just inside the oven. I have the tip of the pizza peel on the floor of the oven, and I am going to make sure my pizza is loose, and then I am just going to pull the peel out, and as I said, the pizza stays in the oven.