Arrange a few sticks of kindling, two or three pieces of seasoned firewood and nontoxic, nonwaxy fire starter in the middle of the oven. Make sure the pieces are piled loosely, so oxygen can reach the kindling.
A brick oven isn't just old-fashioned, it's ancient: dozens on brick ovens have been found in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Yet, for making pizza, a better technique still hasn't been found. A brick oven has to be fired with wood every time you use it, giving the food a smoky, woodsy flavor; unlike a barbecue grill, it uses the properties of brick to absorb the heat and bake or roast foods using indirect heat.
Light the starter with a fireplace lighter or a butane torch.
Add two more pieces of firewood once the initial pile is burning well, with high orange flames. Allow the fire to burn for about 20 minutes, until the brick on the top of the dome starts to show through the black ash or turn white.
Place more firewood on the fire on the back and sides. Wait 25 minutes, and check the dome. When the brick is fully visible, the oven temperature is ready for cooking.
Push the coals to the sides of the oven. For pizza, cook while there's still flame.
Slide the pizza into the oven using a pizza paddle. The pizza will take about five to seven minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it and turn it if it starts getting too dark on one side.
Remove the finished pizza from the oven using the paddle.
Bake bread in the brick oven when the coals have died down and the temperature has dropped to about 550 degrees F. Follow a recipe designed for brick oven baking.
Remove the coals and ash when you're done cooking with flame or coals. At this point, the brick will still radiate internal heat for hours. Use the heat to slow roast chicken or meat overnight. Refer to a roasting recipe designed for brick ovens.
Tips & Warnings
- Fire as many pizzas as you can while the oven is hot; you can freeze any that are left over and reheat them in a conventional oven.
- Never stick your bare hands into the brick oven.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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