These aren’t just for pizza
Why would I write about wood-fired grilling in an oven blog? I’m keying off two questions a friend asked. “Doesn’t it take a long time to heat up the oven? Do you heat it up all the way or can you just build a fire and cook over it?”
Yes, it does take time to heat up my wood-fired oven to pizza-baking temperatures. (See our blog about pizzas at 800-900 degrees.) And it takes awhile to fully saturate the thermal mass with heat for extended cooking (although I’ve never done an exact measurement). My short answer to “heating it up all the way each time” is no. I don’t heat the oven all the way up each time I fire it because the pizza oven makes wood-fired grilling convenient.
I do like to maximize the oven potential, bring it up all the way, and use the stored heat for baking the next day. (See our blog where we cooked for 3 days from a single firing.) But it’s convenient to use the oven for wood-fired grilling. Grilling in the oven is a fast, safe and convenient way of preparing food with fantastic flavor. Because it’s an easy way to cook, I use my oven for grilling more often than in maximizing mode. Wood-fired grilling is my go-to option for dinner on the fly. I light the fire and prep the food while the fire burns down.
Shelter from wind and a safe environment
Compared to an outdoor grill and open fire pit, wood-fired grilling in a pizza oven is safer. The fire is contained within walls of the oven and away from the wind. I compare wood-fired grilling with memories of campfires, blowing wind, flying sparks! Smokey’s precautions about outdoor fires stress controlling fire, ash, coals, and sparks—all easily done within the walls of the oven. (See our blog on ash disposal.) An oven allows for air circulation with wind protection making it easy to light and maintain a fire.
Wood-fired grilling in your oven
For an example of wood-fired grilling in an oven, check out our blog on using your oven as a tandoor. I regularly prepare a butterfly chicken on an iron grill over live fire. We’ve done sausage and hot dogs (and of course marshmallows) on roasting sticks, and burgers on the grill. There’s plenty of room to slide in a pan of veggies to roast as a side and toast the burger buns too.
In future blogs I’ll write about tools for cooking over live fire—grills you can make from what’s on hand, the Tuscan grill, roasting sticks you can make or buy. I’ll be looking into spits and rotisseries in the future.
Remember your wood-fired oven is a multi-tasker–not just an oven. It is unique in its potential for attaining high temperatures, storing heat, and extended cooking. But for convenience and fun, it’s a great grilling environment.