Cooking pizza in a brick oven or over wood fire is the absolute best way to enjoy it. There is just something about that wood smoked flavor that really sets pizza apart when cooked that way.
Of course, pizza is good other ways too but if you’ve ever had wood-fired pizza you know exactly what we mean!
There are some woods that are better to use than others for this purpose. The wood will affect the flavor. So you want to use the right wood when cooking pizza to have the right flavor.
If you use the wrong wood, the flavor of your pizza could suffer. And that’s just an abomination!
What is the best wood for pizza ovens? When using a pizza oven, just about any hard wood will lead to good results. Hickory, oak, apple, maple, mesquite, and walnut woods are especially good choices for achieving a flavorful pizza. You can also mix ash with mesquite to get a unique flavor.
There are several different options when it comes to choosing wood for a pizza oven so you don’t necessarily have to stick to a single wood option and you can even change it up and enjoy a slight change in flavors from doing so.
In this guide, we will share with you the 7 best wood for pizza ovens.
We’ve got some great choices to share. We will cover the types of wood and just what makes them great so you know every little detail. You might decide to keep several different options on hand or you might pick a favorite.
Keep reading to discover the 7 best wood for pizza ovens, and more!
A Guide to the Best Wood for Pizza Ovens
The best wood for a pizza oven is hardwood.
Hardwoods are denser than softwoods. That means there’s basically more material to burn per square inch of hardwood than softwood.
So when you burn hardwood, it will give off more heat, because more material is burning off at a time.
That’s a good thing for pizza, because pizza needs super high temperatures to bake in a wood oven.
So as for
Here are our top 7 choices:
Take a look at this table to see the different points regarding these woods and what makes them good for this use:
|Wood||Smoke Level||Ember Levels||Burn Time|
|Mesquite||High (*the highest)||High||High|
|Ash||Low (pair w/mesquite)||High||High|
As you can see these woods reach some pretty high ember and smoke levels overall, an indication of their overall heat when burned. Plus, higher smoke levels can make for some delicious smoked pizza crust flavors!
The 7 Best Wood Choices
Let’s start by briefly discussing these woods and just what makes them a great option. Once we get through here, we will talk more about how to choose your wood and things to look for as well.
Hickory wood probably has one of the best flavors and it’s really great for wood-fired pizza. This is a popular wood and it’s used a lot for cooking so it’s typically pretty easy to find.
Hickory hits all of the high notes, producing plenty of smoke, burning hot with lots of embers, and burning for long periods of time.
When you’re cooking pizza, you need smoke, heat, and really good flavor. Hickory does all of that for you.
Hickory is known for being used for BBQ and smoking foods all of the time. The flavor is probably the best flavor that can be used for any type of cooking.
Hickory burns cleanly and produces strong flavor along with strong smoke and that’s really one of the things we are after.
If you want to mix woods, you can combine oak with hickory. Oak is another choice you will find here because of how well it burns but it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of flavor. They pair very nicely together.
We promised you that oak was coming and here it is!
Oak is another very popular choice, much like hickory. As we mentioned, oak can easily be paired with hickory, and their flavors pair really nicely together because hickory is strong and oak is subtle.
Oak is a very dense wood and it burns nice and hot. This is one of the qualities that makes it great for pizza ovens.
The dense, heavy nature gives you a decent level of smoke, although not as high as some of your other options. It also burns hot and will burn for a long time. All of these factors are important.
Where hickory has a very distinct flavor, oak is a bit subtle and more earthy. This is one of the reasons it is often paired with hickory. The earthy flavor is good with pizza but may not add as much flavor as you are looking for.
You can easily get a hold of oak, too. It’s out there readily available and it’s a popular choice that’s easy to source.
You can also pair oak with other types, like your fruit woods.
Oak comes in red or white. Red has a bit more flavor but both types of oak work really well for most uses.
Here is a fruit wood that is just plain awesome for pizza!
Apple has a medium smoke level but it burns really hot with high embers and it also burns for longer periods of time.
If you want a little bit more smoke, you can always pair apple with another wood that produces more smoke.
Apple wood is one of the most common types of wood that is used by pizzerias.
You won’t get a pizza that tastes like apple but it will have a subtle sweetness to it paired with that smoky flavor. This is a favorite for very obvious reasons but it might be more challenging to find than some wood options out there.
Applewood really has it all. If you do your research, you will find the flavor and the aroma make it popular.
If you want your pizza to taste like your favorite wood fired pizza restaurant, go with apple wood. Chances are, it’s what they use.
There is a small downside to using apple wood. While it has a lot of embers and burns really hot, it also is known to pop quite a bit when it gets that hot.
The side effect of this is that a little bit of ash might drop over your pizza but it shouldn’t be a huge issue.
A little bit of sweetness sometimes makes all of the difference.
Maple has awesome flavor when it comes to a pizza oven. While things like syrup and maple-flavored candies and such can sometimes be almost too richly sweet, that is not the case with maple wood.
Maple has more than 100 different species. You can really use any maple wood that you want to for this purpose and they all work well.
Maple is another wood that is usually fairly easy to find, although the exact variety that you are able to find near you might differ.
Maple also pairs nicely with other woods, particularly oak and apple wood. The flavor from the smoke will be just slightly sweet.
It also has a very subtle flavor. The smoke level is at a medium but it burns hot with high embers and it burns for long periods of time.
Mesquite is another very common wood for smoking and BBQ and it’s very easy to find, particularly in the Midwestern United States.
This particular wood has the highest smoke level you will find, at least among woods that are reliable for cooking food. It also has a high level of embers for high heat and high burn times.
As we said, this wood is most popular throughout the Midwest and also in Texas but you can find it throughout the United States fairly easy. It’s especially easy to find in the summer months when people are grilling and smoking foods regularly.
The flavor from mesquite is very noticeable and it is sharp but not overwhelming.
Since the flavor is so intense, we actually recommend mixing this wood with a wood that has less flavor (unless you like the BBQ mesquite flavor!). Oak is a good option, as is walnut and ash.
6. Ash (Mixed With Mesquite)
Then there is ash.
Ash is best for wood for pizza ovens when it is paired with other types of wood. This is because the flavor is very mild and it only produces a medium amount of smoke.
However, if you have a wood like mesquite, hickory, or apple that has a strong flavor, you can use ash to help level out the flavor and add some smoke to the cooking process.
Ash produces a lot of embers so it burns nice and hot, which is a quality we look for with this type of cooking need. This wood will burn long and it burns consistently so you don’t have to babysit it while the pizza is cooking.
This wood is popular for pairing purposes but also if you’re looking for something that is just fairly neutral and won’t overwhelm your taste buds.
Last, but not least, consider trying walnut for your wood for pizza oven needs.
This one is another more neutral wood in flavor but it hits all of the important qualities for cooking pizza. Walnut isn’t known for the flavor but more for the high smoke, the high embers, and decent burn time.
Walnut is great to pair with something that has strong flavor.
Much like ash, it will slightly help to neutralize or even out bold flavors so they aren’t overwhelmingly intense. It also helps to bring smoke and heat to the cooking game, which is why it made our list!
Tips for Choosing Wood
There are some things to consider when you choose wood and we used these details to choose our top 7 options that we listed.
Take a look at these tips before you make a final selection.
You want your wood to produce really great flavor for your pizza. This happens from the type of wood that you use and avoiding certain trouble points with wood as well.
You can use fruit wood as well as various hardwoods and always get flavor.
Using fruit woods might result in a touch of fruit flavor but it will never be overwhelming. For example, using apple wood will not make your pizza taste just like apples.
But you might get a hint of sweet flavor from the smoke and that will be delicious!
There are certain woods that will actually lead to bitter flavors or harsh tones so you have to be careful about avoiding those. We’ll talk more about these woods to avoid below.
Smoke, Embers, Burning Time
You can see in our chart above how each of our wood choices fares by smoke levels, ember levels, and the time that the wood burns. All of these details work together to make great wood for pizza ovens.
The higher the levels of smoke, embers, and burn time, the better the wood choice is for cooking pizza.
You want a lot of smoke, because it is the smoke that is going to add flavor to your pizza.
Having a high amount of embers will give you the heat that you need to cook the pizza. Finally, if the wood will burn for good lengths of time, that is really best because you won’t have to constantly stoke the fire.
Woods To Avoid
Just like there are some really great wood options or categories of wood to choose from, there are also some woods that you will want to avoid or stay away from.
Here’s the thing. Some woods will have awful flavor and some woods actually put off chemicals that you don’t want in your food.
Never use wood that has been treated, laminated, painted, or that contains a non-natural chemical. These woods can be hazardous for your health if you cook with them.
Also avoid woods like pine that have high levels of sap. This simply doesn’t work well for cooking pizza or other things.
You will also want to avoid woods with a higher moisture content.
Dried wood is always the best because that is what helps you get a crispness on your crust during cooking. A lot of moisture in the wood will actually harm the cooking process.
Burning moist wood will produce a lot of smoke but it won’t get hot enough to really give you the results you want. Even hardwood that isn’t totally dry won’t work. So be sure to use dried wood no matter what you choose.
We hope that this guide to the best wood for pizza ovens is a great resource for you. While these were our top picks, you will find that there are some other choices out there as well.
You might like something like pear, plum, peach, or pecan as well. It just depends on your personal preferences!
We invite you to take a look at the following question and answer section for some additional details that might be helpful for you as well.
How Much Wood Should I Use In A Pizza Oven?
An important part of cooking pizza is understanding just how much wood you really need to make excellent pizza.
Most people start with about 5 standard size wedges of wood. These wedges are fairly small most of the time so fitting five shouldn’t be too hard. You can always add more if you need to.
The challenge is not everyone needs the same amount of wood, depending on your oven, the size of your pizza(s), etc. You may want to start with the average amount and work your way up and down from there.
Is Too Much Smoke A Problem?
While you definitely want plenty of smoke to give your pizza the smoky flavor, there is such thing as too much smoke. You want to avoid going overboard, if only so you can breathe when you take the pizza out!
To avoid having too much smoke, don’t use wood that is too green, too wet, or too moist as these could bring you too much smoke.
And if you’re trying to avoid smoke altogether for any reason (like a respiratory issue), you can always try building a smoke-free pizza oven:
Can I Use Wood That Isn’t Completely Dry?
You really want to avoid wood that is moist or wet. Wet wood will not burn hot enough and may produce too much extra smoke anyway.
The best type of wood is dry hardwood.