You've heard the phrase "now we're cooking with gas"? Time for a change.
After a long wait and some rather ridiculous, but fun, logistics (see this thread), I finally have a wood fired oven. I love to cook, and I've wanted to try this for years, so I may try to document progress here. If you're into this sort of thing too, please join in!!
To christen it, we had a bunch of friends round and had the kids make pizza. I set the oven going around 10am with a gentle fire and ramped it up every hour until around 2pm when the inside temp was pushing 600+ degrees, the floor was at 370 degrees, and the pizzas cooked in about a minute. Sadly I don't have any photos as I was too busy trying to keep up with the kids manufacturing pace, but we got through 25+ individual sized pizzas, and some large banana and Nutella calzone for dessert.
It was amazing. So much fun to use, fascinating to watch the base bubble up and the toppings just sear in front of your eyes. The flavour and texture are just as they should be. And you'll never have another supermarket bought oven pizza again.
This past Sunday, we went for a different approach: roast chicken and roast potatoes. This calls for a more controlled and sustained heat, and with little practice at this sort of thing, it's a pain. The chicken cooked well, but it needed a fair amount of supervision, and I spent a lot of time tending the fire to try to keep the temperature stable. However, the flavour was superb, with a definite hint of smokiness to the meat. The texture was also memorable, slightly dry, like a cured meat on the outside, succulent on the inside. The spuds, par-cooked before going into the oven were wonderfully crisp and browned.
The key difference to using my/a regular oven, is time and heat management. With pizza you want the hottest temperature you can handle, and you're cooking for a minute or so only. This means you can keep piling on the wood as you go, with little concern for the cooling curve; there appears to be no such thing as too hot.
With the chicken, not so easy. I'm new at this, but I think the key is time, and to have plenty of it. Build up the temperature in the oven so that there are no cold spots, and then work out how much wood (and when) to throw in to keep it there. I'm used to cranking up the oven and in a few minutes I have a sustained and regular temperature. With a wood oven, you can't be in a hurry. I guess it probably takes a few hours to build up enough heat and embers in the oven to sustain the needed temp for long enough to cook whatever it is.
So, all tips and advice welcome, and clearly, more practice needed! The pizza bit is under control, the long term objective is to be able to cook all the other stuff that will benefit from the flavour and type of heat - roast suckling pig anyone?
Pix of the chicken below. It started in a dish, but I ended up placing it on a rack above the dish with the spuds to try to get the heat all around it. That seemed to work pretty well.