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Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal) :)

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  • Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal) :)

    Hi All,

    My situation in point form (no nasty long essays)
    * Still building curing my oven
    * Want to start cooking small things
    * Absolute ametuer WFO cook/Chef
    * Start on basics, potatoes and sweet potatoes
    * I have build a vault oven

    My questions
    * From a cold start do i build a fire one spot and leave it there? or i play with it an make a "U" shape so i can put things in the middle?
    * Considering a cold start/fire. How do you cook your spuds??? With foil, without? inside a pot? Next to fire, surrounded by fire, no fire and surrounded by ashes?
    * Any tips and suggestions welcome!
    * And temps, what are the temps you guys cook at?

    Thanks !


  • #2
    Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

    Hello Gummz,

    We have a 36" low dome wfo and often cook roasts, whole chicken, and potatoes after we cook pizzas. I use an infrared thermometer to check the heat. The potatoes are wrapped in foil and placed directly on the hearth towards the wall so that there is room for the meat in the middle. I've only done this a few times since my oven is still new, but 450 deg F will cook potatoes and sweet potatoes in 1.5 hours. Even though the temp is high it will fall to 350 + - when the meat is done. The potatoes are well done and I've never burned them. Thin meats like ribs or flat roasts may cook too quickly at high heat so you should experiment with how your particular oven cooks. Some people prefer to cook ribs at low temperatures for for hours at 300 to 225 deg F. You can always finish a roast or chicken in the kitchen oven if you let the wfo temperature get too low at the start.

    If you push coals to the edge of the oven it will keep the heat high. That is best for cooking pizza. The hearth and oven walls may be 750 to 1000 deg. If you are not familiar with cooking pizza at these high temperatures you should be ready with a peel to turn or move the pizza to a cooler location. They can cook very fast indeed. However, I've used an iron Tuscan grill with coals raked under it and it is great for meats or food in a pan. You could cook diced potatoes in a pan over coals with the grill. This is like camp cooking except in the oven.

    Eventually you will learn not too cook certain foods in an oven that is too hot. We make plans to cook a variety of foods during the day to take advantage of the decreasing oven temperatures; pizza, then bread, then roasts or chicken with veggies. Sometimes I store wood inside the oven if I think there may be wet weather ahead for the next cook. Wait until the oven cools down before storing wood inside.

    I am sure you will hear from other folks who have different ideas or methods. It will be an interesting learning experience.


    Here is the link to my oven number 1 construction photos!

    Here is the link to my oven number 2 construction photos!


    • #3
      Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

      First and foremost right now IMO, is that you are curing your oven and that should be your main focus, cooking something in the oven while curing should be a bonus.

      That said, I would go to the fire management section of the forum and start reading on fire placement and management. Different foods are going to require different fire placement from active fire, to coals to no fire at all just using your retained heat. As a new WFO cook, I have come to terms with the fact that I am going to be eating some burned food every now and then, until I figure out the personality of my oven.

      I find the fun in this being the ability to try different cooking methods at different temps. Nothing compares to a 90 second pizza from a 700* plus oven. We have done beer can chickens at 450* along with stuffed mushrooms and mixed veggies. Lower temps of 350* we have done brie in a puff pastry and several dipping sauces.

      You can cook while coming to temp as well as after the oven mass is saturated. There are some good websites along with cookbooks on the market you may want to check out. Play around and have fun. Keep coming back to the site, it has a lot of information. Share your successes and failures and the learning curve may become less severe.


      • #4
        Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

        Roast them. Cut your spuds (white or sweet) into chunks about 1.5 inches on a side. Put in a large fry pan (or any other pan with low sides, the lower the better, really) big enough so they all fit without piling. Pour some olive oil over them. Salt and pepper them. Toss them around so they get covered with oil, salt and pepper. Slide the pan into the oven. I usually do this after I have moved the fire to the side for pizza; if you are still curing the fire you could push it to the back. If they seem to be getting too hot, pull them out a bit - further in for hotter, closer to, or a bit out of, the entrance for cooler. Every so often, pull the pan out and toss the potatoes a bit so they brown on all sides.

        WFOs make the best roast potatoes I've ever had and it's as easy as can be. You can roast lots of other veggies the same way - carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, parsnips, etc. Just keep an eye on them so they don't burn.



        • #5
          Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

          I'm still learning. You are right roobqn in that i am jumped to "cooking" too quickly.

          I wasn't sure if people fire the oven to a certain temp (say 500DegF) and then start cooking or if they fire it higher (or longer) until its full satursated, but i see your point, different food will have different methods and i'll pick them up as i go

          Raining in sydney now .......... need to wait for the weekend to resume curing

          Thanks for the tips guys,

          karl, yes i'll also look at cutting them up instead of tossing them in as whole in foil).




          • #6
            Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

            If you toss them in wrapped in foil you really get no benefit from the WFO. You'll be using BTUs you've loaded into your oven, which is fine, but you'll end up with something that isn't really even a baked potato - it will really be just a steamed potato. Might as well stick them in the kitchen oven for that. If you want a good baked potato. put them in, unwrapped, when the oven temp, measured on the deck is about 500 or so. As soon as they are done, cut them open right away to let out the steam. I haven't tried this in my WFO, and 500 might be too hot. Potatoes are cheap, so it may be worth experimenting even if you scorch a few.



            • #7
              Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

              I agree with kmrice - an Irish potato wrapped in foil will not be a baked potato. A lot of folks do this and think that the soggy, sticky result is what a baked potato should be. It's important to start with the right kind of potato and to let the moisture in the potato escape as it bakes.

              Before baking, I poke a number of deep holes in my potatoes to help the moisture escape and then coat them with olive oil. Russet potatoes are the only type of potato will bake properly (Russets are frequently labeled "baking potatoes" in the grocery stores in the states).

              The end result is a drier interior that has a fluffy, mealy consistency that just begs for a little butter and salt. An added bonus: the crisp oiled skin is a delicious treat!


              • #8
                Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

                Ah, you also asked about sweet potatoes, gummz, which are a big favorite of mine!

                A sweet potato will never be light and fluffy inside, nor is the skin any good to eat. What they can do, however, is caramelize lightly just under the skin, especially where they are in contact with the pan (in a conventional oven) or, I should think, a WFO hearth. A caramelized sweet potato loaded up with butter is food for the gods!

                The technique is as easy as it gets - just toss 'em in the oven. No need to wrap, oil, puncture, or anything else. When a sharp knife slides in with no resistance, it's time to eat. Once again, butter is called for, in large quantities !


                • #9
                  Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

                  Sydney Temps have gone up over the last few days, so i'm not going to cure until temps come down.

                  But when i fire my next batch i'll first get to the temp i need, then learn to maintain the temp and i think i will position a few potatoes (white and sweet) at differences away from the fire.

                  I'm thinking of banking the fire slightly to one side, so the fire and other wall work their majic.

                  | ` ` |
                  | ` FIRE ` |

                  My hearth floor is dirty with all the ash. Does it burn off later in the curing process. Right now it looks "stained".

                  I'm up to around 400DegF. The last burn i did i let the fire go for a while (placed it near the side wall). Checked the dome roof above that location and theres a white-ish patch ?!?!?!!?

                  Maybe i left it cook to hot???? Hope theres no damage.


                  • #10
                    Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

                    The white patch is not damage, it's where the dome got hot enough to burn off the soot. Much higher than 400 degrees - more like 800, I think. Eventually, you will fire the oven until the whole dome is white - you will "clear the dome." That;s when you are really ready to do pizza.

                    Depending on how far along you are on your curing, you may have gotten the oven hotter than you should at this point, though. If there are no cracks, you are probably fine. But don't try to cure it too fast. Slower is better.

                    The deck should also clear eventually. Any ash, sap, grease or whatever will completely burn off. There will be white ash left, which you can brush away with a metal brush. Or, you can swab it, although most don't do that for pizza as it can cool the deck too much.


                    • #11
                      Re: Teach me how to cook spuds (sweet and normal)

                      ummmmm yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

                      So i decided to do a smaller cure fire since sydnye temps dropped again (really weird weather lately).

                      Got the open to 400DegF at the top of the dome directly above the fire, but everywhere else seems to be 170 to 200DegF .. i'm not sure if i should either build multiple fires or a since fire but alot wider ... any suggestions (yes i have vault oven, cement fondue cladding and no insulation yet)

                      Made a small creator in the remaining ashes and tossed a sweet potato.

                      It wasn't full done, but hmmmmmmmm i taste what is to come ...

                      Ohh man when will i get to pizzas ..............

                      Sweet potato pizza ... (had one of these in korea where the sweet potato is mashed into BBQ sauce thickness and "circled" around the pizza) ..