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Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate? - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

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  • Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

    I everyone new here but been lurking here for some time. Basically my question is conerning the wood-fired vs. gas fired brick oven debate.

    Lets remove authentic VPN from Naples, Italy from the equation since ingredients are different from the USA.

    Does the wood really make the difference or is just the brick oven itself? Personally, I believe it is the wood but without hands-on experience & repetitve tasting between the two I'm unable to make a better judgement.


  • #2
    Re: Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

    wood? coal? gas? I don't doubt that you can make a good pizza with any fuel where you can get the heat you need. Since gas is cheap and easy to use, you get the results of the cheap-and-easy mindset. Deck oven vs brick oven is the same kind of call. I've heard of good pizzas coming out of deck ovens, but it has no snob appeal.

    For the home builder, wood is the choice. Gas can concentrate in the dome and create a disaster when flame is applied. One of the reasons that gas burners for brick ovens are so expensive is that they need redundant safety features.
    My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


    • #3
      Re: Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

      With a wood oven the combustion is so complete that there is very little smoke (usually only until each wood piece heats up), so I wouldn't argue for the wood contributing much flavor. I believe it is the temperature of a wood oven (which can be used too low as well) that makes the pizza great. James has mentioned a few times recently here a new gas oven design coming out of his suppliers and I don't really think that's a problem. Most gas restaurant ovens I have seen have simply not been hot enough, as measured by the time it takes to finish a pizza.


      • #4
        Re: Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

        I have both a door and chimney damper which allow some fire and smoke control. You get a crust from the heat of the fire and/or the flames licking over the dome. I really enjoyed the flavor that it gave the bread and pizza crusts! (turn or burn)

        A 2-3 minute pizza is pretty quick....and in a really hot oven, your combustion will be better.......so Pizza probably will not gain much flavor from the wood smoke.

        ..... but I definately think that longer cooking times like roasting chickens and even bread (crust) get flavor from the wood smoke.
        sigpicTiempo para guzarlos..... ...enjoy every sandwich!


        • #5
          Re: Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

          I think a lot of the trade-off has to do with what you are doing with your oven. For a homeowner, I feel pretty strongly that wood is much better -- for a couple of reasons.

          First, our homeowner ovens are brought up to heat from scratch (cold start) each time we use them, and wood has a lot more BTUs than a gas burner. That is why a well-made residential brick oven really can be ready to cook in about 45 minutes, without burning a lot of wood. That's what is so cool about the modern brick oven that uses good materials and the best insulation. That means you can use your oven all the time. Gas fired ovens take a lot long to heat up.

          I think David has it right on the safety issue. Unlike a fireplace or grill, where gas has somewhere to go, a pizza oven catches even the smallest leaks, and holds it in the dome. That's an issue for an oven that will be used by a homeowner, neighbors, kids, etc. David is also right that the safe burners are expensive. The FB commercial burner is $3,000.

          That said, if you are opening a restaurant where they wouldn't let me burn wood, or you have a business model that calls for gas (labor cost, skill mix, etc.), I would definitely recommend the new gas burner in a dome oven. I was never very thrilled about gas until I saw the new ones in action, and they really are good. The gas flame dances around, and it eventually brings the oven up to heat and it has the capacity of holding high heat through the cooking rush.

          I still think the wood flame imparts a slightly different heat, giving your pizzas a better texture, and a little more flavor. As a purist, I think it's great when someone starts a real wood-fired pizzeria. And there are still many more wood-fired pizzerias than pizzerias with gas-fired dome ovens in Italy.

          Still, one size does not fit.
          Last edited by james; 04-23-2007, 10:09 AM.
          Pizza Ovens
          Outdoor Fireplaces


          • #6
            Re: Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

            Interesting thread!

            Another thing to bear in mind is that one of the combustion products of natural gas is water. Where I live, our town gas supply is natural gas, and an oven fuelled with this achieves a moist heat, whereas electricity (and wood I assume) is quite a dry heat. This is bound to affect pastry, cakes etc during the cooking process.



            • #7
              Re: Wood-fired vs Gas fired debate?

              Hello Rico, you've not mentioned whether your interest in gas vs wood is for home use or commercial. I suspect that modern gas burners are safe for home use, I would not consider butane however. My only pizza experience has been with wood-burning ovens, but since February I've been in two situations that give me hope for gas-fired pizza. My first was in Modena where I saw an Italian pizzaiolo school in action; there were two ovens in use, one appeared to be wood-burning, a lovely 3 log fire was quietly burning away. Then as two pies were placed into the oven the gas burner kicked in and did a 25-40 second burn, got the oven to the desired 750F+ temperature and it was back to a natural wood fire....fantastic! This gave me hope, I could have all the theatre of a wood fire, but during a 20 pie rush I could take my mind off fire management and let the gas-burner keep me at temperature. On this particular oven the gas-burner was on the right, but place at about 2 o'clock with the wood fire burning away in front of the gas at about 4 o'clock. The pizza was not brilliant but it was not the oven, one look at the dough and I knew we were in for "good" but not excellence. With 16 pizzaiolo in training, I suspect this was an entry level class and taught by a "Junior College Culinary Arts" type organization.

              The second opportunity to see gas-fire in action was at PizzaExpo in March. I'm a big fan of Antimo Caputo and I'd heard he had a master pizzaiolo from Napoli preparing pizza, so i went along to see him in action. Because of the environment gas-fired was the only option and thank goodness we had a master preparing pies. I could see he was struggling, but one look at the opening of the oven told me why. His oven had an opening similar to a deck oven 1 meter wide and he was loosing all his heat - the dome was too cold and the oven floor too hot...poor guy! But despite all his oven issues, he soldiered on like the pro he is and continued to pull verrrrrry good pizza from his oven. What did I learn from this experience? Gas-fire can cook a very good pizza, but all the physics that go into a good wood-burning oven need to be applied to gas ovens. Get the refractory and insulator materials right, get the volume of the oven opening in the correct proportion to the volume of the oven...simple really! Then just make great dough, fresh sauce, fresh mozzarella,good olive oil and fresh basil....yummmm!