History of Wood Fired Pizza Ovens and the creation of the Authentic Oven
The earliest ovens were found in central Europe, and dated to 29,000 BC. They were used to cook mammoth and often had a roasting and boiling pit within the structure. In the Ukraine from 20,000BC they used pits with hot coals covered in ashes. The food was wrapped in leaves and set on top, then covered in earth. Today, many communities still use cooking pits such as the Maori when they cook a traditional Hangi. Culinary historians credit the Greeks for developing bread making into an art. Front loaded bread ovens were developed in ancient Greece. The Greeks also created a wide variety of dough, loaf shapes and styles of serving bread with other foods. Baking soon developed as a trade as bread increasingly was prepared outside the family home by specifically trained workers to be sold to the public. This is one of the oldest forms of professional food processing.
History of Pizza Ovens
A wood fried oven is a type of masonry oven.
Masonry ovens consist of a baking chamber made from fireproof brick, concrete, stone or clay. Wood-fired, coal-fired ovens were common in the 19th century. Some modern masonry ovens are fired with natural gas as the heat source but many still use the traditional fire, as does our Authentic wood-fired oven.
Types of wood-fired ovens
There are two types of wood fired ovens: ‘black ovens’ and ‘white ovens’. Black ovens are heated by burning wood in a chamber and the food is cooked alongside the fire while it is still going or in the heated chamber after the fire coals have been swept away. A white oven is heated by transfer from a separate combustion chamber and flue-gas path, and therefore the oven remains white or clean from ash. All wood fired ovens regardless of what materials they are made out of will consist of a floor (hearth), a dome and an entry (oven opening).
How they work
Unlike modern household ovens that provide a nearly constant cooking temperature, a black oven (wood-fired oven, cooking with a fire or ash) is typically heated once during the firing stage. After the embers are moved to the sides and back of oven, the oven gradually cools over a period of hours or even days! A well insulated oven such as the Authentic Oven will stay at consistent high temperatures many hours after heating. The mass of the oven acts as a ‘thermal battery’, which slowly releases heat over time. This retained heat can be used to cook batches of bread, pizza, roasts, casseroles, bbq meat etc. Food such as pizzas and bread can be cooking directly on the ovens hearth; alternatively oven-baking dishes can be placed into the oven. The heat retained will decrease over time so foods requiring different temperatures for cooking can be placed inside as the temperature drops to suit the type of cooking required. Authentic Oven also stocks infrared thermometers, which are fantastic for checking the temperature of the oven before and during cooking.
The age of the pizza
Although the word ‘pizza’ was documented the first time in 976 in Gaeta and successively in different parts of Central and South Italy, the history of the dish itself is not very well documented. Foods similar to pizza have been prepared since the Neolithic age. Records of people adding other ingredients to bread to make it more flavoursome can be found throughout ancient history.
In the 16th century in Naples a Galette flat bread was referred to as a pizza. A dish of the poor people, it was sold in the street and not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time. In 1843, Alexandre Dumus, Pere described the diversity of pizza toppings. An oft-recounted story tells that in June 1889, to honor the Queen Consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizza maker, created the ‘Margherita pizza’, which was garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil to represent the colours of the Italian flag.
Pizza is now a type of bread and tomato dish, often served with cheese. However until the late 19th century the dish was actually sweet, not savoury, and earlier versions which were savoury more resembled the flatbread, as we know it now.
The dish continued to gain popularity and soon pizza became a tourist attraction as visitors to Naples ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local specialty. Pizza first made its appearance in the United States in the late 19th century with the arrival of Italian immigrants. Since then the traditional dish has become so popular it can be found on many restaurant menus and also from popular chain outlets.
Today’s new and improved Authentic wood fired ovens
Authentic Oven Limited are passionate about creating quality wood fired ovens. They have incorporated all the best features of the traditional wood ovens using modern heat retaining materials. Each oven is hand crafted from start to finish and can be custom designed to fit into your outdoor setting. Imagine being able to entertain with style and flare with your own outdoor wood-fired oven!
Also see our article on How Pizza Ovens Work for more information.