What Are the Best Woods for Pizza Ovens?
Outdoor pizza ovens are made differently. You’ll see gas pizza oven, charcoal pizza oven, and wood pizza oven. Many models can actually be powered by any of these 3 sources or a combination of them!
In this article, I mainly talk about which woods are the best woods for pizza ovens. You may not know it, but the wood you choose is important to making the best pizza. Each type of wood has different properties and will impart different flavor profiles to your food. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best woods for a pizza oven to get you started on the right track for making delicious pizza at home.
Best Wood for Pizza Ovens - Overview
The only type of wood that should really be used for any cooking, grilling, pizza oven or otherwise is pure hardwood.
Hardwood burns hotter, lasts longer, tastes better, and is safer than using softwood types of wood. There’s simply no reason not to use hardwoods — especially when there’s no shortage of good options to choose from.
You also want to make sure you don’t buy wood or logs that use infill. We want to use real pure wood when heating our pizza oven! If you don’t, you’ll be able to tell the difference in food flavor.
Oak (overall best wood for pizza ovens)
Oak is an all-around solid cooking wood, and we make it our top choice for the best overall wood for pizza ovens for several reasons.
On a practical level, it’s really easy to find and pretty common in almost every state in the US. It’s also very cost effective and won’t break the bank every time you have to go to resupply wood.
One thing you’ll learn when you smoke with the various types of wood is that each has a slightly different strength and flavor profile. As far as oak goes, it’s in the middle – which makes it very versatile and great for pizza where you might need to make a bunch of pizza with a variety of different toppings.
It has a milder flavor than pecan or mesquite, but a bit stronger than fruit trees like apple or cherry. Oak will provide rich flavor without overwhelming the flavors of your artisan-style crusts, sauces, and toppings.
Another advantage of oak is that it is a perfect hybrid wood. So if you want to mix with cherries, apples, pears, maples or anything else – oak is a perfect base.
When you think of the taste of apple wood, it’s easy to associate apple with the taste of fruit. In fact, apple wood is a great companion and one of the best woods for a pizza oven because it imparts a lighter, tastier smoky flavor.
It’s for this reason that applewood is a great choice to pair with super cheesy pizza. The flavor profile from apple wood is a complex light smoke with almost a hint of sweetness.
Apples are also a good option if you’re just starting out with wood-fired pizza, as you’re less likely to overpower the pizza with the smell of smoke when using apples.
Cherries are one of the best woods for pizza ovens for the same reasons as apples. It’s on the lighter end of the smoke spectrum, so it definitely won’t overpower your pizza.
Compared to apples, cherry wood is stronger and has a more intense flavor. The sweetness is still there, but overall it’s just a more “full” tasting smoke. It is indeed a versatile wood for pizza, but due to its sturdiness, it may be better suited for pizza with meat on it.
So if you’re the type that loves sausage, pepperoni, bacon, or other classic meats, be sure to try Cherry Wood!
Hickory is one of the most popular woods for smoking a variety of foods. In fact, it earned our top vote for the best chop wood.
It’s also great for pizza! In terms of flavor, pecans are probably the most traditional barbecue smoky flavor, with sweet and savory flavors. It’s on the strong end of the spectrum though, so you don’t want to overdo it when using pecans in a pizza oven.
With that in mind, hickory may not be suitable for meatless pizzas – for example a margherita pizza might be a bit of a match for hickory.
Pizzas that go well are those with meat on top that can withstand the pecan flavor. So if you like beef burgers, pepperoni, bacon, or any other beefier meat, then pecans are a great choice.
Hickory is also ideal for blending with other lighter woods like cherries or apples to soften the smoky flavor.
Pecans are actually part of the pecan family – so these types of wood all have a lot in common.
Pecan is a good choice because it is somewhere between pecan and fruit wood in terms of smoky intensity. So, for example, if you find that the pecans are too strong and the cherries not strong enough, the pecans may be the winner.
It has a deeper flavor and is very similar to the “traditional” smoky flavor you find on smoked ribs or barbecue. It works best with meaty toppings like chicken or pepperoni.
Maple is another fruit wood that is lighter and less robust than cherry and apple woods. It has a light, sweet flavor that’s perfect for most pizzas and easy to find on a practical level.
It goes well with chicken, ham, pork, and sweet BBQ sauces other than pizza, as well as pizza toppings. Maple is my go-to wood for BBQ chicken pizza in a pizza oven, and it works well with bacon and ham too.
Alder is traditionally the wood used to make seafood and vegetables, so if you love vegan pizza or put some seafood on your pizza, give it a try.
It’s a very light flavor that doesn’t overpower the pizza, but the downside is that it doesn’t have much character compared to some of the others on this list of the best woods for pizza ovens.
Having said that, I know a lot of people who like to use alder in their pizza ovens – so don’t be afraid to give it a try!
Peaches are another fruit wood that tastes really good, light and sweet. It’s great with pork and blends well with some of the other woods on this list.
Honestly, it would be higher on our list of the best woods for pizza ovens if it wasn’t for one thing. Hard to find due to seasonality. During peak season, the price can also be a little expensive. So if you come across a box of mahogany for smoking, don’t be afraid to grab it and give it a try, especially if the price is right!
Best Wood for Pizza Ovens - Tips for Buying
Never use these woods in a pizza oven
If you don’t realize it by now, you can’t throw any type of wood into a fire to make food. In fact, using the wrong type of wood can spoil your food, or worse, cause bad chemicals and toxins to contaminate your food.
Stay away from these:
This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you want to try wood that isn’t on this list, you should check to make sure it’s safe before using it. Remember, no cork!
Quality is your friend
You want to make sure you are buying pure, high-quality hardwood. If you buy a bag of sawdust that also contains filler, that will only affect the taste of the end result.
Make sure that any wood you buy for smoked pizza is high quality and reasonably priced. There are plenty of sawdust bags on the market for less than $10. I certainly appreciate that you might be on a budget – but usually these deals are too good to be true.
Don't be afraid to mix with charcoal
Charcoal and wood can be a great combination. Charcoal fires are generally more predictable and manageable, while wood is the superstar of flavor.
If you can find the perfect balance, you can make incredibly delicious pizza using the best of both worlds.
Of course, taste a lot comes down to preference — so you might not like the taste of charcoal-grilled pizza. It’s ok! you might like it.