A History Of Wood Fired Ovens
Nothing beats the aroma of a special homemade pizza coming from a wood-fired oven. But have you ever wondered where these ovens originated? Or how they are made? This post is all about the history of wood-fired ovens.
Early History of Masonry Ovens
Even though it has not been precisely recorded when wood-fired ovens were first used, the history of the wood-fired oven can be traced back to 5400 B.C. in Turkey and 2000 B.C. in France, respectively. Those early ovens were not made for cooking pizzas. They were just a form of cooking where some materials are put inside a pit and left to get cooked by the heat from the soil and rocks surrounding it.
The most ancient evidence of a wood-fired oven is found in the archaeological site in Anatolia, Turkey. Pottery dating back to 5400 B.C showed the use of ovens for making bread from grains. In France, a discovery made by archaeologists revealed that bread was being cooked in wooden vessels by using coals from fire pits. But as time went on, Turkey and France started to use stones to build their ovens and not just wood and soil. This was due to an increasing need for fuel.
During ancient Egypt, people used to dig large pits in a circular pattern using stone and soil. The main purpose of this pit is for storing and cooking foods. They put layers of bread, barley, meat, or vegetables in the pit. The bread was then covered with earth, and the stones used to close it up would serve as a lid. Once done, firewood is placed on top of the stones surround the pit and heat it. After an hour, the food was removed from the pit and eaten. It is also believed that it was the method used o make flatbreads like flour tortillas. This method of cooking continued until 1300 B.C. Even today, the Egyptian population still uses this method in preparing their traditional flatbread known as Pita bread.
In ancient Greece and Rome, there were two main types of ovens used for cooking: dome-shaped clay ovens and rectangular stone ovens. The clay ovens were placed on the ground and the rectangular stone oven was placed on top of a platform. Both of these types of ovens used a fire pit to burn wood into ashes to heat the oven. The ashes were mixed with water and spread inside the oven for it to get heated up quickly. When the ashes had cooled down, they were removed from inside the oven and fresh wood was put inside for it to be burned. This method helped speed up the cooking process. Especially when used for making bread.
The ovens were also used to roast meat and make soups. On the other hand, the method used in preparing flatbreads was somewhat different. This time, when wood was burning, water was sprayed on the pit to produce steam which made the bread cooked faster. In ancient Rome, a new type of structure was developed for making bread. The thin bricks that were used for the oven were covered with clay and then brick overlayed on top of it. This helped reduce the time needed for baking bread.
Wood Fired Ovens In Europe
The custom of using wood-fired ovens was brought to German territories by the Romans. During that time, they preferred using a somewhat large oven made out of brick. Other than it being used for baking bread, the Germans also used it inside their homes to warm their houses up during the winter season. Some people were able to get extra income during the winter season by letting other people borrow their wood-fired ovens for use in their own houses.
The next stage in wood-fired ovens development occurred when wood was replaced with coal, peat, and then coal briquettes. The ovens were made smaller compared to the ones made out of brick.
The German culture was so attached to their wood-fired ovens that when they won their independence in the 19th century, they continued to make the ovens out of bricks. These German bricks eventually became known as "German thickness". From there on, these bricks were exported worldwide and are still being used today.
Wood Fired Ovens In Asia
The Greeks and the Romans had brought the use of wood-fired ovens to Italy and Spain. The Greeks use fire pits (Pits) which were built inside their houses and used to cook different foods. The Romans also used fire pits but in addition to being used for cooking food, they also baked bread on ovens built out of bricks and tiles. They would make several rounds of baking bread before deciding to discard it all.
A new method was revealed that greatly improved on previous methods. They were used in conjunction with coal as fuel while baking bread. This was in place of the wood-fired ovens that were used before. The new ovens were easier to use and also made a cleaner environment for everything to be cooked in it.
Masonry Oven Today
Because of the need to preserve masonry ovens that can last a long time, people learned to make them out of the natural rock as well as brick. They tried to make the oven stronger by putting mortar in between one stone or brick. In some instances, the oven was made by using stucco and masonry cement which was then plastered over to give it additional strength as well as a smooth surface.
The use of the ovens would soon be brought to America when it was discovered and introduced by European settlers. The ovens were used for baking bread but baking pizzas was not done at that time.
It would take until the 1960s for ovens to start being used to cook pizza bases in addition to being used for bread. Today, wood-fired ovens are still being used and made. Most of them are made of bricks and rocks and clay tiles as well as concrete.
It is not very surprising that wood-fired ovens continue to be made and used in our modern-day. It has been an integral part of our history. The ovens today are still being used to bake pizza’s but also a range of dishes as we have demonstrated on our youtube channel.