Most Frequently Asked Questions
Selecting the right oven for your needs depends upon several things:
- The old cliché “the right tool for the right job” could never be more true! Different foods, and even
pizza styles, cook using different temperature and time requirements.
- If you’re going to bake Artisan Neapolitan Pizzas, the cooking temperature range is typically
between 700-950 Degrees F. If you’re baking New York Style or Detroit Style Pizza, the temperature
ranges are much lower. While some ovens are designed to function optimally at higher
temperatures, others are much more consistent when functioning at lower temperatures.
- Wood-fired and gas-fired ovens are specifically designed to function at higher temperatures. These
ovens perform most favorably above 400 Degrees F.
- Conversely, electric ovens have a wider range of temperature, typically 250-950 Degrees F, but these
ovens can operate consistently at lower temperatures.
- Gas and wood-fired ovens may struggle to provide temperature consistency and regulation at the
lower range. For example, you can bake bread in wood or gas-fired ovens, but an electric oven may
be the better alternative for production output and quality of the food.
- Conversely, gas and wood-fired ovens are ideal for several types of pizza, and higher temperature
cooking and finishing.
- Either way, cooking is typically a function of time and temperature. End results should be similar
within the same temperature range, regardless of the fuel source.
- How much food and variety of food items are being cooked?
- What is the current labor pool availability?
- Some ovens require a specialized employee skill set in order to operate. That will come with a
premium hourly wage.
Based on the options available, there is some homework that needs to be done here so that the right tool is
selected to support the long-term goals of the operation.
The short answer, yes but there is more to consider:
- Keeping in mind that cooking is a function of time and temperature. If the temperature that the ovens are operating at is the same, then YES, the ovens should produce the same or a very similar cooking result regardless of the fuel source.
- The heating technologies are very different in the various ovens that Marra Forni manufactures.
- Wood-fired ovens are both radiant and convective based upon the dynamics of the cooking dome itself.
- Gas-fired ovens utilize a unique 2-stage forced-air power burner which is very efficient in how it delivers heat to the cooking cavity and to the food.
- Electric ovens use a dual heat source through radiant infra-red technology from both above and below the food (the ceiling and cooking decks have independently controlled temperatures) which provides more control to the cooking and baking process. This is especially important at temperatures below 400 Degrees F. where the wood and gas-fired ovens are challenged.
Selection of utility/cooking fuel would typically depend on several factors including utility or fuel availability, cost, ventilation requirements, and the customer dining experience objectives.
There are lots of things to consider when evaluating oven sizing for your operation. Again, the primary consideration is what you want to cook and how much production you will require. Keep in mind that the right tool for the right job means making sure that the oven will produce when you’re the busiest.
- Buying an oven that won’t support your peak production requirements is a bad investment because the result is not achieving your sales potential and in fact risking future business based upon poor quality food or long delivery times!
- When reviewing the menu, consider what other menu items (existing or potential) could be produced in the oven.
- Remember that the oven should always be in use to maximize your Return on investment (ROI).
- Day+part production schedules should be considered that would allow production throughout the day. For example, the morning day-part can be used for baking bread and pastry, or prep, because the lunch and dinner day-parts will be “go-time” for full-on meal service!
But there are some other things to also consider that are more physical or construction related in nature:
- Getting it into the space, the physical weight of the oven (and potential floor reinforcement), and special ventilation requirements all have a part to play in the sizing of the oven.
- If you plan on cooking with wood, remember that the wood can easily take up 30-40% of the cooking deck surface, which will impact the oven production capacity.
- Some ovens, such as the Rotator, are designed with innovative technology that will speed production efficiency.
The Marra Forni Rotator Oven Series is made for operators to to compensate for staff with a lack of skill set by using a rotating cooking deck that only requires the operator to load and unload the food items from the oven. No food manipulation is required, which simplifies the cooking process and increases quality and consistency.
The more proficient the staff is with the operation of the oven, the greater the output capacity which may also affect the ability to “downsize” to a smaller oven model (sometimes, less is more). It’s important to keep in mind that the oven can generally cook faster than the product can be made and loaded, so a production team and system are always recommended.
The short answer is maybe. Dough formulations vary based on the style of pizza being made.
- Some pizza styles have very similar dough properties (hydration specifically) while others are very different.
- Neapolitan and Neo-Neapolitan (a dough style that is a formulation between a NY style and Neapolitan style dough) are generally baked at higher temperatures above 700 Degrees F.
- New York style doughs are baked at temperatures between 550-650 Degrees F. while Focaccia style doughs including Roman style, Detroit style, Sicilian style, and Grandma’s style are typically baked at temperatures between 450-600 Degrees F. In addition to temperature, different dough formulations require different cooking times.
- As a rule of thumb, the higher the hydration level in the dough (amount of water to flour), the longer the dough requires baking to allow the moisture in the dough to evaporate as the dough bakes.
- If a high hydration dough is baked at a high temperature, it will burn on the top before the bottom ever begins to bake, resulting in a very poor-quality result.
- It is difficult to mix different pizza styles in a common oven since each has cooking properties that are a unit to itself.
- As an example, it would not be realistic to cook a Neapolitan pizza and a Roman-style pizza in the oven at the same time.
Therefore, we see many operations that are cooking more than one style of pizza using multiple ovens.
The perception of smoke in a brick oven varies. Some believe that when we cook with fire, we impart flavor
and odor into our food which gives it a signature flavor. Truth be told, at high temperatures this is not the
- For food to absorb smoke flavor and odor, the cooking typically must be done at lower temperatures
(below 275 degrees) and the food must be exposed to the smoke for a period of time that would allow
the food to absorb the odor of the smoke.
- Foods react differently to smoke at different times and temperatures. But in the case of a brick oven,
which is designed to operate at higher temperatures, the cellular structure of the food will lock out the
smoke due to the high temperature. And, as quickly as the food cooks (90 seconds in the case of
Neapolitan Pizza at 750 degrees), the food is not in the oven for a long enough period of time to absorb
the odor or flavor of the smoke.
- In blind taste tests comparing wood-fired and gas-fired brick ovens, many have found that there is no
difference in flavor of the product coming out of the ovens, which to many is quite surprising.
With that said, there is something to be considered regarding customer experience in a restaurant or dining
space. There is no mistaking that a wood-fired oven creates a very special ambiance.
- Customers and guests will experience olfactory responses to the smell of smoke in the dining room that
heightens the senses during dining.
- The glowing firelight of a brick oven provides guests with a level of comfort and a sense of romance and
security that cannot be replicated through décor alone!
- Customers do engage more with wood-fired ovens in a dining environment, and many perceive a higher
food quality being served.
Now we need to look at the pros and cons of the actual food source since cooking with wood is an art
form in itself! There are several things to keep in mind when deciding to cook with wood. If you’re an
experienced operator and understand the dynamics of wood-fired cooking, we support your decision.
However, many operators are inexperienced with wood-fired cooking.
- For these operators, it’s important to understand that fire is a “living, breathing thing” and needs to be
managed to maintain temperature and an efficient environment for cooking.
- Besides the operational challenges of cooking with wood, other considerations, including wood type,
sourcing, quality and wood consistency, storage, cost, additional ventilation requirements, and additional
cleaning must be kept in mind.
- Gas is clean, simple to use, cost-effective, and for most operators, a better option for their needs.
- Because there is an open flame through the burner system in the oven, guests are still able to engage and
gain a perception of higher food quality associated with wood-fired.
- Additionally, many of oven models, depending upon size, do offer a “decorative flame” feature that can
incorporate wood or flame into the standard gas oven configuration.
Artisan Pizzaioli have used wood for thousands of years since the days of the early Roman Empire. But there is an art and a skill set required to successfully cook with wood. It requires an understanding of the cooking form and how to manage it effectively. While burning wood is a proven way to enhance the romance of the dining experience through the creation of visual and sensory ambiance, there can be some challenges that operators need to be aware of.
Additional considerations for wood-fired cooking include:
- Quality and consistency of the wood
- Sourcing and supply availability
- Operator skill set required to manage the wood
- Oven ventilation requirements and fire suppression
- Oven cleaning and maintenance
- Cost of the wood
- Internal and external storage
- Loss of cooking deck surface during oven use
- Introduction of insects/pests into the kitchen
There are many pizza operations that are very successful with wood. There are many that use a combination of wood and gas-fired ovens, which allows the oven to be preheated using gas to get the oven to temperature quickly and efficiently, and then add wood for aesthetics, or change over to wood-fired cooking when the wood combusts and use the gas as backup and thermal control during peak periods. In our experience, most operators see value in gas-fired over wood-fired when considering some of the challenges of the oven.
There are a number of things that need to be determined first:
Storage and Refrigeration of Ingredients
- Depending upon whether dough will be made from scratch, or purchased already prepared (balled or
frozen), there are several pieces of equipment that are required to support a pizza operation. As is
the case with all foodservice operations, proper storage (dry and refrigerated/frozen) needs to be
considered based upon the products and ingredients that will be sourced and used.
- Most Pizza operations use a refrigerated prep table that is specifically designed as a workstation to
support dough handling, and production, as well as the assembly of raw ingredients on the dough
prior to baking in the oven.
- The typical workstation has a deeper worktop (30”) to maximize the production area. Additionally,
the work surface of the prep table is made from marble or granite which maintains a lower average
temperature to aid with dough handling compared to a stainless-steel work surface.
- Many prep tables also have the option of a refrigerated condiment rail for easy storage and access
of ingredients to support the assembly of the pizza on the workstation.
- Ideally, these condiment rails are elevated above the prep table surface so as not to limit counter
space for production.
- If the operation is going to make dough from scratch, a dough mixer is an absolute requirement.
- For pizza dough, and other higher hydration dough products, the use of either a Fork or Spiral Dough
Mixer is recommended. These mixers are engineered specifically to mix the dough thoroughly but
gently, minimizing friction heat that may result as a part of the mixing process. The result is a
higher quality and more consistent dough product that will yield a much better result out of the oven.
- Other ancillary products might include dough processing equipment (cutters, ballers, sheeters,
presses) which are designed to automate the dough handling process and reduce labor associated
with the traditional scratch dough operation.
- Lastly, the pizza tools are critical to the successful production process.
- Loading and turning peels are used to handle the raw and finished doughs into and out of the oven,
allowing safe handling of the food at high temperatures.
- Copper bristle cleaning brushes are a necessity for removing particulate from the oven cooking
- Other accessories like “bubble poppers,” dough trays and lids, and pizza cutters/slicers, are all tools
of the trade.
Pre-COVID there were 700,000 restaurants in operation in the US, 10% of which were pizzerias. It’s interesting to note that while most accredited culinary school programs offer general bakery and pastry training, none offer any specialized training for pizza, which is surprising when considering that such a large percentage of restaurant operations in the U.S. are pizzerias.
Based in Beltsville, MD, Pizza University & Culinary Arts offers a hands-on immersive 3-day educational culinary training program designed to train the Pizzaioli and Chefs of tomorrow. These regular monthly classes offer students, ranging from professional chefs to home pizza enthusiasts alike, in-depth knowledge of pizza, the operation, and the industry. The curriculum is developed around The History of Pizza and specific study topics include dough chemistry and formulation* proper dough handling technique* baking, and how to operate a successful pizza business.
Classes are taught by leading industry Pizzaioli and Chef Instructors from around the world, bringing their global experience, perspective, and knowledge base to our students. Special events and team-building corporate training courses are also available and conducted by our Director of Culinary Services. For more information regarding schedules and available classes, please visit www.pizzauniversity.org Other more localized culinary resources are available through Marra Forni in Beltsville, MD, our industry Ambassador kitchen locations, and our national factory rep test kitchen network throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, and the Middle East.
For more information regarding a culinary center near you please visit www.marraforni.com