Advice on heating oven

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On this page: Overview - What wood to use? - Preparing the oven for heating - Lighting - Feeding the fire - When is the oven at the right temperature ? - Temperature stabilisation - Preparing the oven

Overview

For good results with a wood-fired oven, it's very important to manage the heating process well. Here is some advice to help you succeed in this delicate operation.

What wood to use?

You can use softwoods (conifer) with no problems, but it burns quickly. It's better to use hardwoods like oak or beech.

Here is a summary of the heating power of the main types of wood, the higher the number, the more heat it given when burning.

WoodHeating power
Hornbeam 10
Oak 9.9
Ash 9.2
Maple 9.1
Birch 8.9
Elm 8.4
Beech 8
Willow 7.1
Fir 7
Alder 6.7
Pine 6.7
Larch 6.6
Aspen 6.5
Lime 5.7
Poplar 5

Source : M. Marin in "Les fours à pain", Rustica edition 2004

Preparing the oven for heating

If the oven has not been used for some time (all winter for example), or if it's a new one, you should not start woth a full heating fire, this will be too much of a shock, and could damage it. Instead you should do a "derhumage" (cold clearing), wich means lighting a series of small fires, bigger each time, day by day, until you can light a real heating fire.

Lighting

First of all, build a small fire in the centre of the oven. Don't use any chemial products to start your fire, just classic newspaper & kindling.

This small fire should be lit with really dry wood for so that it gets going rapidly.

Oven heating

Feeding the fire

Once this small fire is going well, you can gradually add larger pieces of wood. It's best to use split wood as it burns better.

Beware: don't use wood that is too big, as it burns without flames, and flames heat better than embers.

Oven heating 1

When is the oven at the right temperature ?

Continue adding wood for about two hours, until the oven reaches "the right temperature". Oven heating 2
The best indication of this "right" temperature, is when you see the keystone of the oven turning white (after the black soot disappears).

Then it's time for open fire cooking.

Oven heating 3

Temperature stabilisation

You should now stop adding wood, and spread the embers evenly over the sole. This is produces an even temperature all over the oven.

Usually we spread the embers and leave the oven for one hour.

Embers

Preparing the oven

Once the oven is hot and stable, it must be prepared for cooking in three stages:

1) Clearing

All ash and remaining embers are removed. Embers 2
Embers are removing using the rake. They can be transfered to your fireplace so that no energy is wasted. Remove ashes
The brush is wetted... Brush
...and remaining ash removed.

Note: The brush is wetted to protect it against the high oven heat, otherwise it might burn.

Brush 2

2) Cleaning

Then the mop is wetted... mop
...and used to clean the sole and remove the last traces of ash and bits of charcoal. mop 2
That's it, the oven is now ready for baking bread. Clean soil
So the door is now closed. Closing oven door

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Last modified on: June 19th 2017

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