Lighting Wood Fired Ovens

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Danni Kerby shares her knowledge on lighting wood fired ovens first time, every time.

Over our years of catering we’ve lit 1000’s of fires in wood fired ovens at events. Time we shared the knowledge.

The wood.

With the exception of the oven itself, this is the most important thing to get right. Ash? Oak? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the dryness. You want it as dry as you can get it. Buy it kiln dried. Store it off the ground and protected from the British elements (read as: rain).

The build.

Fire loves air. It feeds off it. When you build your initial stack bear this in mind. Stack your kindling in the middle of the oven.  Build it a little bit like a jenga tower, but with gaps in it. In the gaps put strips of cardboard.

What’s the kindling for? To light the logs. So stack the kindling almost to the top, leaving space for a couple of smaller logs. Then put them there. Lean a couple of logs on the side of the stack. Not at the front. Remember the air flow thing. When the kindling burns out and the kindling stack collapses, these logs will fall in and onto the hot embers.

The lighting.

Time to grab a fire wand. Ok, it’s not an actual fire wand, that’s just what we call it. It’s a weed killer, and it works. Every time. No burnt fingers relighting a lighter. No empty lungs and face full of smoke having to blow. Just put the end of the fire wand at the bottom of the kindling stack, open the gas, ignite it. Then stand there, graciously moving the fire wand along the bottom of the fire until you have a blazing fire.

The maintenance.

Leave the door slightly ajar (quick learners will have guessed that this is for air flow). Keep half an eye on it. If it starts to lose it’s ferocity, get those lungs full of oxygen and blow at the bottom. You’ll want to wear goggles or go old school and close your eyes. Otherwise the smoke will sting. Worst case, push some more cardboard into the bottom layers, get the fire wand back in there, and give it a bit of an emergency pep.

The push back.

It’s been 30 minutes. Your kindling has all burnt out to embers. Your logs have collapsed in. You might have even gone rogue and put another log on the fire. You’re ready for the push back. Or side push. Wherever you want the fire to sit, now is the time to move it there. We use a log brush/placer.

The end is just the beginning.

Now you’re ready to maintain the fire, get the heat just right, and cook your wood fired food. And that, ladies and gents, is going to follow in another post.

The list.

Let’s bullet point all this, because who doesn’t love a bullet point list:

  • Buy kiln dried wood
  • Stack the kindling like a jenga tower in the centre of the oven
  • Put small logs on the kindling tower
  • Ensure you have great air flow
  • Use a fire wand
  • Keep it fed with wood and air
  • Push it to the side or back after 30-40 minutes
  • Get ready to cook some next level food offerings

And if the above fails you then you can:

  • Use Google to search for how to light a wood burning stove

If you want to learn in person then get in touch here to find out how we can help you. You can come to us at our base in Billesley, Warwickshire or we can come to you.

Disclaimer: If you do make the choice to follow these instructions (and you should, because they work) and incur an injury or cause damage as a result, then that is your responsibility to bear, we cannot be held liable.

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