Cleaning the hearth before baking and starting a fire

I have a question about wiping down the oven surface before you start your pizza. Is this a good idea to get a clean surface?

Also… any advice on non-toxic, green fire starters? Many of the DIY sites use wax or old candles or egg cartons.

Hi Betsy, and welcome to the BrickWood forum.

Once you’ve built your fire and have it roaring hot, you COULD clean the cooking surface. The most popular method would be a quick wipe down with a wet cloth (like a T shirt) wrapped around a peel.

Honestly though, brushing with your metal bristle brush will get the ashes swept aside. Your surface will be cleaner because of the high temperatures involved and you will be shifting your coals from side to side in the course of cooking. In short, a losing battle.

As for fire starters…officially you should not. Unofficially, a compressed-sawdust fire nugget—just one—will work fine without harming your oven or giving your food unintended and possibly toxic flavors. My advice is to try doing without first. The oven is designed to pull a draft and encourage a flaming hot fire in ways that a fireplace or fire pit is not.

Good luck with your build and hope you’ll keep us posted on your progress!

Thank you. I am cooking my first pizza today and will just brush the embers to the back and not use the wet T shirt. Grit can have taste.

It took me about 20 matches to light my first fire. But, all the DIY fire starters like the egg carton with various items loaded in and wax are very popular. I am drying orange peels. Paper works too. But, some people don’t like using newspaper. I am now collecting every twig I find!

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Brown kraft paper from shipping boxes is much better than newspaper in my oven. I make a “log cabin” out of kindling, and fill that with crumpled paper, then top it off with 2 medium logs. 1 match later, and I put the door over 80% of the opening to force a jet of fresh air onto the fire.

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I should point out that even the wax-based starters are generally petroleum based products (beeswax is an exception). Anything that leaves oils behind will end up in your food.

Lightning Nuggets are compressed sawdust held together with food grade paraffin wax that according to the manufacturer is “fully refined” so no oil remains in them. One burns for about 15 minutes and inside a “chimney” stack of kindling will help start your fire the right way.

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Do you have an opinion about dried orange peels?

Well, after looking through a lot of sources…I think they’d be fine. Some people contend that they would help with soot, but I really doubt the effect would be significant—a hot fire will consume any black soot left over from previous bakes.

I’d suggest a layer of small kindling as a bed for the orange peels, then a “chimney” around the bed. I think I’d want to keep them off the floor so that they don’t impart a bitter citric acid tang to your food.

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Excellent advice. I will update you as to how that goes.

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9 posts were split to a new topic: How can you tell when the oven is hot enough to start baking pizza?

I use small kindling and a propane torch without any paper seems to work for me

Hi Scott, nice to see you!

A propane torch obviously does the trick. The only possible downside I see is an intense focused flame hitting very cold brick, but I’m sure you’re being careful. :slight_smile:

Anything that does not leave residue behind is a good method.

Yes only on the wood. Works great.

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So far I’ve had great luck easily get my fire going with a couple sheets of crumpled news paper and dry sticks collected from around my yard. If it is being stubborn a couple puffs of air from my small rechargeable leaf blower gets it going nicely.

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Keeping in mind that we are always building fires in our ovens for cooking purposes, and that the food is generally in direct contact with the hearth and byproducts of whatever we burned…

Newspapers sometimes are still printed with inks that contain toxic substances. That’s not as true today, because a number of newspapers switched to soy-based inks, but the possibility is still there of leaving behind those toxins.

Not a huge concern but some folks might appreciate knowing it.