Not enough heat from the top

Completed the oven a week or so ago, and managed to force myself to cure it properly, so tonight was the fire ‘real’ firing … and it worked! Pics coming soon. The one seeming issue we had was not enough heat from the top (opposite of the other posts I’ve seen). Bottom crust was great, and if we inched the pizzas close to the embers, we got a crispy crust on top as well, but seemed like we weren’t getting much heat at all from the top. Still, for day #1, a success.
So my question after firing it once: how to get more radiant heat? It is a Mattone Barile Grande with an open front. Get it up to a higher overall temp first? Close off the front? Use the door more? Something else?
Thanks for any advice.

Hello -

Having an issue w/ heat from the top of the oven is a first for me… Usually (as you said), it’s the bottom / hearth.

Using a wood-fired pizza oven isn’t like a home oven - it takes a bit of mastering to get just right… But you’ll get it very soon. Just use plenty of firewood - but make sure you fire your oven SLOWLY! You don’t want to crack your new oven (thermal cracking).

You may want to consider adding a damper later down the line… they can help retain a ton of heat (especially around the oven ceiling), but you might also consider an oven door - both of which can be added later.

1 Like

12 June 2021: I’ve evolved a bit on this advice; see downthread. What I say here should be applied to roasting, but pizza is a different animal. Or pie.

Hi, Andrew,

@BrickWood’s recommendations are great, and I join him in a tip o’ the cap … that’s the first time I’ve heard of this particular problem.

One thought: make sure that, for pizza, you are cooking near the rear of the oven. I just posted this advice to another forum member, and I’ll repeat it here:

When you’re ready to cook, push your fire back along one side of the oven, wait a few minutes (put the toppings on your dough), then push it to the other side near the back. Slip your pie(s) in and bake. When you pull them out, get your next batch ready, then push the fire over to the other side and insert the new pizzas.

In this case, though you didn’t say it, I’m guessing the fire is too far forward (even the center is “too far”). By placing it along one side wall near the rear, you do two things: you keep it away from that open chimney and doorway, and you take advantage of the natural convective flow offered by the arch.

Fire slowly, keep moving the fire once you’re ready to cook, and you should have both a red-hot floor and a hot zone for your pizza.

Let us know how it goes, Andrew, and by the way, congratulations on finishing your oven!

1 Like

I finished my oven about 5 years ago and have been getting good use from it. I would say I have a similar issue of not enough heat from the top. I keep my fire at the back of the oven and place Pizza between the fire and opening. Should I try working the fire to the side? Would making some kind of a header help retain the heat at the top?

Hello, Joe, and welcome to the BrickWood forum. Really glad to see a wood-fired oven “vet” here!

I’ve moved a bit away from this advice I posted last year after more experimentation with my oven. (Danged Internet remembers everything!) What I said in reply to @asykes77 is really good for roasting, but I’m getting better results with working my fire toward the rear wall of the oven, as you do.

To get enough heat from overhead, I use that rear wall to build a bed of red-hot coals (4 inches deep by the time I’m ready to bake) and make sure I have 2 flaming logs on top of it. I use the rear wall to make sure those flames are up to the ceiling and then fanning out a bit, forward along the arch.

This ensures two things: my floor stays very hot, baking from underneath, and I have radiant heat from above, baking the top of the pizza. I know it’s working when the rim of the crust rises within a minute and the cheese has melted within that time. By the time I’ve rotated the first quarter turn, cheese should start to show signs of bubbling, and by the time 3 minutes have elapsed, the top is fully cooked.

This works because of the oven’s geometry. Supply air is drawn in along the sides at floor level, is connected up with the flames, and rushes forward to hit the chimney and be exhausted. The arch shape “focuses” the infrared heat down to hit the top of the pizza.

If you are getting that kind of flame, and it’s not enough to cook the top of your pizza, then you might consider closing off the top 6 inches or so of the front. But I’d try making sure you have a roaring flame first, because it’s really needed to ensure your pizza is what you want it to be.

Please let me know how it turns out for you, and glad to meet you!

1 Like