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7 Best Woods for a Pizza Oven (With Pictures)

Brick and wood pizza ovens offer the best way to enjoy the family’s dinner favorite, with a crispy crust, melty cheese, and delicious toppings. Many people don’t know that the type of wood you use in a pizza oven matters, but it makes a huge difference. Keep reading to find out why the type of wood matters and what the best choices to use are below. Pretty soon, you’ll be scarfing down slice after slice of delicious wood-fired pizza!

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Why Does the Type of Wood Matter?

Pizza is a multi-layered meal, so it requires very high heat to cook correctly. Think about it: the same oven has to adequately cook the crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings without burning anything. That’s a pretty impressive feat, especially considering that pepperoni burns easily.

The most suitable wood for a pizza oven is hardwood because it’s denser and offers higher heat levels, while softwood won’t cook your pizza to crispy perfection. The type of wood affects the taste, too, just like whiskey aged in wood barrels or smoked salmon. Anyone that’s cooked with wood will tell you that the type of wood makes a huge difference in your final results.

With that said, you can use any type of wood to cook pizza. It’ll still cook, but perhaps not as well if you use softwood. Experiment with different types of wood and find out what works best for your favorite pizza creations.

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The 7 Best Types of Wood for a Pizza Oven

1. Oak

Oak wood lumber drying in the sun
Image Credit: JumpStory

Oak is the gold standard for pizza ovens because of its unparalleled density, which allows it to produce more heat than other woods. Oak is also preferred for baking pizza because it adds a smooth, understated flavor that doesn’t get in the way of your ingredients.

White oak is the best type of oak because it has a more mellow flavor, while red oak imparts a stronger flavor. Use oak when you aren’t sure of what else to use and you won’t be disappointed.


2. Apple

apple plantation
Image Credit: LianeM, Shutterstock

Softer fruitwood is an atypical choice for pizza ovens, but it works great and adds a unique flavor to your pizza. Applewood in particular is prized by pizzaiolos everywhere for its high heat and mouthwatering aroma. The only catch to using applewood in pizza ovens is that it pops furiously when it’s burning, so we’d suggest mixing it with ash or another neutral hardwood to prevent popping.


3. Maple

curly maple woods
Image Credit: optimarc, Shutterstock

Maple is a great choice for pizza ovens, often used in combination with oak because it burns very hot. It has a sweeter, more obvious taste than oak, which lends itself well to certain toppings.

With a Hawaiian pizza, it adds a subtly sweet and smoky edge to your ham and pineapple. Ironically, softer maples like silver maple and red maple are the preferred woods for pizza ovens.


4. Hickory

Stacked Hickory logs
Image Credit: Bryan Pollard, Shutterstock

Hickory is a backyard barbecue favorite for a reason: it burns extremely hot and has a strong, signature flavor. It can be used alone or mixed with oak or maple, but less is typically more with hickory unless you’re baking a barbecue pizza.

Hickory gives off a lot of heat and persists as embers for nearly as long as oak, so you could do much worse than cook pizza with hickory wood as fuel.


5. Mesquite

Velvet Mesquite
Image Credit: IrinaK, Shutterstock

Another BBQ favorite, mesquite is endemic all across Texas and other Southwest states. Mesquite is valuable because it has lots of lignin, which makes plants rigid but also makes it produce a ton of smoke.

Mesquite has a deep, smoky flavor suitable for cooking pizzas with jalapenos and other spicy toppings, or you can mix it with other woods.


6. Ash

Ash tree lumber milled for construction
Image Credit: JumpStory

Ash is the last of the hardwood trifecta, with oak and maple as the other two. Ash is a great alternative when you can’t source oak because it produces very high heat but with a more neutral flavor, just like oak. Ash can be used as a base and mixed with oak, maple, applewood, or other woods used for flavoring.


7. Walnut

walnut logs
Image Credit: Roca Mharas, Shutterstock

Walnut isn’t a great choice as the main wood for a pizza oven, but it’s a great secondary addition. Walnut burns hot and lasts a long time as embers but doesn’t have much in the way of flavor. For this reason, we’d suggest pairing walnut with applewood or maple to get the most out of both woods.

You can use only walnut wood to cook pizza, but we wouldn’t unless you balance it with maple or apple smoke. You’d likely get a bitter, unpleasant taste in your food from cooking with only walnut wood.

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Conclusion

Baking pizza in your very own wood-fired oven is the best way to enjoy your favorite gooey, topping-loaded meal, but don’t just toss branches in the fire. Instead, take the time to buy some oak, maple, and perhaps applewood. Using those will make a world of difference in how your pizza turns out!


Featured Image Credit: JumpStory

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