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How does it work? A traditional wood oven

Bread ovens with vaulted ceilings have remained almost unchanged for centuries. And yet, no modern material has succeeded in replacing them. Cooking in a wood oven remains inimitable… Why?

In a traditional oven you make the fire and do the cooking in the same place. Whether made using refractory bricks or whether with a cast iron vault, the principle remains the same. First, the heat will dry the cooking chamber. The hot air circulates along the length of the vault. The hot heat from the fire is progressively absorbed by the whole oven and it takes time to heat up the mass, so the oven must be lit well in advance. With a traditional oven, the pre-heating time is essential, because once the oven is hot, all the heat that has been stored up is gently returned to the food for cooking.

The heat from contact and thermal inertia
A wood oven heats up slowly and cools down even more slowly. The thermal inertia is enormous! When you place a pizza or a loaf of bread on the floor of the oven*, it will not get cold. The crust browns quickly, and because the surface of the floor is porous, it allows the steam to escape: your crust will be crisp and light.
If you want to use your oven to roast small pieces of meat, use an earthenware dish. Clay transmits heat badly, so you will not burn the bottom before cooking what is on top.

Radiation heat
The parabolic vault of the oven acts like a reflector. It concentrates the rays of the heat. It´s a little like warming your hands in front of the fire. The infrared rays are what heat us, not the air. In a traditional oven, the absorbed heat is returned and transferred to the food mainly through radiation.

And air?
When you work with an open door, the air enters and feeds the fire with oxygen. It leaves by the chimney that runs along the vault. There is no convection as such. However, when you finish cooking over a hot flame and you want to work at low temperatures with the door closed, the air no longer circulates. It heats up and convection begins. This is when the perfumes of the wood come together to add some unmistakable hints to your roast. No modern appliance can reproduce that.

Released heat and slow cooking
Cooking at low temperatures is not something new. In the past, once the bread had finished baking, bakers would pop their potatoes, chickens or roasts in the oven. It was a question of not wasting the heat. Once again, a wood oven is a wonder for this. It cools down very slowly. Your dishes can cook at a low temperature for hours, and will become tender, juicy and decliciously flavoured.

Happy cooking everyone!

*sole: this is the bottom of the oven. You can cook bread and pizzas on the sole. To get a nice crust, it should allow the steam that comes from the pastry or dough to be released.
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