Back in 2009 when Hard Knox was founded by Dean and Jill we were the first pizza place to bring the old-world techniques of a true wood fired style pizza to Knoxville. At the time the community largely hadn’t seen anything like it, and much of our first few years was educating our customers on the unique aspects of Neapolitan style pizza made in a wood fired oven. Today we still are sometimes confused with many places that do a the “fast fired” style, which does not use wood, and some of the places where gas is used to supplement wood. While those places have their place, the unique aspects of a true wood fired oven are distinguishable.
While this style of pizza was new to Knoxville in 2009, it is not new at all, as a matter of fact it’s quite ancient. Pizza made in a wood fired oven has been around since the late 18th century. There have been remnants of wood fired ovens in almost every ancient civilization, of course the only way to cook in those days was with fire which required wood! The wood fired oven specific to pizza dates back to the same period in Italy when pizza was mainly tomatoes on top of focaccia bread baked in the wood fired oven.
Those early “pizzas” led to the dawn of the Neapolitan pizza made in a wood fired oven, with 54 pizzerias popping up in Naples by the early 1800’s. But this post is about the oven, so what is it about the wood fire oven that makes the difference?
- The Temp – wood fire ovens cook the pizza at a high temp, usually above 750 degrees
- The Oven Shape – the round and domed style creates a convection of heat, which is different than most regular ovens.
- Time to Cook – The high temps cook the pizza in less than 180 seconds, sometimes as quick as 90 seconds creating the pie with a slight crispy edge
- The Char – the high heat and style creates the beautiful charred edges and honey bubbles.
- Sealed in Moisture – the quick cooking seals in the moisture of the dough, making it puffy, soft and chewy with great structure.
- The Smoky Taste – the wood also creates a distinct smoky flavor that is easily distinguishable on the pie.
- The Crisp – the intense heat also “crisps up” the toppings, sometimes making them a bit crunchier
We love our ovens, as a matter of fact we say the oven is the hero! We love being a part of introducing the old-world style techniques to the Knoxville market. Our mission is to create an unforgettable culinary experience through pizza, and the wood fired oven is an integral part of that experience.