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Which Pizza Oven Tastes Better: Wood or Gas?

There is a debate over which type of pizza oven (wood or gas) tastes better. Wood generally gives a more authentic and tasty flavor to your pizza, but it does take longer to heat up than gas. It also requires more maintenance in terms of cleaning and maintaining the temperature, so it can be more of a hassle than using gas.

When people consider buying a wood-fired pizza oven, the main thing they’re thinking of is the taste of the pizza they’ll be able to achieve with the completed oven. After all, with pizza, the taste is king. However, is a wood-fired pizza oven necessary – and does it produce better-tasting pizza than a gas oven?

Pizzas from wood-fired and gas ovens taste relatively similar. Wood-fired pizzas have a distinctive smoky flavor due to smoke from the fire, which lacks in pizzas from a gas oven. With that said, this is the primary difference between the two, and which is better depends on personal preference.

In this article, I’ll explore the difference in taste between wood-fired and gas pizza ovens in further detail. I’ll also explain some other differences between these two types of pizza ovens, allowing you to make a more informed decision on which works best for your needs. Let’s get started!

The Difference in Taste Between Pizzas From Wood-Fired and Gas Pizza Ovens

As mentioned above, the difference in taste between the two pizza ovens is actually relatively limited. However, for pizza connoisseurs, even this limited difference can be significant.

When cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven, pizzas have a smoky taste due to the smoke from the burning wood. This distinctive flavor is difficult to replicate, and many people believe it enhances the flavor of not only pizzas but also other foods you cook in your pizza oven, including fish and vegetables.

A pizza fire wood oven. m
When cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven, pizzas have a smoky taste due to the smoke from the burning.

However, while replicating this smoky flavor perfectly is a challenge, you can impart a smoky flavor to your pizza without a wood-fired pizza oven. The way to do this is through sauces, condiments, and seasoning. 

Some ways to add a smoky flavor to your pizza without the use of a wood-fired pizza oven include:

  • Add a smoky sauce as an additional topping. The most popular option is a smoky barbeque sauce. While you can make your own, I prefer Lillie’s Q Smoky Barbeque Sauce (available on Amazon.com). It has a mildly smoky flavor and is gluten-free. However, some people may find adding a barbeque sauce takes away from the taste of pizza.
  • Spice your pizza sauce. Paprika (especially smoked paprika) imparts a smoky flavor to dishes it is added to, and spicing your pizza sauce will allow you to give your pizza a smoky flavor without taking away from the taste of the toppings. Additionally, the paprika flavor will be subtle, giving you a smoky flavor that isn’t too overpowering.
  • Use smoked spices. Paprika in the pizza sauce is not the only way to use spices to increase your pizza’s smokiness. You can use a variety of smoked spices in the sauce as a topping once your pizza is cooked and ready to eat. There are smoked variations of most spices available on the market, so you’ll be able to choose your favorite option.
  • Use liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is essentially what it sounds like – hardwood smoke that has been condensed and bottled up for use. All you need to do is add a few drops to your pizza sauce, and you’re good to go! I use the Lazy Kettle Hickory Liquid Smoke (available on Amazon.com). It gives your sauces a great smoky flavor and, when used in small amounts, is very subtle and not overpowering.
  • Sprinkle your pizza with smoked salt. If you aren’t a fan of spices, you can opt for smoked salt instead. If you’re worried about oversalting your pizza, make your pizza sauce without any salt, and sprinkle smoked salt when your pizza is ready. Don’t add the salt to the sauce itself, as it’s pretty easy to use too much of the stuff before you can make out the smoky flavor. 

Aside from the smokiness that a wood-fired pizza oven imparts, the other reason some people prefer this oven to a gas pizza oven is because of the crust. Wood-fired ovens run at extremely high temperatures, and these high temperatures result in a charred, thin, crisp, and authentic pizza crust.

Like the wood-fired smoky flavor, replicating the thinness of the crust that you’ll find in a pizza made in a wood-fired oven can be challenging. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t make a thin crust pizza without one. 

A pizza at the pizza oven.
Wood-fired ovens run at extremely high temperatures.

There are several thin-crust pizza dough recipes out there, including many that are meant for home ovens with pizza stones. That said, even with the perfect recipe, there are still steps you’ll need to take to ensure your crust turns out as crisp as possible. These include:

  • Using quality flour.
  • Kneading your dough as much as possible. While you shouldn’t overwork your dough, you should knead it for at least 5-10 minutes (or as long as your recipe calls for) to ensure the cooked base turns out well.
  • Heat your oven. While home ovens and gas pizza ovens will not get as hot as a wood-fired pizza oven, getting your oven as hot as possible is still an advantage.
  • Ensure you get as much heat as possible into the dough. The reason you use a peel in a wood-fired oven is to ensure the heat from the pizza doesn’t transfer to the base of the oven. For the same reason, you should use a pizza stone in your electric or gas pizza oven. The more heat goes into the dough, the thinner your pizza comes out.
A person kneading the dough.
Kneading your dough as much as possible.

Keep in mind that while you can almost replicate the thinness of a wood-fired pizza crust, replicating the charred aspect is far more challenging.

So, as mentioned above, the two primary taste-related differences between a wood-fired fired pizza oven and a gas pizza oven are the smoky flavor and thin, charred crust imparted by the wood-fired oven. 

For some people, these differences are significant. However, you can generally replicate these taste differences by playing with the toppings and changing your pizza dough recipe. Additionally, many people don’t consider these differences prominent enough to justify the additional cost and space required by a wood-fired pizza oven.

Other Differences Between Wood-Fired and Gas Pizza Ovens

Aside from the taste, there are a few other differences between these two types of pizza ovens:

A woman smiling while getting the pizza out of the oven.
Many people find using a gas pizza oven for other dishes easier than using a wood-fired pizza oven.
  • Speed of cooking. Once you get your wood-fired pizza oven fired and ready, it can cook pizza extremely quickly – in as little as 1.5-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pizza dough.
  • Authenticity. If you want to call your pizza an authentic Neapolitan pizza, it must adhere to the guidelines set by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). One of these guidelines calls for using a wood-fired pizza oven, among other specifications.
  • The flexibility of the oven. Many people find using a gas pizza oven for other dishes easier than using a wood-fired pizza oven. If you don’t have too much space in your home and can only choose one, this is a significant pro in the gas pizza oven column.
  • Temperature control and monitoring. The temperature in a gas oven is easier to control, and these ovens require far less monitoring. With a wood-fired pizza oven, you’ll need someone to keep an eye on the fire to ensure it doesn’t get too low, especially if you’re cooking for a large number of people or in a commercial environment. This isn’t needed with a gas pizza oven.
  • Maintenance. Gas pizza ovens are significantly easier to maintain than wood-fired pizza ovens. With wood-fired ovens, you’ll need to clear out the ashes after the wood has burned away. Additionally, depending on what the oven is made of and how often you use it, you’ll need to inspect it for damage before and after you fire it up. This isn’t required with gas ovens. 
A person cleaning the oven.
Gas pizza ovens are significantly easier to maintain than wood-fired pizza ovens.

Conclusion

Wood-fired and gas pizza ovens cook pizzas that have a similar taste, especially when it comes to people with no previous culinary experience.

Ultimately, which of the two produces better-tasting pizza is down to personal preference. Some people prefer one type of pizza over the other, while others cannot tell there’s a flavor difference at all.

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