gas pizza ovens, Smoke Control Areas,

Introduction-Clean Air and Smoke Control Areas

Following the announcement from London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, that he will be reviewing the impact of wood-fired appliances in the region it seems timely to look at the alternatives( gas-pizza-ovens) given the high and often illegal levels of airborne particulate pollution.

gas pizza ovens, Smoke Control Areas,
Nelsons column in London smog of 1952

The Clean Air Act was enacted in 1956 as a direct result of life threatening smogs arising from urban industrial output and coal-fired domestic fireplaces . With amendments in 1968 and more recently in 1993 with later revisions in David Cameron’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’, the government has sought to control pollution but at the same time cut bureaucratic interference in day to day business operations.

The initial impetus to control pollution was the burden of dark smoke with high particulate levels that was causing health to decline rapidly in the 50’s. The concept of clean burning appliances was enacted in law so that DEFRA, the government department in charge of policing pollution, could create an ‘exempt appliance’ list, appliances that had met targets for particulate output and enabled business to carry on in a more environmentally friendly way within Smoke Control Areas.

smog particulates smoke pollution
pollution from idling vehicles

Although industrial pollution and coal burning has fallen dramatically over the last 50 years, transport has grown exponentially and has largely negated the gains in clean air in all our major cities.

With cars, buses, heavy goods lorries and trains all now contributing to the particulate load via diesel engines, wood-burning appliances have now been singled out as a major contributory factor in modern pollution.

Wood-burning stove use has also increased exponentially as wood is carbon neutral unlike fossil fuels and is the the ultimate ‘eco’ fuel when burned in an ‘exempt appliance’- low emissions when the fuel is dried below 20% moisture.

Unfortunately, wood as a resource is completely unregulated in its supply- some log deliveries could be seasoned and be still 30-50% moisture others 20% or less. A few companies have challenged this with fuel that is kiln dried and guaranteed less than 20% before delivery, others have sought to use compressed wood waste in the form of ‘heat logs’ to reduce the moisture content even further.

The issue now is these fuels and appliances are being called into question as part of this new review and it looks like wood burning may be outlawed altogether even though wood smoke is the raison d’etre for many authentic cooking cuisines like pizza and grills.

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History of wood-fired ovens,Drawing of typical oven design
History of wood-fired ovens, Baker's wood-fired oven Pompeii
Baker’s wood-fired oven in Pompeii buried in AD79 after the eruption of Vesuvius

A potted history of Wood-fired ovens- 

We stand in a long tradition of wood-fired oven designing and building going back to remains found at the Roman city of Pompeii, near modern Naples, Italy. Wood-fired ovens in various forms, mostly unfired clay, probably existed for thousands of years before but the existing ovens have given us a model for construction and design detail that has been built on and refined over succeeding generations.

Drawing of typical wood-fired oven design
Drawing of typical wood-fired bakery oven

Wood-fired ovens can be found in every culture that has access to natural fuel as a resource and grain as a food. The building materials used vary from region to region but one thing they have in common is their refractory nature; they hold heat for extended periods without degrading, enabling successive batches of bread to be cooked on one heating cycle. Today, modern high alumina clays and crushed firebrick are formed into shapes, brick, tile or segment, and fired to give a stable product resistant to temperatures up to 1700C. These form the basis of brick built ovens.

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Grand Designs -outdoor kitchen design and build

Grand Designs Wood Fired Ovens

grand designs, magazine, outdoor kitchen

Featured in article for the Grand Designs magazine.

Grand Designs outdoor kitchen article

The magazine asked us to contribute to an article about building an outdoor kitchen, See our outdoor kitchen projects here

Please see our blog post ‘designing and building an outdoor kitchen’ where we give invaluable advice on setting up your own Grand Designs like space, whether its traditional or modern in design. We have designed and built quite a few cooking areas over the years using high quality materials, all sourced in the UK, and with good sustainability ratings. From FSC hardwood to top of the range Stainless steel, we can do it all.


Coca de cebolla, Catalan, flat bread, Catalunya, Spain,

Coca de cebolla is yet another regional Catalan variation made with slow cooked onions as a base.

You’ll find these delicious snacks at most bakeries throughout the Catalan region but here’s a recipe you can try yourself at home in a wood-fired oven

  • Coca de cebolla ( lit.onion flatbread) dough base is very thin and oily and the almost caramelised onions make this absolutely delicious as a lunchtime snack.
  • You can add anchovy and manchego cheese as a more filling meal.
  • Traditionally Coca ( pl ‘Coques’) is also made with wood roasted sweet peppers. Nowadays bakeries add all sorts of toppings like tuna, salmon, courgettes and tomato.
  • Make a pizza dough and when rested, stretch out into rectangles the size you want your Coca to be. Fry onions in olive oil or butter until brown, gooey and caramelised then leave to cool.
  • Spread over the stretched dough then add ingredients of choice- roasted tomatoes, roast red peppers, cheese, anchovy but keep it simple with a few choice herbs like thyme or oregano and salt and pepper.
  • Slide into wood-fired oven until risen and browned on top. Eat hot or cool completely for a snack the next day. Delicious!

Catalan cuisine is an interesting fusion of flavours some indigenous Spanish some inherited from its earlier Moorish period. The use of fruit in meat dishes almost certainly comes from this tradition. Historically the Catalan language was related to areas of Southern France like the Languedoc and Provence and is now found down the North East coast of Spain down to Valencia and over to the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Minorca and Ibiza.


pissaladiere, recipe, provencal flatbread,
pissaladiere, recipe, provencal flatbread,
Pissaladiere- a speciality of Provence

Try this French variation for Pissaladiere:

  • Make the same pizza base but spread black olive paste mixed with olive oil over it instead of tomato then add slowly cooked onion so it covers the olive paste.
  • Make a Pissala- a Roman paste similar to Garum or fermented fish and add this first before the onions ( see video)
  • Add salted anchovies as decoration.
  • Sprinkle with thyme leaves and bake as before.
  • You can also vary this recipe by using the onion first spread out over the base and then adding whole olives and anchovies

See a good authentic recipe here although use your favourite dough recipe We recommend baking this either in a tin as shown in the photo or as a ‘pizza’ straight on the hot hearth of a wood-fired oven. Either way it will be delicious!

Serve sliced as a starter with aperitifs or cold Provençal rosé wine. Here is a video to make it a bit easier…..


pizza marguerita,wood fired oven,making pizza dough

Ingredients to make pizza dough and 4 x 12” pizzas

pizza marguerita,wood fired oven,making pizza dough
A classic Margherita Pizza – with tomato, mozzarella and basil leaves

750g Tipo 00 flour (molino caputo blue

or strong bread flour

525g warm water (70% hydration)
3 tsp maldon sea salt crushed
1½ tsp dried yeast or sourdough starter.





Make your pizza dough

Pizza dough takes some practice to get right. Some people put oil in the mix, I never do and its traditionally Neapolitan not to. Keep it slow and cool and never rush it. This recipe will work in a home oven with a baking stone but really kitchen ovens never get hot enough.

Hand-stretching is key to a good base so please practice- I’ve put a link to a You Tube video in the recipe so you can see how its done. Getting air in the edge or cornicione is very important and when well risen on baking will stop the crust being too heavy. Don’t whatever you do, don’t ever, ever use a rolling pin even if Jamie Oliver does!

The method

  • Combine and dissolve the yeast in the water. Crush the salt and mix with the flour.
  • Pour yeasty water into a well in the flour and slowly bring it together.
  • When the bowl is clean, pull the dough and flop it over itself twisting slightly as you flip it.
  • Keep working the dough until it is smooth and silky, about 10 minutes and then let it rest.
  • Either divide into 270-300g portions in a plastic proofing box or keep whole and let it rise in the bowl covered with a bag overnight in the fridge or as time allows. The flavour will be better the longer and cooler you can leave it. Some pizzaiolos leave their dough for up to 3 days! Remember when forming your dough balls to keep pulling the surface tight either on your worktop or with your hands.
  • When you’re ready to start preparation, mix some 00 flour in a bowl with about 10% fine polenta or fine semolina and use this to dust your work-surface or wooden peel
  • Take your portion of pizza dough and press it into a flattened circle with your fingers. Keep pushing the dough out until its wide enough to pick up with both knuckles underneath.
  • Gently stretch the pizza dough by pulling your knuckles apart and work your way round until the dough thins. Put it back on a dusted surface and push the thick edges thinner and thinner as far as it will go, stretching all the time until you reach about 12” in diameter.
  • To dress the pizza say for a Margherita, spread a ladle full of sieved and pureed tomato pulp or passata so it stops just short of the edge.
  • Don’t be tempted to put too much tomato on as it will get soggy, leave areas just touched by the pulp. See Vito Iacopelli’s video here
    Add drained and squeezed mozzarella in dots all over the surface, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and drizzle some olive oil in a spiral over the top.
  • Slide the finished pizza into your hot wood-fired oven( 350-450C) and leave on the hearth for 15 seconds before turning it with a small peel.
  • Continue to turn so the edge has faced the fire all the way round. When the top is hot and bubbling and the crust just starting to spot and burn, slide a small metal peel in and remove the fragrant pizza and drop it on to a plate for serving.
  • Sprinkle a bit more sea salt over, a good whack of black pepper and eat hot.
pizza, pizza dough, pizza dough recipe
hand stretching the dough
pizza, pizza dough, pizza baking
loading the pizza
pizza, pizza dough, pizza recipe, pizza serving
plated pizza



pizza baking, pizza recipes, pizza oven
pizza dough recipe, pizza baking, pizza oven, wood-fired oven,
A classic Margherita Pizza – with tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves

Pizza dough recipe

Pizza recipes and dough recipes are all over the internet and vary from baker to pizzaiolo but there are few things which crop up again and again in almost every post or video: sugar and yeast and olive oil in the dough.

Contrary to what you may see or hear, you don’t need sugar to get yeast going. Just dissolve it in warm water and add it to your flour. Flour has enough sugar in the carbohydrate to activate the yeast.

Pizza dough recipe- keep it cool

This goes for bread making as well. The dough will also taste better if retarded overnight or for a couple of nights in the fridge and then brought back to room temperature before you bake. The cooler the dough, the more it will ‘pop’ in the oven as the gas in the dough expands rapidly.

Olive oil is not traditionally added to a pizza dough. It is 00 flour, yeast, salt and water. Olive oil can be added in small quantities however and will make the dough a little softer  It is added when topping the pizza before cooking, as a drizzle and will help to fuse the ingredients together.

As a well known pizzaiolo in the US quite rightly pointed out, pizza is NOT bread! Pizza is a leavened flatbread which should just bubble up in places around the edge or cornichione. As a word, pizza is related to and derived from the ancient greek pitta and similar breads are found all over the continent from pissaladiere in France all the way to Turkey’s pida and middle eastern pittah.

Traditionally cooked at high heat in a brick oven, these breads are a staple food combined with simple fresh ingredients and not a dumping ground for anything that comes to hand from the fridge.

The modern pizza has regional variations even within Italy and changed character somewhat when taken to the US with the deep pan pizza of Chicago. Humble pizza dough recipes continue to evolve with new toppings added daily as the concept spreads across the globe.

Here is a pretty good video with Vito Iacopelli – he has a comprehensive series so please have a look.

Our recipe, which is baked whenever we fire up the wood-fired oven, is a thin crust pizza made from approx 275-300g of dough made with 00 high gluten flour, salt and water, stretched out by hand on a floured wooden peel and then baked in a very hot 450C oven. It is always cooked in under 90 seconds and usually a lot shorter, sometimes 45 seconds at the beginning of baking!

See my post with the ingredients for dough here

pizza dough recipe, pizza, dough, pizza oven, wood-fired oven,
sourdough pizza at Eco restaurant Clapham London


Can be sourced from any good supplier but try and make sure they are the best available as they’ll have the best flavour. There are several Italian 00 flour importers for large 25kg sacks but for home use, get organic 00 flour and yeast from a mill like Shipton mill who specialise in organic high quality flours.

For mozzarella we recommend organic and biodynamic Laverstoke Park Farm buffalo cheese which is superb quality. For classic neapolitan style pizza you need San Marzano tomatoes, available in cans from specialist suppliers but given there’s a lot of fake cans around, you’re better off just buying a can of organic peeled plum tomatoes are processing yourself.

Everything else, just buy organic vegetable and herbs

Oven temperature

No matter what your pizza dough recipe is, pizza can be made successfully on a preheated bake stone in a home oven set at max temperature, usually 230-250C. It will take longer to bake but will rise the same as a wood-fired oven, eventually!

For best results, use a wood-fired oven fired to 450-500C in the dome and minimum 350C on the hearth so that your dough rises fast around the edges making it lighter, and cooks, caramelises and fuses the toppings. At these temperatures most pizzas cook it under a minute and max a minute and a half.