How to Slow Cook Dishes in Your Wood-Fired Oven

October 4, 2021

Slow food has become quite a thing in our lives since the Slow Food Movement first began to preach its culinary gospel. Many of us have seen the merits of taking life at a slower pace, lingering longer over our dinner plates and enjoying the tastes and textures of food that has been given time to become more tender, more flavoursome and often more complex.  For wood oven owners, with the right oven, nothing can present a greater treat than slowly cooked dishes.

Many true foodies have learnt that patience is indeed a grace and that the best food is worth waiting for.  Just look at the pulled pork craze! This may seem a strange thing to say, given that Orchard Ovens’ Valoriani wood fired ovens can cook pizza in less than 90 seconds and that it is the ultimate fast food, but bear with us.

The amazing fact is that Valoriani wood burning ovens have the capacity to do this – to switch from being the quick turnaround pizza oven one minute, to the connoisseur foodie’s slow-cooking goddess the next. Many other woodfired ovens and proprietary pizza ovens cannot and yours may be one of them.

Why you may not be able to cook slowly in your wood-fired oven

Being able to slow cook dishes is something that truly distinguishes Orchard Ovens’ range of Valoriani wood burning ovens.  Many garden ovens are pizza or stone baked pizza ovens and nothing more. 

Most are not even that for very long, disintegrating after a distressingly short lifespan, which is truly upsetting if you are the one who paid for the oven, having believed in a lot of spiel, or are someone with green principles, totally against the wastefulness of throwaway culture.

Add to this the fact that many wood-fired ovens on sale in the UK simply do not have the capacity to cook anything slowly and you will see that they are a poor investment for anyone who loves to cook and has a full culinary repertoire.

How can a wood-fired oven cook food slowly?

What a wood-fired oven fundamentally needs, if it is to be able to cook dishes slowly and overnight, is residual heat – that wonderful lingering warmth that can be felt many hours after the wood oven’s fire has died out.  Many pizza or wood fired oven owners never experience this.  Once the fire is out, the temperature plummets and the oven is stone cold after an hour or two.  Why is that and how can you tell if it’s likely to happen to your oven?

The answer to this is that these woodfired ovens – and this is the case with some of the biggest brands in the UK – are made from shockingly poor materials and have little or no insulation.  They are simply concrete or metal shells that allow you to cook a pizza.  They may try to imply they can cook other food and, whilst a fire is raging, can perhaps do so, but forget any notion of being able to cook with residual heat.  It’s simple science.

How do I know if my woodfired oven will cook slow food dishes and casseroles?

The tell-tale sign that you have one of the ovens with very little (or no) insulation, will be if the oven’s shell is hot during cooking.  In recent weeks, the Orchard Ovens’ team has have heard numerous tales of people burning their arm on the exterior of their oven, whilst trying to have foodie fun.  That is distressing, totally unnecessary, if ovens were built properly, and just impossible with a Valoriani oven – Valoriani being a brand for which we are the exclusive dealers in the UK.

The dome of a Valoriani oven does not get hot, simple as.  In fact, we’ve even had customers say they have cooked with snow on the top of their oven, and it hasn’t melted!

Think of your oven like a rechargeable battery, you put energy into it to charge it (build the heat) and you want to draw out that heat energy steadily over time, not see it dissipate to nothing quickly! The better the quality of battery the longer your device/torch or phone will last for. It’s the same with a wood fired oven, the better the quality of the materials the better the heat (the energy) can perform the way you want it to.

If you are losing so much heat out of an oven that its shell is hot, the possibilities of rustling up a tagine, a casserole, an overnight stew or slow-cooked joint of meat, are just non-existent.   Residual heat relies on having heat from the fire retained in your wood-fired oven’s dome and floor.  You keep that precious heat energy inside, using your oven door or closure mechanism and use the thermal mass that your oven has absorbed from the fire, to carry on cooking food long after the fire has died down.

What can you cook with residual heat in a wood-fired oven?

With a Valoriani wood burning oven, the dishes that you can cook with residual heat are only really limited by your imagination. Think casseroles, stews, tagines, your own pulled pork and other slow-cooked roasts, or even, if the temperature is quite low, your own dried fruits and herbs.

The more heat you have put into your oven, the more residual heat you will get out, so if your oven was operating at a high temperature, for a longish time, you will get more residual heat out of it.

Heat retention will always be affected by the ambient temperature outdoors, so an oven will cool down faster in winter than in summer, but it usually takes a Valoriani oven, which was operating at pizza cooking temperature, between 7-10 hours to fall back to the ambient or starting temperature.

Examples of what a wood oven can cook with residual heat

At around 150°C – 200°C, you can cook a large loin of pork for about 7 hours using residual heat and foil and your comfort food stews can cook at even lower temperatures overnight.  It takes a bit of experimentation with different dishes and temperatures, but that is one of the joys of learning to transfer your culinary talents to the wood-fired oven arena, if you love to cook. It’s best to start your journey by using foil to cover your dishes overnight and then let them cook longer in the morning, if you need to, then let your dish evaporate or char whilst you snooze.

One of the true delights of being the owner of a Valoriani oven from Orchard Ovens is one that we are not sure any other wood-fired oven owners in the UK share – that of being able to wake up, on a lazy Sunday morning, head outside (in pyjamas, if you wish!), open your oven door and pop a pan of bacon or sausages into your lovely warm oven, along with an egg, if you wish, and let it cook for just a few minutes (a few minutes each side for bacon usually does it but make sure you cook your sausages thoroughly, at a temperature of at least 75°C), before serving up a wood-fired breakfast.

Now that’s residual heat for you and, dare we say it, that’s a proper wood-fired oven for you!

Help is here when you need us:

As a team of wood fired oven owning enthusiasts with families who have grown up around wood fired ovens and cooking, we are passionate about our customers having the best experiences with their ovens and we are always delighted to share our collective knowledge of cooking with a wood fired oven under all sorts of conditions.

If you need further help to get the best out of your oven, please do call or drop us an email and one of our team will be happy to help.

If you are enjoying your oven, please tell us by leaving a review on our website, it will be great to hear from you and you will be entered into our monthly draw for an Orchard Ovens pizza stone.

To find out more about our authentic wood-fired ovens please call: 01772 250000


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