The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Can you fake a wood fired effect?

Regicollis's picture

Can you fake a wood fired effect?

I live in an apartment and don't have the possibility to build my own oven. However I would like to get as close as pissible to the wood fired effect even thogh I know that it will nevef be the same as the real thing. I already know a little about baking stones but I wonder if there is anything else one can do to get closer go the wood fired feeling.

Does wood firing give the bread a hint of smoke from the wood? If so could one emulate the smoke flavour by mixing a little finely ground smoke salt into the flour used to dust the banetton?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

after baking a messy roast (not covered) or an open tray of chicken wings.  The splattered fat on the sides of the oven start to smoke and impart a new dimension of "smoke" to your loaf (and room.)  It's the closest you can come without starting the kitchen on fire or dropping hot coals into the oven.  

I may sound crazy but think about it... how often are rolls baked or reheated just after doing the meat?  It's subtle but it does have a nice effect on the bread.


Regicollis's picture

I love your idea. It is really simple and straight-forward.

I have also been toying with the idea of burning some hay and sprinkle a tiny bit of the ashes over the loaf.

pmccool's picture

gathering some wood ashes (from campfire?  friends with fireplace or fire pit?).  Put the ashes in a metal container in the oven during the bake.  No muss, no fuss, no cuss. 

Do make sure that you have ash, not charred wood.  Wouldn't want to start a new bonfire inside your oven, would we?


suave's picture

Mmmmm.... when we were kids we had this very particular way of making sure that the campfire is out, if you know what I'm saying. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

light up your grill and finish browning the loaf with embers off to the side, loaf safely out of direct flame.

I do believe the benefits of a wood oven is the constant radiant heat coming from the brick not the smoke.    The oven surface has a burn off leaving little soot & ash and the baking surface gets wet mopped before loaves are placed in.  Throwing on ash and burning hay might deposit chemicals on the bread surface resulting in bitter flavours.  

It did cross my mind you might try diluting a  "liquid smoke" product and misting your loaf before, during or after baking.  If you do, please report back on the results.  Good and Bad.   If it's the smoky flavour you desperately desire, try tossing some smoked cheese into the dough.  

odinraider's picture

 Dan Leader suggests the can full of ashes in Local Breads. I tried it. Once. Most of us steam our ovens. Wet ashes. One of the worse smells my nose has suffered. Hot wet ashes: even worse. It made the entire oven environment reek with alkalinity, like a soap factory. The bread did, as you suggest, come out tasting like the inside of a fireplace chimney. Soapy and sooty. And I didn't even use cigarette ashes!


gmagmabaking2's picture

those little foil wrapped bundles of Mesquite or Hickory that you can buy to put on top of your gas barbeque rocks... that you punch holes in... to release a wood-grilled taste to gas cooking?... would those catch fire if wrapped in foil?  They don't seem to in the BBQ... I would have your stove vent fan going, so you don't freak out any smoke alarms in your house! Just a thought.


polo's picture

If this was the original question "Does wood firing give the bread a hint of smoke from the wood?", then my answer would be "no", at least in my experience. The fire is allowed to die after the oven is properly saturated, the coals are removed, and the hearth is mopped to remove residual ash. There is nothing left in the oven to impart a smokey taste.

That said, I am sure you could use some of the recommendations above if you wished to create that taste.

Craig_the baker's picture
Craig_the baker

A properly fired oven imparts no smoke to the final product. Use a dutch oven to get the best result possible out of a standard kitchen oven.

LindyD's picture

If you want to add a smoky flavor to your bread, you could always experiment by adding a few drops of liquid smoke to the dough.  I've used it in chili, baked beans, and other dishes, but have never tried it in dough.    It's readily available at most grocery stores.

pjkobulnicky's picture

I am shocked, shocked I say :-) , at the failure of some of our best commenters to miss giving you the right answer. Here it is. You are confusing the oven type with the cause of the taste. The taste is due to compounds created during malliard reactions and the associated carmelization of the various carbohydrates. It comes from water in the dough transformed into steam in the oven and hot temps and long enough baking times to get that carmelization. In a good hot wood oven, these reactions occur rather easily thus making you think it is something else burning in the oven.  But as others have said, and with my experience with my own wood-fired oven, there is no smoke, ash , soot or any flavor inducing substance left in a properly fired wood oven when you put the bread in.  The hot temps actually incinerate the oven clean and the residual neutral ash is indeed swept and the hearth mopped clean as a hounds tooth.

The best answer here was use a good dutch oven ... pushing the temps in the range oven high without burning the bottom crust of the bread in the dutch oven ... best is to preheat oven and dutch oven to 450-500 and immediately turn down to 400 when you put the bread in. This way you get the steam and high temps that the reactions need. Read something like Tartine Bread for a fuller description.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Everyone sees things just a little different.  Don't you just love group activities?  

One more advice I think we're missing is that if the dough makes a tasteless bread, no matter what oven it's cooked in, it remains tasteless.   If the dough needs improvement, the flour and the method of making that dough should be examined.

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Chad Robertson says in his intro to Tartine that he met with some resistance when he first made the switch from a wood-fired oven to steam-injected gas ovens, because some believed he would be compromising on taste.  He found, just as you suggest, Paul, that wood-fired ovens impart no special taste to the bread, and the loaves baked in his professional ovens were indistinguishable from those fired by hard wood.


ananda's picture

Hi Regicollis,

as already noted, wood-fired baking has nothing whatsoever to do with smoky flavours in the finished bread.

If you want to emulate the true effects of wood-fired ovens then you have to start thinking about "retained heat".

A wood-fired oven is built from brick, or, clay.   It has no thermostat; it relies on the heat stored in the masonry mass after firing.   If you want to emulate this then you will need to line your oven with masonry and pre-heat it to build up heat in the brickwork.   This is then used to conduct and radiate heat into your baking bread.   The simplest way is to use a pizza stone, or substitute, but if you want the effects of a full brick oven, then you need to look at lining it out with brick on the sides and top too.

Best wishes


Aideuis's picture

I will say by reading and experimenting, but never having baked in a WFO smoke is not the goal.  The oven needs to be hot! HOT!  Load the oven, steam and do not turn the elements back on.  You need radiant heat, however you achieve this is up to you.  Weather it is through a DO or lining your oven with firebrick as others on this thread have posted your best results mimicking a WFO will be with a hot, tight, constant, radiating environment.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

Loved the quote, thanks...

Regicollis's picture

Thank you for all the comments. I'm really impressed by the speed and quality of your input. :)

I honestly thought that the reason people used wood fired ovens was that they gave the bread a slight smoky taste. I now know that this taste comes from the Maillard reactions.

I already use steam generated by pouring boiling water in a pan in the bottom of the oven. I also heat the oven to the maximun before I put the loaves in. Now I need to find a baking stone, or a thich steel plate or something else that can radiate heat.

nicodvb's picture

If you want a smokey taste the solution is incredibly simple: toast some of the flour (5% should suffice)  in a skillet until it becomes blond and gets the "right" smell, right for you of course. I made it a couple of times but I decided I don't particularly like the smokey taste.

grind's picture

How about a percentage of peated malt from a ubrew shop?  Smokey Scotch bread ...

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

The first couple of times I used my wood fired oven, the bread had a smokey flavor. But then I figured out how to get the oven hot, and how to clean it after firing, and now the bread just tastes like bread. Some people liked the smokey flavor as a curiosity, well suited for ham sandwiches, but if it was every time that would be too much.

HeidiH's picture

I've replaced regular salt with smoked salt on occasion and it adds a nice flavor -- especially to a cheddar bread.

copyu's picture

...had two wood-fired ovens—one in the dining-room and one (that had been ripped out of the kitchen) that was starting to rust behind the garage. These were enamelled steel stoves and I didn't like the 'pale green and beige' color-combo for my kitchen very much, so I renovated and sold the old "Kooka" (short for "kookaburra" or laughing kingfisher/laughing jackass) for a few bucks. Then I bought a black cast-iron Welcome "Dover" stove, for about $450, built-up the concrete hearth in the kitchen with some bricks and mortar and popped the new stove under the chimney-breast in the kitchen and installed my new gas range right next to it. Sorted—three cook-stoves/ovens in the house!

The Dover made the best roasts, pizzas and breads, but it had nothing to do with the fuel used and EVERYTHING to do with the 'thermal mass' of the cast-iron. Judging from the size of the fire-box, this stove would've been designed for coal or coke, but nice, dense mulga-wood and mallee roots made for a good (but not-so-long-lasting) fuel. There was a 'damper' to direct the heat around the oven when roasting or baking, but the oven 'cavity' itself was completely separated from the smoke and ash of the fire-box, as it needs to be, so there was no 'taste' from the burning fuel whatsoever. Thank goodness! [Just imagine all of the lovely carcinogens you'd get from a coal-fired pizza oven if the fuel's emissions were in contact with your food...<shivers!>]

Smoked salt in the dough is the way to go, in my opinion, if you want that 'smoky flavor'. (I've played around with "liquid smoke" quite a bit and have never been quite happy with the results...YMMV!)