Why Your Wood-fired Oven’s Floor is Crucial

The eyes of wood-fired pizza oven buyers – both commercial and domestic – are often drawn to aesthetic, inconsequential parts of the product. After all, a floor is just a floor, isn’t it? How can one oven floor – like that of Refrattari Valoriani – possibly be any better than another?

If this is how you think, your priorities are wrong. If cooking pizza, the woodfired oven floor is not just a structural feature but also your cooking surface and the most important oven component. How it interacts with the fire is the key determinant of how your food will turn out.  That is regardless of whether you are striving to satisfy customers in a pizzeria or general restaurant, out on the road as a mobile caterer, or simply cooking gourmet pizza at home.

The perfect pizza oven floor

The floor of a Valoriani wood fired oven has no equal. There are several reasons.  Firstly, Valoriani is the only pizza oven manufacturer in the world to produce its own firebrick floor.  Many generations of experience go into this.  The family business utilises its own furnace and team of artisan craftspeople, who understand pizza oven manufacture inside-out. Nothing is left to chance in the pursuit of pizza oven floor perfection.

The second reason lies in the material used.  This is not just firebrick but Valoriani firebrick, formed from the finest refractory clay.  If comparing ovens, you may see other manufacturers boasting of using ‘firebricks’. But, quite simply, firebricks come with vastly differing levels of quality, with their place on the quality scale dependent on how much alumina is in the mix. 

The better the firebrick, in terms of alumina content, the greater the strength and thermal conductivity.  However, have too much alumina and the wrong balance and you lose porosity.  That is vital when cooking pizza, as you are using a wet dough. That dough is only transformed into the best pizza possible when the water can be steamed off quickly, with the moisture transferred to the floor, to create the perfect crust.

How Valoriani pizza oven floors are manufactured

Valoriani has got this down to a fine art – one that has been 140 years in the making. After generations of experimentation – and the sourcing of a quarry with exactly the right amount of alumina required – it has created its own carefully guarded clay recipe.  This is not for a Marinara or Margherita but for the mix the team uses when creating Valoriani oven floors.

The finest raw material, in terms of refractory clay, is used.  It then undergoes various stages of processing in the Valoriani artisan factory.  All is carefully supervised by experienced craftspeople as the raw clay is fired, crushed several times, ground, mixed and fired again until it is transformed into granulate material.  It then progresses through several presses, with in-house designed moulds, and multi million pound bespoke machinery, used to manufacture the required components.  Sections are dry-pressed and fired in ovens, at over 700°C, for over 16 hours.  Every single refractory component required is produced in house.

Wood fired oven floors for baking, classic pizza and Neapolitan pizza

Such is the professionalism and thought that goes into a Valoriani oven floor that there is not just one floor. Valoriani is such a specialist that it alters its ‘recipes’ according to usage by the end-user. There is one oven floor recipe for those wanting to bake bread; another for those seeking to thrill with classic pizza and a third for chefs specialising in Neapolitan-style pizza.  What goes into the recipe determines the quality of the product coming off the floor.

In this way, Valoriani is the only wood-fired oven manufacture focused on achieving the perfect level of porosity for the end-user. No other manufacturer studies the balance of firebrick and porosity in this way.  Others simply use firebrick – and often not particularly high-grade firebrick.

Heat distribution across the wood-fired oven floor 

Four factors have always been under the microscope at Valoriani and this has created a wood-fired oven floor like no other.  The amount of alumina used has delivered strength and the capacity to withstand extreme temperatures that can be 400°C across the floor and between 650°C and 760°C under the fire. 

The skill here has been to create the perfect wood-fired oven floor, allowing the heat from the fire to move through the oven floor and conduct heat, so as to maintain the ideal cooking environment within the oven.  The science behind this is the reason why a Valoriani oven retains heat so perfectly, vastly reducing reheat times.  It is also why pre-heat times are so chef-friendly and why the recovery time of the floor is so impressive.

Then there is the porosity, as previously discussed.  Good levels of thermal conductivity are required too and a high abrasion resistance is key.  Just think of the metal tools manoeuvring pizzas – and all the metal pots and pans pushed around a true wood-fired oven’s floor.

Seamless manufacture of oven floors

Other oven manufacturers buy in their firebrick and then have to try to fit standard-sized bricks into their oven designs and domes. This typically results in many seams and joins, as they attempt to fit the whole thing together.  That means more cleaning and less chance of the floor being level.  It also creates more locations of potential weakness.

Contrast this with Valoriani.  All of its components are created within the factory, to the exact specifications and measurements required, in tailor-made moulds. Each floor ideally fits into each oven design and is made in such a way that, on the rare occasion where an accident makes replacement necessary, the entire oven floor, or a single individual section, can be replaced through the mouth of the oven with minimum downtime. Nothing needs to be dismantled and the entire oven does not have to be discarded.

The flexibility that comes from being in total control of the component parts of the oven means that, when it comes to a commercial wood-fired pizza oven like the Igloo, nine different sizes of oven can be offered.

Domes are also produced in the factory, using ground refractory bricks, water and binder. These can then be customised, on site, whether that is via the hand-application of mosaic tiles, coating with a particular finish, or hand-painting an artistic scene on to them.

Top quality pizza stones

The expertise that goes into a Valoriani oven floor is also poured into the production of Valoriani pizza stones.  These refractory stones retain and evenly distribute temperature in the exact same way as a Valoriani oven floor, allowing for optimal cooking of pizza.  They also have a great resistance to thermal shock and are easy to clean and maintain by anyone using them to cook gourmet pizza in a home oven.

Gas-fired ovens for Neapolitan pizza

The Valoriani floor gurus have gone even further, managing to utilise their oven floors in conjunction with gas, as a heat source, and a patented RHS (Recycling Heating System).  Their gas-fired Verace commercial pizza oven has consequently done the seemingly impossible and achieved the seal of approval of the fastidious AVPN in Naples.  The AVPN confirms that the Verace can cook Real Neapolitan Pizza to their exacting standards and to the same quality as a wood fired oven.

Literally, nothing floors Valoriani. They are the manufacturer whose pizza oven floors and designs have no flaws. The strength of the floor – and the reasons behind that – are the factors underpinning the phenomenal longevity of Valoriani ovens. Buy one of those today and you will probably still be able to use it 20 or 30 years into the future.

To find out more, contact us on 07743 847647.