Long summer nights around the pizza oven are a joy. Cleaning it afterward? Not so much. However, while it might look like a bit of mess – especially if you've gone a bit heavy on the cheese – once you know how to clean a pizza oven it is actually very straightforward.
If you have spent good money on the best pizza oven, cleaning it properly is crucial. Leaving remnants of dough, cheese, sauce and other toppings on the stone will make it less effective when you cook your next pizza. It will be more likely to stick and the pizza stone will heat less efficiently.
I have been using a pizza oven for a couple of years now and can vouch for the methods below, but we also reached out to some experts for their top pizza oven cleaning tips.
How to clean a pizza oven
These simple steps can be used for wood-fired and gas pizza ovens. Follow them to clean inside and out of the oven, then read on for further advice on keeping your oven clean.
1. Run your oven at full temperature
The best time to clean your oven is straight after use. Do this for the most efficient way to clean and save yourself from facing a mess at a later date. Once you have cooked your pizzas, keep the oven burning at full temperature for at least 30 minutes. This will incinerate any food left in there and turn it to ash on the pizza stone (much like cleaning an oven if it is pyrolytic).
2. Allow the oven to cool fully
Leave the oven to cool down fully. When it is cold enough to touch, remove the pizza stone and put it to one side.
3. Clean out any ash
Take a dustpan and brush and sweep any ash from inside the oven. If it is a wood-fired oven, now is the time to clean out the hopper, fire basket and ash tray. You can put ash on your compost heap or dump small amounts in your garden borders. Wipe out any remaining ash from the oven and accessories with a soft dry cloth and leave to dry.
4. Wipe down the exterior
Use a soft damp cloth (these microfibre ones from Amazon will do the trick) to clean the exterior of your oven. Warm water will do, but if you have anything greasy or more stubborn on the exterior of your oven, make sure you use a non-caustic cleaner that won't corrode the metal. Gozney's founder Tom Gozney recommends using Bar Keepers Friend for a gentle shine.
5. Brush down and replace the pizza stone
Use your soft brush to get any remaining ash off the pizza stone. If there is still debris that didn't get incinerated when you were blasting the oven, use a grill or pizza oven wire brush to gently lift stuck-on food. Ooni also recommends flipping your pizza stone over, returning it to the oven and blasting for another 30 minutes to remove any remaining debris.
You need to take care with pizza stones as allowing them to get soaked can mean they crack next time you use them as any residual water escapes. Read our expert advice on how to clean a pizza stone for more, but remember that if you do end up using water to remove stains, you will need to allow the stone to dry completely ahead of use so wet cleaning is best avoided.
Put the clean pizza stone back in the oven and cover your oven until the next use.
How to keep your pizza oven clean
Careful use is the best way to prevent too much food from ending up all over your pizza oven in the first place. Mess often occurs when people have trouble getting the pizza in the oven and this is usually a result of leaving the uncooked pizza on the peel or prep table for too long. This makes it become soggy, so work quickly, making pizzas to order and using plenty of cornmeal to help the pizza slide on and off the peel.
You can use an oven-proof tool in between pizzas to move leftover ingredients out of the way, but never use anything made from plastic that will melt onto the oven almost instantly.
Gozney also recommends investing in a cover to keep the oven protected from the elements: 'they can be subject to weathering so this ensures your oven stays in great condition for longer.' However, for long periods without use and over winter, it is best to put your oven into storage.
How to minimise soot or burner damage
Use the right kind, and size, of wood for your pizza oven to decrease smoke and get the most efficient burn.
Gozney advises the following: 'For ovens, we recommend using small pieces of kindling roughly 5.5x1x1 inch. Avoid using sappy and soft woods as these can damage your burner. Harder wood also has more energy to burn and will produce more heat.'
And definitely never pour gas or lighter fluid into your pizza oven.