One hundred years ago I would probably have been laughed at for explaining how to make and maintain a fire that could burn with very little smoke involved. Back then, fires were a daily necessity for reasons such as heating the house, hot water for laundry or bathing and also of course cooking and baking. Now, one hundred years later we are not dependent on a fire source to be able to perform our daily activities. Therefore, many of us have never been taught the art of fire making.
As I have mentioned before in a previous blog I grew up on a farm and I was taught at a very young age how to build fires and also taught fire safety. Throughout my childhood we always heated the house with a wood fire burning stove. Until more recently I guess I just assumed most people knew the basics of fire making. Wrong! I hear the same complaints over and over again that their fireplace and/or brick oven is filling up with smoke and then right away it is assumed that there is an issue with not enough draw in the chimney to take the smoke away. All fires make smoke, but unless you are using a smoker (which a brick oven is not!) you should not ever be creating a fire with excess smoke.
What causes excess smoke? I find usually that it’s the wrong kind of wood being used. On my very first video episode of Brick Oven Lifestyle I discuss in detail the importance of using seasoned hardwood for all fires. Seasoned hardwood means that the wood has been cut and split into 2-4 inch thick pieces, stacked and left to season for at least one year (hence, a season!) before it is appropriate to be used for fuel. Properly seasoning wood decreases the moisture level which vastly decreases the amount of smoke. You can use any type of hardwood such as oak, cherry, maple, walnut or poplar to just name a few. In a brick oven you are not using the wood to flavor the food you are cooking so I would suggest buying seasoned hardwood that’s readily available in your area and least expensive.
I do not recommend using soft wood such as pine wood except for a few pieces of kindling when getting the fire started, as shown on my first episode. Softwood burns very quickly and it also can cause creosote to build up in the chimney flue which decreases and can even block the flues airflow. All fires create smoke but using the proper fuel—which is always seasoned hardwood—creates the least amount of smoke. Choosing properly seasoned hardwood is truly one of the most important steps in the art of fire making and keeping smoke to a minimum.
I hope this information helps you build fires properly, with very little smoke, for the enjoyment of your outdoor entertainment space. For more step by step information please watch my first Brick Oven Lifestyle video, “Let’s get this fire started” available on our website and our YouTube channel. And please take a moment to subscribe for future video updates.