The British cook Delia Smith once remarked, “I sometimes think the chef end of cooking is not the real end of cooking. Cooking is all about homes and gardens, it doesn’t happen in restaurants.”
But for some serious foodies, cooking is less about the home and more about the garden. Or, to be more precise, the backyard setting – especially on a serene summer night when the combination of relaxing company and cooperative weather can make the joy of cooking and eating particularly sublime.
On the other hand, outdoor cooking options can seem a bit limited if a grill is the only appliance being used. And while there’s nothing wrong with grilled food, there are too many summertime meals that cannot be accomplished on top of a grill.
And that’s where Rustic Wood Fired Ovens comes in. The Providence-based company offers a line of ovens that brings a sense of fun to the outdoor cooking experience.
“Our ovens are 100 percent clay brick,” explained Deborah Scipione, sales representative for the company, who noted that the product line is eons removed from the flimsy barbecue grills of yesteryear’s summers. “The smallest oven weighs 639 pounds, and our industrial model weighs 2,200 pounds.”
It takes about an hour for the appliance to get ready for baking – an eternity for the microwave crowd, to be certain, but the virtue in being patient is rewarded by the thermal quality that it provides. “It reaches 1,000 degrees, but it never feels hot.”
The product line is available locally at New London’s Family Hearth and Patio, where owner Paul Dumaine praises the quality of the baking in these ovens.
“It takes you back to the old ways of cooking with wood, where you can get the flavor and the great taste that wood burning offers,” he explained. “You are not buying gas or propane for fuel, and the [varieties of] wood that you can use are the cleaner variety rather than the fireplace wood: Oak, Ash, Applewood; the different woods that give you a different flavor whenever you use them.”
Ah, but how clean is a stove that gives off smoke? “It depends how you operate it,” Dumaine added, noting that the smoke generated from a wood fired oven is not a nuisance to neighbors or the environment if the stove is used properly.
Now comes the real question: what about the food? “There is good speed when it comes to cooking,” said Dumaine with assurance. “You can cook a pizza in two minutes. You can bake fowl, fish, cakes, anything in a cast-iron skillet – the skillet retains the heat for a long time.”
And when the preparation is done, Dumaine said, the fiery wood could burn itself out, although cooks can also manually bring the blazes to a faster close. “If you can follow directions, it is easy to use,” he said.
For those who are unsure about this approach to food preparation – after all, it is a bit of a leap from the standard 400-degree kitchen oven to a 1,000-degree wood fired oven – Dumaine noted there were cookbooks for this appliance and a number of online forums where people share their favorite wood fired oven recipes. Pricewise, Dumaine’s inventory retails from between $1,200 to what he described as “the low- to mid-$4,000 range.”
And when summer transitions to the cooler weather, Dumaine observed that the oven will still be practical. “You can use it in the winter,” he said. “As long as the weather conditions allow you to be in the backyard.”
The Family Hearth and Patio showroom is located at 571 Broad St. in New London, just off Interstate 95 at Exit 82. It’s less than a mile from the Crystal Mall. Services include full installation by certified installers, fireplace cleaning, maintenance and repair. Showroom hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit their website at familyhearthandpatio.com or call 860-574-9388.