05 February 2011

The Art of Wood Fired Cooking


Andrea Mugnaini didn’t invent cooking on a wood fire but she has become a leading importer of wood fired ovens for home and restaurant use. Since she sells the ovens it is only natural that she offer up instruction on how to cook with one.

Cooking at home on a wood fired oven is much different than an oven that is used by a restaurant. A restaurant oven is typically larger offering more space for different cooking areas. It also has the advantage of being used every day, so starting the oven and maintaining a even cooking temperature is much easier than a home oven that may be lighted only for a weekend.


After years of working and teaching others how to cook in their wood oven, Andrea Mugnaini has taken the tricks that she has perfected and collated them for the novice wood oven cook.

The book has that we-live-like-Italians-in-Napa lifestyle vibe to it. (Not that pretending to be Italian at my house with the big wood-burning oven in the Napa Valley would be a bad thing.)


You have to hand it to Andrea Mugnaini, she doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to force you buy one of her ovens. She clearly states that if you have the book, you probably have a wood-burning oven. Frankly, the book is way cheaper than a Mugnaini Oven, so if you don’t have one, just cook in the fireplace. Mugnaini also points out that there is no “specific” recipe to cook in a wood burning oven, that most anything can be converted to cook in such an oven. Conversely, most any of the recipes in The Art of Wood Fired Cooking can be tweaked to cook in an oven, though they will be lacking in the lovely char and smoke of wood heat.

Now, part of having that Italian/Napa vibe is the need to make great, unfussy, lovely food. There are no foams, or complicated sauces. The food is painfully fresh and straight forward, and this is one of the best.

Wood-Roasted Butterflied Shrimp

2 pounds large shrimp, shell on
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Remove the shells up to the tail segment and remove the vein from the shrimp. Cut through the shrimp to open like a book, being careful not to cut all the way through. Repeat until all the shrimp are butterflied.

Place shrimp in a medium bowl and add the remaining ingredients; toss together. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator and place onto a sheet pan, cut side down with the tail curled over the shrimp. Place in the oven and roast 3-5 minutes or until pink and firm to the touch.


There is a problem. If you do not have a wood burning oven, my advice is not to buy this book, because the second you start looking at the recipes, you will be understandably tempted to get a wood burning oven for your yard, whether your yard is in West Virginia, Alabama or even the Napa Valley. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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