Ooni Pro – Lighting the Fire: If you are cooking on charcoal (and maybe adding wood) then there are a number of ways to light the Ooni Pro. Some are better than others.
This is the view from the back of the Ooni Pro, charcoal goes in here.
What Charcoal to use?
You will see from my blog I am cooking on charcoal quite often each week. My preferred charcoal is almost anything made in Britain from sustainable British woodlands. If you buy this kind of charcoal you will get something that is easy to light, maintains a steady heat, doesn’t spark and shouldn’t smoke too much. Have a look at Oxford Charcoal, Resilient Woodlands or Stag Charcoal but otherwise look at farm shops, garden centres and for local producers.
When I cook in my BBQ’s I am usually looking for larger bits of charcoal but in the Pro I find smaller bits work best. If you cook on a BBQ as well it’s easy to take the big bits for your grill and save the smaller bits for your Ooni Pro.
If you are struggling to find any British Charcoal nearby the three firms mentioned above are some of the best in the UK. Don’t buy anything from the petrol garage or the supermarket as it’s either instant light charcoal laced with an accelerant which will make your food taste of petrol or it’s going to be poor quality wood/charcoal sourced unsustainably.
What Wood to use?
Hardwood chunks work best. I tried logs and kindling but the logs were too big so made it hard to maintain a consistent heat and flames. The kindling burnt too fast but also sparked up a fair bit. The chunks are best as it’s easy to add more as you make the next pizza, by the time you launch it the heat is back up and the flames are rolling.
Go for Oak, Alder or Sweet Chestnut. I have been using these:
The boxes are massive, full of chunks and last for ages.
What else do I need?
Flamers firelighters are worth their weight in gold, so handy for lighting charcoal.
I light the flamers with one of these:
Method 1: Charcoal in the tray, flamers underneath – Preferred method.
I did this on the 2nd cook and it’s the way I light it every time now. Recommended.
- Glass door with thermometer on.
- Chimney vent fully open (latch pointing straight down).
- Roof vent fully open.
I placed my charcoal (Oxford Charcoal Oak Lumpwood) in the tray then pushed 2 flamers underneath the charcoal tray.Try to spread them out a bit so the fire lights in separate places and spreads.I lit the flamers and left it alone for 10 minutes.
Ten minutes in the door thermometer was reading around 400C, time to give it a bit of a boost with two Oak chunks on top of the lit charcoal – make sure you have gloves on to lift the door and put the wood chunks in. The gloves you get with the Ooni Pro are pretty good but I use welding gloves which are even more heat resistent.
Within five minutes of placing the oak chunks in the door thermometer was above 500C and the stone temperature was also above 500C so ready to cook on.
Method 2: Chimney Starter
Using a traditional technique from the BBQ world I filled a chimney starter with charcoal (Oxford Charcoal Oak Lumpwood).
The chimney was lit with 2 flamers and left it for 15 minutes. Once the charcoal was fully lit I poured the charcoal out of the chimney and into the back of the Ooni Pro.
This method did work but when I do this on a BBQ I light it in the BBQ base so you don’t move the chimney outside the bowl of the BBQ. Doing this allows any loose bits of lit charcoal to drop into the grill. Using the chimney for the Ooni Pro meant I had to move it from the BBQ and towards the Ooni Pro. When I moved it from the BBQ, sparks were dropping out the bottom and small bits of lit charcoal were spreading around my (wooden) BBQ hut. I am not sure this is too safe so I wouldn’t do it again! It did get the Ooni Pro up to temperature within 30 minutes so if you cook outside, are away from anything flammable and don’t have kids/pets roaming around it might be fine for you. Method 1 heated up the Ooni Pro quicker, probably as it’s a gradual heat build up rather than a cold oven having hot fuel dropped in suddenly.
This was my cook from using the Chimney Starter:
Method 3: Looftlighter
Another piece of BBQ kit I have floating about is a Looftlighter which is basically a turbo hair dryer!
Hold it near charcoal, squeeze the button and within a couple of minutes your charcoal is burning hot. Whilst the fire lit easily there was an incredible amount of sparks flying off the charcoal and I was a bit worried about my wooden BBQ hut! I also didn’t have gloves on so took a few direct hits from the sparks. As with the chimney, if you are cooking outside away from anything flammable this could work really well.
I haven’t tested a Blow Torch to light the charcoal yet. I think it will be like the Looftlighter in that it will work fine but the charcoal will spark and risk my wooden hut! If you are outside and away from anything flammable give it a go.
Buying the Ooni Pro:
You can buy the Ooni Pro from Amazon: