You've Got Questions? Jay's Got Answers

If you're serious about wood fired cooking, and giving Santorini your full consideration, you're going to have a whole load of questions.

No problem. Take a look below - we've done our best to answer every query. And if you don't see the answer here, just holler...we're only a phone call away.

You can reach us in the usual hours on 01905 621 636

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Q: What’s the number one benefit of a wood-fired oven?

A: Boy that’s a tough one! There are so many benefits of a great wood fired oven over the standard BBQ or some of the pizza gadgets that have hit the market in recent years.

To be honest, there are some fab gadgets out there, but to get true versatility from a wood fired oven you need thermal mass. Not so much that it takes ages to heat up, and not so little that the temperature plummets as soon as you remove the heat - it's all about balance.

I like to think of thermal mass as the battery of the oven: it keeps on supplying heat long after the fire has gone out. Important because it makes your food juicy and moist - whether it's a fantastic pizza that cooks in 45 seconds or a 5kg brisket that stays in for 8 hours.

Q: Surely I can get the same from a small portable oven?

A: No, most of these small portable gadgets are grill ovens - nothing more. They give you the same effect as cooking a pizza on a floor tile with a £25 roofer’s gas torch! So yes, use one for pizza if you don't mind inconsistent results like scorched tops and saggy bottoms. But you won't get the massive range of benefits of a proper wood fired oven, like slow roasts and succulent dishes that cook on the slow falling heat long after the fire goes out.

Q: How can a wood-fired oven be smokeless?

A: Let's be clear on this - ALL wood fired ovens produce smoke during the initial lighting stage. The question is how much, and how is it controlled?

Smoke happens because to have clean combustion, you need three things:

1 - A good source of clean fuel, kiln dried to below 15% moisture.

2 - A constant heat supply.

3 - A good air supply.

In a thermal mass oven, the heavy refractory keeps cooling the flame which then pushes the smoke level up. But as soon as the refractory comes up to temperature you get secondary combustion in the loft of the oven, where it’s super-heated and burnt off. Meaning, if you use the right fuel and bring it to temperature quickly, you can keep smoke to a minimum.

But that's not the case with grill ovens, as there's no secondary combustion to burn off the smoke particles.

All this might sound like a technical headache, but it's very easy to manage. Your Santorini oven comes with video instructions where I show you step by step how to light the oven.

Q: Can I light it with gas instead of wood?

A: If you use good quality firelighters and dry hardwood, and follow the lighting instructions, there should be no need to use gas to light the oven. But if needed, a portable gas lance or electric fire starter can be used to help get the combustion process going.

Q: Can I use it indoors?

A: This first version of Santorini is designed for outdoor use. But we're in the process of developing a second version for indoor use, with a CE Approved gas burner with a flame failure management system for use on both LPG and natural gas. These burners are imported and expensive, so we're currently exploring options. Once developed, we'll submit the new burner for DEFRA Approval so it can be licenced for indoor use. You'll be able to add the new integral burner as a retrofit ,as there is already space set aside for it in the oven.

Q: How long does it take to heat up?

A: It depends on the temperature you want to achieve. To get up to slow roasting temperature (e.g. 150 degrees centigrade) for brisket, you're looking at 30 minutes or less. While for pizza cooking temperatures (350 - 380 degrees centigrade), you're looking at 45 minutes to an hour. But in full disclosure, that will really depend on the quality of the wood you use: the drier the wood, the faster it heats as more energy is produced by the combustion process.

Q: How long will the heat last?

A: Get it up to full temperature, and the heat falls slowly over a period of 18 hours. So you could fire it up tonight for a pizza, then cook some bread or ribs on the falling heat tomorrow.

Q: What kind of food can I prepare – and what should I avoid? 

A: There is absolutely nothing you can’t cook in a good quality thermal mass wood fired oven! It's the ultimate cooking vessel.

Q: Can I use it in all weathers?

A: Definitely - it's totally weather-proof so an oven for all seasons. It's great for the summer obviously, but one of the real joys is standing around it on an autumn evening, basking in the glow of the flames.

Q: What kind of surface makes a suitable mount?

A: Santorini comes with a stainless steel stand, but that's not your only option. The oven is designed with 50 mm of high quality insulation, so you can put it on virtually any surface that will support the weight. That said, we do advise that you don’t put it directly onto a flammable surface.

Q: I have young children – what are the hazards?

A: There are always hazards where children and fire are concerned. When I was a kid, I almost burned down our thatched house in South Africa (on more than one occasion!). My pyromania is probably the reason my Mum became a woman of faith, blessing and thanking God that the house stood undamaged after each of my misadventures.

With this in mind, I’ve designed the ovens as safely as I can - and even though they can reach temperatures in excess of 600 degrees centigrade, the outside of the oven (the cap) will get hotter from the summer sun than from the fire within.

Q: Can I choose a different cover?

A: Yes, absolutely. There are a couple of options at the moment: Calliste, a stainless steel modern cover, or Thera with a more traditional brick effect. More caps will come in time, so you can switch and swap to suit your mood.

Q: How many people does it take to assemble it?

A: One person can assemble the whole oven but it’s more fun with two or three. Then you can make it an event, that ends with your best ever pizza!

Q: What tools will I need for assembly?

A: No specialist tools - everything you need is right there in the box. But if you have a battery operated drill, it will save you about 30 minutes in assembly time.

Q: What instructions do you provide?

A: We hope you love this novel approach. Being dyslexic, I know what a pain it can be working through pages and pages of instructions, trying to work out which part is Part A and why the drawings look nothing like the bits in the pack! It's maddening.

So when your oven arrives, right on the top of the box is a small, self-playing video that you can play and pause as you go. No connecting to YouTube, no dongles, it's all self-contained.

So it will feel like I’m right there with you, going through every step

Q: What are the dimensions?

A: The oven sits on a registration plate 86 cm in diameter. If you want to see if the oven will fit the space you've allocated, drop us a line and we'll send you a template with a life-size pic of the finished oven. Our email is [email protected]

Q: Does it come in other sizes?

A: This is a brand new oven, so at this stage it’s a standard 60 cm model. That's perfect for most families - you could cater for up to 40 people at a private party. We do have plans to develop other sizes, though. There'll be an 80 cm Party oven, a 100 cm Fiesta oven and a 120 cm Festival oven. These sizes will produce between 120 - 150 pizzas per hour.

Q: When will my oven be delivered?

A: The first 40 people can expect delivery by mid October, then the next 110 by Christmas. Production is already in full swing, and we're well on course to meet these dates.

That's the difference between this and a kickstarter project. We're not waiting for funds to clear before we can get going. After 20 years in this business, I've seen the demand for an oven like Santorini and invested my own funds to get it off the ground. It's taken 18 months of development and a lot of sleepless nights, but finally we're ready to roll.

Q: How do I maintain it and pack it up for the winter?

A: No need to do anything special with the Santorini. It’s completely frost-proof and requires no protective treatment for winter. However, if you want to keep it looking spanking new, you can wrap it up in one of our hibernation covers.

Q: What about servicing and repairs?

A: With 20 years of experience making wood fired ovens, I’m delighted to say Santorini needs almost zero maintenance - maybe a pressure-wash in the spring, just to spruce it up for another year.

As for repairs, well in time you might want to replace the floor tiles. But that's a long way off. The tiles are made from the same materials as my commercial ovens, that last for around 100,000 pizzas. So unless you move the oven and the tiles get damaged in transit, this isn't one to worry about for a little while.

Q: How long is it designed to last?

A: A generation from now, I want you to reach out to me and tell me you bought an oven in this round and it's still going strong! The refractory is certified to 1400 degrees centigrade (blast furnace temperatures), and you're not going to get anywhere near that kind of heat. So keep it static and there's no reason why it wouldn’t last you a life-time.

Q: What is your guarantee?

We put a 3 year manufacturer’s warranty on the oven refractory components, and all other aspects have a 12 month warranty - provided that the oven is registered at install and a picture sent of the oven in its new home. General wear and tear is excluded.

Q: Can I cook typical barbecue foods, like sausages and burgers?

A: Yup definitely. There is virtually nothing you can't cook in a wood fired oven. It's all about knowing we'll give you some amazing recipes to get you started.

Q: Can I use ordinary baking trays and casserole dishes? Will they fit?

A: Every oven we make can take at least one full size commercial gastronorm tray. I’ve cooked a 12 kg suckling pig in one of those, it is positively huge!

Q: How close to the house can I put it? 

A: I often hear people saying they want to build an outdoor kitchen at the bottom of the garden. And while this may be a nice romantic idea, it’s also not the most practical. The closer it is to the house and your main entertainment area, the more you will use it. So don't worry about proximity. Unless you have a bedroom window directly overhead, you can put the oven right up against the fabric of a non flammable structure. For anything else, like a garden fence, you should leave 100 mm just to be sure.

Q: Are they suitable for a small urban garden?

A: Definitely. I've designed Santorini to fit anywhere, even where access is tight. And if you follow our guidance when lighting the oven, you won't have problems with smoke.

Q: What happens if I move house?

A: I see no problem moving it as a whole, but it’s far too early for me to assess the viability of moving it in its component sections – it was designed to be easily assembled, but ovens are not designed to be taken apart.

Also, it depends on your new garden: do you have wide enough access to move it into place?

Most of the time, I guess you'll leave it for the new owners to enjoy (make it a selling feature). Although I say it gives you a great reason not to move, because you'll enjoy your current home and garden so much more.

Still got questions? Call Bushman now on 01905 621 636

Still got questions? Call Bushman now on 01905 621 636