Things are really heating up at The Steer these days. I mean they are literally heating up. You can even smell it outside and around the restaurant. This is due to The Steer’s newly renovated wood-fired brick oven.
While renovating the inside of The Steer in 2012, a brick oven was added to the open kitchen. As with most commercial brick ovens these days, ours was originally fueled by gas heat, which is more economical to install, operate, and requires less of an investment in bringing it up to regulated fire codes. The brick oven became an essential cooking tool for turning out some delicious food, such as our flatbread pizzas.
While a gas fueled brick oven may be the standard, it isn’t necessarily the best. About two months ago the ventilation and fire protection system around the existing brick oven at The Steer were updated to bring it up to code in order for it to become a wood burning brick oven. “Why?” You may ask. (Good question, I’m glad you asked.) After all, as I mentioned before, gas is cheaper to use and still produces that “fire-kissed” look, but that’s not the point. Gas produces a moist heat and the temperature of the hearth was inconsistent. It needed to be better, and better sometimes means you have to invest a bit more and work a bit harder.
After installing the wood burning oven and using it for the past two months there is no looking back. The cooking staff at The Steer was ready for the change and up to the challenge. Anything cooking in the wood-fired oven needs constant attention, because it cooks very quickly under the high heat. Timing is essential. “Work the oven, don’t let the oven work you,” was owner Tucker Curtin’s advice to his staff. The hearth also needs to be cleaned and maintained constantly.
Once the wood is burning, the oven will easily and quickly reach optimal cooking temperature. The heat is more intense, drier, and more consistent throughout the whole baking chamber. The dry heat provides a crispier, bubbly, evenly cooked crust on our pizzas with charred edges, yet they are still soft and light on the inside. The toppings in a brick oven fueled by wood also cook very quickly and retain more flavor and freshness, as well as picking up a touch of fire and smokiness.
Of course a wood-fired oven isn’t only good for cooking the perfect pizzas. Let’s talk meat, Rib Eye to be exact. One of the latest specials at The Steer is the Wood Fired Rib Eye Steak served with a Cauliflower Gratin. It’s probably one of the best cuts of beef to cook using a wood burning fire. It has the perfect fat content to sizzle and char. The outside becomes crisp and smoky, while the inside stays tender and juicy. Also, imagine wood fired chicken or turkey with crispy skin or the charred fat on a thick pork chop. How about a cheesy gratin? Potatoes and vegetables fire roasted with bubbly cheese- the possibilities are endless!
With fall just around the corner, you can expect some cozy new wood-fired specials when you come in for a bite at The Steer.