Friday afternoon in Owassa, Oklahoma, an oven inside a Little Caesars pizzeria caught on fire. Employees told a KJRH reporter that the bottom rack of the pizzeria's three-tier pizza oven went off the track. Shortly after, they smelled gas and then 10-foot flames shot up from the oven.
While a cause has not been determined in the Little Caesars fire, it's a timely reminder that proper maintenance and cleaning is essential when working with pizza ovens.
Many of today's ovens are designed to be almost maintenance free, but it's still necessary to remove debris and stuck on food on a regular basis. Periodic checks of your oven can often alert you to a future issue.
No matter if you're working with a wood-fired oven, conveyor, or deck, here are a few quick tips to remember.
- Always make sure the oven is completely cool before you or any employees try to touch or remove oven parts.
- A pizza brush or scraper is the easiest tool for quickly cleaning your oven on a regular basis.
- For sticky spots, a towel that's been wet with water or food-safe cleanser can be used (put it on the end of your pizza peel handle if the spot is in a hard to reach place. (Note: do NOT use water or cleanser inside a deck oven since the moisture can cause the stone to crack the next time you heat it up).
- With a conveyor oven, you can remove the conveyor belt and the fingers, allowing you to spray them down or soak them (depending on how dirty they've gotten). Clean and dry the inside of the oven before putting everything back together. (Read more advice from PMQ's Think Tank members here).
If you're ever in doubt, consult your oven manual or contact the manufacturer directly.