Wood-fired brick pizza ovens cook by using a live fire, hot coals or retained heat. The live fire uses reflective heat and is the hottest method, whereas the hot coals are slightly cooler and the retained heat gives off about the same amount of heat as a traditional oven.
The live fire method bounces heat off of the oven's domed roof to cook pizzas quickly and to keep the oven at a constant high temperature. The domed shape draws air into the bottom of the oven and heats it. The hot air hits the top, then bounces back down to the floor of the oven. The process repeats as long as the fire is burning. This is natural convection, done without fans or heat coils.
The hot coals cooking scenario is used to cook roasts, or to grill, sear or brown foods. The fire is allowed to die down to reduce the oven's temperature. The embers stay hot for long periods due to the oven's brick insulation and domed shape.
To use the retained heat method, the coals are removed and the oven door is closed that so the temperature inside the oven moderates. Retained heat cooking is used to bake bread and desserts, and to slow-cook foods, such as ribs, beans, stews, soups and beans. As long as the door is closed, the brick oven retains cooking temperature for hours.