When cranked to its highest heat, somewhere between 450˚F and 500˚F, a regular oven can make good pizza. But for great pizza, a dedicated home pizza oven is what you need. And science agrees—a recent study found most pizzas cook best in dry heat above 600˚F while higher temps of 800˚F and up are needed for the perfect Neapolitan-style pie. Why? When pizza dough meets screaming hot air it actually boils to produce crisp, golden edges with a soft-yet-stretchy interior (as opposed to chewy, bread-like crust).
If you’re moonstruck for pizza pies made in your own backyard, here’s all you need to know to purchase a home pizza oven.
What to consider before buying a home pizza oven
1What features should I consider?
Home pizza ovens have never been more accessible, but here are a few things to keep in mind before you invest:
- Location: Do you want to keep the smell of freshly-baked pizza all to yourself, or share it with the neighbours? Electric pizza ovens are typically best for indoor use, while gas, wood and charcoal-fueled models should only be used outside, where there’s good ventilation.
- Size: If you plan to cook multiple pizzas at once, you’ll need a big oven. But if you don’t have the space, a portable pizza oven that can be stowed away between uses might be the right option.
- Price: From a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, pizza ovens vary in cost and quality. Plan on spending a little extra on important accessories like a pizza peel and grill gloves.
- Temperature range: If you want to use your pizza oven to cook other things, consider one that has a wide heat range. If you’re a die-hard Neapolitan pizza enthusiast, make sure your model hits that ideal 806 to 896 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Design: Consider your aesthetic. An outdoor oven can be a conversation piece with an old world look and feel. But a sleek and modern design might be more your style. Plus, they can be easier to use.
- Portability: If you see yourself cooking pizza at a campground, a portable oven is likely your best bet. Same if you are looking to save space, as they can easily stow away for winter.
2What are the main types of pizza ovens?
Pizza ovens range from push-button ease all the way up to pizzaiolo-level complexity. For family use, think about many people you’re feeding, how often, how much outdoor space you have, and whether or not you want to babysit a small fire or just set the temperature and forget it.
Brick Pizza Ovens
The old world classic, most brick ovens are fuelled via wood charcoal, gas or a hybrid of wood/gas or wood/charcoal. These outdoor pizza ovens radiate dry heat to reach ideal pizza temperatures.
|Can reach ideal pizza temps of 600˚F to 900˚F-plus.||More expensive than other options and must be purchased at specialty shops or built.|
|Stay hot; no reheating between pizzas.||Long heat-up time.|
|Provide true pizza nerd status.||Large and extremely heavy—typically cannot be moved.|
Wood-Burning Pizza Ovens
Typically encased in steel or brick and housed outside, wood-burning pizza ovens are known for producing that authentic-tasting, smoky flavour.
|Hot! Temperatures reach 900˚F-plus.||Managing heat levels requires babysitting.|
|Delicious smoky flavour.||May expel smoke and soot.|
|Range of sizes for multiple pizzas at a time.||Require ash cleanup after each use, plus regular soot removal.|
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Charcoal Pizza Ovens
Stand-alone charcoal pizza ovens typically use wood as a secondary fuel, while BBQ conversion pizza ovens (that sit atop your BBQ) may only require charcoal.
|On standalone units, fast intense heat of 900˚F or more can produce crispier pizza.||Like wood ovens, managing heat can be tricky.|
|Tasty smoky flavour.||Cleanup can get sooty, requiring soapy water and ash removal.|
|Less expensive than standalone pizza ovens.|
Gas Pizza Ovens
These outdoor pizza ovens use the same type of propane tank as gas BBQs, or some can connect to a natural gas line from your home. Most gas pizza ovens are steel.
|Easy to use and clean.||Lacks smoky flavour, (unless it’s a gas/wood hybrid).|
|Propane or natural gas line options.||Less floor heat than wood-burning or charcoal, affecting crust doneness.|
|Hybrid gas/wood models available for that smoky flavour.||High temperatures may use up propane quickly.|
BBQ Pizza Ovens
Pizza oven kits for barbecues are designed to concentrate the heat from a standard grill into ideal pizza-cooking temperatures. BBQ pizza ovens are made for both charcoal and gas grills.
|Lightweight add-on to existing gas or charcoal grills.||They’re small—can usually only hold one pizza at a time.|
|Can reach temps above 600˚F.||Takes about 20 minutes to preheat, and loses heat with each pie.|
Electric Pizza Ovens
Like any plug-in appliance, electric pizza ovens need an outlet. They’re usually countertop-sized and typically indoor pizza ovens, but can also be used outside wherever an outlet can be found.
|Small, portable and easy to clean.||Can usually only cook one pizza at a time.|
|Less expensive than larger outdoor pizza ovens.||Lower temperature range, typically up to 450˚F.|
|Can also cook quesadillas, quiche, etc.|
Portable Pizza Ovens
Some steel pizza ovens are said to be portable because they can be packed up and moved, as opposed to brick ovens that stay put. But this doesn’t always mean ‘lightweight’.
|Can be moved from backyard to campground to winter storage.||Can usually only cook one large or two smaller pizzas at a time.|
|Flexible fuel options: wood, charcoal or gas.||May need reheating between pizzas.|
|Typically less expensive than larger units.|
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3What are the most essential pizza oven accessories?
As with any other home appliance, these accessories will help make your pizza oven experience a whole lot easier—and safer:
- Pizza peel: Like a giant spatula, a good pizza peel should allow you to slide pizzas in, turn as needed, and slide pizzas out of the hot oven with ease. Also be sure the width is compatible with your oven.
- Grill gloves: For adding fuel to the fire or collecting a stubborn pizza, grill gloves will keep hands and arms cool.
- Pizza oven brush: Quickly brush away crumbs, debris and any fallen ash from the oven’s interior.
- Pizza oven scraper: Any stuck-on debris should be scraped off, either with a dedicated pizza oven scraper or a sturdy pizza peel.
- Infrared thermometer: Get an instant snapshot of the exact temperature of the air inside your pizza oven, plus test the pizza stone to ensure both air and stone are evenly matched.
- Wheel cutter: Classic roll-and-serve wheel cutters slice through melty cheese and crisp crust without crushing the pie.
- Kitchen scissors: Especially when serving pizza to small children, nothing beats a set of kitchen shears to clip hot pizza into smaller, more manageable bites.
Get your essential pizza oven accessories:
4How do I clean, store and maintain my home pizza oven?
Water is not a pizza oven’s friend. Keep all ovens protected from rain and snow with a waterproof cover whenever possible. You can even use your outdoor pizza oven in the winter months, just wipe down the outside and mop up any water on the inside.
After every use, brush the pizza oven’s interior to clear away debris and remove any ash. Wood-burning pizza ovens need the flue swept periodically, too.
Brush pizza stones regularly and remove any caked-on debris. For grease stains, use a paste of equal parts baking soda and water and rinse clean. Avoid using soap or detergents anywhere on a pizza stone.
5How can I make restaurant-worthy pizza in my home pizza oven?
Ready to embrace the pizzaiolo life? Follow these tips for perfect pizzas:
- Whether you make your own dough or buy store-made, stretch it out no more than 16 inches.
- Go easy on any oil, which will weigh down the dough and make it harder to boil into crispy, chewy crust.
- Make sure there is plenty of flour on the bottom of the dough for easy sliding on the pizza peel.
- Add sauce and toppings—less is often more!
- Change up the standard mozzarella with dollops of specialty cheeses such as burrata or soft goat’s cheese, or combine mozzarella with equal amounts of grated provolone for added flavour—a pizzeria secret.
- No time to shred cheese? Just rip off hunks and toss them on for gourmet-looking pizzas with minimal effort.
- Sprinkle pies with fresh herbs or greens such as arugula or spinach at the end of cooking, plus a splash of good olive oil.
6What are affordable alternatives to a home pizza oven?
You don’t need a sky-high budget, or even a backyard, to make incredible pizzas at home. Here are three ways to improve your pizzas without a dedicated pizza oven:
- Countertop pizza makers give you the crispy edges you crave and can also make great quesadillas, nachos, quiches and more.
- Try placing an inverted baking sheet on the lowest rack before preheating the oven. When it comes to temperature, just slide your pizza on top and cook. Or, a pizza stone not only helps trap heat, it also draws moisture from the dough for crispier edges.
- Bread-like pizza crusts are in no way inferior! Use lower temperatures to your advantage by making deep dish pies with a cast iron skillet or other high-walled casserole dish.
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