Pizza Oven Buying Guide
How to pick the best pizza oven for outdoor cooking
If you’re like most people, you love to eat pizza. Who can resist the tempting and delicious combination of crispy crust, savory toppings, and gooey melted cheese? This celebration of sensational flavors and textures in a convenient handheld slice is the perfect food for birthday parties, family dinners, game night get-togethers, and outdoor gatherings.
If you are a true pizza connoisseur, takeout or frozen pizza just won’t do. Not only does fresh, homemade pizza hot from the oven taste so much better, cooking it yourself lets you add your choice of toppings with as many or in any combination you want. If you love making pizza, a pizza oven is a must-have for crafting the perfect pizza pie that's full of crispy, cheesy goodness. These specialty ovens will not only bake pizza in minutes, you can also use them to broil steaks, roast vegetables, and cook a wide variety of foods to give your regular gas grill a run for its money. Pizza ovens come in a range of sizes, types, and designs, from portable tabletop machines to DIY freestanding, full-size ovens you can build as part of your outdoor kitchen or dining area. The choices can seem overwhelming, but fear not. This guide will help you decide which pizza oven is right for you.
Wood Burning vs Gas Fired Pizza Ovens vs Multi-Fuel Pizza Ovens
Pizza ovens can use a variety of fuel types with the most common being wood fired and gas fired. These fuel types offer options in configuration, size, and shape, and both deliver hot, fresh, crispy pizza. The way wood-fired and gas-fired pizza ovens operate may vary, but they differ mainly in the cooking convenience factor.
Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
Pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven has been an age-old tradition since the 1800s, and it’s hard to beat that classic taste. Full-size wood-fired ovens are a bit more labor intensive and sometimes require more finesse than a gas-fired model, but the results are worth it.
Depending on the design, wood-fired ovens will either house the fire in a compartment beside or below the pizza. The former takes advantage of direct infrared heat which is powerful, dry, and will cook quickly, giving the pizza a crispy crust. They also pre-heat faster but require you maintain the fire with tools and spin the pizza during cooking to ensure even heating all the way around. The latter separates the fire from pizza, heating the cooking chamber via heat vents and making it easier to work with by eliminating the need to rotate the pizza. However, this type will take longer to warm up.
Gas-Fired Pizza Ovens
With minimal effort, a gas-fired pizza oven will deliver an evenly baked homemade pizza without the hassle of burning wood and minus the ash waste to clean up. Instead of lighting a fire, you simply turn on the oven with a turn of a dial just like a gas grill. While some will use an infrared burner, most operate using convective heat which means more moisture and less crunchy, crispy crusts. Gas-fired ovens can either use natural gas requiring a professional plumber to connect to the gas utility line or use standard portable liquid propane tanks.
Multi-Fuel Pizza Ovens
The best of both worlds, multi-fuel pizza ovens offer multiple fuel options such as wood, charcoal, or gas for maximum cooking flexibility. Many such as the Ooni brand usually use wood pellets as a heat source. Not only convenient, pellets deliver the same flavor and dry heat as a wood-fired oven without the ash mess and cleanup factor. They heat up quickly, burn at up to 950 degrees F, and cook a tasty, crisp pizza within minutes.
Pizza Oven Configurations
Pizza ovens basically come in three configurations despite the range of brands, models, and sizes on the market: built-in, freestanding, and portable or countertop.
Built-in Pizza Ovens
The first of the two designs is a built-in oven that lets you capture the aesthetic of an authentic Italian brick pizza oven. If you have a larger budget and the space for a permanent oven on your patio or outdoor kitchen, a full-size built-in pizza oven is a good choice. You can have these custom built and installed by a professional contractor, or you can choose a DIY kit and build the pizza oven yourself which will save you some money. Either way, this type of pizza oven consists of any interior ceramic or stone shell which forms the cooking chamber within a brick-constructed enclosure which houses either a propane gas tank or a cubby for wood storage to fuel it. It will also have a flue to provide ventilation.
Freestanding Pizza Ovens
If space and budget are too limited for a permanent installation, a freestanding pizza oven is a good solution. Much like your gas grill, these ovens are smaller and are designed to sit on mobile carts that can be moved around a space to fit your needs. When not in use, the oven with the stand can be stored under a protective cover and away out of sight until your next pizza party. Freestanding pizza ovens are available in all fuel types, making them very versatile.
Portable Pizza Ovens
Offering even more versatility besides mobility, a portable or countertop pizza oven is the smallest and least expensive option of pizza baking machines. Instead of having a wheeled cart as a base, these diminutive models can go anywhere. They fit on patio tables, picnic tables, counters, and can even be used at campsites or at the beach. Many come with their own carrying bags or cases to make them easy to transport and store.
They use propane gas, wood, or pellets as a heat source, and are easy to set up and use. Due to their smaller size, they consume less fuel and heat up and cook quickly. The trade off, however, is that their small size only allows a single pizza to bake at a time. They are perfect when you want to make the occasional pizza at home when a craving strikes or like to make homemade pizza when camping or on road trips.
What Size Pizza Oven Do You Need?
Pizza ovens come in a range of sizes. The following can help you determine what size pizza oven will best suit your needs.
Small Pizza Ovens
- Measure up to 26” wide
- Fits only one pizza at a time (up to 12” in diameter)
- Perfect for when you want to make individual pizzas or the occasional pizza
Medium Pizza Ovens
- Measure 27” to 33” wide
- Cook up to 2-4 pizzas simultaneously (up to 12” in diameter each)
- Ideal for smaller families or groups of people at a gatherings with limited guests
Large Pizza Ovens
- Measure 34” to 42” wide
- Accommodates 4-6 pizzas at a time (up to 12” in diameter each)
- Great for game days, large families, or pizza parties where everyone builds their own individual pizza
Extra-Large Pizza Ovens
- Measure 43” and up in width
- Bakes 4-6 or more pizzas at once (up to 12” in diameter each)
- Designed for large events or gatherings
Construction and Materials Used in Pizza Ovens
Pizza ovens come in a variety of designs using different materials. Built-in permanent ovens usually have cement, ceramic, or stone interior chambers that form the cooking compartment surrounded by usually a brick or stone exterior. Some have poured concrete domes; others have steel bodies with refractory tile floors. Freestanding and portable models are generally made out of powder-coated or painted steel in less expensive models or feature all stainless steel construction in higher quality ovens. Stainless steel will hold up better in the weather, last longer, and be easier to clean.
Pizza Oven Accessories to Consider
To make the perfect pizza, you need more than an oven, you need the right tools and accessories. Some models come in kits that include some of the more common and basic accessories. If yours doesn’t, here’s some items you might need to purchase.
- Pizza cutter – for slicing up the pie into servings
- Pizza peel – for sliding the uncooked pizza into the oven and removing it when baked.
- Coal rake – for moving the wood, charcoal, or pellets to ensure an even burn and mix in more fuel
- Oven brush – for general cleanup
- Pizza stone – holds more heat and stay hotter longer for even baking
- Oven mitts – protects your hands from burning on hot tools and cookware
- Extra wood chips or pellets – ensures you never run out of fuel when cooking
- Grilling cookware – allows you to roast vegetables, broil meat, and cook other foods in your oven
- Grilling tools – tongs, forks, and other tools come in handy for outdoor cooking
- Protective pizza oven cover – protects your oven from the elements when not in use
- Ash vacuum – makes it easy to clean up the wood chamber after use
Now that you’re craving pizza, browse the selection of pizza ovens at Riverbend Home. Along with pizza ovens, we also carry a wide range of grills and outdoor cooking essentials. And to encourage your culinary endeavors, check out some of our pizza and other recipes to make your next cookout a gastronomic delight.