We followed the instruction manuals on assembly, cooking, cooling, storage and perhaps most important of all—ignition. In an effort to get the full experience, we used the peels and tools that came with each device rather than our own. We also tested more than just pizza in each oven. Sure, typical pizza dough went in (as well as the gluten-free kind), but we also cooked up garlic oil mixed veggies, salmon, steaks and Nutella-filled calzones. Mmmmm.
But let’s be real—families don’t always have time to whip up their own dough or stretch it out like a vintage pizzeria scene. So yeah, we also tried store-bought crusts and frozen pizzas in each of these options.
Only outdoor pizza ovens that took less than 20 minutes to assemble and set up were included in this list because we strongly believe you shouldn’t need an engineering degree to make a fantastic pizza at home.
What to look for when buying a pizza oven
Type of fuel
Price aside, choosing your fuel source is the biggest consideration when buying an outdoor pizza oven. These patio beauties can be heated by propane, charcoal or wood pellets, although all-electric models also exist.
“Personally, I prefer a wood-fired oven as the taste and ambiance around the oven are superior to other types of ovens,” says Russo. “The high temperatures you can achieve with this style of oven allow for a deliciously light and crispy pizza. With a wood-fired pizza oven, there is more work up front. A gas oven is usually just a flip of a switch.”
Propane-fueled pizza ovens are certainly easier to control and offer precision cooking, through the wood pellet ovens turned out the best possible flavor. Charcoal pizza ovens also earn high marks thanks to authentic smokey flavor that throws your mouth into instant Italian vacation mode.
Each style of pizza oven has an interior pizza stone that when heated, gets extraordinarily hot, giving your pies and other dishes a tasty bottom char and crispy exterior that feels and tastes professional grade. This is especially important if you’re the type of pizza eater who asks for “well done” and “charred bottom” pies when you call in take-out and delivery orders.
Size and capacity
“Choose an oven that fits your expected usage. If you only need the oven for the occasional pizza craving, a small one is fine. If you plan to entertain regularly or plan to cook often, a larger outdoor pizza oven would suit you better. Have a budget in mind, because the options are endless and models can range from very affordable all the way up to incredibly expensive.”
How to clean an outdoor pizza oven
“Clean the inside of your oven after each use or as ashes and burnt food matter build-up,” says Russo. “The high heat that these outdoor pizza ovens produce kill off bacteria, so no cleaning products are necessary. Water should never be used as this can damage the oven’s components.”
Adding that, “All you have to do is sweep out any ashes or food that has built up and you’re done! Inspect and clean the flue and cap annually to make sure everything is safe to use. The dome of your oven might also need a waterproof sealant applied annually to ensure the oven is watertight.”
Tips from a pizza pro on making the best pizzas at home
- Never leave your pizza oven unattended. Russo says this is dangerous, but can also result in overdone pizza.
- Always use a peel. Some outdoor pizza oven kits come with their own peels. If yours doesn’t consider one with a long handle like this Ooni model. “A peel with a longer handle is useful in helping to avoid accidental burns on your arms,” he explains.
- Use insulated gloves. “If your oven is portable, always wear insulated gloves when handling the oven after using it—even if you think it’s cooled down.”
- Secure your gas lines. Obviously, this tip is just for gas-powered pizza ovens, but it’s important for safety.
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