pizza oven

Why Should I Buy a Pizza Oven, and What Should I Look For?

outdoor pizza ovenHere’s the question of the year for many die-hard foodies and those who appreciate fine food! Why should I buy a pizza oven? After all, my regular oven wasn’t exactly cheap, so I’d like to use it as much as possible when I need to bake something.

What Do You Mean I’m Biased?

Okay fine, I am a little biased in my view towards pizza ovens, but in all fairness, it might be good to know just a little tiny bit about me before you read what I have to say. It will definitely put things into proper perspective.

I was born a long, long time ago…. Okay, forget that! I was, however, raised in a poor, Eastern European immigrant family in Southern Ontario, Canada. We were brought up with the idea that if there was ever anything at all that we could survive without, then we should NEVER buy it under any circumstances. Even if we had extra cash on hand, it will undoubtedly be needed for a future emergency, so we would save every extra penny (literally) for the lean times ahead! With that as a backdrop, you can see why I’m probably one of the most frugal cheapskates you’ll ever know. Don’t believe me? Okay, just for fun I’ll bite! Check this: We live on a fairly nice small hobby farm, so my family and I don’t take vacations – EVER. I have 3 small kids and a beautiful wife who’ve never been on any sort of vacation – in 25 years!!! I always buy my vehicles for just a few thousand bucks at the end of their lifespans and then work on them for as long as possible to make them still roll forward for years to come! I rarely grace the doors of a grocery store (I grow all my own stuff – cheaply!) and never grace the door of a retail outlet other than Home Depot or Costco. All my clothing comes from a thrift store … and I do mean ALL! Okay, too much information I know, but if I’m not the king of cheap, I’m certainly a world-class competitor for the title!

Yes, I am a cheapskate!

Put it All Together

Put it all together and you’ll see that I’m not exactly a great candidate to purchase a pizza oven, which is, after all, a luxury item which is of course, not necessary as long as I have a regular oven in my kitchen. What would possess me to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a niche product which I probably won’t use every day or perhaps even every week? My parents would be mortified if they knew I bought one! So why should I buy a pizza oven?!

I’m Glad You Asked!

Let me say right off the bat, that pizza ovens are not for everyone. If you lack a stomach or taste buds, you don’t need one! Okay, I’ll cut out the sarcasm, but it’s really true about pizza ovens not being for everyone. My parents, for example, don’t really care about enjoying food. For them, eating food is a necessary component of staying alive. Most of their food is green, leafy and bitter. My dad always tells me “you don’t eat food to enjoy – you eat food to keep you alive and healthy”. He has a point – how much better would we all be if we heeded even part of that advice. Having said that, I believe we can find a balance between pure, excellent nutrition, and some semblance of taste and enjoyment. God gave us taste buds for a reason, and there are so many things in nature that cater to our enjoyment of their presence in our mouths!   So let’s get to it! Here are some excellent reasons to get an oven if it’s at all in the budget.

Pure Taste

This may come as a surprise for those who know me, but I believe there is some validity to simple taste as being a valid reason to eat. If you’ve never compared a regular pizza made in a 400-degree oven with the same version made with appropriate flour and dough in a 900-degree oven, then you don’t really care since you don’t know the difference. It’s like a guy who grew up riding a donkey for transportation all his life and then experienced driving an old 1989 Hyundai Pony automobile for the first time. He’d be thrilled and fascinated to the point that if someone offered him a BMW (assuming he’s fresh from the jungle), he wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t mean anything to him since to him, both cars are generally the same! It’s only for us artisanal-minded (dare I say spoiled?) folks, that there is a real difference in both those cars, as well as pizza preparation.   The rich flavor that results from the direct flame (especially carefully chosen wood burning only inches from the pie) is something that cannot be replicated in a traditional oven sitting beside your fridge. Included in the concept of flavor, is the texture of the crust that comes with using 00 rated flour, and baking at HIGH temperatures.pizza slice

Nutrition

Most people would never put the words PIZZA and NUTRITION in the same sentence unless they were attached with the words “is not”. That’s because, in the Western world, we’ve destroyed and messed up the original version of pizza and made it as absolutely unhealthy as is humanly possible! That’s no joke! Do you realize that pizza can be either the worst junk food in the world (literally) by using ultra refined bleached white flour mixed with contaminated, chemical laden tap water, then topped with nothing but unhealthy fat products including fake, processed and synthesized, gooey cheese and super-greasy processed pepperoni with half an inch of hydrogenated fat oils artificially processed and extracted from products that DON’T EVEN HAVE OIL, like soybeans and corn? Or, a pizza can be one of the healthiest foods you can eat by using only flour made from non-GMO ancient grains and pure, filtered spring water, topped with organic ingredients like a tiny bit of goat cheese and organic tomatoes and garlic, then baked very quickly so the nutrients don’t get baked away. That encompasses all food groups, and in a format that’s healthier than most others. I find myself usually coming in right between those two extremes! By the way, regarding that last point of baking quickly, here’s the reasoning; If you bake at lower temps for a longer time, ingredients tend to give up their healthy contents like antioxidants (found in most fruits/vegetables). If you cook quickly, you run the risk of having raw toppings or just slightly warm vegetables which have the nutrition but lack the taste you were going for. So you can’t win, right? Indeed you can. Just bake the vegetables on your pizza for 90 seconds and that will bake the crust, sauce, cheese and slightly braze the exterior of your veggies, making them collide with the cheese and become hot and full of flavor, but still have the nutrients inside!

Experience

If you’re still wondering about the question of “why should I buy a pizza oven”, consider this: the experience of owning a pizza oven will allow you to slow down a bit at the end of a day and smell the unique aroma of a real fire (in both wood-fired or propane models) in perhaps a relaxing outdoor atmosphere, surrounded by family or friends who are anxious for what you can provide. You’ll experience an element of old world tradition using a traditional pizza peel and you’ll connect with the earth in a more elemental and natural way after spending an entire day on the 17th floor of an office building wearing a suit and dealing with stress (sorry, I’m not trying to make you feel bad about your job – I promise!).

Versatility

Pizza ovens (specifically wood-fired traditional), have been used for centuries to prepare all types of foods. Think about this; when pizza was invented in Naples, ovens were not created just to make pizza. The opposite was true since ovens were being used for bread for hundreds of years before those same ovens started making pizza! You can make bread, roast meat, vegetables and even pastries.

Economy of Time

With high temperatures of around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, not only are you locking in nutrients on your healthy toppings (broccoli anyone? Yes, really!), but your pizza is done in about 90 – 120 seconds. If that isn’t fast enough for a pizza, consider that if you wanted to (though I might not suggest it for one cook with one peel), you can make 3 or 4 pies at the same time in a larger oven – in 90 seconds! Talk about economical!

That was FAST!

Saves Energy

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to throw this idea out there, but from a certain perspective, it’s true! If you use a wood-fired pizza oven, you’ll use only wood as fuel, which for some, is more readily available and cheaper than using electricity or gas. It will certainly save on your fuel bill or your electric bill.

Super Social!

Here’s a good one; If you’ve never considered this, then now’s as good a time as any. Here’s a true story that can be repeated numerous times the world over. Someone comes over for a beer or coffee one day to chat, and they see you wood-fired pizza oven on the patio. It’s a great conversation starter on its own and the conversation about how you thought of getting it, then how you built it and then what you bake in it, continues for over 20 minutes. You subtly suggest to have your friend over for a meal with pizza made in the oven, and they gratefully accept. After your dinner with friends, they half-jokingly suggest you have an “authentic pizza making party” with more friends, and after one thing leads to another, you find yourself ding just that about a month later with 4 couples or families enjoying not only the unique product but the fun experience of an authentic baking process that involves nearly everyone with their own pizza peel and their own, customized pie, just like making smores over an open fire! It’s a stress-free (relatively) socially exciting culinary, artisanal celebration! That’s a reality that is only tempered by your own personality and whether or not you like having your yard or deck filled with family and friends! Need I say more?

NOW WHAT?

Well, after reading all that, if you’re still with me, then I think you might be ready for the next step. Are you? Hmmm… let’s see if you have what it takes! The next step is to start your research on what type of pizza oven to get, and how to get it!

Fist Step

The first issue you’ll need to grapple with (in a fun way) is the overall picture of how/where/when will normally use your oven, and how much you can afford to spend in order to fulfill this culinary vision. This will end up telling you whether you’ll get a small, electric Betty Crocker warmer/oven or an authentic Italian made backyard brick, pizza-making fashion statement! Here are some questions to consider;

How Much Cash You Got?

How big is your budget? If it’s under $100, then your life will be far less complicated. You can grab one of these ovens without breaking the bank, and if you take the time to use the right ingredients, you’ll experience something just a step up from your regular oven. If you live in an apartment or small condo, you may have to settle for something a little less than an authentic wood-fired oven, but you may still be able to get a great propane, portable model which will definitely give you a far more authentic pizza experience than your fancy indoor regular oven ever could.

Are You a Regular User?

If you don’t plan on making pizza more than once or twice a month, my inclination would be to stick to a more modest sized gas burning model which would be way easier to clean, and far more moveable, hide-able and affordable. I suggest this option even if you DO have space for a larger model in your yard. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are a social butterfly and you live on the outskirts of town (or otherwise have some open green space separating your backyard from your neighbor’s bedroom window), and you love entertaining, then, as long as the budget allows, you’re the perfect candidate for a larger, authentic, backyard pizza oven model.

Of course, these are simple generalizations and you can tweak your decision based on the specifics of your own situation. There is one important note here; some counties or city ordinances don’t allow for such things as outdoor wood fire burning, so you may want to confirm your local by-law requirements. Also, even if you’re allowed to burn, you may want to consider whether your burning will affect the relationship you may or may not have with your neighbor. If your oven is right under his bedroom window, you may not be his “culinary hero” if he’s trying to sleep in a room filled with mesquite smoke!

A Basic Overview

On this website, we review a lot of different pizza oven options and we get into the specifics of each one as the information is available from the manufacturer and as we experience them along with other reviewers and customers. For now, this article won’t deal too much with specific models, but I’d like to give you a basic overview of what you can expect to find when you start your search.

Electric
Wisco 560E commercial pizza oven

Wisco Electric Pizza Oven

On the lowest end of the price scale, you’ll find a good selection of indoor electric pizza ovens. These are typically not so much ovens as they are kitchen appliances that bake pizza. They tend to make smaller pies (often 12 inches in diameter) with a crispy crust in a short time. They are a great example of “you get what you pay for”. They do offer a value in the product they deliver, however, but it’s definitely a “starter model” at the sub $100 price point. Coming in at around $150-ish, is another type of electric, consumer model which is domed and looks like it’s trying to pass itself for a wood-fired model, but it’s an electric model which only gets to around 450 degrees or so, so it won’t quite give you the high temperatures needed for authentic quick baking. Finally, while still staying in this category of electric indoor pizza ovens, there are a few models that look like mini-commercial stainless steel box ovens but with a price point in the $200-$300 range. These are higher quality units that will last longer and offer a bit more versatility than the lower price models but still are not able to get into the 700˚F – 800˚F range given their technical construction and also for safety reasons.

BBQ Accessory

Also in the same general price category would be another, very different product which does a similar job to the indoor electric models. It’s a BBQ accessory which fits on top of your grill and does a pretty decent job at simulating an artisan pizza with high heat and a short timeframe. It’s not a large unit so the pizza won’t be extra large, but it’s not a bad option if you have a BBQ. These are somewhere between $100 and $200 and while they may be a better price option than electric models (if you own a BBQ), at around 450-500 degree maximum temperatures, they still don’t quite enter the temperature range of the authentic big boys.

Step it Up a Notch – Bring on the Gas!

Stepping up the ladder of price and quality brings us to propane gas models of pizza ovens. Similar in price and function as a barbecue, these models come in at the $300-$600 range (subject to change over time of course), but now we’re into the big leagues in terms of temperature. Temps in the 700-degree range are now possible for a more authentic product! Of course, the big thing you’ve just forfeited from our previous indoor and electric models is the convenience of being indoors. Now, it’s a bit of a pain to head out into the cold, black night in Northern Minnesota in January if you want a simple, authentic pizza. But then, if you don’t use it and just toss a frozen pie into the oven, you’ll start to feel guilty for having spent the money on it in the first place!

And Finally….

Finally, we enter the full-fledged big leagues (I’m not really a baseball guy so I’m not sure why all the baseball references, but let’s just go with it!). These are the wood-fired models which bring you pretty much as far as you can go for pure authenticity. However, there are TONS of options in this category as well as huge price differences. You can pay over $10,000 if you wanted, but models in the $3000 – $5000 are not unusual at all. Lots of companies around the world make such ovens and we have information about some of the best worldwide!

The Big One – Full-Size Brick!

Once you get into this category, you’ll need to consider more issues than with any of the previous options, but it can also be more fun and allow for a lot more options, and it’ll definitely give you a taste that is literally second to none in the world! I mentioned earlier about city by-laws as a consideration as well as neighborly relations. If you’ve passed that test, the next item to consider is the layout of your home or general oven location. We wanted a wood-fired model, but after some thought and discussion, we settled on a good gas model for one main reason; We have a very large deck that nearly spans the entire width of our home, and extends out from our home about 30 feet. That means that if we wanted to build a large, brick, wood-fired, domed super oven, we’d want to do it on the solid ground, which would be a long-ish, and somewhat inconvenient walk (especially on dark, snowy winter nights) of around 35-40 feet in any direction to reach the ground (and then, only after scaling a set of stairs with snow and sleet …. In the dark!) If your situation is more accommodating to having such an oven, it may be worth exploring the option of a full-sized, brick oven. That would be doubly true if you love to entertain.

Portable – A REALLY Good Option

When I say portable, I don’t necessarily mean it’s meant to constantly move around. This category is almost the same as the full-sized brick authentic oven in producing the final product, but the ovens are smaller versions, which means they are technically portable (if you really want to bring them along on a camping trip) or they are at least light enough to put on a wood deck and simply cover (like a BBQ) when not in use. These models run closer to $1500 as a starting price and you would theoretically have these for the rest of your life! (and I hope it’s a long one at that!) There are a few models worth considering that use pellets instead of sticks or logs, which can result in a very different looking design. There is a danger of pellets not being able to generate the necessary heat for true authenticity, but I’m guessing the makers of pellet pizza ovens have thought of this and overcome that issue. At least I hope so given the cost of these units!

Camp Chef Portable Pizza Oven

There’s more to be said, but here’s a lot of reading! I will say that with all of these categories I’ve explained, there are quite a number of pizza oven models that break the rules a bit and cross the lines. For example, there’s a large capacity propane model that is more expensive than some small wood-fired units, etc. You’ll find that across the board, and that’s okay. That’s what makes the research into which pizza oven to buy, a FUN experience.

While You’re At It…

As you begin your pizza oven shopping experience, I’d love to suggest you start with our reviews in order to take the next step to getting a bit more specific in the type of oven you’re looking for. You’ll find the appropriate categories on our home menu. You’ll also quickly realize there are additional accessories you may (or absolutely will) need, depending on which option you choose. We have articles highlighting some of those items, like pizza peels, baking stones, etc. and they go into more depth. For now, I’d love to give you a super brief overview so you can at least start that buying process if you need to.

The Peel

The pizza peel is the big, long-handled (or short-handled) spatula used in placing and extracting the pizza into a larger wood-fired oven. It can even be used as the surface upon which you create your pie (be sure to sprinkle with lots of dry cornmeal to prevent sticking), and even as a cleaner for the base of your brick oven (if you wrap it with a wet cloth and rub the oven floor or baking surface). The peel itself can be wood or aluminum and each has their merits. If you only get one, we’d suggest an aluminum peel which is a bit more versatile.

The Pizza Stone

Pizza Peels, Cutter and Stone

You may not need a pizza or baking stone if you have a decent quality pizza oven since the stone or baking base is included. The stone is a ceramic disk that is used often with a conventional oven, to mimic the effect of an authentic stone pizza oven. If you have an outdoor pizza oven, there is no need for any additional base for the pizza since the inside floor of the oven is the actual surface upon which you’ll place your pizza. If you’d like to experiment WAY on the opposite side of the spectrum of pizza-making, you may want to consider a stone for your conventional oven, as it will give you a crispier crust (even at 450 degrees) if you follow the process of preparing the stone to receive the raw pizza.

Pizza Cutter

You may already have one or more of these fun accessories, and if you, I’d say you’re good to go. On the other hand, if you’re opening a new chapter in your culinary lifestyle, you could go all out and get something unique and conversation-worthy! Just a thought!

Wood holder

Wood holders come in all shapes and sizes, but all are meant to accomplish the same thing; to hold a small pile of wood or a log or two, off to the side of a pizza oven. This allows you to clean and utilize the rest of the oven floor without random coals crashing down on your pizza. The holders we’ve seen are nearly works of art, and they do help with heat management (ie. Help increase air flow), but they can be a bit pricey at nearly $100 per unit. I do know that most pros use them and of course, there’s no reason they won’t last your entire lifetime and beyond. It’s really all about budget, value, and priority on this one. Here’s a great resource if you’re wondering about what kind of wood to use or where to get it.

Dough Mixer

It’s not the first thing you think about when you say “pizza”, but let me assure you, once you get into the pizza lifestyle in a big way, you’ll not only want to make your own dough, but you’ll become (dare I say this) a pizza snob!  Yes, you’ll only use “00” flour and you’ll make the process into an art.  That particular art will be WAAAAAY easier if you have a way of quickly, easily and more efficiently mixing the ingredients.  We own one of the better mixers around, so we have lots to say on this matter!

You’re Done!

You are pretty well set up at this point to start your research (I hope you’ve made notes) and I hope our site can be of help to you. Most of my focus every single day of my life is to continually research topics and products that will help you in your quest for the perfect pizza. After all, most of the entire world LOVES pizza, so why shouldn’t we make it as tasty and beneficial for our bodies as possible? That’s the goal here at pizza oven review, and I’m glad you’ve joined us at least for a while in that quest! Happy Eating!

 

 

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