Melty. Gooey. Irresistible. The best pizza is the one that just came out of the oven. When you have a pizza oven at home, you can turn them out every night. It’s a home-cooking trend manufacturers are catching onto. There are more options than ever on the market, and they’re becoming simpler to use all the time.
Today’s pizza ovens are maintenance-free, start with a click of a button, and perform every bit as well as a professional pizzeria’s. They’re available in a range of sizes and configurations, from compact and portable to large and built-in, as well as different fuel types.
You might be wondering, What can a pizza oven do for me that the oven I already have in my kitchen can’t? For starters, pizza ovens are specially designed to get the crust extra crispy without burning the toppings. They heat to nearly twice as hot: 800 and 950 degrees F, compared with traditional kitchen wall ovens or gas ranges that hover between 350 and 475 degrees F. So, the peak temperature diffence between a regular oven and a pizza oven separates the family hero from the rest.
Some pizza ovens have a single heat source at the back that heats the entire interior, including the pizza stone base. This ceramic base retains the heat, evenly distributing it across its surface, and extracts moisture from the dough, giving it the light, crisp texture you want. Others pizza ovens offer even more precise cooking for the perfect crisp crust; these have two heat sources, one at the back and one directly under the pizza stone.
Even if you’re not planning on tossing your own homemade dough into the air anytime soon, these high-performance appliances open up a new whole new world of at-home cooking possibilities: You can slide in naan, thinly sliced potatoes, vegetables, fruit pies, and, yes, even frozen pizzas.
The Benefits of a Pizza Oven
Number one: fun. Kids and adults alike love pizza. There are endless recipes and variations to keep both novice and experienced cooks intrigued. A high-quality pizza oven will make your home a natural gathering place for your family and friends—especially once they smell what you’re up to.
Next up: speed. Your pizza will be ready to eat in just a minute or two, depending on its size. High heat and a quality pizza stone practically guarantee pizzeria-quality crispness.
Then there’s the flavor. When you go to a restaurant, you don’t get to choose. At home, you can experiment with using different types of wood or charcoal for a wide range of smoky, satisfying results.
Factors to Consider Before Buying
Pizza ovens may not be as expensive as many other appliances (and they come in a range of prices), but they’re still an investment. Let us shed light on some expectations you might have.
You probably won’t use it every day. If you have a collection of forgotten countertop appliances gathering dust in the back of your pantry, you may want to think twice. You’ll be able to get a lot of use out of a pizza oven—it can do steaks, flatbreads, seared fish, and even desserts—but ask yourself how much value you’ll get out of it after the initial excitement wears off.
It doesn’t make food prep easier. Yes, your pizza will cook in a minute or two flat, and have an authentic, special flavor, but you still have to at least chop ingredients for toppings. If you want truly homemade results, you’ll want to DIY the dough and sauce, too.
It isn’t major money-saver compared with delivery. You can consider your new pizza oven an investment that will eventually pay for itself, but it probably will take a long time for that to happen.
Most pizza ovens are outdoor-only. If you live in an urban apartment without a balcony, your choices are limited to one model. (See our bonus pick below.) Your best option? Invest in a really good pizza stone for your kitchen oven.
The Elements That Matter
As when buying any appliance, it’s essential to make sure that the pizza oven you choose is the one that best fits your wants and needs. Learn which of these features suit you, and let them steer you when shopping.
The Fuel Type: Gas Versus Wood (Including Pellets)
Fuel type is the first and most important consideration. There are two main options: wood- or gas-powered. Both come in a variety of configurations and styles, and both will turn out hot, delicious pizzas. The difference, as with grills, is the convenience. Wood-fired pizza ovens give you that authentic experience and rustic taste, but constantly replenishing your wood or pellets can be inconvenient. A gas-powered model may be more practical for your family, since it’s easier to keep gas on hand. You can also have the best of both worlds if you buy a gas attachment that will allow you to utilize both fuels.
Fun Fact: True pellet grills and smokers such as Traeger and Camp Chef are an exception, since they come with large hoppers. The only downside for pizza aficionados is their lower temperature—it clocks in around 500 degrees F.
Just like a pizza stone, the walls and the dome of a pizza oven retain and reflect the heat inside it. And since a pizza oven works hard to get almost twice as hot as your regular stove, you want to make sure every bit of that energy goes into your pizza.
High-quality insulation doesn’t make a pizza oven heavy, though. Take Ooni’s models, which we’ll talk more about in a minute. They feature a patented ceramic and fiber insulation, which is so efficient that it can be super thin while still heating the interior up to 900 degrees F.
Pizzeria Ovens, Explained
The Configuration: Portable, Built-in, or Freestanding
Each type offers its own benefits—let’s talk them through.
Portable: You used to need a heavy-duty pizza oven to get the high temperatures (over 700 degrees) required for the perfect pizza. However, new improvements in burner performance and insulation materials have led to more affordable, lighter weight, and smaller models, with Ooni being the market leader. Now you can get a pretty darn good pizza oven for under $499. Being able to put it away (or take it with you) is a huge benefit. There’s also next to zero maintenance required.
Built-in: A permanent fixture of your outdoor kitchen, high-end investments are incorporated into a brick structure. A built-in pizza oven lends your set-up an air of luxury and professionalism. Since they are permanent, though, it’s important to plan your build carefully. You want your pizza oven situated out of the wind, so it’s able to maintain the right heat.
Freestanding: These are also on the high-end side of the spectrum, and are as decorative as they are functional. Freestanding pizza ovens can be a bit more of an up-front investment, but they also can help add value to your home and appeal to your backyard landscape. And while they are large and heavy, they’re not permanent fixtures—they’re on casters, so you can wheel them around and out of the wind when you need to.
Our 5 Best Pizza Ovens
1) Best Overall: Ooni Karu 12 Wood or Gas
This Scottish brand, which launched in 2012, makes four models. We’ve found that the Karu 12, its multi-fuel version, is among the very best. It allows you to use either wood or gas as a fuel source, so you can cook with the latter when it’s convenient and experiment with smoky flavor when you have more time. Either method gives you mouthwatering results. Like most other pizza ovens, it can also be used to cook a wide variety of foods. That helps ensure you’ll put it to use, and get the most out of your investment. The Karu 12 is designed for outdoor use, however, so if you’re looking for one to use indoors or lack space, it may not be the best choice for you.
2) Most Convenient: Ooni Koda
Attention, campers and tailgaters: the portable, gas-fueled Ooni Koda is a great choice for you. It has been well reviewed everywhere, and received quality feedback on all its features. Its built-in gas ignition also makes it exceptionally easy to use. As mentioned above, all of Ooni’s pizza ovens have its light but highly effective patented insulation.
3) Best Freestanding: Lynx LPZANG Pizza Oven in Natural Gas or LP
If you’re ready to make an investment, this luxurious Lynx pizza oven is the first in the category that functions as a fully-featured oven. Its clean stainless-steel exterior also brings also a nice aesthetic touch.
4) Most Flexible: Kalamazoo Pizza Oven
Another high-end option, the Kalamazoo pizza oven ranks among the best with its luxury finishes and quick heating time. It cranks up to around 800 degrees F in about 20 minutes—around the same time as a regular kitchen oven, and much faster than its wood-fired competitors. Yet—bonus—you can add cedar to its interior to get that signature smoky flavor. Another smart detail: The back of this pizza oven is designed to be naturally hotter than the front, so you can adjust your food to cook to perfection. This model can also function as a regular oven; simply replace the pizza stone with a cast-iron skillet or a sheet pan.
5) Best for Indoor Use (Bonus Pick): Breville Smart Pizza Oven
It’s a bit of a splurge, but this high-end indoor pizza oven yields amazing results. It’s well reviewed and loved all around. If you’re looking for something that will draw your family into the kitchen, this is it. Your kids will love making fresh pizza right in their kitchen, summer or winter, rain or shine.
To turn out impressive pizzas, you’ll also want:
An infrared thermometer. This is incredibly useful for measuring the temperature of the stone. To get consistent char, take the temperature of the stone between each bake to keep it as hot as possible.
A pizza peel. This is the wooden tool you use to place the pizza in your oven and remove it when it’s ready, and it’s vital for helping prevent burns. It also can be used to slide other baked goods, like bread or pastries, in and out with ease.
Cutting tools. For perfect slices, consider investing in high-quality cutting tools, such as a wheel or rocker blade (aka mezzaluna), or even pizza scissors. These ensure you get even cuts that go all the way through the crust on the first try.
Pizza ovens can add flexibility and fun to your family’s cooking routine. They’re a quick and easy way to make authentic, memorable meals, whether you fire yours up on a weeknight for your nearest and dearest or on a Saturday for a crowd.
They are available in several fuel types and configurations, allowing you to pick the one that works best for you and your family. They’re also quite versatile; you can cook a variety of foods ranging from meat steak to bread to pastries.
There’s only one thing that can make or break your pizza experience: the wind. A pizza oven’s performance relies on consistent, high heat, so take the time to consider where you place yours, especially if you’re building in a high-end stand-alone model.
Can I make a pizza oven out of my expensive built-in gas grill?
If you’ve already invested in a built-in gas grill, you may be wondering if it’s worth purchasing a pizza oven. After all, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of everything you put into your home.
Thankfully, an additional, stand-alone appliance isn’t needed for pizza. When you have a built-in gas grill, you can simply buy a universal pizza attachment for it. This device keeps the heat of your grill concentrated in order to mimic the heat of a stand-alone pizza oven.
One downside of purchasing an attachment rather than a separate pizza oven is that, while still a good choice, they don’t work quite as well as an oven designed for pizza. There’s also the price: An attachment costs almost as much as a budget-friendly pizza oven.
However, if you’re looking for a way to put what you already have to use, an attachment could be a good choice. Just remember that you can’t barbeque while baking with the attachment; it fully covers the grates.
Why can’t I make pizzeria-quality pizza in my kitchen oven?
Regular ovens do not get hot enough. They only reach up to 500 or 550 degrees F. Pizza ovens are nearly twice as hot, clocking in at between 800 and 950 degrees F. Beyond that, gas kitchen ovens oscillate the heat output to maintain internal temperature. This is fine for many types of food, but cold spots are problematic for pizza, which requires consistent high heat output. Invest in a 3/4-inch-thick, high-quality pizza stone to get as close as possible to a gourmet pizza in your kitchen oven.
Can I convert my charcoal grill into a pizza oven?
Yes! You can use one of the universal pizza-oven attachments we mentioned above to turn your charcoal grill into a budget-friendly pizza oven. You may even prefer it, since you’ll be able to use different types of fuel for a wood-smoked taste. As with a gas grill, though, you won’t be able to barbeque while making pizza. The attachment covers the entire surface of the grates.
Is Ooni 3 Outdoor Pizza Oven still around?
No. The Ooni 3 Outdoor Pizza Oven has been discontinued and replaced by the new Ooni Fyra model.
What is Ooni’s newest pizza oven?
Ooni debuted its latest product, the Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven, on June 16. It’s currently available for pre-order; the company expects to start shipping it in October 2021. A stepped-up version of our overall favorite mentioned above, the Karu 12, it’s the first-ever home pizza oven approved by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association in Italy. Ooni says its new design features let you make larger pizzas (16 inches, compared with around 13 inches), give you better temperature control and more fuel-efficient airflow, and make it easier to keep an eye on your pie.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on August 26, 2021. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.