Like most culinary essentials, pizza ovens come in various shapes, sizes, and styles, made of distinct materials and sporting different technologies. Thus, all pizza ovens have pros and cons based on your needs and preferences. However, given the costs, are pizza ovens worth it?
Premium-quality pizza ovens are worth it if you choose a model per your specific needs. Regular ovens don’t generate the heat necessary to make the delectable crust of a pizza without burning the toppings. However, some pizza ovens aren’t suitable for thick crusts.
It isn’t wise to generalize pizza ovens, not only due to their available varieties but also the many types of crusts, toppings, and cooking methods you may consider. This article analyzes the popular options and if those pizza ovens are worthwhile, depending on what you may make.
Which Pizza Ovens Are Worthwhile?
A traditional brick oven and commercial variants, such as convection, conveyor, and deck, are undoubtedly worthwhile. Portable pizza ovens are worth it for home chefs. However, countertop pizza ovens and kits for barbecue, grills, or stoves are a gray area.
I am excluding built-in pizza ovens for this discussion as they’re a high-end option with a steep investment. Also, you may not want a pizza oven to be a permanent fixture, whether in your kitchen or somewhere outdoors. Besides, you may not need a built-in pizza oven.
Furthermore, convection, conveyor, and deck pizza ovens are for commercial kitchens. Many of these industrial or commercial pizza ovens can be extensively customized based on the specific requirements of pizzerias and restaurants. Thus, those are also beyond the ambit of this article.
The excluded types still leave us with several options:
- A traditional brick oven or a bespoke take on it
- Portable pizza ovens
- Countertop models
- Kits for your barbecue, grill, and stovetop
However, it’s first necessary to segregate pizza ovens from regular ovens and microwaves.
Why Are Pizza Ovens Worth It?
Pizza ovens are worth it as they’re highly efficient and effective due to the superhot temperatures they can attain, which could be up to 1,000°F (~538°C) in a few portable and freestanding models. In contrast, most regular ovens reach a maximum temperature of 550°F (~288°C).
Pizza ovens and regular ovens have two fundamental differences:
- The former generates much more heat and uses fire or flames to replicate the traditional baking method of a brick oven. Most pizza ovens use wood, pellets, charcoal, or gas to fuel the fire that produces heat.
- Pizza ovens have a unique design compared to regular ovens. The design emulates the heat transfer mechanism of traditional wood-fired ovens. Brick, tile, clay, and other traditional ovens transfer heat through radiation, convection, and conduction.
Also, the dome and floor of an oven release or reflect absorbed heat in due course. Thus, all traditional ovens have varying degrees of retained heat, depending on the materials used for the dome, floor, insulation, and other elements per the design.
Watch this YouTube video for better visualization:
Modern ovens emulating the traditional design are the simplest and most appropriate way to make pizzas. Additionally, you can make a Neapolitan pizza in a minute or so using the classic design and keep making new ones without any need to wait for the setup to preheat again.
Pizza Ovens Are Great for Making Neapolitan and New York-Style Pizzas
Some regular ovens can reach as high as 850°F (~454°C) but only during the self-cleaning mode and not for cooking. Regular oven temperatures don’t need to reach more than 450 °F (~232°C) for most baking, broiling, and cooking needs. However, pizza is different.
You need the dough to rise to form the crust you desire without excessive charring or burning the toppings. Thus, you need temperatures higher than 475°F (~246°C) for pizza crust or bread dough. Also, you have less time for thin crusts, so the temperature must be higher.
Pizza ovens are not only worth it but necessary to make a Neapolitan pizza and its American cousin, the New York style. If you can’t cook a pizza in under 90 seconds or a max of 2 minutes, you’re unlikely to get an authentic Neapolitan pizza, be it the crust or toppings.
Contemporary Pizza Ovens Can Help You Achieve the Perfect Pizza
Pizza dough should form a light, airy, subtly charred, and mildly smoky crust. Contemporary pizza ovens achieve this with minimal intervention due to the preheated stone on which you place the dough. This heat transfer through conduction is fast and thus supremely efficient.
It’s worth noting here that the heat source or fire inside a pizza oven isn’t under the dough. Else, you may get a burned crust instead of the subtle charring. In seconds, the base of the dough dries slightly and forms a crust. And the convection and radiant heat work from the top and all sides on the toppings and the pie. This combined action makes a delicious pizza.
Now, imagine making a pizza using other methods and appliances. A heat source directly under the dough will harden it swiftly and burn the base. Depending on the dough’s composition and thickness, a slow cooking method will make a hard or soft crust. However, it’ll be heavier and chewy, not the light and airy crust that Neapolitan pizzas and a few styles are known for.
Prolonged exposure to low heat and lack of the combined action of conduction, convection, and radiation won’t cook a pizza properly. You may have a soggy pie, not a crisp crust. The crust won’t have any charring and smoky effects at low temperatures. And the long baking times in high heat will dry the dough and harden it, possibly even burning it beyond edibility.
More importantly, gluten begins to set as you sustain any method of making, baking, or cooking bread for a long time. Naturally, you won’t have an airy, soft, and crunchy pizza crust, but dry, a bit chewy, and often undesirably hard. The solution to all such problems is a pizza oven.
Also, the toppings may be overcooked or undercooked, subject to the temperatures and heat source, including the transfer mechanism. Uneven heat distribution is another problem, which pizza ovens resolve flawlessly with its effortlessly accessible tunnel for you to rotate the pie.
Watch how easy and awesome it is to use a portable pizza oven (~13:36):
10 Reasons To Get a Pizza Oven
Those familiar with pizza ovens will never switch to anything but a built-in or a traditional brick and tile version. If you’ve tried making pizzas in regular gas or electric ovens and perhaps microwaves, you’ll discover a whole new world with modern freestanding or portable variants.
A Pizza Oven Offers Fast Preheat
Regular ovens need an hour of preheating for pizzas. Otherwise, the pizza stone won’t be hot enough for the dough. The solution lies in the likes of Big Horn Outdoors Pizza Oven (available on Amazon.com) that needs only 18 minutes of preheating to reach up to 860°F (460°C).
This stainless steel pizza oven uses wood pellets to create the fire. The high temperatures allow you to make a pizza in ~90 seconds. Also, you can cook a plethora of other foods, from steaks and vegetables to fish and seafood. The pizza stone can make up to 12-inch pizzas (~30 cm).
You’ll Enjoy Swift Cooking With a Pizza Oven
The Ooni Fyra 12 Wood Fired Outdoor Pizza Oven (also on Amazon.com) preheats even faster than the Big Horn. It takes only 15 minutes when using hardwood pellets. Also, this Fyra reaches up to 950°F (510°C).
Thus, you can make a Neapolitan pizza in ~60 seconds. You can make several 12-inch pizzas (~30 cm) without worrying about the fire, hence heat, as the hopper feeds the pellets automatically.
Your Pizza Will Get an Enchanting Crust
Ooni, Big Horn, or the ROCCBOX Gozney Portable Outdoor Pizza Oven (available on Amazon.com) will teleport you to Naples with the crust. The texture, flavor, light and airy but soft and crunchy at the same time with a bit of smokiness and chariness make the crust unmatched compared to regular ovens.
It’s Easy To Use a Pizza Oven
Almost all modern pizza ovens are user-friendly. A BakerStone Professional Series Pizza Oven or Cuisinart Portable Outdoor Pizza Oven (both on Amazon.com) may appear more convenient in the absence of a chimney, larger dome, and hopper housing the pellets.
However, Roccbox, Ooni, or Big Horn deliver much better quality without being demanding or tedious for you in any significant way.
A Pizza Oven Is Very Reliable
Roccbox, Ooni, Big Horn, and similar brands don’t rely on a bouquet of electronics and electrical components for their pizza ovens. Thus, there are fewer variables at play that can go kaput. As a result, you get a predictably reliable piece of hardware with amazing efficacy and efficiency.
It’s Economical To Run a Pizza Oven
The upfront cost aside, pizza ovens are economical to run. The cost of wood, pellets, or charcoal is reasonable. You don’t need any separate essentials as the pizza stone and other components are built-in or included in the kit. Many models like Roccbox include the pizza peel.
A Pizza Oven Is Durable
Charcoal, pellets, or wood-fired pizza ovens endure flames reaching temperatures as high as 1,000°F (~538°C). Naturally, they can withstand enormous pressure. Also, all leading brands in the niche use premium-quality materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum, and stoneware.
You Can Assemble a Pizza Oven Without Tools
The Ooni Fyra 12 pizza oven weighs 22 lb (10 kg), and the Big Horn linked above is 25 lb (~11 kg). Both are reasonably lightweight and conveniently portable. Also, the Big Horn pizza oven has folding legs, and you can quickly assemble the model or take it apart without tools.
A Pizza Oven Is a Rewarding Investment
Calculate how much you may spend on takeout pizzas or the ready-to-cook variants in a year. The total cost of buying a pizza oven and making enough for an entire year will fall substantially short of takeout and even ready-to-cook if you have a family with kids and routinely host friends.
It’s Easy To Host a Party When You have a Pizza Oven
Pizza ovens don’t need repeated preheating because they’re constantly on as you make one serving after another. Those with an automatic hopper feeding system further simplify making dozens of pizzas when hosting friends and guests. Regular ovens aren’t an option for a party.
Pizza Ovens May Not Be Worth It in Certain Scenarios
You can make pizzas in an oven, whether electric or gas. No law necessitates making pizzas in a wood-fired oven or one using pellets, charcoal, or gas. Besides, everyone doesn’t have the same preferences for the types of pizza crust, topping, or the entire texture.
Here are 3 scenarios, also reasons why a pizza oven isn’t worth it:
- You’re happy with your homemade pizzas and their crusts.
- You prefer using ready-made dough and other ingredients.
- You want to make pizzas with thick crusts and plenty of toppings.
Heavier pizzas don’t necessarily need a special oven because they require longer cooking times, often around 20 to 30 minutes. However, a pizza oven is irreplaceable if you want a thin or modestly thick crust with a crisp base and edges, soft and puffy inside, and a delicate texture.
A Deco Chef Outdoor Pizza Oven (available on Amazon.com) will always outperform and outclass your regular cooking appliances at home. This 2-in-1 pizza & grill has a 13-inch (33 cm) stone and 3 insulated stainless steel construction layers. The box includes a pizza peel, scoop, dough scraper, and grill. Also, this model generates up to 950°F (510°C), nearly double of almost all regular ovens.