Everything You Need to Know About At-Home Pizza Ovens

Whether you're in the market for a pizza oven or are the proud new owner of one, here's everything you need to know about making pies from scratch at home.

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June 30, 2022

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With the ability to hit temperatures your standard oven (and even your grill in some instances!) simply can’t, at-home pizza ovens have definitely proved their value by creating the crispiest crust and perfectly melted cheese without overcooked toppings. We’ve tested many pizza ovens (including five popular Ooni ovens and the indoor pizza oven from Breville) and have talked with expert chefs to determine which ones are the best, so it’s safe to say we know our way around making pizza at home. Here, we’re diving deep into everything you need to know about at-home pizza making — whether you already have a pizza oven and don’t quite know where to start or need a little more convincing to take the plunge.

How Exactly Do Pizza Ovens Work?

Pizza ovens rely on high, retained heat to bake your crust to crispy perfection while simultaneously cooking (but not burning) your toppings. To achieve this ideal cooking environment, pizza ovens rely on the circulating heat, not the open flame, to cook your food. Full-size pizza ovens contain insulated layers of bricks and tiles, which allows them to reach impressively high temperatures of up to 900 degrees F. Portable pizza ovens like the Ooni are made of insulated carbon steel, which is known for standing up to high temperatures which get up to 950 degrees F.

While that high heat can deliver a perfectly crispy crust and melted, gooey cheese, it's important to stay aware of the short amount of time the pizza will be in the oven when it comes to cooking any additional toppings like veggies and meat. Depending on what toppings you’re adding, it might be a good idea to give them a quick precook on the stove and cut them into small, thin pieces. It’s also important to use a dough recipe that is meant for high heat like this one developed by Food Network Kitchen specifically for pizza ovens.

The Difference Between Pizza Ovens

When purchasing a pizza oven, it’s important to understand what your options are. Portable pizza ovens, such as models from Ooni and Roccbox, are great if you want to bring them with you on a camping trip or need flexibility in your outdoor setup. (Keep in mind, these are designed for outdoor use, only.) They typically don’t take up much space, but that small frame might be limiting if you are hoping to make larger pizzas.

Pizza oven kits tend to require a more elaborate set-up and are not portable, and the more traditional pizza oven facade might be appealing depending on your style and space. If you’re looking for a fixture to add to your home that will add value and double as decor? This pizza oven is a great option for you.

Indoor, countertop ovens, like Breville’s Pizzaiolo can also reach impressive temperatures and therefore cook quality pizza quickly. With an indoor oven, you’ll get more precise cooking temperatures and the ability to use settings for pan pizza, New York, wood fired and thin and crispy Chicago style pizza. But, with the convenience of cooking indoors also comes a higher price tag than most outdoor, portable pizza ovens.

How to Choose Between Wood, Pellet and Gas Ovens

Most pizza ovens, including both portable oven and oven kit models, come in both wood- and gas-fired options. While you don’t typically have to choose (most brands offer pizza ovens that can switch between wood and gas), brands like Ooni offer less-expensive models that only have one heat-source option. When deciding which firing source is right for you, there are a couple things to consider:

  • While you might miss out on some of that wood-burned flavor, gas can be a better option if you need the ability to control your temperature. Gluten-free pizzas, for example, need to be cooked at a lower temperature, so having the ability to control and manipulate the temperature can come in handy.
  • Gas is also more convenient. Rather than having to tend to a fire, you can just set it and forget it. Similar to comparing a charcoal grill to a propane grill, you are mainly deciding between flavor and convenience. If you are looking for a machine that can churn out fast, weeknight meals, gas is a must.
  • But, according to Food Network Test Kitchen Director, Ginevra Iverson, "If you are really trying to live your best pizzaiola life then the wood fired ones are where it's at."

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind

When installed and used correctly, pizza ovens are extremely safe and user-friendly, but there are some important tips to remember to make sure you’re keeping safety in mind.

  • While portable pizza ovens are roughly the same size as some countertop appliances, it’s important to remember that portable ovens and kits are not to be used inside.
  • When used outside, make sure to follow the products’ instructions pertaining to how much space needs to be kept between the appliance and a wall (some portable ovens require up to three feet of open space around a pizza oven, meaning they might not be a great option for balconies) and what is required for proper ventilation.
  • We also recommend talking to an expert before building your own pizza oven with a kit, as they can be hazardous if not done correctly.

Some Accessories Are Necessary

Our testers stressed the importance of having multiple pizza peels on-hand to get your pizzas in and out of the oven. In addition, French steel or cast iron pans make it easy to cook foods like chicken wings and fish in your pizza oven, and this griddle plate makes cooking steaks in the oven a no-brainer.

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