Pizza Oven Buying Guide | How to Buy a Pizza Oven
Pizza ovens, a veritable triumph of science, make an incredible fast lane between the delicious temptation of crunchy, gooey, molten cheese pizza and you. Can you tell we’re pizza fanatics? Many folks are, and the humble pizza oven is the perfect ticket to pepperoni paradise — perfect for kids’ birthday parties, family dinner nights, game day party cuisine, or literally just because. These machines explode every roadblock between you (or your company) and that crispy celebration of sensational flavors. Not thrilled? Forget the pizza. The infrared heat of these pizza ovens is brilliant for steaks and roasts, while the lower baking temperatures encourage pastries, cobblers, and otherwise fragile desserts.
Versatile machines, they are! These ovens range from the one-at-a-time “personal pan” baking style to the borderline pizza turret of “somebody call Guinness, we’re breaking some records today.” Configurations and variations abound: portable or freestanding pizza ovens bake a few pizzas at home, whereas permanent installations satisfy the true calzone connoisseur.
Wood Pizza Ovens vs Gas Pizza Ovens
Pizza ovens come in a variety of fuel types, but the 2 most common by far are wood fired pizza ovens and gas pizza ovens. Both of these fuel types give you lots of options when it comes to configuration, shape, size, and even color. While both types of oven will diver hot, fresh, and perfectly crispy pizza, there are some small differences in the way they operate – namely the cooking convenience factor. Let's dive right into those differences to help make your decision easier.
Wood Pizza Ovens
Stretching way back to Naples, Italy (circa mid-1800s), this age-old tradition is the way pizza has been made since, well… the literal beginning of pizza, where that classic wood-fired taste started! Upfront, we’ll warn you: that authentic wood-fire pit will be somewhat tougher to work with than a gas model. This may make you ask, “Is the effort worth it?” Answer: ABSOLUTELY. You’ll wind up with satisfyingly crunchy pizza — but these ovens suffer no fools. Are we reinventing thermodynamics? No, that’d be nuts. But wood-fired pizza expects finesse, attention, and an elementary grasp of what occurs when you take topping-laden dough and then make fire happen to it.
Manufacturers build wood pizza ovens in two styles: one cozies up the fire beside the pizza (pretty common, these ones), while the other houses fire in a separate compartment below. The former has the advantage of direct infrared heat, which is powerful, dry, and just plain crazy about crispy crust. They also preheat way faster, though the trade-off requires the hands-on approach — you’ll need to maintain the fire with long tools and physically spin the pizza for even heating. The alternative (the ovens that put the fire in “time out”) are much easier to work with, since you’ll have direct fire access. Heat vents from this compartment to the pizza chamber, which means no need to spin that pie. While ash is less of a concern, note that separating the fire and pizza means… well, get comfortable for that longer warmup!
Gas Pizza Ovens
Do you love molten, gooey pizza? Is “effort” a dirty word? Boy, do we have the solution for you! Gas-powered pizza ovens are the dream: all the amazing cheesy goodness of a freshly home-cooked pie minus the hassle of burning stuff. For those of you all about the convenience, gas pizza ovens are incredibly easy to use — forget chopping wood, forget lighting fire, simply twist the dial and smile! Honestly, it feels like cheating. These machines are excellent friends to anyone who wants a simple pizza oven for smaller gatherings, quick and fun dinners for the family, or even pizza addicts who want minimal effort when they need their flavorful formaggio fix.
Gas pizza ovens range from traditional burners to all-infrared machines (like the Lynx Napoli). While an infrared burner nicely mimics the heat of a wood fire, many pizza ovens are limited to convective heat — that means more moisture, which hampers crunchy crusts. That said, they’re still possible on a gas pizza oven. Fuel happens through bulk natural gas lines or your standard portable propane tanks. If you opt for propane power, installation’s about as simple as it gets. Natural gas builds? Maybe not so much. You’ll need to connect to the natural gas utility line provided by your local utility company, and “hire a licensed plumber” is the name of that game. Truly, they’re the only folks who can properly verify your natural gas line has the appropriate volume and pressure to support that lean, mean pizza-making machine.
Note: Wood-fired and gas-fueled are probably the two pizza ovens you’ve heard of, but did you know other varieties exist? Surprise! Beyond these two, there are electric and pellet pizza ovens. Electric is reasonably self-explanatory, but multi-fuel pizza ovens usually run from wood or pellets. Pellets win the convenience game, delivering the flavor and dry heat of wood fire without the cleanup factor.
Pizza Oven Configurations
Built-In Pizza Ovens
Remember how basically everything we’ve covered has come in two versions? Buckle in, because we’re going pedal-to-the-metal on that trend. Of two designs here, the first features finished exteriors (frequently, stainless steel) and can be built into an enclosure or mounted to a cart. The other is a DIYer’s playground: ready-to-finish pizza ovens that provide the interior shell and necessary internals, then let you go wild with the exterior (such as capturing the aesthetic of true Italian brick pizza ovens). Built-in pizza ovens involve a ceramic or stone shell within a brick-constructed enclosure, which often houses a propane tank or a cubby for wood storage. If you plan to make a pizza oven the superstar of your outdoor kitchen — or you’re thinking, “forget the rest of the kitchen, I want a mouthful of melted mozzarella right now” — then the built-in pizza oven is your new best friend. Play nice, kids!
Countertop Pizza Ovens
Think about that enclosure-friendly, cart-mounted built-in variant, and you’ve got the basics for a countertop pizza oven. These finished pizza ovens are designed to sit atop a flat surface, like a cart or counter, with exteriors to deflect the elements. Now, these are made to vent a lot of heat through open air, so enclosures will wreak some havoc, but some models give you a choice between countertop and built-in installations like the Alfresco countertop pizza oven, which comes in either countertop or built-in configuration via a heat-venting chimney. Countertop units are fantastic for folks who already have their kitchen situation sorted and want to give it extra versatility. Sure, pizza power is great and all — but pizza ovens do way more than that. Steaks! Chops! Roasts! Cakes, pies, and cobblers? You bet. Roasted vegetables, braised lamb, artisanal bread and more are at your fingertips!
Freestanding Pizza Ovens
Freestanding pizza ovens are great for those who want simple cooking capability added to their outdoor space, or limited space for permanent installations. Generally speaking, these are finished pizza ovens on a cart (that’s right: we’re still on the cart thing). Both the ovens themselves and their carts vary in shapes and sizes for any environment. Mobility is a real boon here; they can be moved around a space to suit your needs, or stored under a cover and away from sight until it’s time to rev up that perfect popping pizza party. Compared to building an oven into an enclosure, or a large DIY pizza oven, this is the less expensive and wildly easier approach. Freestanding pizza ovens come in all fuel types, including both variants of the wood-burning pizza oven mentioned above. They’re big on being helpful like that.
Portable Pizza Ovens
What, mobility not good enough for you? Why not just make the entire design portable, then? Oh wait, that totally exists. Incidentally, portable pizza ovens are the smallest and least expensive of pizza machines everywhere. A diminutive cooking chamber makes for very little fuel consumption and an overall compact design — perfect for easy storage until you want to go camping or tailgating. That’s right: camping! Please take this camping, it’s an awesome experience. A portable gas, wood, or pellet pizza oven makes any outdoor trip with friends and family memorable. Now, let’s swing back to that small cooking chamber: your trade-off is single pizzas at a time. However, these designs are best for anyone who just wants to bake the occasional pie at home, or whoever looks at outside and thinks, “All the world's a pizza parlor.”
What Size Pizza Oven do You Need?
Pizza ovens come in all sizes, but to make things easier we've divided our pizza oven selection into 4 distinct size ranges. Our pizza experts get a lot of questions from customers on the maximum size of pizza that can fit inside an oven, but to compare models we find it helps to imagine how many pizzas of a certain size can fit inside the oven instead of the potential maximum. We use 12-inch pies to help show the difference in size between ovens, but some of our XL models can fit absolutely enormous pies. The only limitation is what you can lift into the oven!
Small Pizza Ovens
- Up to 26 inches wide
- Can fit only 1 12-inch pizza at a time
- For those who just want to be able to make a pizza when the craving strikes
Medium Pizza Ovens
- 27-33 inches wide
- Can cook between 2-4 12-inch pizzas at once
- Great for small families or for small get-togethers with a limited guest count
Large Pizza Ovens
- 34-42 inches in width
- Can accommodate 4-6 12-inch pizzas simultaneously
- Perfect for game days or large family dinners where everyone builds their own personal pizza
XL Pizza Ovens
- 43 inches and up in width
- Can accommodate 4-6+ 12-inch pizzas at a time
- For the pizza party host with the most – great for celebrating or for large events
Which Class of Pizza Ovens is Best For You?
As you’ve surely gathered by now, there are many factors at play when deciding on the perfect pizza oven (if they were toppings, the delivery place would charge an arm and a leg). We know that as well as anyone — for more than 20 years, our experts have tested every kind of pizza oven there is. Using their wealth of knowledge, we split our massive selection into 4 easy-to-understand classifications: Luxury, Premium, Practical, and Entry-Level. How did we judge them, you ask? It’s a combination of quality, performance, and features that lands a pizza oven in its particular class. See below for a brief overview of what each pizza oven class has to offer.
Luxury Pizza Ovens
- Ideal form and function combine to give you stunning craftsmanship and perfect pizza
- Top-of-the-line materials and lifetime warranties provide years of ultimate outdoor cooking
- Refractory cooking domes couple with smart chimneys for masterful heat retention
- Luxury features like interior lights and split glass doors add functionality and charm
Premium Pizza Ovens
- High-level versatility and customizability for your dream backyard pizzeria
- Mixed materials up to commercial-grade stainless steel are backed by solid warranties
- Thick insulation and heavy-gauge materials result in excellent performance
- Fun accessories plus unique features make for an immersive cooking experience
Practical Pizza Ovens
- Budget-friendly ovens made from a variety of materials with slimmer warranties
- Can still achieve scorching temperatures despite relatively thin materials and less insulation
- Temperature maintenance is a breeze thanks to easy-to-access, offset fire boxes
- Lack the wide array of features and accessories common in higher classes
Entry-Level Pizza Ovens
- Portable models are easy on the wallet and light enough to come along on any trip
- Built from a mixture of steel grades and equipped with warranties that top out at 1 year
- Can generally fit no more than a single pizza at a time in their small cooking chambers
- Smallest selection of features in any class
Pizza Oven Construction
Most of the pizza ovens you’ll see are assembled from some sort of steel exterior and refractory cement interior. Powder-coated or painted steel make less expensive ovens, but stainless steel trumps them in two ways: they hold up better against the weather, and they tend to last a heck of a lot longer. If you know your grills, 304-grade stainless steel might ring a bell — it’s the most desirable exterior metal here, too, thanks to its outstanding weather resistance and lifespan. The belly of the beast is a bit different. Some models consist of a single poured cement dome; others are steel bodies with refractory tile floors; others still are steel throughout (but often cling to that refractory cement, though it’ll be an insert below the pizza). DIY and ready-to-finish models skip the exterior (that’s your job!) and are simply an inner shell ready to be outfitted for your kitchen.
Pizza Oven Accessories
If we’ve done our job right, you’re much better equipped to pick an outdoor pizza oven. But the real fun’s in the journey, right? Bona fide pizza mastery is quite the endless frontier to tame; it’s a lawless land, and you’ll need to be equipped for the job with your trusty pizza accessories.
If you’re the Sheriff of Tasteville, your favorite deputy should be the classic pizza peel. Wooden peels help build pizzas, while metal peels handle them around scorching heat (bonus: get both). Deputy number two? The classic pizza cutter. Cutting boards make great backup; cast-iron cookware is awesome for wrangling more complex oven recipes. Don’t forget to keep your investment protected with a pizza oven cover! If you can’t decide, pizza accessory bundles tie up all the tools you’ll need to maintain order and stock up on incredible home-baked pizza.
That Western metaphor was pretty wild, right? Anyway, pizza ovens are basically the best thing ever and every single outdoor kitchen definitely deserves one. Scratch that: everyone deserves one. You count as part of “everyone,” right? Awesome! Stop reading this paragraph and go get one right now — unless you still have questions, at which point we can still absolutely help. Our fantastic pizza experts are standing by and waiting for your call! Give them a buzz at 1-877-743-2269! (And tell them your favorite pizza joke. Remember, a groan just means you’re winning!)
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