How to pick the best outdoor pizza oven

Whether old, young, vegan or omnivorous, just about everybody loves pizza. With so many alternatives to wheat and cheese, it can even be an allergy-friendly dish. And there’s no party like a pizza party, especially when that pizza party is in your backyard.

While you can make a pizza in a standard oven, it takes care and a few extra tricks, and it can’t match the charred crust and stretchy cheese of a mom-and-pop pizza place. Luckily for pie-loving consumers, there are more great home pizza ovens to choose from than ever before.

What makes a good pizza oven?

The biggest reason that a normal oven doesn’t make great pizza is that it doesn’t get hot enough, especially on the bottom. Commercial pizza ovens put the crust in direct contact with a nearly 1,000-degree surface, something no home oven can do.

Furthermore, that kind of heat won’t just stay in the oven. Unless you have industrial-grade ventilation in your kitchen, an outdoor pizza oven is the way to go for the most satisfying results.

Fuel type

Almost all outdoor pizza ovens use either gas or wood as a heat source. Gas models are pretty straightforward. Most are designed for propane, but some are outfitted for natural gas. You can also buy kits that convert some propane ovens to natural gas, although that will make them considerably less portable. Once lit, the gas burner heats the entire oven, which is engineered to retain as much heat as possible. A great deal of that heat is stored in the lower surface, in a dense layer of stone or metal. The heat radiates throughout the oven’s body and leads to the perfect temperature for cooking pizza.

Pellet-fired pizza ovens are only slightly different. Unlike traditional wood-fired pizza ovens, where you actually start a fire inside the main cavity, most pellet ovens have a hopper on the back that you fill with pellets. You light the pellets, which burn similarly to charcoal, and that flame heats the body of the oven. Just like with professional wood-fired ovens, you’ll end up with the unmistakable flavor of savory wood smoke baked into your pie.

They both work well, especially with the latest refinements offered by the most experienced manufacturers. The biggest differences are that gas ovens are much easier to clean, but pellet ovens impart a complex, iconic smokey flavor. It’s also easier to travel with wood pellets than bulky propane tanks. At any rate, you might not have to decide up front, because some of today’s best pizza ovens work with both gas and wood pellets.

Size

If you’re cooking pizzas at restaurant-level temperatures of 900+ degrees, you can finish the job pretty quickly. In that light, you don’t necessarily have to make one gigantic pie for the entire party, which you would have to do using a common oven. In other words, you don’t need a massive, 2-foot-wide pizza oven when you can fire one off in just 3 minutes.

The most affordable high-quality pizza ovens can accommodate a roughly 12-inch pizza. That’s easily one entire serving, and in many cases, it’s two. But if you plan on regularly hosting decent-size gatherings, consider a 16-inch model. It will take a bit longer to heat up and use slightly more fuel, but it’s a good choice if you have the space for it.

Portability

Many outdoor pizza ovens are permanent installations made of brick or some sort of masonry. You can invest in one of those if you want, but they are more expensive and take a great deal of work and money to build. Plus, you can’t take a brick oven to a tailgate party.

Some of today’s best pizza ovens exist at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. In fact, one of the most highly regarded options, the Ooni Koda, weighs only 30 pounds, which is hundreds less than a brick pizza oven. The point is, you don’t have to compromise and get something questionable if you want to host a pizza party in the park or at somebody else’s house. Some of today’s best options are engineered for exactly that.

Best outdoor pizza ovens

Ooni Karu 12

Ooni Karu 12

It’s well-made, reasonably portable and can use wood pellets, charcoal and even gas as fuel (although gas requires a separate adapter). Since it’s the most versatile, it’s the best choice for most users.

Sold by Ooni, Amazon and Sur La Table

Ooni Karu 16

Ooni Karu 16

This is the best option for making large pizzas, although it’s costly and not the most portable. If you love pizza and can afford it, though, it’s a great investment.

Sold by Ooni, Amazon and Sur La Table

Ooni Fyra 12

Ooni Fyra 12

It’s Ooni’s most affordable and lightweight option. If you don’t want to bother with propane when you take it to the park, it’s the one to get, although it doesn’t look quite as polished as the rest.

Sold by Ooni, Amazon and Sur La Table

Gozney RoccBox

Gozney RoccBox

It’s more compact and maintains its temperature more consistently than most others due to better insulation and a thicker stone. However, it’s relatively expensive, not very portable and can only make 10-inch pies.

Sold by Amazon

Pizello 13-Inch

Pizello 13-Inch

It’s considerably less expensive than the rest, but it doesn’t quite char a crust like the others because it only gets up to 750 degrees. Nonetheless, it’s a high-performing choice and a great value.

Sold by Amazon

Razzori Comodo

Razzori Comodo

This combination grill and pizza oven is surprisingly affordable for how versatile it is and how hot it gets. However, you can’t fuel it with wood pellets, only gas.

Sold by Amazon

Big Horn Outdoors Pizza Oven

Big Horn Outdoors Pizza Oven

This one reaches roughly 800 degrees and weighs less than 30 pounds, but costs only half of its competitors. It works well if you use it carefully, but it doesn’t have the same exceptional build quality as the more expensive models.

Sold by Amazon

Ooni Koda 12

Ooni Koda 12

This is the most compact, the cleanest and the best-looking option from the most popular manufacturer. It’s a good choice if you don’t have room for a chimney.

Sold by Ooni and Amazon

Ooni Koda 16

Ooni Koda 16

This large model is slightly less expensive than the other 16-inch option, but it only works with gas. It also takes a little longer to heat up than Ooni’s other models.

Sold by Ooni, Amazon and Sur La Table

Camp Chef Italia

Camp Chef Italia

Thanks to its wide mouth, it’s perfect for making two personal-size pizzas at once. It’s designed to use a one-pound propane cylinder, and includes a 5-foot hose and regulator for large tanks.

Sold by Amazon

Cuore Ovens 1000 Plus Wood-Fired Oven Kit

Cuore Ovens 1000 Plus Wood-Fired Oven Kit 

This 36-inch behemoth weighs 660 pounds and is even more efficient than many brick pizza ovens, yet costs a fraction of the price at just over $1,000. It takes a decent amount of work to put together, though, and even more to finish its exterior.

Sold by Amazon

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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