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The Best Pizza Ovens, According To Rigorous Backyard Testing


We independently select all products and services. If you click through links we provide, we may earn a commission. Learn more Forbes Vetted The Best Pizza Ovens, According To Rigorous Backyard Testing Dave Johnson Forbes Staff Forbes Vetted Contributor Group Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Following May 25, 2023, 04:35pm EDT | Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Pizza is the ultimate comfort food, loved almost universally despite being a simple concoction of dough, tomato sauce and cheese (your favorite toppings optional). You can certainly make a mediocre pizza at home in your kitchen oven, but for a truly transcendent, authentically Italian pizza, you need a dedicated pizza oven, like my winner for the best pizza oven overall, the Ooni Koda 16 —one of the best pizza ovens you can buy for its ease of use, compact footprint, nearly 1,000-degree max temperature and simple propane (or natural gas) fuel source. In addition to the Koda, I also chose the best value pizza oven, the affordable yet effective Solo Stove Pi Pizza Oven , and even a premium choice: the breathtaking Gozney Dome .

(You can read our in-depth reviews of the Ooni Koda 16 and Solo Stove Pi Piza oven for more details, too. ) Over a 2-month period, I baked and ate nearly 50 pies to find the best pizza ovens for most backyard . .

. [+] pizzaiolo. Illustration: Forbes / Photo: Retailers The following is a list of all the winners from my testing process: Best Pizza Oven Overall: Ooni Koda 16 Best Value Pizza Oven: Solo Stove Pi Pizza Oven Best Upgrade Pizza Oven: Gozney Dome While not everyone needs or wants a pizza oven in their backyard, for true pizza aficionados—folks who relentlessly search for the best pizzeria in town and make a pilgrimage to Joe’s on Carmine Street every time they visit New York City—owning a dedicated pizza oven can be a life-changing experience.

That’s why I tested a broad array of the most popular pizza ovens available today—eight in all—and found the best options for you. Over a 2-month period, I baked and (with the help of neighbors) ate nearly 50 pies to separate the best pizza ovens from the really good ovens from the ones you should probably skip. Eating all that delicious pizza was a challenge, but it was worth it to help you choose the right pizza oven for your needs.

Best Pizza Oven Overall A Surprisingly Versatile Oven With An Innovative L-Shaped Flame Amazon Ooni Koda 16 Gas Pizza Oven Fuel: Propane or natural gas | Temperature: Up to 950 degrees | Mouth width: 20. 5 inches | Weight: 39 pounds | Dimensions: 23. 2 x 25 x 14.

7 inches | Warranty: 5 years | Features: Folding legs, L-shaped flame trench Best for: Simple and fast propane-powered fires Light and portable pizza-making Even baking with minimal turning Skip if: You must have wood-fired pizza The Ooni Koda 16 sits right in the sweet spot among pizza ovens: It’s super easy to use and is relatively affordable when compared with other pizza ovens. It comes fully assembled, so you only need to take it out of the box and attach it to a propane tank (or gas line). And the Koda 16 is more than spacious enough for pretty much any pizza you might need to make at home, with a 20.

5-inch mouth that can easily accommodate 16-inch pies. It also swallowed my 14-inch cast-iron skillet with ease, which allowed me to try my hand at making steak and veggies on one of the rare evenings I wasn’t eating pizza. Don’t need this much baking real estate? A more affordable Koda 12 is also available (which, as the name suggests, is a few inches smaller).

The igniter reliably started the fire every time I tested it, and it reached a Neapolitan-friendly temperature of about 750 degrees in less than 20 minutes—right about average for most pizza ovens. I also loved the fact that the stone is removable, making cleanup a snap after each pizza party. Because it comes out easily, you can also store the stone inside your home even if you relegate the Koda to a shelf in the garage.

The Koda has a unique design feature. While most ovens have a single flame port or wall of fire, the Koda has an L-shaped burner that distributes heat across both the back and side. In theory, this means you can spin the pizza fewer times to bake it evenly, and in fact I found that more of the floor hovered around a consistent 750 degrees.

In contrast, most ovens tend to have one hot spot near the flame and then colder zones in every other direction. Ooni says it allows for “one-turn cooking,” and while the Koda never made a bad pizza, it took a few test pies to teach me that I still found it necessary to spin the pizza every 20 to 30 seconds to avoid burning it. Bottom line: The Koda tended to make great pies in about 2 minutes—the crust was crispy with a chewy center, and the edges charred beautifully, with nice bubbly cheese.

The Ooni Koda 16 has an L-shaped burner that distributes heat across both the back and side, which . . .

[+] means you can spin the pizza fewer times to bake it evenly. Dave Johnson There are definitely more stylish pizza ovens out there (check out the Gozney Dome or even the Gozney Roccbox). The Koda isn’t unattractive, but it’s finished in a simple black shell of carbon steel that—watch out—gets very hot.

Don’t let kids play nearby. It’s also missing a thermometer, but I highly recommend getting an infrared thermometer (Ooni offers one for $40) regardless of whether your pizza oven has a temperature display or not. After all, the thermometer tells you the ambient temperature in the oven, not the temperature on the pizza stone (which can vary by as much as 100 degrees depending on whether you’re measuring near the flame or the mouth), making the infrared gun essential in my book anyway.

Ooni offers some other handy accessories, including a weatherproof cover for $50 (you’ll want that if you plan to leave it outdoors all the time) and a folding table ($250). Best Value Pizza Oven An Easy-To-Operate Oven That Delivers Pies Quickly Amazon Solo Stove Pi Pizza Oven Fuel: Wood (propane optional) | Temperature: Up to 850 degrees for wood and up to 900 degrees for gas | Mouth width: 13 inches | Weight: 30. 5 pounds | Dimensions: 20.

5 x 15. 1 inches | Warranty: Lifetime | Features: Easy-to-clean hopper and ash bin Best for: Easily and conveniently starting the wood fire (plus an optional propane adapter) Getting up to temperature in as little as 15 minutes Easy ash cleanup Skip if: You want a cavernous floor to bake large pies or other dishes I wasn’t sure what to make of the Solo Stove Pi Pizza Oven at first—a stand-alone pizza oven from a company that specializes in smokeless firepits. I had already tried the similarly (and confusingly) named Pi Fire pizza oven, which is an attachment for the Bonfire, Yukon and Ranger pits (see below for more info).

I didn’t expect a lot from the Pi Pizza Oven, but I was wrong. Very wrong. Available as a wood-only oven or with an optional propane-fueled gas burner, the Pi is a compact little pizza oven shaped like a squat stainless steel cylinder.

It comes fully assembled (just insert the pizza stone and set up the hopper or gas burner), and it sits comfortably on a table or on its own optional, custom wheeled stand with side wing shelves sold for $250. It won’t make huge pizzas—the mouth is just 13 inches wide—but the floor is a generous 19 inches in diameter, giving you a lot of room to make your pie and other dishes, like beef, fish or chicken recipes in a cast-iron pan. The Solo Stove Pi Pizza Oven makes just as good pies as what you’ll get from much pricier ovens.

Dave Johnson Starting the fire is a snap. For each bake, I used a pair of starters (which Solo Stove sells, or else you can use any third-party starter if you prefer) and a mix of large and small kindling. Every time, the fire erupted and blazed quickly.

The hopper itself is accessed from a door in the back, and the fire (along with its associated ash and embers) stays clear of the pizza stone. I found that I had to tend the fire every 10 minutes or so to keep it hearty and healthy, which is a fair bit of babysitting while I was simultaneously trying to prepare my pizzas, but honestly it was also kind of fun to nurture the flames. And at the end of the meal, cleanup is a breeze—just pop the ash tray out and dump it.

Of course, if you burn wood, the front of the oven tends to collect a lot of soot—seriously, it builds up quickly, especially above the mouth—but it wipes away very easily thanks to the stainless steel surface. Because the Pi reaches up to 900 degrees, I found it made superb pizzas with delectable crisp and chewy crusts. The pizzas that come out of the Pi are just as good as what you’ll get from much pricier ovens, and there are few compromises here: The oven heats quickly, it accommodates 13-inch pizzas and you can even turn it into a propane-powered oven with an inexpensive upgrade.

There’s no built-in temperature gauge, but as I’ve already mentioned, you’ll get better results with an infrared thermometer anyway. Best Upgrade Pizza Oven Gozney’s Flagship Oven That Looks And Feels Like A Million Bucks MOST POPULAR Gozney Gozney Premium Outdoor Oven Buy From Gozney Fuel: Wood, propane or natural gas | Temperature: Up to 950 degrees | Mouth width: 16. 1 inches | Weight: 128 pounds | Dimensions: 26 x 24.

8 x 28. 8. 7 inches | Warranty: 5 years | Features: Digital thermometer and cooking probes, integrated wood storage, detachable flue and cap Best for: Elevating your backyard with a stylish, premium look and high-end features Digital thermometer with dual temperature probes for monitoring non-pizza dishes Spacious floor for big pizzas and large non-pizza dishes like chicken, fish and beef recipes Skip if: You can’t dedicate space for the rather sizable oven and stand Don’t want to spend close to $2,000 on a pizza oven For most of us, the Gozney Dome is the closest we’re likely to get to building a dedicated brick pizza oven in our backyard.

Frankly, it looks stunning. The squat, dome-shaped oven (hence the name) is available in two colors, Bone and Olive, and is accented in black. It has a small chimney and a spacious mouth, with an attractive storage bay for kindling right in front.

There’s a gorgeous digital thermometer built in along with ports for two wired temperature probes (handy for cooking protein dishes like beef or chicken). You can set this beast on an ordinary outdoor table, but that would be a travesty. If you’re going to spend $2,000 on the Dome, you owe it to yourself to set it on the $299 dome stand , a large wheeled accessory with multiple central shelves and a pair of wing shelves on the sides.

And another good reason to put the Dome on its official stand is that it weighs an insane 128 pounds. Even taking it out of its packaging is a two-person job, and you are not going to want to move it around unless it’s on wheels. Speaking of unboxing it, the packaging is elegant, and the initial setup is easy.

There’s very little assembly required, and the oven comes with temporary single-use straps to lift it out of the box and set it on its intended resting spot. The Gozney Dome is a stunning pizza oven that makes delicious pies in 2 minutes or so, once it’s . .

. [+] fully set up. Dave Johnson It’s available as one of two dual-fuel options: propane and wood, or natural gas and wood.

Switching between gas and wood is as simple as rearranging some plugs on the inside of the stove. The Dome has a big stone and a lot of internal volume, so it takes longer to heat up than the Ooni or Solo Stove models in this story; in fact, it took nearly 50 minutes to reach 750 degrees. But once at temperature, the results were great.

There’s a lot of room inside to maneuver pies and cast-iron skillets, and it made some great Neapolitan pizzas in 2 minutes or so. Just be careful to keep turning those pizzas—I left one too close to the flame for too long, and unsurprisingly, it burned the crust. But that’s part of the fun of making pizzas at home.

Gozney makes some classy-looking accessories for the Dome, including a rugged weatherproof cover ($99), which you will absolutely want if you keep your oven outdoors—I’ve been using it to keep the Dome out of the Michigan winter snow for weeks, and it has protected the oven superbly. There’s also an elegant rope-sealed door ($125) to block the mouth for baking non-pizza cuisine, a steam injector ($35) for bread baking and more. Indeed, this growing family of accessories is one of the things that makes investing in a Dome so compelling.

MORE FROM FORBES VETTED How To Sleep Better Through PMS, Your Period And Menopause By SaVanna Shoemaker Contributor These Are The Best Memorial Day Sales So Far By Jordan Thomas Forbes Staff Other Products Tested By and large, most of the competitors in this competition did an admirable job, making narrowing down the winners for this list quite challenging. I tested eight products in all, but five didn’t make the final cut. Even so, there may be something here that really speaks to you.

Here’s a rundown of the ones that didn’t quite snag an award: Ooni Karu 16 : I gave the best overall award to the Karu 16’s little brother, the Koda 16, because it’s almost as versatile but a lot less expensive. That said, the Karu comes almost fully assembled and includes a thermometer to monitor the ambient temp inside the oven. Right out of the box it’s a wood-fired oven, but you can add a $120 gas accessory to have it run off propane, making it a handy multi-fuel oven.

But the Karu is heavy—almost 63 pounds—and the tall chimney makes it a bit clumsy to handle. Between the chimney baffle and air vent, there was a learning curve to controlling the temperature, and while the glass door is a nice addition, especially for baking other dishes, it’s not important for pizza-making. There’s very, very little wrong with the Karu, but overall, it’s more oven than most people need at home.

Anytime I tested the Karu and Koda side by side, I preferred the Koda; it was simply easier to use. Gozney Roccbox : The Roccbox came within a hair’s breadth of taking the best overall award away from the Koda 16, so let’s call it a runner-up. It’s a pizza oven that anyone would be proud to own.

It looks really sharp in its two-tone finish, has an integrated thermometer and comes configured for propane by default, but you can upgrade to dual fuel (gas and wood) for $100 more. The mouth measures just 12 inches, with a floor that’s a scant 12. 4 x 13.

4 inches, so I do wish the baking surface were a little bigger; you won’t be making any 14-inch pizzas in this oven, and that’s the main reason why it isn’t a winner. But everything about this oven screams deluxe, including the user guide that’s packed with color illustrations and the snazzy aluminum pizza peel that’s included in the box. And aside from screwing in the one-piece gas assembly, it comes fully assembled.

Cuisinart 3-In-1 Pizza Oven Plus : Cuisinart is a respected name in small kitchen appliances, so you might be inclined to try the Cuisinart 3-in-1, which packs a pizza oven, cast-iron griddle plate and cast-iron grill grate into a single gadget. It’s fueled by propane only and weighs a relatively modest 45 pounds—just barely light enough to be considered portable. There was a fairly substantial amount of assembly though, with lots of screw-mounted parts that needed to be attached before the first bake.

In practice, it is designed to operate at around 500 degrees, which isn’t really hot enough to make a classic Neapolitan pizza. I could actually get it to about 550 degrees, but even that led to an underwhelming experience when paired with the modest 13-inch diameter stone. If you want to take it on a camping trip or to make pizza at a tailgate party, this 3-in-1 might be versatile enough for you (but keep in mind that you need to let it cool all the way down before switching modes, so you won’t be making pizza and steaks back-to-back).

But if you just want it for your backyard, I advise you to skip it—you can get essentially the same experience using a pizza stone in your kitchen oven. Alfa Moderno Portable : Serious pizza fans may know the Alfa name: This Italian brand manufactures its ovens near Rome, and they all bear the unmistakable aura of old-world Italian craftsmanship. The Moderno Portable is relatively affordable, priced at $1,300.

It’s not huge—about the same size, give or take, as the Gozney Roccbox—but Alfa was being hilariously optimistic when it deemed this 77-pound monster to be portable. It comes with a carrying case that requires two people to lift, and even so, the propane hookup—not meant to be disassembled—sticks out and interferes with fully zippering the case, which is a serious inconvenience. Moreover, there’s a lot of initial assembly required, including applying thread seal tape to the gas line components, something I wasn’t super confident about doing on my own.

The baking floor is made from heavy-duty silico-alumina refractory bricks, and the walls have perhaps the most substantial insulation of any of the other ovens in this roundup. But the 14-inch mouth is limited by a low arch that restricts the height of pans and skillets you can fit through the opening, and overall the oven is more trouble than it’s worth—especially compared to the many less-expensive alternatives. Solo Stove Pi Fire : The Solo Stove Pi Fire is more fun than it has any right to be, and I wish I could give it its own award.

Unfortunately, the category of “pizza oven that goes atop a firepit” is a very narrow category. Designed by Solo Stove for its Bonfire, Yukon and Ranger backyard firepits, this UFO-shaped gadget sits atop the pit while still giving you enough room to tend the fire underneath. Obviously, this model is wood-fired only, and it is strictly an accessory for your Solo Stove pit, so it won’t bake any pizzas on its own.

Just set it on the Solo Stove and light the fire; it takes about 45 minutes to get up to temperature (about twice as long as most other ovens). It tops out around 500 to 600 degrees, so it’ll cook your pizza more slowly (plan on an 8-minute bake) and give your crust a decidedly different texture than what you get from a 2-minute Neapolitan. All that said, repurposing your Solo Stove firepit into a pizza oven is super fun and is probably the perfect option for anyone who already proudly burns their Solo Stove firepit each weekend anyway.

Bonus: It comes with a weatherproof storage and carrying case as well as a set of heat-resistant gloves. How I Tested The Best Pizza Ovens When selecting the products for this roundup, I wanted to test the pizza ovens most consumers are buying, so I looked for the most popular and talked-about pizza ovens from well-known brands. If you’ve ever searched for “pizza ovens” on Google, you know that Ooni is far and away one of the biggest sellers of home ovens, but Gozney isn’t far behind.

I also chose to include some other well-known brands, like Alfa (a notable high-end import that has the cachet of coming from pizza’s birthplace), Cuisinart and Solo Stove (makers of popular portable and backyard firepits). To keep the whole project manageable, I settled on eight ovens with a selection of both wood-fired and propane models. I settled on eight ovens with a selection of both wood-fired and propane models and made about a .

. . [+] half-dozen pizzas in each over the course of several days.

Dave Johsnson I took note of how easy it was to get up and running the first time. Some ovens, for example, were incredibly heavy or required a substantial amount of assembly. But it was the pizza-making experience that was most important; what was the ignition and fuel story? How long did it take the oven to get up to temperature? Did the oven have cold and hot spots, and was there a way to measure the temp? I also kept a close eye on the size of the pizza floor, the oven’s internal configuration and whether the mouth of the oven was conveniently sized.

To test each oven, I made about a half-dozen pizzas in each, often over the course of several days, and saw what the cleanup process was like. All the pizzas I launched into the ovens were Neapolitan—to get the signature crust, you need to flash-bake it in about 2 minutes in intense 800-degree-or-so heat. That’s the kind of pie most pizza fanatics want to make at home, and it’s also the best way to test a pizza oven’s mettle.

In addition to making my own dough for some of the pizzas (a simple Neapolitan dough recipe with 00 flour), I also bought premade dough balls from a local Italian grocery. Since I can only eat so much pizza by myself, my neighbors got to join in the spoils of testing. I also got to see how each oven handled the cold and snowy Michigan winter, which was in full blast during testing.

(To be clear, there are some indoor pizza ovens available, but because they tend to be smaller and run at lower maximum temperatures, they’re not as effective as outdoor ovens. As a result, I focused exclusively on outdoor ovens for this review. ) How To Pick A Pizza Oven Even the best pizza oven on the market might not suit your particular needs.

To help you choose the right pizza oven for you, here are some of the most important factors to consider when shopping for the backyard pizzeria of your dreams. Fuel Source Pizza ovens can rely on a variety of fuel sources, and this is perhaps the single biggest differentiator among models. Most burn either wood or propane, though you can also find pizza ovens that chew on charcoal or a dedicated natural-gas line from your home.

Wood is the most traditional way to make pizza, but it requires a little more effort and attention. You’ll have to start and tend the fire, and wood tends to burn fast and hot, which means you’ll also need to learn how to control the temperature so it doesn’t burn too hot. Most wood-fired ovens house the fire to the side or behind the baking floor, though the occasional oven places the fire underneath.

No matter how your fire is positioned, you’ll need fire-resistant gloves and tools to place tinder in the fire throughout the burn. And when it’s over, you’ll need to empty the ash tray—something you won’t have to worry about with gas. Indeed, gas ovens are much simpler: Attach the propane tank to your grill, press the igniter and dial in the flames.

Both kinds of ovens can be portable; can reach 1,000 degrees for fast, classic Neapolitan pies; and create essentially the same finished pizza. And you’re not losing out on flavor—pizzas don’t really inherit any sort of flavor from wood during a 2-minute bake. As Coudreaut says, “The pizza bakes in that oven so fast, and because of the aerodynamics of the oven, smoke goes right up the flue and never actually touches the pizza.

So wood is really just fuel. ” Likewise, Coniglio believes that it’s good to have both options, but says, “I usually just go with propane because I think it’s easier to control. But I know a lot of people who cook on the beach with those ovens or they go camping, so they usually do wood chips.

” Maximum Temperature With rare exception, most outdoor pizza ovens are designed to reach temperatures well north of 700 degrees, and often near 1,000 degrees, though in my experience you’ll probably end up around 750 to 800 degrees in everyday operation (especially in colder weather). And that’s fine, because that’s the sweet spot for making a Neapolitan pizza. Want to make your own version of a New York pizza or a deep-dish Chicago pie? You won’t even need that much.

Says Coniglio, “If you’re trying to do New York style, you really only need 550 to 600 degrees. And I’ve also made Detroit-style pizza that doesn’t have to be as hot, because it just cooks longer in the pan. ” So the kind of pizza you want to make can inform the max temperature you need.

Versatility Pizza is great, but there might be times when you want to bake other dishes in your pizza oven—breads, veggies, chicken, fish and beef, for example. Krikorian told me some of his favorite pizza-oven dishes: “I’ve done breadsticks. I’ve done meatballs.

As a matter of fact, we do one of our favorite things—bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese and a little bit of tomato sauce—and actually finish it in the pizza oven. ” And many pizza ovens are versatile enough to let you do that, with one important caveat: Make sure the baking floor and the mouth itself are big enough to accommodate whatever cookware you plan to slide in. You might also want to invest in a pizza oven that has a closable door.

You won’t need the door for pizza, but it can come in handy for other dishes. Some ovens offer doors as options, like the rope-sealed door you can get for the Gozney Dome. Setup And Portability Initial setup happens only once, obviously, so it’s probably not that big of a deal.

But if you don’t like to screw stuff together, it’s a consideration—some pizza ovens, like the Alfa Moderno Portable and Cuisinart 3-in-1, require as much assembly as an IKEA sofa. And after it’s assembled, consider where it will live and whether you need to move it around. A very heavy oven is best left permanently in one place, especially if the stone or bricks can’t be removed to make it lighter.

And if that’s the case, you’ll probably want to mount it on a dedicated stand or table—so consider whether the brand offers something designed expressly for it, like the Gozney Dome’s beefy stand . You should also be able to protect it with a custom cover, made expressly for that oven. Some ovens are also portable, but make sure you can easily move it around without getting a hernia or damaging it.

Cleanup Consider cleanup. Wood-burning ovens have ash bins or trays that need to be emptied after each burn, and the outside of the oven can get covered in soot, which you’ll need to keep clean. As for the baking floor, some ovens let you remove the stone, which makes cleanup much simpler.

If the stone (or brick) is a permanent part of the oven, it can be harder to scrape away burned-on pizza (a common occurrence when you’re first starting out) and brush out flour and debris. My Expertise Not only have I been a technology journalist since the 1990s, racking up hundreds (if not thousands) of published feature articles and hands-on product reviews at publications like CNET, PCWorld, TechHive and Insider, but I am an unapologetic pizza snob who has been honing my at-home pizza game for almost two decades. I started with a humble pizza stone in my kitchen oven before later stepping up to a dedicated countertop pizza oven.

At the same time, I started making my own dough, sauce, mozzarella and ricotta weekly. By this point, I have a ton of hands-on experience with pizza ovens and making my own Neapolitan pizzas. But for additional guidance, I reached out to a few unabashed experts for their advice as well.

I spoke to Chef Dan Coudreaut, the former vice president of culinary innovation at McDonald’s, who currently owns Lantern Pizza Co. in Illinois. I also chatted with Shealyn Brand Coniglio , co-owner of New Jersey’s Coniglio’s (and a contestant on Hulu’s Best in Dough ), as well as Serge Krikorian, who started as the co-owner of Sergio’s Pizza in 1994, which eventually evolved into Arkansas’s Vibrant Occasions Catering.

Vibrant Occasions also operates Our Mobile Kitchen , where Chef Serge continues to launch pizzas. I consulted with each of these expert pizzaiolos to learn the secrets they were willing to share about how to make great pizzas at home, as well as how to select and get the most out of your pizza oven. Follow me on Twitter .

Check out my website . Send me a secure tip . Dave Johnson Editorial Standards Print Reprints & Permissions.

From: forbes

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