Stainless steel ovens are a popular option for an outdoor oven because they are relatively weather resistant and durable. This doesn't mean that they are maintenance-free, though. The following guide can help ensure that your steel outdoor pizza oven is properly cared for so that it can serve your family's needs for many years.
Rust and Corrosion: Protecting the Stainless Steel
Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel isn't completely immune to rust and corrosion – although it is highly resistant. When rust does occur, often is is a slight bloom on the surface that will cause no deep damage if it is cleaned of promptly. Scratches can also compromise the oven's steel, leading to etching that collects moisture and eventually rusts.
Fortunately, it's relatively simple to avoid this sort of damage on your pizza oven. The following tips can help:
- Don't use any abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads, especially on the exterior of the oven. This means no steel wool or Comet-style cleaners that could scratch or etch the surface of the oven's steel
- Clean the exterior of the oven after every use. Use a cleaner formulated for use on your oven's steel. Dilute the cleaner in warm water and then use a soft towel or rag to wipe down the oven's steel.
- Opt for nylon when you do need to scrub to get off grease or baked-on dirt. An old nylon bristle toothbrush or an open weave nylon pot scrubber can be used if caution is exercised. Just make sure the area is wet as you scrub and scrub in one direction gently to avoid etching.
- Apply a coat of cooking oil or steel polish after every use. Simply rub a thin layer of the oil or polish over the entire exterior of the oven using a soft cloth. This will form a barrier against dirt and moisture so that rust can't occur.
Although outdoor steel pizza ovens are made to be placed outside, this doesn't mean they should be left fully exposed to the weather. Rain and snow can contain acids that etch and corrode thee oven's steel. In areas prone to hail, dents can be a real concern for your oven. Fortunately, there are a few cover options that work well.
Fitted covers: Many ovens come with covers that are custom fitted to the size and shape of the oven. These are usually made of weather and UV resistant fabrics that provide a good barrier against all weather types except for hail. You can usually find these covers directly from the oven manufacturer. The benefit of these covers is that they fit the oven snugly, which looks nicer and provides more thorough protection.
Standard covers: There are standard generic covers available from multiple sources. Some oven owners use a generic grill cover that is large enough to cover the oven. Tarps can also be used. Although these covers will protect against rain and snow, the lack of a snug fit may allow some moisture to get beneath the cover. The covers may also require rope to hold them in place, and they do not look as nice as a custom or fitted cover.
Hard covers: There are a couple of options for hard covers. Some oven manufacturers may have custom fit hard covers that slide over the oven, or you may be able to find a hard grill cover that fits your oven. In areas prone to hail storms, a more common option is to place the oven beneath a patio overhang or awning. This will require venting the smoke pipe beyond the overhang. Placing the oven beneath an overhang doesn't mean that you can skip the custom or standard cover either – you will still need to cover the oven to protect against moisture.
The Power of Clean: Maintaining the Oven and Its Accessories
The final trick to keeping a wood burning steel outdoor pizza oven in great condition is to understand proper ongoing cleaning needs. The oven's steel exterior simply needs wiped down and polished on a regular basis, and the interior isn't much more work than that.
Dome and firebox: The dome and firebox is the area you are likely most concerned about, but fortunately it is the easiest to clean. The grates should never get too dirty since any sauce or toppings that spill will quickly burn off.
Once the firebox is completely cool, you can remove the grate and brush it clean with a grill brush. If you want a deeper clean, simply soak it in a tub of water for a couple of hours and then scrub.
Ash removal requires two main tools – an oven rake and a handheld broom. Most people also use their pizza paddle. First, rake all the ashes to the center of the oven. Then, carefully lift them out of the oven with the paddle and dispose of them. Repeat until most of the ashes are gone – you use the broom to get up the last little bit.