When you are in the market for a stainless steel outdoor wood-fired pizza oven, you probably weren’t expecting to it to be so confusing and overwhelming. Even though they are different, you cannot really tell by simply looking at them. Indeed, the world of outdoor wood burning ovens is deceivingly vast and the available materials on it are scarce. In this article, I will attempt to help you navigate the world of outdoor wood-fired pizza ovens and confidently choose one that best suits your need.
Let’s address the most common question: “Why do they all look the same?” Take the following ovens for example.
The answer is that the shape of the oven domes, which is the single most important component of these ovens, is the best for a pizza when the dome is in the shape shown above. As a result, all brands have to have the similarly-shaped dome. This shape and the fact that most brands believe that brands have to find a way to balance between making a good products and reducing production costs result in minimalistic oven appearances. The issue with minimalistic approach is that its beauty lies in smaller details, making these ovens look the same at the first glance.
That said, you don’t have to worry too much about selecting the oven with the best dome. Performance-wise, they are all the same: very good. Through time, technologies to make outdoor pizza ovens has come close to perfection that there won’t be any break-through that can make your oven obsolete in near future. All of them will heat up to 700 degree F in 15 – 20 minutes and give you the ability to bake great pizzas in 2 – 3 minutes. So don’t sweat over the oven dome.
While the quality of a pizza oven is somewhat guaranteed when you buy it from a well-known brand, a look at the warranty on your oven will help you double-check your assumption. Look at what can potentially void your warranty, especially the highest temperature the oven should reach. For true Italian pizzas, ovens should always be able to get to at least 700 degrees. Avoid any brand that will void your warranty if the oven gets that hot. However, you don’t necessarily need ovens that can go to 1200 degree either – unless you really plan to become a professional pizza chef. Here is the reason: when your oven get to 900 degree, your pizza will be cook in about 90 seconds. That’s a very short amount of time, leaving you little room for error. Without years of practice, you will burn more pizzas than you can count with this temperature. Therefore, practically a oven that can get to 1200 degrees doesn’t bring you much more values than an oven that can get to 800 degrees.
Your warranty should cover at least one year of usage. Do not go with any oven that cannot offer you that much. Ask for information on how to register your oven in case you need to claim the warranty later. You are committing to buy an expensive item and you are entitled to have it insured.
Chimneys on the ovens might look different and located in different positions of the oven. However, this is another example of “different technical design, very similar performance.” This is not true for all type of wood-fired oven, especially brick ovens, but for stainless steel ovens, don’t worry about it. I’ll go into details in another article if you are interested in digging in further.
The oven sizes differ from oven to oven and brand to brand. Sometimes ovens of the same brand change sizes in completely random ways. If the seller hasn’t already given you how much food you can produce in 15 minutes with a given oven, these are my rules of thumb to calculate it yourself:
Remember that these ovens cook pizzas in 3 minutes on average. In addition, you are not likely to make large pizzas, think 16” or 18” pizzas, at home. If you have your heart set on making true Napoletana pizzas, the oven you consider should at least be 14”x 14”. If not, consider the regular size pizza of 10 inch.
For example, if the cooking area is 28”x24”, you need to subtract 7” from the length to give some room for the wood and space between the pizzas, leaving you with the actual size of cooking area of 21”x24”. The length of 21” can fit twp (2) 10” pizzas and the width of 24” can fit two (2) 10” pizzas. The total of people you can feed in 15 minutes is 2 x 2 x5 = 20. A surprisingly large number, isn’t it?
Oven sellers will sometimes give you free tools as a token of appreciation for purchasing their products. You can value these tools differently, but personally I would love to have the following items (listed in the most appreciated item first)
With that said, don’t get too hung up if the seller doesn’t offer you anything. These token tools are only supposed to help you get started. Eventually you will want to get yourself new and better tools anyway.
Most oven carts are made very well. They will have at least 2 wheels to help you push the oven around. Some are height-adjustable, while the others have carrying handle or food prepping trays. Most of the ovens can be used without the cart they ship with. If you want to build a different base for your oven – which many of our buyers do, just remember to check with your seller if doing so will void your warranty.
This is where many brand would charge significantly higher than others for the same or smaller usable cooking area. Most people perceive that ovens imported from Italy, or some specific location, are better than others, but it is not necessarily true. Occasionally the company that sells your oven is based in one country, but the production is somewhere else. Confirm with your seller where the oven was made; that person should be able to tell you more details than provided on their website. If the seller is not able to do that, it’s a sign you might want to double-check their information somewhere else. Just food for thought, Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate, will Italian ovens perform well in your freezing winter?
The world of wood-fired oven is vast. Your seller should be able to point out good sources of information on how to use your oven. It’s a plus if your seller can give you free access to videos, CDs or books on wood-fired cooking. It’s a huge plus if the seller has created some sort of community for past buyers to interact, share info and help each other. With a brand like that, I don’t mind paying a little extra for the peace of mind.
Extremely important details that many of us overlook. You are dealing with a much bigger and heavier item than usual, so there are potential issues that are not that easy to anticipate.
How long will it take for the seller to process your order? How long to send out the oven after the order has been processed? How to track your oven once it leaves the warehouse? How the oven will be delivered to your house? Usually the oven will require freight shipping so you might want to make sure that the delivery truck can get to the outside of your house and not some 2 or 3 blocks away. Narrow roads are not your friends in this situation. Also remember that the delivery people usually will not help you move the oven into your house and receiving free lift-gate service is nice.
How many cartons or crates will be delivered? You will need some help from friends when buying larger ovens, but cartons of 150 or less should be manageable by 2 people. How will the oven be packed? The answer to this question should be “In custom cartons or crates”. Some brand will put shock watches on their crates so that you can easily tell how well the oven was protected.
Many people think that they are spending a lot of money on just one oven. It is true, but to those people I have this to say: this will be the beginning of a very long and fulfilling journey for you. This oven is the tool for you to start a new hobby which will entertain not only yourself, your family but potentially any friend who come to your house. With such an important mission, your tools should be decent to start and also allow you some room to grow with it. I have seen using a pizza oven becoming a great activity for the entire family. I have seen people start with a stainless steel oven and move up to a much bigger brick oven. And don’t think too much about getting a brick oven yet either. If you can afford it, don’t try to save a few dollars now – the benefits of years of family fun to come will certainly outweigh them.
That’s it. I hope that this article help you make some sense of the information about your future oven. I’m excited that you decided to pick up a great hobby that allows you to bring joys to not only yourself but many others. Ask questions if you have any in the comment section. Sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page to receive updates like this one. As I said, the world of oven is vast and we are excited to grow with you on your journey.