Stainless steel pizza ovens are the modern adaptation of the traditional brick pizza ovens. As a result, most of the criteria of a good brick oven also apply to a stainless steel oven. Let’s examine what these are with the focus on the stainless steel oven.
You already know that the oven dome influences the shape of the oven – the reason why majority of stainless steel pizza ovens look similar. To understand why the dome shape, let’s refer back to the basics of heat transferring. The heat source, in our case – the fire, heats up pizzas, other food, or anything in 3 modes: Conduction, Convection and radiation.
Conduction: the fire heats up the pizza stone, and the stone heats up your pizza from the bottom up by conduction. How well your oven conducts heat to your pizza actually depends solely on how good your pizza stone is. We will analyze how to identify a good pizza stone at a later time.
Radiation: the fire emits energy waves that hit your pizza and transfer heat energy to the pizza. This is how the sun warms our earth.
Convection: the fire heats up the air in the oven, the air moves around and transfer the heat energy to your pizza, and the pizza gets hot. The air moving around creates airflow.
The shape of a pizza oven helps facilitating as much of radiation and convection as possible and in a way that’s best for pizza. Remember regardless of the pizza styles you follow, the best pizzas are cooked in the shortest amount of time and highest temperature possible. Side note: many cook books and oven-ready pizzas instruct you to bake your pizzas at 425 degrees. That temperature is not even close to where it should be. Challenge yourself to experience with the highest temperature your oven can reach, you will notice that baking pizzas at less than 600 degrees is the biggest lie against pizza lovers.
Let’s consider the 2 most common shapes of the pizza oven: the box shape and the dome shape. Note that there are variations of these two shapes, some of which will be analyzed in this article.
As you can see, with the box-shaped dome, the radiation from the fire will be spread out evenly over the cooking area. This is a waste of radiation if your pizzas don’t take up the whole cooking area. In addition, the flow of hot air will simply rise to the top and disappear into the chimney. This is not the most fuel efficient shape.
With the dome-shaped dome, the radiation is somewhat focused in a smaller cooking area giving the chef the ability to heat up his pizza quickly and more reliably. In addition, the dome shape forces the hot air to flow down from the oven ceiling before going up the chimney. The air flowing down or sometimes even the fire rolling down is referred to as flame roll by some oven manufacturers. As you can see, this is a better and more fuel efficient design.
The dome-shaped dome is fuel efficient but takes up a lot of space and is difficult to move around. You can try to make the dome smaller but it can become too small. Or you can settle for something in between - the half-cylinder shaped dome. This dome focuses the radiation into a small cooking area, instead of all cooking area, and forces the hot air to come down from the ceiling. Even though it cannot eliminate all weaknesses of both traditional shapes, this is a big improvement. Which is the reason why most of the stainless steel pizza oven in the market have short half-cylinder shaped domes.
The chimney and the vent are 2 of the main components of your pizza oven. Even though these two are separate parts of the oven, the variations utilizing the factor of independence in oven design do not appear in stainless steel pizza oven market. Therefore, in this article we will consider them to be one component called “the chimney”. The oven chimney is usually located in either the front or the back of your oven.
As you can see, the back chimney design allows a strong airflow as soon as you lit up the wood. However, as hot air rises up and immediately goes out through the chimney, it will take a little more time to heat up your oven. Of course, we can put a damper on the chimney but that restricts the airflow and defeats the purpose of having the chimney in the back.
This is the most common chimney location. The hot air can heat up the oven interior before exiting out through the chimney, making the oven very fuel efficient. Past master Italian pizza chefs made famous this chimney design and most experts know still agrees that this is a very good design.
This might not be a major concern for stainless steel pizza ovens, as majority of them have the oven door before the chimney. This design allows us to have a smaller oven, but slight decrease the performance of your pizza oven as a bread oven.
For pizza oven, oven door helps making the pre-heating process go faster but after that has no effect on other processes of pizza making. However, as bread lover will understand that a good bread oven can maintain a much lower temperature for a much longer period of time than a pizza oven. If the oven door is behind the chimney, all of the heat will be sealed off and circulate within the chamber. If the oven door is in front of the chimney, even with a good damper, heat will gradually disappear through the chimney.
Even though the oven dome looks like it is one piece, most of the domes have 3 layers, each of which have distinct purposes.
In traditional brick pizza ovens, the purpose of the inner layer of pizza oven is to absorb heat to build up a thermal mass – the heat energy stored within the oven inner layer. The thermal mass will heat up the pizza even when the fire has died down. As the results, the traditional brick oven usually has a thick inner layer of refractory clay (high thermal mass material). This method requires a long pre-heating period. In the modern stainless steel pizza oven, the heat is constantly provided by the fire. The oven inner layer still does the same functions, but relies more than radiation method. This allows the oven to be much smaller and heat up in 20 minutes. to accomplish this most stainless steel pizza oven has the inner layer made of stainless steel. 304 and 430 are the names of the most common types of stainless steel used in food processors and oven. Without going into further details of chemical structures of these 2 types, I can tell you that stainless steel 304 is the better type and is more expensive. There are pizza oven manufactures that want to capture part of the traditional heating method of the brick oven and will line the inner layer of their stainless steel oven with their secret refractory clay. These ovens should heat up a little more slowly, retains heat longer and might be more expensive. A brick oven takes 1 hour or more to heat up and a few days to cool down, a stainless steel lined oven takes 20 minutes to heat up and a few hours to cool down, a clay lined stainless steel oven is somewhere in between, but is closer to the stainless steel lined oven end.
The middle layer of the oven is for insulation. The outer layer of the oven is for protection of the chef and aesthetic appeal. Even though they look different and are created differently from brand to brand but their performance is very similar. Again, as look as you choose a well-known brand, you can relax and select the model whose outer appearance suits your style the most
Looking at a good dome for your stainless steel pizza oven can be tough. There are many sources of information and they are probably not comprehensive or practical. If we want to analyze every component of the oven dome, there are a lot to learn. Which dome shape should I choose? Where should the chimney be? How about material of the dome? Oven door too? When combined, these components can give you a lot of options. However, we at Oveneer believe wholeheartedly, as long as you buy your oven from a well-known brand, your oven’s performance will be on par with any other on the market. Enjoy your new oven!