The best pizza oven could be a life-saver this summer. Now that the warm weather is here, and you can't go much further than the confines of your garden, every day is pizza day. We don’t mean pre-made off-the-shelf guff you stick in your oven, here. We’re talking the real deal, my dudes: the kind of pizzas you make and bake yourself using the best pizza ovens – like this quintet of fine contenders.
Look around the web and, who knows, you might find a great deal. Oh, and watch out for Amazon Prime Day deals – although summer might be over by the time that happens, there is always next summer. Oh, and for guidance on how to use your new pizza oven, let this guide to how to cook pizza at home hit your eye, like a big pizza pie.
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Why you need a proper pizza oven
Forget using your home oven because its maximum temperature is usually just 250˚C and you need between 350˚ and 450˚ to properly bake a pizza like the pros. All of the pizza ovens reviewed here are easily capable of reaching the magic 400˚C and they’re all equipped with cordierite baking stones, which not only retain and emit intense heat but also absorb the moisture from the dough, turning it perfectly crispy and with a nicely blackened bottom to boot.
Best pizza ovens: gas or wood?
Wood is arguably the best bet if you want an authentic restaurant-type pizza. The downside is that wood-fired ovens take longer to heat up (sometimes hours) and require constant nurturing to keep the fire going. For that reason, many domestic oven manufacturers are now erring towards the use of propane gas as a fuel.
Some people may not even be able to tell the difference between a pizza cooked in the best wood-fired pizza oven and one cooked in the best gas-fired pizza oven. However, as with barbecues, one thing is for certain: gas pizza ovens heat up way more quickly – usually within 30 minutes or so – and the heat they emit is much more easily controlled.
The best pizza ovens, in order
Of all the outdoor pizza ovens in this roundup, this versatile little piggy turned out to be the most simple to use and the most consistently reliable. The Firepod runs on Patio gas so it’s quick to heat up and easy to control. Unlike the other models here, Firepod recommends baking pizzas at around 350˚C (50˚ less than the norm). We tried their method using the built in temperature gauge as a guide and the result was the crispiest base of the lot – so crispy and stiff we were able to hold a slice at the crust end without the tip collapsing.
Another great thing about this model is that it can also be used as a fully-fledged gas barbecue; simply replace the pizza stone with the optional double-sided Griddle (£99) and lob on a few sausages or whip up a Full English. And if you like steak-on-the-stone, you’ve come to the right place because Firepod is now selling a shiny smooth lava stone that you put in the Firepod for forty minutes or so before placing it in the supplied bamboo board and taking it to the table – while wearing gloves, obviously. We tried some prime filet strips on the stone and it worked a treat, sizzling the meat to crispy rare perfection.
We also received a pink Himalayan Salt Block which has just been added to the Firepod website. Cooking on a salt block is a whole new experience because a) it imparts a naturally light saltiness to food, b) it’s full of natural minerals and c) it’s a great conversation starter. Salt blocks hold their heat extremely well and can reach temperatures three times that of a pizza stone. On the downside, they need to be handled carefully, stored in a dry place and heated up slowly. They’re also tricky to clean.
This writer has eaten more pizzas this past month than a team of computer geeks and the Firepod is the model I kept going back to. It’s practical and light, and portable enough to carry a short distance. It also happens to make a stonking 10-inch pizza and superb steak-on-the-stone. Rather handily, it comes with a pizza peel, a pair of heavy-duty fire gloves and a rubbery table protector. Oh, and it’s available in four natty colours.
If you’re a total beginner at making pizzas, then this is the model to plump for – it’s more versatile than others, really easy to use and, because its lid can be removed, it’s a doddle to clean.
This newcomer is hot off the shelf and quite unique in the pantheon of pizza ovens because it can be used with three types of fuel: untreated wood, charcoal or propane gas when using the optional burner (£65/$65). In fact, it’s more like the love child of the classic wood-fired Ooni 3 and the gas-powered Ooni Koda.
The first thing you notice with this pizza oven is how cool or rather hot it looks – all that riveted stainless steel is reminiscent of a vintage jet engine housing. It’s also remarkably light and comes with folding legs for doddlesome storage.
Using it with lump wood charcoal is more straightforward than with wood simply because you don’t have to keep loading the hopper quite as frequently. However, it’s best to face the back of the oven into a breeze so the flames lap over the pizza more efficiently. You will also need to fit the provided chimney and front door to encourage airflow and ensure that the stone remains at optimum temperature – around 450˚C. When using gas – which is easiest of all – fit the optional gas burner, remove the chimney and plug the hole with the provided metal cap. Be warned that this pizza oven is searingly hot to the touch so make sure no children are anywhere near it.
We performed a few basic Margherita tests using both gas and charcoal and both methods worked brilliantly well. However, we would love to see subsequent models fitted with a half-inch barrier placed at the back of the oven to stop wayward pizzas from being pushed too far back into the source of the fire. Hilariously, this happened to me on one occasion because I failed to use enough flour on the peel when shoving it in. Consequently, the pizza folded over and the more I tried to coax it out with the peel, the more it moved towards the back. It created a right old charred mess that was difficult to clean because you can’t remove the top. The moral of this story? Make sure you have enough flour on the peel so the raw pizza can slide off properly!
Ooni produces a range of great pizza ovens – including the popular gas-fired Koda – but this is the best model to choose if you like the idea of being able to use different fuels. It’s not too pricey either.
The Roccbox is a top choice for those who like the idea of being able to bake pizzas using either gas or wood kindling (Gozney provides two different clip-on assemblies). It’s a heavyweight beast, mind, so it’s not something you’d want to take on a picnic, despite the inclusion of a heavy-duty carrying strap.
This model is so well insulated you can place a whole hand on its rubberised outer surface and you won’t need to pay a visit to A&E; a handy innovation for those with inquisitive kids or cats that like to jump on things.
We tested it using both gas and wood and gas was definitely best because it allowed for easier temperature control and we didn’t have to keep filling the hopper with wood. That said, both methods produced excellent results even though we couldn’t taste any difference between the two power sources.
If you’re concerned about surface heat and fancy the choice of both gas and wood, then consider plonking this one on the patio table. Just don’t consider taking it on a picnic or your arm may fall off.
This homegrown model isn’t cheap but it’s arguably the closest thing on this page to an authentic restaurant-style wood fired oven, the heinously expensive Alfa model below notwithstanding. Constructed from clay and fibreglass, the igloo-shaped DeliVita is surprisingly light for its size though not enough for easy portability.
As with any wood-fired model, there’s a certain level of hassle involved in lighting and maintaining the flame. You will also need to brush the cinders aside to clear space for the pizza or the base will be a bit too ashy. But put in the time and attendance and this oven will produce top-rank results time after time.
Got seven grand knocking about? How about this gargantuan but undeniably elegant wood-fired model from Italian pizza oven specialist Alfa? Clad in what looks like polished concrete, this gorgeous hand-made hunk of artistic pizza-baking splendour is constructed out of double-thick fireclay, swathes of heat-resistant stainless steel and sheets of iron, taking its combined weight of oven and optional stand to a mammoth 93kgs. Not something for the decking, then.
The Venere’s oven floor dimensions measure in at a substantial 120 x 70cm, and that means it’s cavernous enough to swallow up to six 10-12-inch pizzas in one go. Wood fired pizza ovens generally take longer to heat up than their gas-powered rivals and they’re a bit of a faff to light and maintain. Also, the cinders from the fire tend to end up all over the main cooking surface and that means constant brushing while setting your hand alight. Thankfully, this one comes with a fire grate to contain the cinders and prevent them from collapsing all over the main baking surface.
Perhaps you’d need to be a pizza-loving millionaire to opt for one of these but, hey, home-fired pizzas are the new cordon bleu banquets.