Sage Smart Oven Pizzaiolo review in a sentence: a true game changer, Sage's Pizzaiolo is as near to having a genuine pizza oven in your house as you're ever likely to get, without requiring a huge amount of space and expense.
This writer has reviewed a wide range of outdoor pizza ovens in the past, both wood fired and gas. But this new ‘indoor’ electric model from Sage slaughters them all for ease of use and unflinching consistency. Truth is I never expected the Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo – known as Breville The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo in much of the world – to perform anything like as well as it did. After all, it’s electric and it’s designed for indoor use (or outdoors in nice weather) so it’s hardly ‘authentic’. Mind, I should have guessed that Sage wouldn’t deliver a turkey to the door and, sure enough, this pizza oven excelled in every discipline, producing perfect pizzas of several varieties time and again. And with no predicted mishaps in the process.
But enough with the platitudes, let’s dip in and see why this is the best pizza oven you can currently buy – even if it doesn’t use the most authentic heating method.
Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo review: Design
Okay, let’s get this out of the way immediately. The convolutedly-named Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo is big, as in ‘where the ***k are we going to put it’ big. At 47cm in width, 46.1cm in depth and a modest 27cm in height, it is roughly the size of a very large microwave oven. However, where a microwave oven is something you will use almost every day, a pizza oven is something that you might only use once a month – unless of course you happen to love pizzas enough to eat them once or twice a week. So, storage could be an issue even though it should just about fit into an average-sized kitchen cupboard. On the plus side, it’s not as heavy as most outdoor pizza ovens, so you could quite easily carry it outside on a sunny day and plug it into a suitable extension lead.
The Sage Pizzaiolo genuinely looks the business in all that glorious luke warm-to-the-touch stainless steel. The whole front fascia folds down while bringing the pizza stone outwards by several inches so it’s easier to load. This is a super handy innovation because one the most tricky aspects of pizza baking is the act of loading the pizza off the peel – it’s not as easy as you think when the stone is set back a few inches inside the oven. Mind, the Pizzaiolo’s door is spring loaded so keep a hand on the handle because it snaps shut quite aggressively.
If you take a peek inside the oven you’ll spot the Pizzaiolo’s heat source – two simple oven rings, one on top and one beneath the supplied pizza stone. These two heating elements are independently controlled to offer the optimum heat requirements for several different styles of pizza, from Neapolitan to deep dish. Since the heat is directly above and below, it means that all styles of pizza are baked evenly with no turning required (gas and wood-fired pizza ovens usually have the seat of the heat source towards the rear where pizza edges are easily burned). Naturally, the Sage arrived with a carefully-packaged 12-inch cordierite stone, a metal pizza dish for Chicago-style deep-dish baking and a pizza peel (the large flat spatula you use for shovelling the prepared pizza into the oven).
In typical Sage fashion, this pizza oven is designed to be as easy as possible to use and I tip the hat to the R&D team’s efforts because it is indeed a doddle. On the front there are just three dials – a timer on the left, a pizza variety dial in the middle and a small optional browning knob on the right. The pizza variety dial is comprised of the following icons: 160˚C, defrost, pan, thick crust, thin & crispy, wood fired and 400˚C. Simply select your pizza icon of choice and the oven selects the best pre-programmed ratio between the two heating elements and the recommended time it will take to bake the pizza. Talk about simple.
The manual function is a bit more complex, mind, and includes placing the included magnetic interface sheet over the dials and pressing a couple of buttons. Once the interface is in position, the right and left-hand dials become temperature distribution controls for each heating element (from 160˚C to 400˚C). This allows the user to select specific heat sources both above and below the stone. To be honest, I didn’t try this method out since the auto settings are so well configured I felt no need to experiment. That said, I’m sure some pizza aficionados will relish the opportunity to delve into the oven’s finer custom details and experiment to their hearts' content.
Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo review: Performance
Being a big fan of thin and crispy Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas, I opted for the ‘wood fired’ setting on my first attempt. Now, it has to be said that no wood is involved here – Sage states that it has used the wood-fired moniker to illustrate the extra high heat output required for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. The oven took about 25 minutes to warm up to optimum temperature and it made a ‘beep’ sound when it reached the required 400˚C. The little pulsing LED also changed to static. During this period I spent time preparing the pizza base using freshly-made dough balls and other ingredients supplied by online pizza dough delivery company, Dough Dealers.
Now I like to think I know what makes a good pizza, especially a Neapolitan, and this machine blew me away. The first thing to note is that I didn’t need to turn the pizza at all during the bake because the radiant heat was so uniform above and below the entire pizza. Granted, there is no light inside the oven so unless your kitchen is lit like a football ground you may need to open the door from time to time for a quick peek.
I’m also the first to admit that I’m no expert when it comes to preparing and baking pizzas but truth is I’ve never made better pizzas on any of the other ovens I’ve reviewed (I should add that some of the credit must go to Dough Dealers, whose ready-made dough is probably the best I’ve ever used).
Aside from some irregularities in the shape of my bases, the Neapolitans that came out of this machine ticked every box. In fact the results were exceptional – huge mountainous peaks of crisp, light and airy crusts replete with ‘leopard spots’ and stiff, dark, dusty, dirty, mottled bases that looked like they’d been in a genuine wood fired oven. Indeed, the bases were so stiff I was able to hold the edge of a slice without the tip collapsing. I also made an amazing Chicago-style deep dish pizza using the supplied metal dish, though sadly I ate the evidence before I could photograph it. Granted, outdoor pizza ovens – especially wood fired models – can certainly be considered more authentic but I swear I couldn’t tell the difference in taste and texture between this electric upstart and the Ooni wood-fired oven I still have knocking about in the garden.
Aside from the top-notch pizza’s this brute produced, the overriding appeal of this machine is its ease of use. At no point did I scorch my hand – something that has happened at least once with every other oven I’ve used. Similarly, there were no crusts catching fire, no out of control flames and no worrying about cats jumping on top of a scorching exterior. It also produced far less smoke than expected – in fact it produced hardly any smoke at all.
Yup, at £700 a pop, the Sage Pizzaiolo is darn expensive, but then most high quality pizza ovens are. After all, you could spend upwards of £1,500 on a fancy wood fired pizza oven only to spend the entire evening feeding the flames, sweating in the heat, searing the hand and burning at least one or two pizzas in the process. By comparison, this pizza oven has been an absolute breeze from start to finish.
Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo review: Verdict
If you’re looking for a pizza oven that will make you the toast of the neighbourhood, an oven so easy to grasp it makes the act of pizza baking a cinch instead of a stressful frenzy, then I wholeheartedly recommend this one. Right out of the box, this stainless steel-clad monster produced pizza bases with all the right hallmarks of a restaurant-grade effort. Five stars all round.
•Buy the Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo from Lakeland and other outlets when more widely available