I don't know about you, but I personally didn't grow up in an Italian pizzeria. In fact, I have yet to go to Italy (you need to get out more, man!) But for some reason, I've always had the calling to cook in a wood-burning pizza oven.
I take it you have too?
Consider this fun fact: The average American eats 46 slices of pizza per year. That equates to 350 slices of pizza per second across the population.
One might say pizza is about as American as white picket fences and 2.5 kids; the American Dream.
Wood-fired pizza ovens allow you to cook restaurant-quality pizzas and so much more, in the comfort of your home. It's a game-changer for folks like you and me.
But like you, I was once on the path of finding the best wood-fired pizza oven to fit my lifestyle. Yet, as I looked at what was available, I quickly became paralyzed with the number of options and differing builds.
The more I learned, the more I questioned. It was a gut-wrenching cycle that lead me to weeks of study and ultimately, a shot in the dark on the one I chose.
That was many years ago. Before I started Pro Pizza Ovens to fix this issue.
Hundreds of thousands of hours researching pizza ovens and thousands of happy customers later, our goal continues to be to educate our customers on their options. This in-depth guide aims to help you consider every aspect of how to buy a wood-fired pizza oven. It's a culmination of everything I wish I had known years ago. Enjoy!
Contrary to popular belief you can't get the same flavor from a grill with a pizza stone that you can with a true wood-burning oven. There's a lot more to it than that. The premier wood-fired pizza ovens that we’ll look at later in the write-up rely on three things: oven dome design, quality of the insulation, and cooking surface area. An oven with forethought in design, insulation that is thick and durable, yet still built in a way that can last for generations, with a cooking surface large enough to house all your dishes. Now, that's what we're looking for.
The pizza oven is then built around those three principles. The oven needs to be made to withstand temperatures of over 900°F but designed in a way that uses physics to promote the flame rolling from the floor of the oven, up and around the wall to the ceiling, then down to the other side of the oven. This ensures an all-encompassing cook.
One on the list (Chicago Brick Oven CBO 750 DIY Pizza Oven Kit) actually has a trademark on the flame roll. Imagine how much thought has to go into the engineering of your oven that you can literally trademark the way fire moves within it. At that point, all you need to worry about is starting a fire and ensuring the cooking surface is clean and hot before cooking your pie, and the oven takes care of the rest.
Outside of those three main factors, weight and exterior oven dimensions are essential aspects to note as well. Nobody wants to order their dream oven only to have it delivered and realize there's no way they can fit it through their fence or lift it into place. To take it a step further, before ordering a wood-fired pizza you should check with your HOA to confirm wood-burning ovens are acceptable in your neighborhood. Areas that are prone to forest fires may have limitations on what can be installed.
As we explain which wood-fired pizza ovens make the list and why, take note of the three most important things outlined above. The design, quality of insulation, and cooking surface area are the most important aspects of the pizza oven, and depending on what you use it for and how much space you need to cook, should be the biggest factors when choosing your next wood-fired pizza oven.
How Do Wood Fired Pizza Ovens Work?
At first glance, the physics involved in what makes a wood-fired pizza oven work isn't readily apparent. You look at the fire, it looks beautiful, we cook mouth-watering meals, we move on. But it's so much more than that. It's science!
Well-engineered pizza ovens are designed to cook with three main types of heat transference: radiant, convection, and conduction heat. The majority of the time your oven is in use, you are using all three types at the same time. The importance and role of each type of heat are outlined below.
Radiant heat begins with the fire itself and airflow coming in from the mouth of the oven. That constant airflow is then heated by the fire and pushed up to the top of the pizza oven dome and then rolls around the dome to the cooking floor.
The best way to compare this in real life is to think of it as the heat from a broiler in your home baking oven. The difference is, that you're not using electricity or gas to heat the top of the oven, you're using air and flames.
The second stage of heating up your oven is caused by convection heat. Convection heat builds upon the radiant heat already occurring in your pizza oven. As the heat comes from the air, it flows around the oven dome and walls to pass over your dish. Resulting in the top of your meal being fully cooked.
The best way to control convection heat is by opening and closing the pizza oven door. Just like when you open the door of your kitchen oven at home, the heat will escape rapidly and cool down your oven.
The third and final stage of heating up your oven is a result of conduction heat. Conduction heat is caused by the transference of heat coming down the walls of your oven from the top of the dome and heating up the floor of the oven. That heat stored in the floor of the oven then intersects with the heat coming down from the walls to create a heated layer on the cooking surface that bakes the bottom of your pizza.
Conduction heat is the most tricky because it takes the longest to heat up. If you're having trouble with your pizza being cooked on top but still undercooked on the bottom, it's caused by not allowing enough time for the oven floor to heat up to temperature.
The best way to solve this common problem is to use a high-temperature infrared thermometer heat gun to measure the floor temperature before placing your pie in the oven. You want the floor of the oven to be your deciding factor of when to start cooking your dish, not the exterior thermometer on the oven itself. The exterior thermometer can only accurately read the radiant and convection heat in the oven, not the conduction heat.
What Makes a Good Wood Fired Pizza Oven?
A good wood-fired pizza oven is one that fits your specific needs and design. A centerpiece in your home that is a hub for entertainment, and a fountain of memories for your family. However, to take it a step further, a great wood-fired pizza oven is one that not only fits those needs but builds upon them in three key areas.
The three main areas you want to look at when choosing the best wood-fired pizza oven for your home is the quality of construction of the oven (is it built to last?), multiple layers of dense, heat-retaining insulation (to retain heat and use less wood), and a large cooking surface area (to fit all your dishes and the wood inside at once).
Let's dive a little deeper into each one to get more clarity on what you should look out for.
Construction of the Oven
The construction of the oven matters. I often speak with folks who call in wondering what the difference is between a brick pizza oven and a stainless steel pizza oven. And to that I always tell them, "It's like comparing apples to oranges!" They're just two totally different animals. And the reason why is because of their construction.
A traditional brick wood-fired pizza oven is often going to be made of a combination of fire brick, refractory cement, and a single layer of ceramic fiber insulation. The combination of these three materials results in an oven that is easily over 1,200 lbs+ but can last for centuries if well taken care of. Just head out to the European country side to see some longstanding examples.
However when it comes to stainless steel ovens, the exterior housing often times is made of high quality stainless steel to provide durability and protection in harsh environments. Beneath the exterior of the oven dome is often times a layer of thick, ceramic fiber insulation and/or formed ceramic to help with heat retention. And the floor is made up of either a firebrick/refractory cement combination or just refractory cement itself. Both of which are exceptional at heat retention and transference.
Quality of the Insulation
With wood fired pizza ovens, in particular, the quality of the insulation used in the build and floor of the oven is incredibly important. You can't just turn up the heat like you can in a gas or hybrid oven to get the oven back up to cooking temperature (although, insulation is very important there as well to save on fuel consumption).
For traditional brick ovens, you want the dome and floor of the oven to be made of materials that are known to be great heat insulators. The most tried and true are firebrick, refractory cement, or a combination of the two. That's a great start but if you want your oven to be hot on the inside but still cool to the touch on the outside, then adding a third layer of ceramic fiber insulation to the oven itself will help you achieve that aspect.
When it comes to stainless steel pizza ovens you want to look for brands that focus on thick stainless steel outer domes with a layer of ceramic fiber insulation or formed ceramic sandwiched between the exterior of the dome and interior of the dome. With oven floor tiles that are at least 2-3 cm thick made out of firebrick, refractory cement, or a combination of the two. Add in that premier brands like Alfa and Forno Venetzia put in a "third layer" of insulation by placing another layer of insulation below the floor. Typically a very fragile stone called gasbeton isn't suited for cooking on but is a superior heat insulator.
What we see with a lot of cheaper wood-fired pizza ovens on the market is the use of cordierite (aka clay) cooking stones for oven floors. Although these cordierite stones are great for cooking because they heat up fast, their downfall is the failure to efficiently retain that heat, so you constantly have to keep feeding your oven wood to maintain the temperature.
Remember, fuel efficiency directly affects your wallet by having to constantly buy and stock wood. Those "savings" you achieved by purchasing a cheaper oven are quickly outpaced as your fuel costs skyrocket. Try to avoid these ovens if you can.
Cooking Surface Area
Trying to determine the appropriate size of the cooking surface area for your new wood-fired pizza oven can be tricky. Typically, the larger the cooking surface is, the more expensive the oven will be. This sometimes catches people off guard and leaves them unable to make a decision.
"Do I save money on the smaller oven and risk it not being large enough OR do I buy the bigger one that's at the top of my budget and make sure I have enough real estate inside to cook to my heart's content?"
I have conversations with people all the time that are stuck in that very situation. To resolve that internal dilemma, I often ask them a series of questions:
What do you mainly want to cook in your oven?
How many people are you looking to feed on average?
Are you willing to let different aspects of your meal finish well before the others or not?
Typically answering those three questions and determining the actual size of the dishes you're planning to cook at once will help you realize which oven is right for you. If we're still unsure of which way to go and there's no obvious right answer that's in the customer's best interest I just tell them that based on my experience, I've never had someone call in wishing they had a smaller oven. It's always the other way around.
To sum it up, the cooking surface area can be one of the most important aspects of your oven selection. Choosing an oven that is large enough to fit all your food and cookware at the same time while still leaving room for the wood is what separates a great experience cooking in your wood-burning oven and one that can be a bit stressful.
Pro tip: The wood in your oven, on average, takes up between 8"-12" of your cooking surface. So use that to calculate your necessary cooking surface area.
Types of Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
There are 4 main types of wood-fired pizza ovens available on the market today. Depending on how you envision using your oven and how it will be installed, should lead you to the one that best fits your needs. Of course, each one has its pros and cons, so make sure you're aware and comfortable with what you're giving up when choosing one type over another.
Portable Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
Portable wood-fired pizza ovens are built with convenience and ease of use in mind. You wouldn't consider taking a 500+ lbs. oven to the game or a friend's house to whip up some pies, but you would consider taking an oven that weighs less than 100 lbs and fits in the trunk of your car or truck, right?
Let's be honest, if you were looking for something much smaller, you'd be looking at an Ooni oven. But you've graduated to the big leagues. And to get the quality of pizza you're looking to achieve and have an oven that will last for decades, it's going to be a bit larger and heavier. But with that increase in bulk and weight, you get an oven that is much more efficient with fuel, has a larger cooking surface area, and can STILL fit in your hatchback. What not to like?
Wood Fired Pizza Oven Kits
DIY wood-fired pizza oven kits are meant to allow you more flexibility in design. You can build any type of outdoor kitchen or structure that you'd like, then seamlessly place one inside. It's the ultimate multi-tool in the pizza oven world.
In addition to that flexibility, you get a patented oven design from a pizza oven manufacturer that has been building them for decades. With that expertise, you get an oven that doesn't take 5+ hours to heat up (an hour or less is average for kits) and is typically warranted for a few years if something were to go wrong. That peace of mind in itself is oftentimes worth it compared to having a mason build one for you themselves.
Not to mention, you get the exact same pizza oven that are in units much more expensive than the kit for a fraction of the cost. It just requires a little sweat equity to make up for it.
Countertop Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
Countertop wood-burning pizza ovens are the most widely available in the market. And the most popular. They are completely made ovens, directly from the manufacturer, ready to be set on your outdoor kitchen's "countertop". Simple, and easy.
If you like the design of the oven and the build quality suits your needs, then a countertop oven is our top pick. You can be up and cooking in no time compared to the DIY Kit options above that take much more time to install.
The one thing you should keep in mind before purchasing one is how you're going to get it to your backyard. Make sure to measure the doorways and fences along the route to its final resting place to ensure it will fit. Remember, these ovens are typically 90%+ assembled at delivery so there's not much room for modification to get through a tight space if not thought of ahead of time.
Mobile Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
Mobile wood-fired pizza ovens, also known as freestanding ovens, are the perfect option for those that don't want an oven permanently fixed in one place but want an oven that is more robust than a smaller, portable oven.
Mobile ovens are typically a manufacturer's countertop pizza oven attached to a high-quality cart with caster wheels. These pizza oven carts are built with the intention of holding ovens that can weigh over 400 lbs, so they are oftentimes very heavy as well. Typically over 600 lbs.
Mobile ovens allow you to roll your oven out on the backyard patio when you want to whip up some delicious meals with friends and family, then easily roll back in place when the party is over. It's the best option for someone who either has limited space or wants to keep their outdoor kitchen from getting cluttered with items.
Just like countertop pizza ovens, you should ensure the route taken from your driveway to the oven's final resting area is wide enough to fit the oven and cart through before purchasing. Mobile ovens can be delivered 90%+ assembled before delivery as well, so breaking it down to fit through a small space isn't typically an option.
Where Can You Install a Wood Fired Pizza Oven?
Wood-fired pizza ovens are flexible, they can be installed both indoors and outdoors as long as the area they are being placed is properly vented. Pizza ovens, like wood stoves, have to be properly vented to ensure safety during use. An improperly ventilated pizza oven can cause severe levels of smoke and ash to exit the oven through the chimney and/or mouth resulting in hazardous smoke and hot embers to leave the oven. This is a big safety concern and why we always recommend consulting a professional if your oven requires additional venting.
Outdoor wood-fired pizza ovens are the most popular means of installation. Placing your oven in an outdoor kitchen, a backyard deck, or on a patio is the choice of most people we speak with.
The good news is this is also the easiest way to install your oven. If the place you envision setting your oven on is out in an airy space with no roof or pergola to be seen, then no further venting is required than what is already included with the oven.
If you're in the other camp where you have a roof or pergola above the spot you intend to place your oven then you need to properly vent your oven depending on the manufacturer's recommendations, as well as your local municipality's requirements. We recommend reaching out to a professional contractor or HVAC company who knows the laws and regulations on venting a wood-fired pizza oven. This will ensure your oven is safely installed and won't cause harm to your existing structure.
Installing an indoor wood-fired pizza oven is always the most daunting to customers. It's not that it can't be done. In fact, we speak to folks every day who install their pizza oven indoors. Mentally, it's just a big deal putting an oven with an open fire in your kitchen. So you need to make sure it's done right.
The guidelines set forth by the manufacturer of the oven you purchased are a great starting point but they're meant to be a guide and not cover everything you need to know. The reason behind this is every municipality has laws and regulations regarding installing a wood-burning oven that you have to abide by. That's why we always recommend working with a licensed contractor or HVAC company who can perform this installation for you. In doing so, you will ensure the safety of your home and family. Please don't attempt to install it yourself if you're not a licensed professional.
How Much Does a Wood Fired Pizza Oven Cost?
When you've been in business as long as we have, you get asked the question, "how much does a wood-fired pizza oven cost?" a lot. It's not every day you look for wood-burning ovens for sale, so knowing what you should pay for the quality of oven you desire is a completely understandable thought to have.
The answer to that question is going to come down to the three main factors we pointed out at the start of this guide: oven dome design, quality of the insulation, and cooking surface area. A common theme throughout the industry after identifying a quality wood-fired pizza oven brand that meets the design and quality of insulation parameters is that as the cooking surface area gets larger, the price of the ovens gets more expensive. At this point, it comes down to how much real estate inside your oven you're okay with having and will meet your cooking needs.
With that being said, most authentic wood-fired pizza ovens for your home start at $1,300 and can rise as high as $10,000. Based on our years of knowledge and expertise working with thousands of customers, below are the best wood-burning ovens broken down by price range.
Wood Fired Pizza Oven Reviews from Industry Leaders
Each and every day, more and more homeowners are realizing the unending benefits of owning a wood-fired pizza oven and have already chosen to place one as their centerpiece at their home. Outside of just looks, pizza ovens are fast becoming one of the main ways to create lifelong memories with family and friends.
Chef Lee from the hit show Iron Chef America on FoodNetwork.com said this about his wood-fired pizza oven: "Cooking with wood fire adds an entire new vocabulary to my cuisine, one that is primal, instinctive and adventurous. With my Chicago Brick Oven, I can achieve this with a consistent heat source that I could not live without. It’s my favorite oven to cook with. The menu changes weekly but the CBO-750 is a mainstay!”
Juan Perez, the Executive Chef at POSTO, a Pizzeria in Boston, MA who also loves to cook pizzas at home had this to say in an interview with PizzaToday.com about portable wood fired pizza ovens: “Now in 2022, the revolution of these new portable ovens has vastly impressed me! To be able to bake a pizza in your home at 700 to 800 F, and still have professional quality, has taken pizza to a new level. ”
And a recent study from Zillow.com shows that pizza ovens can also have a real impact on your home's resale value: "People take their pizza seriously, and for those devoted to crafting the perfect pie, a pizza oven is a must-have. Homes that mentioned pizza ovens in their listing sold for 3.4% more than expected."
Choosing the Best Wood Fired Pizza Oven - The Wrap Up
In choosing the best wood-fired pizza oven, the most important factors to consider are:
Oven Dome Design
Cooking Surface Area
If you relied on those three factors alone and never even saw the oven you planned to buy, you'd have a quality pizza oven sitting in your backyard. It's that simple. After that, it mainly comes down to design, where and how you plan to install it, and what fits your budget. When you have everything determined, check out our Best Wood Fired Pizza Ovens of 2024 article for our top recommendations.
Have Questions? Ask Our Team of Wood Fired Pizza Oven Experts.
This guide is intended to help you become familiar with wood-fired pizza ovens. We realize however that it may not provide every answer that you're specifically looking for. If you have any questions or need some help in choosing which wood-fired pizza oven is right for you just give us a call at 541-210-4081. You can also reach us via email at Ryan@ProPizzaOvens.com. Our team of experts are knowledgeable and ready to help with any and all of your questions.