How to choose the best pizza oven in 2023
What you need to look for when shopping for one, plus a few recommendations.
Small outdoor pizza ovens have become popular backyard cooking options in recent years. While anyone with a decent-sized patio could have a permanent one installed, these versatile products are more compact and store easily in a bag when you’re not using them. That makes these portable pizza ovens great for home cooks who have limited outdoor space and allows you to take them on the road as needed. There are also great options for having a dedicated pizza oven indoors. Here are a few specs you’ll want to consider before making a purchase, plus some recommendations to get you started.
- A good multi-fuel outdoor pizza oven
Ooni Karu 16
- A solid outdoor pizza oven
Solo Stove Pi
- A great smaller option
Ooni Fyra 12
- A versatile indoor pizza oven
Ooni Volt 12
- A solid indoor pizza oven
Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo
What to look for
When shopping for an oven, you’ll first want to consider what types of pies you plan to make. Most portable outdoor pizza ovens from the likes of Ooni, Solo Stove and others use wood and are primarily designed for the high-heat cooking required for light and airy Neapolitan-style pizzas. We’re talking high temperatures up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. These units can certainly cook different styles at cooler temperatures, but they’re easiest to use when you’re running them wide open with a full load of wood.
If you purchase a propane or natural gas burner, you can adjust temperatures easily by turning a knob. For this reason, I recommend you spend the extra $100 or so on that accessory. It makes your pizza oven a lot more versatile and gives you the option to still have a freshly fired pie when you don’t feel like messing with wood or charcoal. If you only want to cook with gas, there are models available that only use propane or natural gas.
The other key consideration is size. Most companies make ovens that fit 12-inch pizzas, a perfect size for one person. They’re also great for parties, since people can customize their own without having to pick off toppings they don’t like. If you want to make larger pizzas or plan to use your oven for other things (pans, etc), consider a larger version that can accommodate more than just small pies. The interior dimensions – or at the very least the pizza stone size – will be listed on most product pages.
Plan for success
Making quality pizza at home requires a considerable amount of counter or table space. You’ll need room to stretch and prep your pizza dough, lay out your toppings and load pies onto a peel. Of course, some folks will be comfortable working in the tight confines of a small kitchen, but I’ve found it much easier to use extra space to make sure I’m not constantly moving things around during the various steps in the process.
It’s also less hassle to set up your pizza-making station in close proximity to your oven. As a beginner baker, I did the running back and forth from the kitchen to the back porch. It’s far from ideal. It’s difficult to maintain your fire (if using wood or charcoal) when you’re unable to watch it closely. The good news is a patio table can be easily converted into a pizza station with a large cutting board. This also gets your oven off the ground so it’s easier to access.
Ooni sells tables for its ovens that also offer shelving and storage for peels and other accessories. Solo Stove has a rolling stand for its Pi oven too, with small side shelves and a spot for your propane tank underneath. Of course, you can find other tables and stands to suit your needs, just make sure they can withstand any heat that may radiate from the bottom of the oven while cooking. Most ovens are either well insulated or don’t project too much excess heat toward the table, but you can never be too careful. For that reason, a stainless steel or metal surface is a good choice to set up an outdoor model.
Most of these pizza ovens cook quickly at high heat, especially if you’re making Neapolitan-style pies. Having everything you need nearby so you can keep tabs on the oven and quickly make the next pizza will ease a lot of unnecessary headaches. When your cook time is two minutes or less, you don’t want to venture too far.
Outdoor pizza ovens
A good multi-fuel outdoor pizza oven: Ooni Karu 16
Ooni Karu 16
If you’re looking to go all-in on an outdoor pizza oven, you can’t go wrong with Ooni’s Karu 16. It’s the company’s largest multi-fuel model, which means you can choose between wood, charcoal or gas (propane and natural gas burners sold separately). This one is equipped with a hinged glass door for keeping tabs on your progress and a digital thermometer monitors the ambient temperature inside. The larger size means you can not only cook bigger pizzas, but the Karu 16 can also accommodate pans and cast iron, so baking, roasting and searing are all possible here. It’s this versatility that makes the Karu 16 our top pick.
A solid outdoor pizza oven: Solo Stove Pi
Solo Stove Pi
Solo Stove may be on your radar for its fire pits, but the company also makes a solid multi-fuel pizza oven. Dubbed the Pi, this unit is made out of stainless steel and is round like the company’s trademark products. Solo Stove says Pi can hit cooking temperatures of 850 degrees Fahrenheit with wood and 900 degrees with a gas burner (sold separately). It explains that those figures translate to maximum stone temps of 750 and 800 degrees respectively. The Solo Stove Pi’s big difference from the Karu 16 and other Ooni ovens is that it doesn’t have a front door and stays open the whole time like a brick oven.
A great smaller option: Ooni Fyra 12
Ooni Fyra 12
The Ooni Fyra 12 was the first outdoor pizza oven I used and it remains one of my favorites. It’s compact compared to some of the alternatives (22 pounds), so it won’t take up quite as much storage space. It also runs on wood pellets instead of chunks, and once you get the fire going, you just refill the chute from the top. This means there’s much less tending a fire on the Fyra than other wood-fired pizza ovens, so you can focus on making and cooking your pizzas. The Fyra does all the things other Ooni pizza ovens do well, including high-heat bakes (950 degrees) in as little as a minute.
Indoor pizza ovens
Let me preface this section by saying you probably already have an indoor option that you can use to make some great pizza. Whether that’s the main oven in your kitchen or a multi-function countertop unit, with some affordable accessories, you can easily up your game without spending $1,000 on a dedicated appliance. For example, my Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer has a convection pizza setting that automatically adjusts cook time based on the size, temperature and whether the pie is fresh or frozen. A key consideration here is size. These things are massive, about the size of a large microwave, so you likely won’t want to keep them out all the time unless you have a huge kitchen.
A versatile indoor pizza oven: Ooni Volt 12
Ooni Volt 12
Ooni made its name on outdoor pizza ovens that primarily burn wood or run on gas. For 2023, the company is taking things indoors with the Volt 12. Ooni’s first electric oven can also be used outside thanks to weather resistant construction, but this behemoth brings the company’s design and efficiency to your kitchen for the first time. Capable of temperatures up to 850 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 20 minutes, the Volt 12 can fire up Neapolitan style pies in 90 seconds. Controls on the front give you the ability to adjust both the top and bottom heating elements. There are also cooking presets and a Boost function to quickly get the stone back to temp between pizzas. The 13-inch stone inside is square, so you can slide in pans for Detroit recipes or other baked goods.
A solid indoor pizza oven: Breville Pizzaiolo
Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo
If you’re set on buying a dedicated pizza oven, the Breville Pizzaiolo is another great option, but it’s just as pricey as the Volt 12. The Pizzaiolo cooks 12-inch pies as well, but the stone on this unit is perfectly sized for them and there’s a metal heat reflector panel inside that will also keep you from overshooting the cooking surface. This means you won’t be sliding larger rectangle pans in here like you can with the electric Ooni. Round pans fit just fine and some smaller square ones likely will too.
In terms of cooking ability, Breville offers presets for “Wood Fired,” New York, Pan, Thin & Crispy and Frozen pizzas with the added option to run the oven full blast at 750 degrees Fahrenheit. A second dial allows you to adjust the top heating element depending on how dark you want your pizza. Like it does on other Breville appliances, Element IQ tech adjusts the heating elements based on the selected style, creating the ideal environment for each one. For advanced users, the company offers a manual mode that turns the timer dial into a control for the bottom deck while the style preset selector manages the top. Breville includes a magnetic overlay for the front panel to show you temperatures for the converted controls. The instruction manual also gives you recommendations for where to begin with manual mode for the aforementioned styles.
The best pizza accessories for the oven you already have
If you want to make good homemade pizza without spending hundreds of dollars on a dedicated oven, you can definitely do it with the oven you already have in your kitchen. With a few gadgets, you can improve your game without splurging on a Breville, Ooni or Solo Stove. First, I’d recommend a high quality baking steel or stone.
Baking stones are great for getting better browning on the bottom of your pies than a pizza or sheet pan. You can also use them for bread, cookies and other items. The stone absorbs heat to cook pizza quickly, like the inside of a brick oven, which leads to a crisp crust. They’re also more affordable compared to baking steels. Those metal slabs do have one key advantage: higher heat conductivity. This means a steel will cook your pizzas faster since it can absorb more heat from your oven. While baking steels can be used as griddles on your stovetop and for other types of baking, they’re not ideal for some leavened breads.
The second item you’ll want is a pizza peel. These come in all shapes and sizes, made out of a variety of materials. I typically use a bamboo or wooden peel when topping and launching my pizzas and then a metal one for retrieving them. I’ve found that dough doesn’t stick as easily to bamboo during prep and the metal resists the high heat of the oven when turning or retrieving a finished pizza (bamboo will burn). There are also perforated peels which allow both steam and excess flour to escape. A peel is a great tool for loading and turning pizzas, and since you’ll typically be cooking them with your oven at 500 degrees or hotter, using something like parchment paper to move them around won’t work.