We Tested the Best Pizza Ovens for Restaurant-Quality Pizza at Home
Making pizza at home is one of the most interactive ways to enjoy dinner with family and friends. Whether you're throwing a pizza party or slinging a weeknight specialty pie, homemade pizza just tastes better when it's made with the right equipment. Pizza ovens are an efficient way to achieve restaurant-quality pizza at home, and they're the perfect accessory to any well-stocked outdoor kitchen.
If you're looking to improve your at-home pizzeria, look for an oven that's hot, portable, and easy to assemble. To help you find the best pizza oven available, our experts tested some of the leading models in our test kitchen. We cooked up tons of pizzas back-to-back to assess everything from pre-heating time to temperature consistency to general convenience. Overall, we love the Ooni Koda 16 because it's convenient, cooks evenly and efficiently, and produces pizzas that rivaled some of the best we've ever had. Read on for more of our findings.
Our Top Picks
Overall, our testers found that the best pizza ovens were easy to set up, heat, and use. We love that the Ooni Koda 16 is capable of producing restaurant-quality pizzas at home, thanks to its strong, even heating and large opening that allows for more user control. If you're looking to upgrade your outdoor kitchen, this is our top pick.
Factors to Consider
There are several pizza ovens on the market for home use, and they tend to fall into four categories: wood-fired, pellet-fired, propane or gas-fired, and dual-fuel. Choosing the right one for you has a lot to do with how you intend to use it. If you want wood-fired flavor, an oven that can accommodate wood or pellets is your best bet. They take longer to come to temp and require some practice to get the hang of maintaining heat and feeding the fire, but the results will be as close to professional as you can get. However, keep in mind that both wood and pellet ovens take longer to cool down after use, and require cleanup to remove ashes safely. Gas or propane units heat faster and give consistent heat, require minimal cleanup, and cool down faster after use, which can be helpful if you are not planning on a permanent location since they will be able to be stored faster. They will not give the same wood-fired flavor or smoke as the others, but they will still give you good char and excellent cooking results. If you're looking for flexibility, go for a dual-fuel option where gas, wood, or a combination of both is an option. This means it will be easier to light and maintain heat when using wood but will also give you fast and easy results when you don't have time to sit by a fire.
Size is a major factor in deciding which pizza oven is best for you. Depending on the size of pizzas you like to make, and your skill as a pizzaiolo, it can be better to opt for a larger oven. Larger ovens have larger openings, which is ideal for beginners because they can be easier to maneuver. They can also accommodate larger pies, which is great for serving a crowd. Keep in mind that larger ovens are typically more expensive, but if you have the room and the budget, this can be a good investment. You will spend more on the unit and more on fuel since it will take more wood/pellets/gas to bring a larger space up to temp. Smaller ovens usually max out at a 12" pizza, which is ideal for couples or small families and will take up a smaller footprint and use slightly less fuel.
Some home pizza ovens can be installed permanently in place, some can be moved around, and some are even designed to be portable so that you can easily take them with you on the go. Before purchasing an oven, assess how frequently you intend to use it and your options for storage. If you have a second home or like to travel, you may want to consider the portable units which can be a terrific thing to have when on vacation or for weekend getaways.
Pro Panel Q+A
Former pizzaiolo, food writer Dennis Lee, continues to be so passionate about pizza that he frequently takes a shift or fills in at his old pizzeria just to keep his skills up. We reached out to get his take on pizza ovens.
What's the difference between a wood or gas pizza oven?
"The difference between a wood and gas pizza oven is pretty simple: it all comes down to the fuel," Lee tells us. "A wood oven is fired by burning hardwood—like oak—while a gas pizza oven uses a fuel source like a propane tank or natural gas. Wood-fired pizza ovens are an interesting tool because the sole source of heat comes from burning wood, which is a unique and rustic way to cook anything, but the method can be tricky. Flames are almost like a living creature, and you have to keep a constant eye on whether or not the oven is at the temperature you're looking for and adjust by adding more wood or by letting the fire coast for a bit. These ovens take a while to heat up, and you need to maintain them by brushing out soot and ash after every time you use them."
"The flame in gas ovens is a little easier to manage, since it's stationary (as opposed to the chaotic nature of wood fire), and it heats up much more quickly than a wood-fired oven, which needs to gradually come up to temperature. In terms of end results, you still get fantastic pizzas out of either style of oven. Some people swear by the char you can get from a wood fire, along with a slight smokiness from the burning wood and a bit of ash imparted on the bottom crust, but a gas oven can pretty much give you the same result with a slightly cleaner bake," said Lee.
What kind of surface and how much clearance does a pizza oven need?
"Thankfully, pizza ovens can be quite small," Lee says. Many home pizza ovens are standalone units that are small enough to fit on top of an outdoor patio table. You can usually dismantle them for easy storage, too. The small home ovens can cook pizzas from 12 to 16 inches in diameter but must be used outside for safety and ventilation purposes. Those ovens don't need a ton of clearance, either, enough to accommodate the chimney in the back without being in direct contact with some sort of ceiling."
How do you turn a pizza?
"Turning a pizza can be tricky for a lot of people. You can only turn a pizza efficiently with a peel. After you lay down the pizza, let it sit in place until the bottom has set (the time can vary widely depending on the temperature of the oven and the style of dough). Once you've noticed that the pizza is starting to brown a little on one side of the crust, place the peel beneath the pizza, with about a 1/3 of the crust still resting on the deck of the oven (either the left or right side, doesn't matter which), tilt the peel up by about 45 degrees, and gently pull back. You'll find that the pizza will rotate naturally from the friction of the crust and the angle of your pizza peel. This takes a lot of practice and muscle memory, so prepare to practice quite a bit until you get the hang of it.
If you're feeling adventurous, there's a second way to do it that's much easier, but a little riskier for you. You can pull the pizza out part of the way using your pizza peel, and carefully, I mean carefully, lightly pinch the crust and spin the pizza manually on the peel. I am going to warn you, this will be very hot, and there's a risk of burning your fingertips if you're not fast enough, so take that as a disclaimer! This method is best if you have a very small pizza oven since you don't have much room to wiggle a peel around in it to shuffle the pizza around. And whatever you do, make sure you do not touch any of the oven's surfaces."
In order to test the best pizza ovens, we assessed them on ease of assembly, portability, performance, and temperature control. To do so, our testers first conducted a pre-heating test and general temperature assessment. This test allowed us to evaluate how long each oven took to come to the recommended temperature. It also allowed us to test how hot each oven was from front to back and side to side, allowing us to identify any hot spots, cold spots, or other heating inconsistencies.
Next, we assessed consistency by cooking three pizzas back-to-back. We examined the quality from start to finish and noted if the resulting pizzas varied from each other. We cooked two types of pizzas—one with whole wheat dough, and one with regular dough and loaded toppings—to see if the ovens could handle different styles of dough and assortments of toppings. We assessed how each oven performed and whether or not it could achieve a crispy, golden crust with nicely melted toppings. Lastly, we examined how portable each oven is. We took into account different characteristics like weight, cooldown time, and necessary accessories that could make storage more challenging.
What Didn't Make the List
For this piece, we relied on insights from our expert product testers Elizabeth Mervosh and Marianne Williams. Elizabeth Mervosh is a recipe tester and developer for the Meredith Food Studios in Birmingham, Alabama, and tests and develops recipes for brands including Southern Living, Real Simple, Food & Wine, People, and Health. She completed her culinary degree at The Culinary Institute of America and has been a part of the Meredith Food Studios since 2017. Marianne Williams is a recipe tester and developer who has been working in the Dotdash Meredith test kitchens since 2016. You can find her recipes in Food & Wine, Southern Living, Real Simple, Rachael Ray, Health, and Cooking Light. Elizabeth and Marianne spent hours in the test kitchen making multiple pizzas on each machine. For additional expertise, we spoke to former pizzaiolo and food writer Dennis Lee. Dennis is a Chicago-based food writer whose work can be found in Serious Eats, Thrillist, and The Onion's A.V. Club.
This piece was written by Laura Denby, a food writer and former chef with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education. Laura uses her years of experience cooking in professional kitchens to guide her expert product reviews, which can be found st FoodNetwork.com, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, and more.