In this ultimate wood fired pizza oven buyers guide, I’m going to be giving you everything you need to know for buying the best wood fired pizza oven. A Grilling Life guide to buying the best wood pizza oven.
If you’re a fan of pizza — and let’s be real, who isn’t — it doesn’t get much better than a hot, bubbling pizza straight from a wood-fired pizza oven. Unless it’s a pizza that you’ve made yourself in your own outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.
If you’re in the market for your own oven, there are a lot of factors to consider and choices to make before you pick which type of oven is the best for you.
Our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide will walk you through everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
What You Can Expect From This Wood Fired Pizza Oven Buyers Guide
In this wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide we’ll cover different types and sizes of ovens, different accessories, how to choose the best options for you, and more. We’ll also offer some of our own recommendations.
Once you’re more familiar with all the details of a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven, you’ll be comfortable buying one that fits in seamlessly with your home and your lifestyle.
Let’s get into our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide so you can get the information you need and get to pizza making.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
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Wood Pizza Ovens vs Gas Pizza Ovens
When it comes to fuel type for your outdoor pizza oven, there are two primary options to consider: wood and gas.
There’s no doubt that both of these options will deliver you a hot, delicious pizza. But there are several key differences between gas and wood-powered ovens.
Wood-fired pizza ovens are often chosen by pizza purists for their authenticity and unmistakable charred flavor. But there’s a definite learning curve here that could be intimidating to first-time pizzaiolos.
Many wood-fired pizza ovens are built so that the wood and flames are in the same space as where you’ll place the pizza. While this helps create that amazing, crunchy crust, there’s a bit more skill involved since you’ll need to maintain the flame and keep turning the pizza so it cooks evenly.
Some wood-fired ovens keep the fire below the cooking space in a compartment so you don’t need to constantly mind the flame or spin the ‘za. But this ease of use also means slower preheating times.
Gas-powered pizza ovens are popular among outdoor cooks who want a hot and fresh pizza, fast, without the need to prod an open flame. They also take up less space and heat up incredibly quickly, reaching as high as 800° within 20 minutes and baking a pizza in less than five.
That being said, there are some tradeoffs. The heat within a gas pizza oven is less dry than a wood-fired oven, so your crust likely won’t have that signature crunchy, blistered appearance and taste that a pizza baked with wood will.
Making sure your propane is filled or dealing with having a natural gas line connection can occasionally mean more prep work than placing a few pieces of wood into the oven and lighting them.
Where will your Pizza Oven Go?
A pizza oven makes a great addition or even centerpiece of an outdoor kitchen. Before making a purchase, spend time thinking about where your oven will go.
If your outdoor kitchen is located under a cover, roof, or pergola, you may want to vent the oven’s chimney out through the top of the cover or angle it outside.
The layout of your outdoor space will also dictate the type of oven you buy. If you had your eye on a heavy-duty brick oven before reading our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide, check whether a forklift or hoist would be able to bring the oven into your space.
If that’s not a possibility, you may need to change your plan to a lightweight oven or a kit that you’ll assemble once it’s in your yard.
Depending on the space you’re working with or your future plans you may even want to consider a portable pizza oven that can be moved to a different location if needed.
Check & Measure your Space
If you’ve decided to Install a permanent outdoor pizza oven, it’s time to carefully pick a spot. Think about what size oven you’d need depending on the size of your family and the groups you entertain for.
If you’re including masonry around your oven, account for more space since masonry takes up a lot of room. You’ll also want to check the surface your oven will go on – it may need to be reinforced to support the weight of the oven and masonry before those are installed.
Do you Want to Build a Pizza Oven Yourself?
If you live for the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a DIY project, an outdoor pizza oven can be the ultimate one to tackle.
You can purchase DIY kits that come with everything you (and some friends or family — this isn’t a one-person job) need to create a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven.
These DIY kits are typically a bit cheaper than pre-made ovens, and they give you a bit more creative freedom over the look of the oven. A kit is also a great option if you have a small yard or tight space between houses that would prevent bringing in a pre-made oven.
Even if you aren’t feeling like building the kit yourself, you can hire a contractor to build the kit for you but have more of a say in the look of the final product than you would with a pre-made oven.
We’ll talk more about DIY masonry kits later on in our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide.
What Size Pizza Oven do you Need?
When considering what size pizza oven you want for your outdoor space, experts recommend that you envision how many pizzas of a particular size can fit in the oven, not necessarily the maximum size pizza that can fit.
For this wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide, we’ll be taking a look at small, medium, large, and extra-large pizza ovens.
Small Pizza Ovens
A small pizza oven will usually be up to 26 inches wide, and fit just one 12-inch pizza at a time. This size oven is great for someone who lives by themselves, or just wants the ability to occasionally cook a pizza when the mood hits them.
Medium Pizza Ovens
Most medium pizza ovens will range between 27 and 33 inches wide. Depending on their width, expect these ovens to handle between two and four 12-inch pizzas at the same time.
If you have a small family or usually just entertain small groups, a medium-sized pizza oven will be the one for you.
Large Pizza Ovens
Large pizza ovens will range in width from 34 to 42 inches, and be able to fit between four and six 12-inch pizzas simultaneously.
A large oven is perfect if you have a bigger family, or host larger get-togethers. Another perk of a large oven? Everyone in your family can create and bake their own personal pizza at the same time.
XL Pizza Ovens
This one is for the serious pizza aficionados. Extra-large pizza ovens start at 43 inches wide and go up from there. They can typically fit six or more 12-inch pizzas at one time, or even cook full turkeys when you want to go beyond pizza.
These ovens are for the entertainer who frequently cooks for large gatherings — or just has a huge family who really, really loves pizza.
Know your Budget
Outdoor wood-fired pizza ovens vary greatly in price depending on their size and whether you opt for a portable or built-in model.
Prices typically start around $1,400 for small portable wood-fired options on wheeled carts, although some portable tabletop options are available for as low as $300. For higher-end portable options, prices typically range between $3,500 to $5,500.
There are also countertop options that can be placed on a counter, or a cart to create a freestanding configuration. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1,200 to $3,700 for these options, plus a few hundred extra for the cart.
Built-in pizza ovens usually range in cost from around $1,500 to $6,000, plus any labor you add on if you don’t tackle the construction yourself.
For high-end wood-fired pizza ovens that are built-in with masonry, expect to pay upwards of $10,000 for the oven itself, plus labor to get it built if you hire outside help.
Choose your Pizza Oven Configuration
Depending on the size of your space, the layout of your outdoor kitchen, and how you like to cook, there are several different pizza oven configurations you can choose from.
In this wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide, we’ll be covering built-in, countertop, freestanding, and portable pizza oven configurations.
Built-In Pizza Ovens
A built-in pizza oven is what comes to mind for many people when they envision a luxury outdoor kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven.
You can opt for a built-in oven that has a stainless steel exterior, that’s ready to be built onto a cart or into an enclosure.
But if you’re envisioning a stone-encased oven that looks like it was just dropped in from an Italian villa, you’ll want to go for a DIY kit that allows you to transform a domed oven interior with masonry that matches your outdoor kitchen.
Both of these built-in options make a stellar focal point of an outdoor kitchen.
Countertop Pizza Ovens
A countertop pizza oven is a great choice if you’re looking for flexibility, or are looking to ease yourself into the world of outdoor pizza cooking.
For starters, they can be placed on just about any flat countertop. So if you already have your dream outdoor kitchen, a countertop oven will be easy to add in without having to make any major renovations.
If you’re a renter or anticipate moving in a few years and don’t want to commit to a full built-in oven with gorgeous masonry, a countertop oven is another great choice since it’ll be easy to move to your next home.
Starting small with a countertop configuration can also give you the freedom to see how you like owning a pizza oven and the flexibility it adds to your cooking without shelling out for a larger, more permanent model.
Freestanding Pizza Ovens
A freestanding pizza oven offers many of the benefits of a countertop oven, but it’ll be mounted on a cart instead of placed on a surface.
If your backyard space is smaller, or your layout limits your options for more permanent pizza ovens, a freestanding oven is a great option. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, so there’s bound to be one that works perfectly for your situation.
Freestanding ovens are also typically cheaper and easier to install than their built-in counterparts, plus you can pop a cover on them when not in use to keep them in great shape for years to come.
Portable Pizza Ovens
Interested in the affordability and low commitment level offered by a countertop pizza oven, but with even more options for where to put it? Look into a portable oven.
These little guys can be stowed away until you’re ready to bake, whether it’s out in your backyard, at a tailgate, or while camping. The one downside is that they’re much, much smaller than the other options we’ve covered here, so expect to only cook up one pie at a time.
DIY Pizza Oven Kits
Do you spend your weekends watching HGTV and DIY Network? Will you enjoy your pizza a little bit more knowing you put your hard work and elbow grease into the oven?
Then a DIY pizza oven kit is for you. DIY kits will provide the premade components of the oven for you to assemble and finish yourself.
There are modular kits, which come with cast concrete pieces to create the oven’s dome as well as insulation. From there you can finish the exterior with either a pre-made option or a custom enclosure to match your design preferences.
You could also opt for a brick kit, which gives you cut interior bricks instead of a precast oven dome and saves you some hassle of cutting since all of the parts are cut into shape and ready to be assembled.
These kits are typically more affordable than prefabricated ovens. Because they come in pieces, they’re also a safe bet if your backyard is too small or inaccessible for a prefabricated oven to be transported in in one piece.
Prefabricated Pizza Ovens
If you want to get to using your outdoor pizza oven as quickly as possible, we recommend a prefabricated model. These will come pretty much completely assembled and ready for use.
You can always add masonry around the outside of a prefabricated oven to make it fit in with the rest of your outdoor kitchen, just as you would with a DIY kit (but without the blood, sweat, and tears).
Be sure to take measurements before ordering a prefabricated oven though – since these come fully assembled, you’ll want to double-check that your choice can fit easily into your backyard or wherever you plan on placing it.
Pizza Oven Construction
Fully assembled wood-burning outdoor pizza ovens are typically constructed with a cement interior and steel exterior, but this isn’t the case for all ovens.
Some ovens will have a cement dome inside, while others will have steel bodies with a heat-resistant tile floor, or be made completely from steel. If you’re going the DIY route, expect just the cement or brick shell ready to be fitted with the exterior of your choosing.
Just like with grills, the steel used on the exterior of pizza ovens isn’t created equal. Some models are made with painted or powder-coated steel, which is typically less expensive but isn’t as long-lasting or weather-resistant.
If you’ve read our gas grill buying guide, you’ve probably heard us say great things about 304-grade stainless steel. That’s because it’s one of the highest grades of stainless steel out there, and it can hold up to just about anything you and Mother Nature can throw at it.
Pizza Oven Material & Insulation Considerations
When you’re thinking about what type of material to look for in your wood-burning pizza oven, there are a few different factors to consider.
What material your oven is made from will impact how well it insulates and holds heat, which directly impacts how long it takes to heat up.
Those heat-resistant refractory floor tiles we mentioned earlier are great for the floor of your oven since they’ll hold on to heat and ensure even cooking as your pizzas bake.
Refractory clay works in a similar way as those tiles, heating up fast and holding on to that heat for a long time.
If your oven is made from brick or stone, keep in mind that you may also need to cure it before use. This requires heating it up over a period of days to make sure all of the moisture is gone from the bricks, in order to strengthen your oven and make sure it lasts over time.
Most freestanding or portable pizza ovens will be made from a stainless steel exterior, with a refractory cement interior.
Stainless steel gives you great insulation that allows your oven to reach high temperatures with less wood fuel. The only downside is that depending on the grade, it may not be as weather-resistant as stone or clay, which can lead to rust. All the more reason to choose 304-grade stainless steel.
What do you Plan on Cooking in your Pizza Oven?
Of course, you aren’t just limited to cooking pizza in your pizza oven.
With its high heat, you can cook all sorts of delicious recipes in your wood-fired oven, including bread, meats, and roasted side dishes. Depending on the size of your oven, you may even be able to cook up a whole turkey if you need a break from the ‘za.
The material your oven is made from can impact how well suited it is for different types of cooking, so check out the recommendations in our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide before making your decision.
Hot & Fast Cooking
If you’re not looking to make cooking in your pizza oven a multi-hour affair you’ll want to pick one made from a material that can heat up fast. That material is metal.
You can manage just about any style of cooking style in a metal oven but be aware that they’ll cool down quickly without the right amount of firepower. If you’re planning on cooking food that requires low and slow cooking, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the fire to keep the oven at the right temperature.
If you plan on doing a lot of low and slow cooking, however, you might want to look into a brick oven instead of one made from metal.
Brick ovens will hold onto heat for a while, so once they reach your ideal cooking temperature (the kind that’s perfect for bread or whole turkeys) they’ll require much less maintenance to stay at that temperature for hours at a time.
The downside of that, of course, is that they take much longer than metal ovens to heat up. Expect a brick oven to take anywhere from 45 minutes to one and a half hours to heat up.
How Much Food do you Plan on Cooking in your Pizza Oven?
When you’re choosing how big of a wood-burning pizza oven to build or buy, you’ll want to keep in mind the size of the groups you regularly cook for, and the types of food you plan on cooking.
How much cooking space you need will depend on what you’re cooking. Are you getting creative and letting your family experiment with different topping combos on a bunch of 6” pizzas? Or will you be devoting your cooking space to wowing your Thanksgiving guests with a wood-fired turkey?
As we mentioned earlier in this wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide, most medium-sized pizza ovens will be around 32 inches wide. Not all of that space can be dedicated to cooking, though — if your oven is the kind where the wood sits in the cooking space with the food (which most are), it will take up some real estate.
In a medium-sized 32 inch oven, expect your wood to take up a space that’s about 6 inches wide and 12 inches deep. This will leave you with a 26 inch-wide cooking space, about enough for two 12-inch pizzas.
Of course, your wood space will vary depending on the size of your oven, the temperatures you’re trying to reach, and how much fuel you require to get to those temperatures.
How Many Pizzas?
Earlier on in our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide we talked about the different sizes of pizza ovens, and the number of 12-inch pizzas each size can typically hold.
If you need a refresher:
- Small ovens: One 12-inch pizza
- Medium ovens: Two-four 12-inch pizzas
- Large ovens: Four-six 12-inch pizzas
- Extra-large ovens: Six or more 12-inch pizzas
Of course, how many pizzas you fit in your oven will vary depending on how big they are.
You might just fit in one large pizza for game day, or a bunch of smaller pizzas if you’re having “Make Your Own Pizza Night” with the kids. Get creative with your space!
Additional Questions to Ask yourself
Alright, you’ve narrowed down the size, configuration, fuel type, and assembly type of your oven, plus where it’s going to go in your backyard and how you’re going to finish it.
But don’t hit the “check out” button just yet – ask yourself a few more questions to make sure the outdoor pizza oven you’re buying is the perfect fit for you, your family, and your cooking preferences.
How Much Time & Effort will you Invest?
Compared to the other appliances in your outdoor kitchen, a pizza oven can take a lot of time and effort to put in depending on which model and configuration you buy.
If you opt for a portable or fully assembled model, you won’t have to dedicate that much time to get it set up. On the other hand, going for an oven kit or hiring a contractor to build a DIY kit for you will take a bit more time.
If you’re willing to invest a lot of time and effort into your pizza oven, then building your own will be well worth it. It requires a lot of manual work and skill, but if you’re the type of person who lives for a good DIY project and enjoying the fruits of your labor for years to come, this one is for you.
How Often will You Use it?
Think about how often you’ll actually use your pizza oven before dedicating yourself to an intense DIY build. You may plan on using your oven multiple times each week, but if you don’t actually see yourself following through on that, you may be better suited for a freestanding grill that requires a bit less time and effort to get installed.
What is your Skill Level?
Again, be honest with yourself before diving headfirst into building your own oven.
If this is the first time you’ve tackled a project like this, read up on your masonry skills ahead of time, and build in plenty of time to go slowly and fix any mistakes you may make along the way.
If you want to go the DIY route but don’t feel confident enough to commit the cost and time it takes, consider hiring a contractor to handle the majority of the work. This way you can still make creative decisions, without letting your lack of skills get in the way of the pizza oven of your dreams.
Will I Need Additional Training to Use my Pizza Oven?
If this is your first time using an outdoor pizza oven, there are a variety of training resources available that you should check out before your first time firing yours up.
Look on your manufacturer’s website or ask them to see if they offer any classes or online resources. There may also be in-person cooking classes held by manufacturers or cooking schools near you depending on where you live.
The internet also has tons of information and videos for you to check out to get you on your way to using your wood-burning pizza oven like a pro.
How Much do Aesthetics Mean to you?
While the structure and insulation of your oven are crucial to cooking, how the oven looks on the outside can be just as important to some people.
Take the time to think about how you want your oven to look, especially if you’re investing in a built-in oven or one with an enclosure that will be a more permanent part of your backyard.
Do you want your oven to match your home or current outdoor kitchen? Or will you be building your oven first, then creating a kitchen to match that? Maybe you rather go for a stainless steel oven that matches your gas grill?
Or maybe you just want to focus on the pizza, and leave the oven just as it comes from the manufacturer. There’s no wrong answer here!
Enclosure & Aesthetics Considerations
If you’ve decided to go the creative route and build an enclosure around your oven, you’ll have more choices to make than if you were keeping the oven as-is.
You can simply smooth out your oven’s dome and paint it for a classic look that would be right at home in Italy.
If you’re going for an aesthetic that matches your outdoor kitchen or home, you can build a larger enclosure around the dome. These can range from enclosures that look like brick fireplaces to some that have roofs or other decorative elements.
If your oven is well-insulated enough, the heat shouldn’t cause any damage to the enclosure.
Remember that an enclosure will add extra size and weight to your oven. Be sure to measure to make sure it fits in the space you’re planning to put your oven, and that the surface you’re placing it on can manage the weight.
How well your oven retains heat depends on its size and the material it’s made from.
Ask yourself how often you plan on cooking, and how much fuel you’re willing to use to keep your oven going.
If you’re aiming for fuel efficiency and you’re interested in cooking in your oven the next day with the remaining heat (it’s possible!), then good heat retention is a factor to look for.
A portable oven, or one with thin walls, will not be able to retain heat for long periods of time. A built-in brick oven with layers of insulation, however, will have great heat retention and fuel efficiency.
Perhaps one of the most important considerations to think about before your purchase your oven is how it’s going to get to its final home in your backyard. There are two main options you have for installation: a pre-assembled oven, or a masonry kit.
Will you Go with a Pre-Assembled or Masonry Kit?
The time, cost, and effort you’re willing to put into your oven’s installation, plus the layout of your property will play a big role in helping you decide between a pre-assembled oven or a masonry kit.
An oven built with a masonry kit is built on-site with concrete blocks, and a layer of concrete and sand under the floor of the oven that helps create even well-retained heat.
Masonry kits allow you to choose a roof, enclosure and finish that matches your home. They’re also a good choice if you have planned or existing masonry you’d like to match your oven too, like retainer walls, a patio, a pool, or an outdoor kitchen.
A masonry kit can also be a safe bet if your property is small or can’t accommodate the machinery needed to install a fully assembled oven. With these kits, the different parts can be lifted into your yard by hand.
There is more construction required with a masonry kit though, so be prepared to hire a contractor or complete the work yourself.
If you want to skip the construction and get right to cooking, look into a pre-assembled oven.
These are built by the manufacturer in their facility the same way that you’d build a masonry kit in your own yard. The oven is then delivered to you and brought into your yard on a forklift or hoist, ready for installation and finishing.
There are a few barriers to think about before purchasing a pre-assembled pizza oven. While most of the labor is taken out of the equation here (for you, at least), the price will reflect that.
The forklift will also need a flat, clear space to bring the oven into your yard, so if that isn’t possible on your property a pre-assembled oven won’t work for you.
Build your Own
As we’ve mentioned a few times in our wood-fired pizza oven buyers guide, building your own oven is an option for true outdoor cooking enthusiasts with a passion for DIY projects. Or, at the very least, a drive to learn a lot about masonry.
If you build your own oven, you have two primary options: building a brick oven with firebricks or building a vermiculite oven.
Vermiculite is a highly insulating and heat-resistant mineral that, when mixed with concrete, creates a cost-effective and easy to work with material for creating your own oven.
But you aren’t just limited to brick or vermiculite for building the interior of your oven! All you truly need to get cooking is a fuel source, a floor, and an oven wall that can reflect heat back down to cook your food.
People have gotten creative and built their ovens using everything from old oil drums to beer kegs — if you really feel like going all out, do some research on the internet for inspiration on how to take your pizza oven build to the next level.
Hire Someone Else
Don’t have the skills, time, or drive to handle any aspect of your oven’s construction on your own? The good news is that there are people out there who will!
Whether you buy components of your oven online and simply hire a contractor to assemble it or hire a stonemason to handle the entire project, there’s a professional out there to match your budget and vision.
If you’re looking to have your oven ready for baking quickly, hiring a professional is a good idea as well since they’ve likely completed projects like yours hundreds of times.
What Essentials do I Need to Go Along with my Pizza Oven?
Your oven is in, and you’re ready to bake! So, what else do you need?
You’ll want an Infrared Thermometer to keep tabs on your oven’s temperature. Be sure to buy one that has a high enough temperature range since your oven will be able to produce serious heat.
To get the best reading, point your thermometer at your oven’s floor.
Pizza peels are essential for getting your pizzas in and out of the oven. Pizza peels come in metal and wood options, and both have their benefits and drawbacks.
A wooden peel is perfect for building your pizza on and sliding it into the oven. It’s not as great for pulling your pizza back out of the oven, or for managing high temperatures though.
A metal peel has a thin, low profile that makes it the ideal tool for removing your pizza from the scorching oven temps. It is prone to sticking though, so it isn’t always best for sliding your pizzas in.
We recommend buying both types of peels so you can have one that’s great for loading the pizza in, and one that’s ideal for taking it out. (If you only buy one, metal will be your safest bet.)
A Pizza Cutter
A sturdy pizza cutter is a must for slicing up your hot and bubbly creation. We recommend the classic rocking kind, not the kind with the wheel that you see in most home kitchens since those can pull and drag the cheese instead of giving you a clean cut.
Your oven will need a good sweeping to clear out the ash on occasion. Look for a long-handled two-sided brush with both metal bristles and a scraper, as well as some heatproof gloves in the event that it’s still hot when you need to clean it (although you should let it cool as much as possible).
A Fun Pizza Cookbook
If you need some ideas on getting started cooking in your wood-fired outdoor pizza oven, you can’t go wrong with The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani.
Gemignani is a 12-time World Pizza Champion and shares his tips on making nine different regional styles of pizza in this book, including Neapolitan, Roman, Chicago, and Californian. The book has more than 75 recipes and covers everything you need to know about pizza from dough making to baking.
Final Thoughts on Buying the Best Wood Fired Pizza Oven
Purchasing a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven can be a big investment depending on the type of configuration and model you choose.
But for the outdoor cooking aficionado who’s passionate about pizza and cooking with an open flame, having an oven of your own is an experience unlike anything else.
Whether you opt for a portable model you can take camping, a cart-mounted oven that fits seamlessly on your patio, or a built-in oven you create yourself from a masonry kit, your options for customization and cooking are really endless.
Your first step should be to think about your yard, budget, and lifestyle, and the oven size and configuration that makes the most sense for you. From there, you can start to get creative with the look of your oven, and if you plan on fully customizing it with an enclosure.
No matter what type of oven you buy, you’ll want to invest in accessories that will keep your cooking both seamless and safe, like pizza peels and a cleaning brush.
Now, the final question, and perhaps the most important: what type of pizza are you going to make first? (And if we really want to stir the pot — thin crust or deep dish?)
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