Portable pizza ovens are all the rage these days—and for a good reason. With a pizza oven, you can recreate the pizza from your favorite pizzeria, or even improve upon it with your own unique style and flavors. From New York to Neapolitan, anything is possible with a good pizza oven.
But, with prices ranging $200 to $2000, are pizza ovens actually worth the cost? After all, most people already have a perfectly good home oven in their kitchens already. Does a dedicated pizza oven really make that much of a difference?
As pizza oven consultants, we make our living hooking people up with the best pizza oven for their needs, so what I’m about to say might surprise you.
The honest truth is, not everyone needs to buy a pizza oven. In fact, depending on what style of pizza you’re making, a home oven with a pizza steel can work just as well as a pizza oven.
It all comes down to temperature. Low-temperature style pizza cooks amazingly well in a regular home oven, while high-temperature style pizza really benefits from the unique qualities of a dedicated pizza oven.
Keep reading to learn if your favorite style of pizza is better cooked in a pizza oven.
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What Makes Pizza Ovens Better Than Home Ovens?
A pizza oven has one major advantage over the oven currently sitting in your kitchen—extreme heat.
While a regular home oven typically maxes out at around 500F (260C), a pizza oven can reach temperatures as high as 1000F. That’s twice as hot as a home oven, and this difference in temperature has a huge impact on the pizza crust it produces.
For example, if you’ve ever had wood-fired Neapolitan style pizza, you’ve probably noticed the little black bubbles that rise up and char as the pizza cooks. These are called “leopard spots”, and they typically only appear when the pizza is cooked at temperatures over 800F (425C). A home oven simply can’t reproduce this.
Another addvantage pizza ovens have over home ovens is speed. Because the temperature is so much higher, the cook time is exponentially faster. The faster a pizza cooks, the more moisture is retained in the crust and toppings. This is how Neapolitan style pizza manages to be simultaneously crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.
How Long Should You Cook Pizza In A Pizza Oven?
How long a pizza should cook in a pizza oven all depends on the style of pizza you’re making.
At the highest temperatures, Neapolitan pizzas cook extremely quickly—as little as 60 seconds is all it takes between 800-900F.
On the other side of the spectrum, pan pizza styles, like Detroit and Sicilian, are cooked much longer at lower temperatures. A Detroit style pizza can take as long as 20 minutes to cook fully at temperatures between 400-500F. Sicilian and Grandma style pizza are similarly cooked for a longer time at a lower temperature.
Then, in the middle of the spectrum, we have traditional American style pizza like what you find in New York and New Haven. These pizza styles are generally cooked between 500-700F anywhere from 5-10 minutes at a time. Because of the huge variety within American pizza styles, the temperature and time range is large, but it generally falls between Neapolitan and pan pizza styles.
What Styles of Pizza Work Best In A Pizza Oven?
To answer this question, we’ll rank from best to worst which styles of pizza get the most benefit from being cooked in a pizza oven.
In a nutshell, Neapolitan pizza benefits tremendously, New York and New Haven styles benefit moderately, while Detroit style pizza doesn’t benefit at all.
#1: Neapolitan Style
Neapolitan style pizza is famously cooked at extreme temperatures in as little as 60 seconds, so it’s not surprising that it gets the most benefit from being cooked in a pizza oven.
In fact, Neapolitan pizza is notoriously difficult to replicate in a home oven—if not impossible. Sure, you can follow one of my home oven recipes and make a tasty pizza that captures some of the texture and taste of Neapolitan pizza, but it will never be as true a representation as with a real pizza oven.
If you look at these pictures below, you can see that my home oven replica of a Neapolitan style pizza has some browning and bubbling around the edges, as well as a soft interior. It even has some nice charring on the underside of the crust thanks to my trusty pizza steel. It’s a delicious pizza, but it will never have the leopard spotting and softness you’d get with a real pizza oven.
#2: New York & New Haven Style
New York and New Haven style pizza isn’t nearly as defined as Neapolitan style pizza, which means they’re cooked at a range of different temperatures using different methods depending on the pizzeria you happen to visit.
That said, New York and New Haven style pizza are generally cooked between 500-650F degrees for several minutes at a time. This is why New York and New Haven style pizza are typically thin and crispy with toppings and cheese cooked all the way through, sometimes even to the point of browning.
For this reason, New York and New Haven style pizza are in a bit of a gray area when it comes to how much they benefit from being cooked in a pizza oven.
On one hand, a home oven can reach the low end of the spectrum appropriate for New York and New Haven style, but only just barely. This means that a pizza oven is definitely better for cooking this style of pizza, but not by a huge margin.
So, while a home oven is never going to replicate your favorite New York slice to a tee, it’s going to be a lot closer compared to Neapolitan style.
However, there is an important caveat to all this—you need to use a pizza steel. Even at a comparable temperature, a home oven will never make a good New York or New Haven style pizza using a simple pizza pan or parchment paper. You’ll end up with a pale, undercooked crust and overcooked toppings, which is, frankly, gross.
#3: Pan Style Pizza (Detroit, Sicilian, Grandma, etc.)
Pan pizza is where your home oven can actually compete with a real pizza oven.
Let’s take Detroit style pizza, for example. Because it has a very thick crust and loads of toppings, it takes much longer for it to cook all the way through. You also need to give the pizza pan itself some time to heat up from room temperature to the point where it can actually crisp the crust.
For these reasons, Detroit style pizza is usually cooked at temperatures between 400-500F, which is actually lower than the maximum temperature of your home oven. Sicilian and Grandma style pizzas are quite similar as well.
This means that there is really no benefit at all to cooking pan style pizza in a pizza oven vs a regular low-temperature home oven. All of that extra heat and horsepower of a pizza oven goes completely unused with these styles—kind of like driving a race car to the grocery store.
Is A Pizza Oven Worth It: Other Considerations
I’ve just explained which styles of pizza benefit minimally, or not at all, from being cooked in a pizza oven. But there are other benefits of using a pizza oven besides just the quality of the pizza it makes.
- Energy Efficiency: Pizza ovens heat up faster and stay hotter longer than a regular home oven. This saves you the trouble of having to preheat your home oven for hours before you can actually start making pizza.
- Portability: Unlike a home oven, you can easily pack up and store away a pizza oven when it’s not in use. You can even take it on the road with you and cook amazing pizza of any style wherever you’re headed.
- Thermodynamics: Pizza ovens typically have a smaller domed chamber that reflects heat better than the huge square cooking area of a home oven. This means the heat is targeted at the pizza better, even at lower temperatures.
- Fun: Using a pizza oven is fun, and a great topic of conversation at gatherings with friends and family. This means you can cook outside with friends rather than slaving away in a hot kitchen while everyone else is enjoying themselves outside.
- Learning curve: Pizza ovens take a bit of time to master, especially wood-fired models. Don’t worry, it’s not super difficult, but your first few pizzas likely won’t be perfect.
- Expensive: Even a relatively inexpensive pizza oven is still more expensive than not buying one at all. Unless you run a pizzeria, you don’t need a pizza oven.
- Maintenance: All pizza ovens require regular cleaning if you want them to last for years to come. With a propane pizza oven, it’s just a matter of brushing out crumbs, but with a wood-fired oven you’ll need to scrub away ash and soot after every use.
Look For A Pizza Oven That Fits Your Budget And Style Preferences
In our pizza oven consulting business, we get asked all the time ‘which pizza oven should I buy?’. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-answer-fits-all kind of question.
For example, if your primary goal is to make Neapolitan style pizza in the most authentic way possible, you should get a wood-fired pizza oven. This will infuse the crust and toppings with the same smoky flavors you can find at pizzerias in Naples.
On the other hand, if you just want to make great-tasting pizza at home without much fuss, we almost always recommend a propane powered pizza oven. The Ooni Koda 12 and Ooni Koda 16 are both great options at different sizes that won’t break the bank.
In fact, a propane powered pizza oven is almost always the best choice for most people because it’s the most convenient to use and is perfectly suited for any pizza style. From Neapolitan to New York and New Haven style, it’s just a matter of adjusting the flame up and down with the simple turn of a knob.
How Much Do Pizza Ovens Cost?
The cost of a pizza oven depends on its size, the types of fuel it supports, and the quality of its construction.
You can go on Amazon and find a huge assortment of budget $150 pizza ovens that claim to do it all, but in most cases these aren’t worth the money. It’s very easy for offshore companies to attach a propane burner to a metal box and call it a pizza oven, but they aren’t designed properly for making pizza—and are sometimes even downright dangerous.
The least expensive pizza ovens that are actually worth the money usually start around $300. The Ooni Karu 12 is a good example—it doesn’t have any bells and whistles or extra features, but it works well and burns multiple fuel types for only $299.
In the mid-range, you have the Ooni Karu 16 which goes for $799. This pizza oven is actually our favorite all-around portable pizza oven and we recommend it regularly to clients. It has all of the extra features you’d expect from a pizza oven and is designed to cook pizzas efficiently and safely.
At the highest end of the range, you have the Gozney Dome. The Dome is like having a domed wood-fired pizza oven right in your backyard. But unlike a traditional brick model, the Gozney Dome has a digital thermometer, meat probes, a smoker, a pellet burner, and a massive baking surface. All that luxury and convenience will cost you over $2000, though—but it’s absolutely worth it, in our opinion.
Why Do Pizza Ovens Cost So Much?
When you consider the engineering feat it is to convert a huge, traditional brick pizza oven into a smaller portable unit, the costs quickly start to add up.
Specifically, portable pizza ovens need to be constructed with materials thick and strong enough to withstand extreme temperatures, but still be light enough to be carried around by the average person.
Pizza ovens also include features not found on regular home ovens, like an integrated baking stone surface, a chimney, and a ventilation system.
Budget pizza oven brands cut corners to lower these costs, which is why reputable brands like Ooni and Gozney tend to be relatively expensive.
So, should you buy a pizza oven?
If you can afford it and want one, then yes, you should! Pizza ovens are a great addition to any outdoor space and can easily provide a lifetime of good food and experiences to make it worth every penny you spend on it.
But do you need a pizza oven? Not necessarily, especially if you just want to make decent American style pizza at home.
In fact, for as little as $100, you can buy a top-quality pizza steel that you can use right in your home oven. Pizza steels are basically thick slabs of steel that get super hot and emulate some of the characteristics of a pizza oven—namely, a hot, flat surface that cooks pizza crust quickly and evenly. It’s not the same as using a real pizza oven, but it’s more than good enough for making a delicious pizza in the oven you already own.
If you’re still unsure if a pizza oven is worth it for you, get in touch using our free pizza oven recommendation form. If we determine that a pizza oven is worth it for you, we’ll help you find one that fits your budget and pizza making goals.