Who doesn’t love pizza? Who isn’t a fan of dining alfresco? Everyone loves pizza and everyone loves being outdoors, so imagine combining the two! Outdoor pizza ovens are becoming increasingly popular: unlike a conventional oven, or dare we say it, a microwave, outdoor pizza ovens are the only way to meet the demands of any true pizza lover, serving up a mouth-watering combination of soft and chewy crust, with rich, creamy bubbling cheese cooked to perfection.
The best outdoor pizza ovens will allow you to create a pizza that is typical of the authentic Italian taste you would normally only get to experience in a traditional pizzeria. So how do they do it? Well, the reason Italian pizza tastes as good as it does is because of the unique cooking style and soaring temperatures of outdoor pizza ovens – some models are capable of reaching up to 370ºC in just a matter of minutes, and cook Neapolitan-style pizza in just 60 seconds! This baking heat and swift cooking time result in a base that’s light and crispy with a moist cheesy top – the hallmarks of a great pizza!
An outdoor pizza oven is the only way to create that authentic Italian taste at home which is just as good, if not better, than your favourite pizzeria.
Only got 5 minutes
The best outdoor pizza ovens will have a generous capacity; are capable of reaching temperatures of around 370ºC; cook evenly, and deliver a crunch to your pizza crust that you can only dream of.
Outdoor pizza ovens come in a variety of styles, build-forms and materials – authentic clay; contemporary stainless steel; and traditional brick are the options you’ll need to choose from unless you decide you’re up to the challenge of building your own outdoor pizza oven from scratch using a DIY build-your-own kit! Whatever your preference, rest assured there are enough styles out there that you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the one that best fits your garden or patio area.
As well as choosing between brick, clay and steel, you’ll need to be clear on the fuel type you want for your outdoor pizza oven:
Nothing beats a true wood-fired brick pizza oven for authenticity and for great cooking.
A gas-fired outdoor pizza oven is designed to replicate the effect of a wood-fired model; it’s a low-maintenance, modern take on the traditional clay wood-burning pizza oven.
A gas-assist pizza oven uses wood as the primary fuel but gas to stabilise the temperature. Perfect if you’re looking for the ambience of wood-fired cooking but without the hassle.
How to cook a pizza using an outdoor pizza oven
1. Sprinkle a small handful of flour onto your wooden pizza paddle before you put your pizza onto it so the raw dough doesn’t stick – you want it to slide off easily. You can use a splash of oil if you’d prefer.
2. Place the wooden paddle with the pizza into the mouth of the oven; gently slide the paddle from underneath the pizza, leaving the pizza in the oven.
3. Close the oven door for the designated cooking time – this varies from 60 seconds to 6-7 minutes so it’s important to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Regardless of the cooking time, be sure to rotate your pizza – use the metal paddle and tongs to ensure it cooks evenly.
4. Open/remove the door and slide the metal paddle under the pizza.
5. If the pizza looks like it needs longer, rotate it on the metal paddle to ensure it cooks evenly and put it back into the oven before repeating step 4.
6. Remove your homemade pizza from the oven and enjoy!
Deciding between wood or gas
Nothing beats a true wood-fired brick pizza oven for authenticity and for great cooking; it’s a real crowd-pleaser when you’re entertaining, adding Italian charm and Neopolitan character to al fresco dining.
A gas-fired outdoor pizza oven is designed to replicate the effect of a wood-fired pizza oven, giving the same intense flavours you’d get from a wood-fired oven but with less effort and less hassle. It’s a low-maintenance, modern take on the traditional clay wood-burning pizza oven.
What’s the similarities and difference between a wood-fired pizza oven and a gas-fired oven?
Wood-fired pizza ovens reach extreme temperatures through:
- The refraction of the flame from the fire
- Thermal re-distribution
- The heat generated from a hot coal base
Which a gas-fired pizza oven is able to replicate as:
- The flame angle is similar to that of a wood-fired pizza oven, resulting in the same refraction angle.
- Thermal re-distribution is a natural phenomenon
- The key difference is the heat generated from the base. A gas-fired pizza oven will typically heat up faster above the base but, due to the absence of coal, the floor temperature will take considerably longer to reach optimum pizza cooking temperature.
Advantages of a gas-assist pizza oven
Gas assist pizza ovens are suited to those of us who like the idea of cooking with wood but, in reality, we’re more keen on the idea of it, rather than actually doing it! It’s a great compromise for those of us who want the ambience of wood-fired cooking but without the hassle. Gas is used as the primary fuel source with the addition of wood, providing flavour and a dash of authenticity.
A gas-assist pizza oven helps maintain a constant temperature in the oven; this means you’re free to entertain guests, prepare the next pizza, or simply sit with your feet up and enjoy your favourite al fresco tipple!
Outdoor pizza oven accessories
These optional accessories may come as standard or you may have to purchase them separately. Be sure to check what’s included with your outdoor pizza oven – you want to be left in no doubt that you’re buying one that’s definitely worth your dough!
- Pizza cooking stone
- Aluminium pizza paddle*
- Wooden pizza paddle*
- Heat resistant gloves
- Pizza oven brush
- Pizza oven ash rake
- Fire reviver poker
- Pizza cutter
- Outdoor pizza oven cover
A pizza paddle, also known as a pizza peel, is a must-buy for any budding pizzaiolo. Ideally, you should invest in two different pizza paddles – a wooden paddle for preparing the pizza and feeding it into the mouth of the pizza oven, and a metal paddle for turning the pizza and removing it from the oven. Preparing the pizza on the wooden paddle over a thin layer of flour or oil will help to stop the raw pizza dough sticking, and once cooked, it should simply slide off the paddle – raw dough doesn’t stick to wood as easily as it does to metal.
The metal paddle is used to turn the pizza – you’ll find it’s much easier to slide a thin metal blade under a cooked pizza than a wooden one. Another advantage of having both a wooden and metal paddle is that whilst one pizza is cooking, you can begin preparing the next. Just make sure that once you’ve used the wooden paddle for the first pizza, it is dry when you come to use it for the second, otherwise, the raw dough is likely to stick.
Pizza oven preparation
Preheating your outdoor pizza oven is extremely important. Most pizza ovens take around 15 minutes to heat up to the optimum pizza cooking temperature of around 400ºC. By this time, the stone should be hot enough to cook your pizza.
The pizza stone is a key feature of any outdoor pizza oven. It is important to keep your pizza stone clean however avoid using soap or detergents as this can strip a seasoned stone of any oils or flavouring. Also, it’s likely to leave a soapy residue that you will be able to taste next time you cook a pizza in your oven. Just using warm warmer should be sufficient to clean the stone enough to remove any overspill from your last pizza cooking session.
There is no need to oil or grease the stone before using the oven as the oils from the dough and toppings will have seeped into the stone and created a natural non-stick surface. If your stone appears to be turning darker, don’t panic! A black stone is a seasoned stone and will result in intense, natural flavours.
Learning to cook using an outdoor pizza oven
Using a pizza oven is nothing like using a conventional oven – it takes a bit of time to get used to it. Anyone who says they didn’t cremate their first batch of pizzas using a pizza oven is being economical with the truth!
It’s a steep learning curve and burning pizza after pizza can feel frustrating but you will get the hang of it- you’ll just need to experiment a little to figure out timings; how to use the pizza paddle; and how to rotate the pizza as it cooks.
If you’re still burning after a few attempts, try these handy tips to try and get that dreamy crust…
- Rotate the pizza more often – keep the pizza moving.
- As soon as you notice the bottom of the pizza getting dark, use the aluminium pizza peeler to tilt the pizza off the stone; this allows you to keep cooking the toppings but stops the bottom from burning.
- Check you’re not making your pizzas too big; if you’re overfilling the oven you’re potentially stopping the heat from circulating around the dough.
- Watch the thickness of your dough – you’re aiming for it to be about 1/4″ thick. Stick to 2 or 3 toppings including cheese.
- It might sound obvious but cook your pizza for less time.
- Read the manufacturer’s instruction manual before you attempt to use your pizza oven.
- An outdoor pizza oven needs to be in a well-ventilated space due to the extreme heat. A gas-powered pizza oven will have a fuel supply hose and that should be well away from any hot surfaces.
- Be sure to use fire-resistant gloves and specialist pizza oven tools when the oven is lit.
- Although any oven is hot, a pizza oven demands extra vigilance due to the extremely high temperatures it can achieve – the oven will become incredibly hot (including the metal liners around the oven ‘mouth’) so great care must be taken at all times.
- Young children and pets should be supervised around a lit pizza oven at all times.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! Just be aware that the thickness of the crust, the amount of sauce you use, and the types and quantity of toppings you add will all impact on the cooking time. It is advised to stick to 2 or 3 toppings, including cheese, to ensure all the toppings cook through. Most people find thin/stonebaked crust pizzas with minimal toppings are the easiest to cook while pizzas with a thicker crust or deep pan crust, or those with too many toppings, particularly ones which retain water i.e. vegetables, are more difficult to cook through, especially if you haven’t had a lot of practice.
Generally yes. Any time the temperature of your pizza oven falls or rises, your pizza cooking time will be affected. The perfect conditions to use an outdoor pizza oven would be on calm, moderately-warm summer’s day. It’s worth remembering that the oven temperature may need to be higher on a cold day or lower on a hot day so you’ll need to allow for this.
No – greaseproof paper should not be used in an outdoor pizza oven. In general, outdoor pizza ovens have the capacity to reach temperatures of around 370ºC (700ºF); most greaseproof papers claim to be oven safe up to around 220ºC (428ºF). Using greaseproof pizza in a pizza oven is unlikely to end well!