Buying a pizza oven: we road test the best
Is there anything more appealing than the idea of cooking restaurant-quality pizza in the comfort of your own garden? During lockdown, sales for pizza ovens went through the roof, making it clear that the appeal for DIY pizza is absolutely there. As the market has a lot to offer, we’ve done our bit to help out and have reviewed six of the most popular free-standing outdoor pizza ovens.
If you’re looking to upgrade your al-fresco cooking situation, check out our reviews. You’ll be creating the Neopolitan-style charred-edged pizza of your dreams with your very own hands, in no time.
Believe in the hype?
Making pizza at home is always fun, but with conventional ovens, the crust often dries out or goes too crispy by the time the toppings are cooked. Fret no more, friends. With these 3 pizza ovens, you can cook a crispy-edged, chewy crusted pizza, rather quickly (in 90 seconds or less, to be precise).
There’s a huge range of sizes, types and costs of ovens, with some coming in at more than £1,000. We tested a range that are under £500 for this review, plus a couple of the pricier ones. We have chosen ovens that should work in various sizes of gardens (or even on balconies), and are pretty portable meaning they can be taken on holiday, on camping trips, or even to a picnic.
We highly recommend you make your own pizza dough for a truly authentic pizza experience (plus, it’s so satisfying to see the end results). However, should you be short on time or energy, our top product pick would be the Jus Rol sourdough pizza dough, which you can buy from Waitrose for as little as £1.68. It’s fluffy, sweet and totally hassle-free.
6 of the most popular portable pizza ovens
The Gozney Roccbox is a restaurant-grade portable pizza oven, which reaches 500°C. Gozney is known in the UK for a successful commercial oven business, and their restaurant-sized pizza ovens are used by the likes of Franco Manca, Homeslice, and Pizza Pilgrims to name but a few. The Roccbox is designed to work like these commercial ovens, with a yellow rolling flame which gives the consistent bake we are all striving for, and the leopard-like spotting along the crust of the pizza.
What’s special about it?
The Gozney Roccbox uses thicker stone than the other ovens we tested (30mm) which means the oven retains heat and cooks the pizza from the bottom up as well as the top down. This ensures the crust rises evenly and the pizza doesn’t end up burnt on the top while soggy on the bottom. It’s easy to set up, but you do need to get your hands on patio gas and a canister. You can find this at petrol stations or many suppliers of Calor gas, who will deliver. Then it’s just a case of hooking up to your oven, switching it on, and waiting 30 minutes for your Roccbox to reach temperature. The oven comes with a pizza paddle so you have all the tools you need to get cooking.
Once hot, the Roccbox will cook your pizza in 60 SECONDS! We tested Neopolitan style pizzas, as well as pides (best cooked a little lower at 300°C to ensure they don’t burn) chicken wings, and peaches (roasted for a salad with ricotta). The Gozney is a revolution in outdoor cooking. The finished pizza tasted like it came from a pizzeria, but better! It was hotter and fresher than any restaurant pizza, and the crust was the perfect level of chewy and crisp. Gozney offer loads of video recipes on their website, from garlic naan breads to lahmacun, so go on – get cooking!
Top marks for design, ease of set-up and use, and the restaurant quality pizza!
Gozney Roccbox is available at gozney.com for £399, with the option of both gas and wood-fired (just scroll to choose your fuel)! We’re delighted to team up with Gozney. We may earn commission if you buy a Gozney Roccbox that you’ve seen promoted by us.
Optima Pizza Express Napoli
The Pizza Express Napoli is an electric tabletop mini version of a professional pizza oven, manufactured near Modena, and has been on the go for over 20 years. It’s a very simple construction: pizza stone, two heating elements that reach 450°C (way higher than a domestic oven) and a lid. The cooking surface, made of traditional real fire stone, absorbs moisture from the dough and gives the pizza base a really good chewy crispiness.
What’s special about it?
It’s perfect if you don’t have outside space for a full-sized wood-fired oven (or even want the faff). The stone base and electric element in the lid reach the heat of a commercial pizza oven in just 10 minutes and another few minutes later you’re guaranteed a pizza that’s way better than you’d expect. In Vespa red it looks quintessentially Italian and is great for a little party: once you get into the swing you’ll be serving up a fresh pizza every 4-5 minutes. And not just pizza – you can make flatbreads, focaccia and the like on this too.
Nothing not to like here – affordable, versatile and will deliver you the perfect pizza every time. It comes with a warning to take care not to allow the topping to spill onto the stone (we can verify it will guarantee lots of smoke!).
The Optima Express pizza oven is available from Pizza United for £169.
Ooni Koda pizza oven
Probably the best-known of the at-home pizza oven brands, Ooni co-founders husband-and-wife team Kristian Tapaninaho and Darina Garland were the first to launch a portable wood-pellet-fired pizza oven in 2012. They now have 5 pizza ovens in their family, plus a brilliant range of pizza making accessories to recreate the pizzeria experience at home. The Ooni Koda is the gas-fired version of the entry-level family pizza oven and is designed to make pizzas up to 13 inches (also available is the Ooni Koda 16 that knocks out super-sized pizzas up to 16 inches).
What’s special about it?
Compact and portable, the Koda is super quick to set up with no assembly required. It connects to a regular gas barbecue canister and has a built-in gas ignition and temperature dial, which is pretty simple to get the hang of. We loved the size and this model and reckon it’s a great buy if you’re looking for a fun gadget to take on camping trips. The Koda fired up to over 500ºC in about 15 minutes, and the sourdough pizza recipe we tested baked to crisp blistered perfection in about a minute. The crust (or cornicione as it’s professionally known) puffs up wonderfully with the all-important leopard print char. As well as pizzas, the Ooni can be used to roast meat, fish and veggies – which is where the temperature dial comes in handy (no one wants burnt steak). If you really want a smoky flavour – you do get a hint of that with gas, but it’s not going to be quite the same as a wood-fired oven.
Top marks for affordability and usability. This oven gets to temperature impressively quickly.
Ooni also offer sourdough pizza dough balls available to buy frozen, and their Pizza Provisions boxes, full of exciting toppings. We have tried and tested and can confirm they make amazing pizzas. £39 for 24 balls, available at ooni.com. The provisions boxes change with the seasons, and are available from £39.99.
Another contender that we urge you to consider within the same league as Ooni and Gozney ovens, is the Ventura Ibrido. Made in Germany, it certainly delivers in terms of German efficiency and promises to achieve restaurant-style pizzas in a matter of minutes. It’s also a really beautiful machine, resembling an old steam engine, and is fab for entertaining.
What’s special about it?
Consider this a hybrid pizza oven, if you will; not only can you light it up the old fashioned way, with wood and fire starters but you can also hook it up to a gas canister. If you’ve got guests round, definitely opt to heat it with wood as the flames will beautifully roar away at 400 degree temperatures with smoke billowing out of the chimney and your guests can gaze in awe at their pizza cooking before their eyes. In terms of portability, it’s a great option as it has handy foldable legs and the chimney dismantles really easily. We’d recommend it over heavier models if you do plan to take it on the road with you, or perhaps fancy bringing it along on holiday. It cools down relatively quickly afterwards too, meaning you don’t have to hang around for long to take it home. One thing to note, is that it’s best to get the stone plate absolutely piping hot before firing in your pizza – for optimum results and a speedier cooking time.
Top marks for its billowing chimney, which comes with the added bonus of a theatrical cooking process. We like to think of this as the Thomas the Tank Engine of pizza ovens.
The Ventura Ibrido is available at homepizzaovens for £305.
If you’re looking to splash the cash…
New for 2021, and already in high demand with a production wait on new orders, is the Ooni Karu 16. The first oven to be certified by the Assocazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the Karu 16 is a multi-fuel pizza oven that is capable of creating impressive, flame-cooked pizzas in minutes. The oven’s aesthetically pleasing, durable design, is just one reason to love it; but its the functionality that is second to none. The glass oven door and large fuel tray allow this oven to reach 500ºC in just 15 minutes.
What’s special about it?
The sequel to the Karu 12 oven from Ooni, not only is the Karu 16 bigger (meaning you can create 16 inch pizzas to feed 2+), it’s also clearly the result of Ooni’s 9 year of experience in pizza oven production. The Karu 16 offers exciting innovations. The oven’s exterior has a temperature-resistant powder finish which means you don’t need to panic should there be children (or merry adults) around. The oven’s door is unique in having brackets (making it very easy to open) as well as a ventilation system, which means the glass door stays clean and you can watch your pizza cooking, so you know when it’s time to turn it. The oven is a hybrid: able to take charcoal, dry wood or gas fuel (with a separate attachment), and the large tray for the fuel means the fire stays hotter for longer. As such, this oven is wonderful at slow cooking meats and is also suited to cooking bread or vegetables. While the Karu 16 is heavier than many other models, it’s still portable (albeit you’ll need 2 people to carry it). The oven does need assembling on arrival, but this didn’t take our tester longer than 30 minutes, and once built, it can be stored in a shed or covered in the garden quite happily. The Karu 16 comes with a digital thermometer that you attach to the outside of the oven – which tells you the ambient air temperature: but it is advisable to invest in a temperature hand gun as the environment inside the oven can be quite a lot hotter at the back than at the front.
The Karu 16 gets top marks for ease-of-use and the speed with which it heats up. The oven door and smoking chimney create the perfect environment for wood fired pizza. The Karu 16 will not let you down, but it is a larger, heavier model so best for those who aren’t looking for something particularly portable.
The Karu 16 is available at Ooni for £699.
If James Bond had a pizza oven, this is the model he’d be rocking. Handmade in Yorkshire, this has Aston Martin sleek, with the clay oven covered in a fibreglass shell in a choice of vibrant red, orange, navy, olive green or black. The oven even stays cool underneath, and surprisingly weighs only 30kg so is portable enough to be enjoyed anywhere. The DeliVita is wood-fired, but you can get it to 500°C surprisingly quickly.
What’s special about it?
The completely waterproof shell means this oven can sit outside in all weathers, with its exterior resistant to cracks. And, because of its size, the DelVita is a great vessel to cook meat, fish and roast vegetables in. The oven takes between 20 and 30 minutes to heat up, but with that price tag, you’ll need to make an awful lot of pizza before you’ve earned your money back.
The largest of the ovens we tested, the DeliVita is a hard-wearing, weather resistant traditional clay oven that’s perfect for those looking for a classic, wood-fired oven that looks chic.
The DeliVita pizza oven is available from DeliVita for £1295.
Have you taken any pizza ovens for a test drive? Let us know your favourites in the comments below.