A Few Tips from Grills’n Ovens on Selecting the Right Pizza Oven
Having spent years answering sales calls on wood fired pizza ovens my joke is: when we shop for cars we don’t know where to stop and when we shop for a pizza oven we don’t know where to start.
Material written by Eugene Bryskine from Grills’n Ovens LLC.
Pizza ovens are just too new of an item for most people, the vast majority of our customers are first time oven owners. So I have decided to summarize the most common questions in order of importance to help you set out on your search.
1) The Size.
This is # 1. How many people will the oven have to cook for at the same time? This will determine the size of the oven you need. I do not recommend anything smaller than 24×24 on the inside. If the oven will be used for large parties (20+ people) consider 40 inside diameter, and finally for commercial use it’s 47 and up. As a rule you will never need a 47 oven for home use (unless you want to roast a whole animal) although many people still like to have it. The oven size is also limited by the room you have. A full size oven will all the insulation and veneer can easily take up a 5’x5′ area in your backyard.
Once you figure out the size it’s time to think of which ovens are available in that size.
2) To Build Or Not to Build?
Size may be # 1 but this question is the biggest of them all. Don’t let anyone fool you: a WFO project is messy and will take a few days. It’s fun, it’s worth it but only if you have the time and a good helper handy. You can buy a DIY modular kit with everything you need for the oven itself however this will not include the materials you need for the base (cinder blocks, cement, rebars) and veneer (stucco, tiles etc). Shopping, delivering to your house, mixing 50lb bags of cement, lifting 30lb cinder blocks this is a serious project.
However, if you do have the time and resolve then go for it the oven you assemble yourself will likely be better than an oven you buy in store. As a rule, ready-to-go ovens are under-insulated compared to home-built ovens. You will control insulation yourself and will be free to insulate with as much material as you want. Besides, you will make the oven look exactly the way you like, and will learn quite a bit about pizza ovens too!
I have to say that I mean ONLY modular pizza oven kits such as our Volta, Spazio, (Volta, Spazio page) etc. NOT build your own oven kit with just a bunch of firebricks, mortar, and insulation. It’s a lot easier to use a prefabricated kit as opposed to raw firebrick. With a prefabricated kit you can assemble the oven shell in less than 30 min., while putting bricks together with mortar will take you days and good luck making it perfectly spherical. I don’t recommend messing with firebricks at all, it’s just not worth it.
However, if you think starting a project like this is not for you then consider a ready-to-go oven.
3) Ready-to-Go Ovens.
Here you have 2 options: a traditional brick or precast oven already assembled for you at the factory or one of the newer steel ovens, also fully assembled. There are 3 main things to consider when deciding between them:
a.) Weight. The brick oven is authentic and rustic but will come in at 1200lb and guess who will need to lift it onto the base? Here you will need an engine hoist or a few VERY loyal friends. Of course if you have access to a Bobcat, skid steer, or forklift then this is a non-issue. However…in some cases it’s very hard to maneuver a 1200 lb oven to where you need it, such as when you have grass in the way, stairs, steps, fence doors that are not wide enough, or other obstructions. In this case a steel oven or even a modular kit will be a lot easier to move. Steel ovens are normally under 250lb and can usually by taken anywhere by 2 people. Same thing about moving houses: a steel oven is easier to take with you.
b.) Heat up time. The brick oven will take much longer to heat up than a modern steel oven. 1.5 hours vs 30 minutes is a close approximation. So why does anyone buy the brick oven? He he, that’s why we have point C:
c.) Cooking. The brick oven weights a ton but it has one ace up its sleeve: it holds heat. And the steel ovens just can’t hold it that long. Once the brick oven has been properly fired up it will stay hot for hours, some of our ovens are at 400 deg. F – 204 deg. C the next morning. But any steel oven will be cold after a few hours. It makes a difference only if you are planning to cook slow-cooking foods: bread, meat roasts etc. If your primary objective is pizza for kids on Sunday afternoon then you may be better off with a steel oven. It’s not a traditional oven but it will bake excellent crusty pies. On the other hand if you are an avid baker then forget about metal, you need a real brick oven.
And finally: which ovens are the most popular these days?
The ever increasing trend seems to be in favor of a ready-to-go brick oven. No assembly, beautiful authentic looks, traditional style, long lasting heat. Customers seem to prefer these benefits over the inconvenience of having to lift the oven in place. I personally like to see this: as it turns out we are ready to flex our muscles and move around a few pounds for the sake of the real thing!
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