The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Pizza Oven Recommendations?

Yeast_Mode's picture

Pizza Oven Recommendations?

Hello all!

My impression on portable wood fired pizza ovens is that the Ooni is the gold standard. I don't think I would use one enough to justify the price so I've been considering some less expensive options. Big Horn and Vevor both make pizza ovens for less than $200. Does anybody have any thoughts on these ovens? Anything I should consider before buying a pizza oven?

Abe's picture

She bakes pizza in a pizza maker. Something like this. I've never used one myself and while nothing beats a WFO from the reviews it does look popular. 

I don't think this is the make she has because hers goes up to 500C but both of them come with a pizza stone.

CelesteU's picture

I own an Ooni, and it’s a great little unit.  But if you want to approximate that sort of cooking at a lower pricing point, try using a Baking Steel in your home oven in combo with the ovens broiler.  It gets pretty close to ideal, for about $100.

That said, I love my Ooni Koda bc it doesn’t heat up the house and preheats in 20 min.

NumbWhistle's picture

I would agree that a baking steel would probably be the best place to start. I used one for quite a while when I started making pizzas. I ended up getting a dedicated pizza oven (, because I wanted to try my hand at more Neapolitan pizzas, and liked the idea of not getting flour in my home oven. I also wanted the flexibility to preheat quickly and not heat up my kitchen in the summer. If you are really looking to save money at the outset, you could even get a pizza stone for your home oven, but a steel would transfer heat more quickly and be much more durable (albeit also far heavier).

I do not know much about the two ovens you mentioned, but you might be able to find someone who has experience with either/both at

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

If you think about how the new micro pizza ovens work - it will give you a hint at what you are looking for and why I suspect many end up largely disappointed (with pizza ovens that sit unused like so many TV shopping gadgets).

To find the oven that suits what your looking for, I would suggest the best way is to look at videos of them in use. (NOT the product shots or promotional stuff). Looking closely at the actual pizzas people make can tell you if the oven is actually capable of making great pizza - OR does it just make a bad charred cheese sandwich.

To tell what the oven is actually capable of, the easier way is to pay close attention to the quality and detail of the leopard spots.  This is because these are both: a result of, and control the flash cooking at 430C (900F). Its quite cool really...Exposed to instant high temps a small areas start to burn first....This does 2 things.  The blister lifting off the crust stops the burn continuing further into the dough. Second the process of forming that little bit of charcoal stops the crust around it burning (I suspect the science of it might be due to the smoke, color, and phase change all inhibiting the surrounding areas burning).  Hence, if the oven is well designed the spotting is quite distinct and controlled

.Leopard spot

I would avoid anything where they look blurry, or be massive scalds. Also at no point should the pizza crust ever look remotely like baked bread know that even browning.

Not Leopard


THE OVEN DESIGN - what to look out for:

These ovens don't use stored radiant heat. Instead the flame itself has to fill that role. This is no mean feat. The flame has to be just perfectly above the pizza to replicate the radiant heat of a stone oven.  Too low and you are burning the pizza to a black lump, a tiny variation too high and it will just look like a bad oven bake.


How the oven holds the the little hot air it makes is important.  Too open and the weird cooking process of pizza doesn't happen...actually can't happen. Notice on the leopard spot image, the spots go from top to bottom and there is a nice puff.  If the oven can't hold enough hot air, they only occur on the top. This is a sign... and its way harder to control the cooking in such ovens.   Another tell is the crust isn't able to really puff up and stays quite flat.   Sure super wide open oven makes it easier to see what's happening and turn the pizza...but if it can't retain enough heat around the pizza you give up "pizza"-ness for convenience. 

When I watch all the videos of the latest mini pizza ovens, none are making pizzas I want to eat.  Most are making a crust that look more like a bread rather than the mysterious light pizza crust with leopard spots.  Nor do I see the topping reach that sublime mouthwatering state where everything is cooked but still fresh... 

Pizza is weird - the difference between what makes mild altering vs just melted cheese sandwich is so small. If you want mind oven that is not designed to make it will probably never get you there.


username9's picture

v nice reply.  enjoyed reading it.

the leopard spot pizza looks delicious.  am i reading it correctly that the second pic is not good pizza?

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Its not a pizza I would want...(but more that happy for others if that's what floats their boat)

If you were looking for an oven that made the Neapolitan style pizza like the first image....Do you think you would be able to get it from the oven that made the 2nd pizza image? (HUGE Caveat...Of course, I wouldn't just assume on one image.  I would try to understand if it was the person/method/or oven....but that photo is not a good sign.)


Most on "The Fresh Loaf" would be able to take a guess at what that 2nd image's pizza crust is like just from looking.  My interpretation is that even though the crust would be barely more that 1/4 inch tall (reference the sausage for size). And it would more that likely have a very thick shell layers top and bottom (would guess about 1/8 inch each)...that would take quite a bit to bite through.  The crust has little if any rise (in fact to me it has tell tale signs it slumped in the oven) so I suspect what little inside it does have doesn't have any crumb to speak of...

If you look at the burnt section of the crust at the bottom of the image. Its edges of the burn are very blurry.  That's not a leopard spot...that is just burnt.  Anyone who bakes knows exactly what that piece of pizza tastes like. Experience also tells that once you get that burn on dough that looks like that...chances are even the "less burnt" areas are less than "desirable". 

If all of the above is true, then that pizza probably has a burn affected flat crust that is more crust shell than inner...making it dry, hard and quite acrid.  Bit of a downer if you were going for Neapolitan...light, airy soft with the thinnest brittle layer festooned with piquant leoparding. 



Due to the cooking time, the toppings have dried out in the Oven.  They no longer have that luscious fresh quality you would find on the pizza in the first image.  Pair the dryness of the toppings with the quality of the crust and to me that isn't a mouth watering experience.  

Great Neapolitan Pizza bizarrely create toppings that look simultaneously fresh and cooked at the same time (image below) is like Schrodinger's food. 

Pizza toppings

I don't know how it actually does it but the topping fresh/cooked is not just from the hight temp in the oven. A critical component in that outcome is how the toppings cook on the crust (no idea of the science at play but it's pretty magical).  For me, if I nail the crust, I can get away with almost any topping and it will still be amazing.

It would be fascinating to see how people interpreted less dramatic pizza images regarding MAKER / METHOD / OVEN.

myles29's picture

I tried other pizza ovens before but honestly, nothing compares to the pizza ovens from Ooni. I found this site called Dickson BBQ that sells the Ooni Fyra for around $300 since it's currently on sale. It's a little over the budget but it's so worth it.

rondayvous's picture

Is a matter of taste. Just put a person from NY in the same room with someone from Chicago and ask them what a good pizza is. Even people from NY have at least a dozen styles to choose from. My wife and I happen to like paper thin bottom crust with baguette like puffy outer crust. For that you need an oven that goes over 500F and a steel plate.

As for super thick pizza dough, leopard spots, smokey wood ovens and the rest, it’s all a matter of personal taste and each requires a different setup.