Welcome to my buyers guide for the home pizza oven. Here is all my research I made when looking to buy or build my own oven. I’ve put it all here for you for some instructions when looking at what to get.
If you’re looking to get a pizza oven but don’t know where to start then here are your immediate options and their comparisons:
- Portable Oven. Smaller ovens that you can move around.
- Oven Kit. Buy prefabricated pieces and assemble yourself.
- Fully Assembled. The pieces are assembled for you and delivered as a complete oven.
- Build Your Own. Build a brick dome, or set refractory concrete over a gym ball support.
- Hire Someone else. Pay a professional to build you something bespoke.
If we compare these against the manual skill required, the time taken, the cost and some pros and cons then here are the results.
|Manual Skill Required||Time Taken||Cost||Pros and Cons|
|Portable Oven||Low||Low||Low||Small, easily stored and movable. But cooks only one pizza at a time.|
|Oven Kit||Medium||Medium||Medium||Easiest and cheapest way to build your own traditional pizza oven.|
|Fully Assembled||Low||Low||High||Popular designs ready made, with no assembling done yourself.|
|Build Your Own||High||High||Varying||Fun project but requires the skills and time.|
|Hire Someone Else||Low||Medium||High||The best bespoke and high end option when budget is not an issue.|
First decision: Will it be portable or permanent? Everything except the portable option will be fixed in place.
Second decision: How much of it will you build? Each option has a level of how hands on you will have to be – from assembling a kit to completely hiring someone else.
The next sections have lots of detail to help you answer those questions, along with details on where to buy, and my top choices.
1. Portable Oven
This is the first ready to go option. These are smaller and can be moved around. Despite the size, these can still be excellent choices and get right up to the hottest temperatures to cook pizza in 90 seconds. They have the benefits of easy storage, compact size and price. They are much cheaper than a larger, fixed one – even if you end up building one yourself.
This style of portable oven is how it sounds – it’s small enough to put on your table and move it around. While they may have a small stand or legs of its own, they won’t be at a height you can reach while standing so they go on a table or the floor. The advantages are that these are truly portable. You can pack it up and put it in your car and take it to the next place. Most collapse down for transport and storage and some have carry cases. The disadvantages with the smaller size are that they usually just cook 1 pizza at a time, and sometimes have a waiting period between. You might not be able to cook other large things in the cooking area. Generally, if it’s low enough to fit through the door, then you’re good to go. Baking dishing or cast iron pots can be used mostly, but you might not be able to fit in a large piece of meat. Ooni and Roccbox are the popular brands.
This is where the pizza oven comes with a tall stand and comes as a whole unit. You can manoeuvre these with wheels on the base, a bit like you would with a barbeque grill. They can be a good option for someone who wants a larger oven but doesn’t want to build anything. Or for someone that wants to take the oven with them when they move house. They don’t quite have the aesthetics of a custom built brick oven, but they still perform well. Be wary of poorly made ovens – these type of ovens don’t seem to have the same brand quality as the tabletop ovens which have taken off more with good quality brands.
Wood pellets are used in some ovens such as the Ooni. You can buy bags of ready made wood pellets so you don’t need to source logs. These light easily, burn well, and produce minimal ash. They are readily available online so you can shop around to find a cheap constant supply for your oven.
Wood logs and charcoal are the more romantic of cooking approaches where you build a live fire with actual wood. Because these ovens are small, you put smaller kindling into the fires, rather than larger logs. This means that the ovens heats up much faster than a permanent dome oven but it requires more maintenance to keep the fire going.
Gas is the final option with the least maintenance. Just turn the burner to the temperature you want and you can completely control the cooking. Fire it up full for 90 second Neapolitan style pizzas or turn it right down for slow cooking. Using gas you do lose the flavor of wood smoke and the fun of building a fire, which you might like or hate. You can connect a gas burner to both the Ooni and the Roccbox ovens.
Best Brands To Buy
The Ooni is one of the first portable oven brands that started with a crowd funding campaign. They have now made multiple generation models. They are affordable, cook great, and are very portable. As default the Ooni uses pellets which are loaded into a hopper and fall down into the fire chamber, but you can now buy a gas burner to attach. It is a main player in the portable pizza oven market. Check the Ooni here on Amazon.
The Roccbox is heavier, and more sturdy with more mass but it is more expensive. Slightly less portable due to its weight. It does hold heat better with its better insulation, but the downside is the price difference is over double. It burns small logs, and also has a changeable gas burner. So you can have the best of both worlds. Recommended if you have the budget. Check the Roccbox here on Amazon.
For sheer price and performance, the Ooni gets my vote. It makes the barrier for entry for home pizza oven fantastically easy. There is no easier and cheaper way to cook a pizza in 90 seconds than this product. It has fantastic reviews online, and continues to improve.
2. Oven Kit
If we move away from portable ovens, we get into the realm of more traditional Italian style ovens which are fixed in place. They are larger, and can fit multiple pizzas at once. The added insulation means they stay hotter for longer and can cook other things inside too. But these ovens require more building, and higher cost. The first option is to buy a kit.
An oven kit provides premade sections of the oven which you put together yourself. This includes a precast dome, insulation, flooring and finishing touches. With the hard parts already made for you, you are free to finish the exterior in any style you want. The dome is the main part – refractory concrete is cast to the shape of the oven and this can be assembled by you or a professional. You can choose to buy all parts or just subsections in an oven kit.
A modular kit consists of cast concrete pieces and insulation, which you put together yourself for the main structure. You need to finish the exterior, which could be a simple dome render, or you could go completely bespoke and build a custom enclosure for a real piece of outdoor furniture.
These kits are faster than building bricks, and are basically what a pizza oven company would use to make their ovens as they can be mass produced. Instead of the extra cost for the building of the oven, this is passed on to you, so it is a way to save $500-$1000 if you’ve prepared to do that. They can usually be put together in 20 hours or so.
This is the most hands on kit. Instead of a precast dome, you are supplied with around 250 cut bricks and everything else you need to build the oven. Everything is cut into shape ready to go. This eliminates the need for extra equipment such as cutters, and the hassle, dust and noise in doing so. It includes the insulation flooring, firebricks for the hearth, tunnel arch support, bricks cut to size, refractory mortar, insulation blanket, wire meshing, and exterior render. And of course a manual to see you through and phone support in case you get stuck.
Some companies can supply you with just the individual parts you need. The hardest part to build is the dome, so having this made and delivered to you can save you a lot of time and effort. This is usually cast concrete rather than brick, and can be pretty cheap. With the main component out of the way, you are left with the smaller bits: adding a floor, a chimney and rendering and decorating the exterior. It can be a cost effective way to build an oven, but take the main risky bit out. Speak to local companies which can offer this service: where there is a demand for something, then someone is usually selling. There are some contacts later on in this article.
3. Fully Assembled Oven
These ovens are often just built with the modular kits provided by the same company, but are fully finished in their warehouse and then delivered to your door. They take out the manual effort, skill and time of putting an oven together yourself. Even the exterior is finished, so it’s ready to use straight away. This is why they can be a popular option if you have the budget.
Often they come with a decorative brick or stone enclosure depending how much you pay. Usually they are bespoke so you can have control over the design. When it’s delivered it’s placed in place by machinery (pallet jack or forklift) as its now too heavy to lift.
They could be wood fired or gas. A “black oven” uses wood and goes sooty on the dome. The soot burns off when it gets to the correct cooking temperature. A “white oven” is heated by gas and so has no sooty smoke to cover the interior so the dome remains white.
4. Build Your Own Oven
This is the most hands on approach. This could be someones dream project, and someone else’s nightmare. So if you have some masonry skills (or an appetite to learn!) then this is a great option. If the idea of laying bricks, mixing concrete, and following a design sounds way above your head then it might be an option to pass on. There is two main options here for building an oven from scratch:
Build A Brick Oven
A brick build is probably what most people are common with. You are fully in control here so size is what ever you can afford and willing to build. You’ll need to buy firebricks which can withstand the high temperatures – regular bricks will crumble. The bricks need to be cut to size, and some with precise angles so you need to have a solid plan and execute it well. A build might need ~250 bricks, and firebricks might cost you $3+ a brick. So you could be looking at $750+ for just the dome.
On top you’ll need base insulation, a firebrick hearth, a tunnel, chimney, insulation blanket for the dome and a water proof render. It’s a fair project and will take considerable time depending on your skill – upwards of 60+ hours. There are some great videos on how to build these online such as the one below.
Build A Vermiculite Oven
A cheaper way of building your own is to use vermiculite mixed with concrete to make the dome. Vermiculite is a mineral that is cheap, highly insulating and resistant to extreme temperatures which make it ideal for a pizza oven. Bricks are the expensive part, so replacing with vermiculite drastically reduces the cost. You can buy big bags of it at a home and gardening store, or online for $40-50. It’s mixed with refractory cement to make an easily moldable, insulating material which sets firm. Use a gym ball as a support structure to set the concrete and you’ve made yourself a dome for probably under $100. You just need firebricks for the hearth, a tunnel, chimney and opening which can be made the usual way. Vermiculite has a bad name because one mine was contaminated with asbestos in the 90’s – if it’s recently sourced then it’s now regulated against this.
I did a detailed post about a vermiculite build. Check it out here – how to create a vermiculite oven with a gym ball.
Other Ways To Build
These two methods aren’t the only ways you can build an oven. At its core, you need a fuel source, an oven floor and an oven wall to reflect the heat back down to do the cooking. I’ve seen people use an old barrel, a beer keg or using clay. I rounded up a load of these and wrote about them in my article 8 ways to build a pizza oven which you should check out for some inspiration.
5. Hire Someone To Build
This option is where you hire a professional to complete your project. Pizza ovens can often have bespoke exteriors to accompany outdoor seating areas or decking – this is where a professional stone mason can really shine.
This option can take any of these forms depending how much you want to spend:
- Buy a precast dome online and your stone mason assembles and renders it.
- A stone mason builds the oven from bricks with your design.
- A stone mason handles the whole project and makes the decisions for you (most expensive).
If you buy a prefabricated dome then you can design the exterior yourself and have someone do the building work for you. This way you can still have complete control on the design, and use someone else’s skills to complete the build.
The advantage of this option is that you don’t need to know the manual skills yourself, and it can be done very quickly. The downsides is that it will cost a lot more money to hire someone, on top of the material costs you already need to buy.
6. Oven Specifications In More Detail
This section is about the details of the permanent ovens, rather than the portable ones which were covered above. These ovens are usually dome shaped. This is the best shape for heat reflection back to the food, and is efficient and consistent throughout the oven.
The size of the oven affects how many pizzas you can cook inside. But I wouldn’t think of size in terms of how many pizzas you can cook at once. A fully fired oven can cook pizzas very quickly – were talking in under 2 minutes. So if you’re cooking 2 pizzas at a time, you can serve a pizza every minute. If you’ve got 20 guests over, then you can feed everyone very quickly. Cooking more than 2 pizzas at a time is also tricky and requires some skills with the pizza peel, not to mention hand stretching a succession of pizzas quickly.
So a 32 inch oven can handle 2 large pizzas. If you are going smaller than this, then that is fine but be aware that you might struggle with space when cooking multiple pizzas.
Where size is important is if you want to cook larger dishes, such as roasting big pieces of meat. If you want to do a large turkey or whole animal roasts, then looking at a 36+inch oven is best. With smaller ovens you can still fit in lots of cast iron dishes to cook lots of different foods. Check out my article 25 foods you can cook in your pizza oven.
Precast ovens usually take up a smaller footprint than a brick oven in terms of where it stands. So if you have a compact backyard then check the footprint of the ovens as a precast might be a better option.
There is some math involved with an optimum height of the door in relation to the rest of the oven . The height of the door is optimum at 63% of the inner dome height for the fire to burn successfully and not lose too much heat. Remember also that the size of the opening will dictate what you can fit in the oven, so keep that in mind for larger foods. The door itself can regulate oven temperature by restricting the air circulation and it’s speed. Closing the door helps keep heat in when you want to maintain the temperature with a small, or non existent fire.
Material and Insulation Considerations
The materials and insulation will affect the speed that the oven gets to the cooking temperature and how long it will take to cool down. Pizza ovens can stay hot for surprisingly long times if insulated well. Obviously if the insulation is minimal then it’s going to cool down much much faster.
The insulation happens in layers and with thickness. Ceramic blanket and vermiculite are two options used to add lays of dome insulation. Thick fire bricks and under floor insulation (calcium silicate boards) reduce heat loss from the bottom.
A brick oven tends to be thicker and with better insulation compared to a thinner precast oven, or vermiculite concrete oven.
To get an idea of times. A well insulated oven will take 2-2.5 hours to heat up and will take 72 hours to cool down when a door is fitted on the front. A lesser insulated oven might take 1-1.5 hours to heat up and will cool down in 36 hours.
This has its pros and cons. The shorter heating time gives less of a barrier to cooking, so you can fire it up with less planning. You might find that you will only use the slower oven on special occasions. On the other hand, you get a massive amount of cooking time which you can use for days to come which has its benefits.
The main two fuel types are wood and gas. Some ovens can offer both options.
Wood fired ovens are the traditional option for the Italian oven. Cooking food over a fire you’ve built yourself is a fun experience which takes you back to your primal roots. Lighting, building and maintaining the fire is all part of the experience. These ovens require you to have a supply of dried hardwood available to you, which could be a problem for some. If you don’t have dry wood then the oven doesn’t get hot enough and it will smoke. A well fired oven should only smoke during the initial stages. Burning wood also produces ash which will be needed to be scraped out from time to time.
Extra effort for all these steps? Yes. But is it all worth it? Definitely. This cooks the hottest pizzas, flavored with a delicious wood smoke, and will be a memorizing center piece to any pizza evening. This is my choice.
Gas fired ovens are the simpler brother of the wood fired, requiring less effort and less hassle. You basically hook up to a gas supply and away you go. Gas can heat the dome quickly but the floor temperature takes longer to heat fully. This is because there is no fire on the floor which is transferring heat. You need that hot floor to cook the pizza base quickly.
An advantage is you can fully regulate temperature. Do you want to cook some bread in the morning? No problem, just put the flames on low. Then turn it high for your evening pizzas. Quite difficult to do the same in a wood fired oven.
You can have both. Traditional ovens can be “gas assist” where you can get the best of both world. If you don’t feel like looking after a fire, then just attach the gas up. But you can always put the extra effort for an authentic wood fired pizza too.
Enclosure and Aesthetics
A brick oven and precast oven are both rendered on the outside so they will look identical. It is only looking inside you will see either a brick interior or smooth sections from the precast oven. The bricks do look better in my opinion.
Once you’ve got your dome built and insulated, the structural part is done. It now needs aesthetics to fit in your space. You could go simple and render the exterior into a smooth dome, and paint it with a classic white, waterproof paint. More bespoke designs could involve building an enclosure around the dome, which could be larger and with a roof. Or something super creative such as pebbles or glass fragments on the exterior. Remember that the dome is so well insulated now that temperatures are minimal on the outside.
Ask yourself, what design suits my space? and how big do I want it to finally be?
How To Lift It Into Place
You might be wondering how to get this massive object into place. This obviously depends on a few things: materials, size, how fully assembled it is and the companies delivery policy.
Most companies will deliver the oven to the kerbside of your house on a pallet. It’s then up to you to place it in your location.
If it’s a precast dome then these can usually be lifted manually and placed in location, but obvious care should be made.
For fully assembled ovens you are likely to need a pallet truck or forklift to transport the oven to the final location. If you are going over grass then you need to use boards. Then you might need a portable floor crane to get it on top of your stand or base. You can hire all of this equipment cheaply. It’s best to speak to the supplier you go with and make a plan that suits your back yard. Keep in mind any door width dimensions and terrain you might need to cross.
What To Stand It On
With size and materials, this affects the weight. And with the extra weight, you need to have the correct stand to hold the oven otherwise it will crack.
Brick ovens can be much heavier than a precast oven, and probably require you to build a reinforced concrete stand, with brickwork and foundations. Precast and lighter ovens can use a steel frame. Here is the options:
Buy A Prefabricated Base
Companies can offer a prefabricated base which is ready to use. You obviously need to check the specifications of the stand in terms of weight and the oven you plan to put on top. These are usually pretty expensive – costing you an extra $1000 on top of your build.
Buy A Steel Frame
For lighter ovens, a steel frame can be built or bought. A cement sheet can be placed on top of this and this can be built upon. This usually works best for precast ovens or self built vermiculite ovens. Check the manufacturers specs to see how much weight the stand can hold.
You need foundations for the frame, which can just be footings for the frame if the weight isn’t too high. You don’t necessarily need a full concrete slab if it doesn’t need it.
Build A Reinforced Concrete Stand
Steel could bend and buckle with the weight and cause cracks. This is more common in your brick oven because there is more individual pieces and its more fragile.
So you need to build a reinforced concrete bench top for the stand. This top is supported by walls made from blocks or bricks, and a reinforced concrete foundation. This is a solid frame and can withstand the higher loads.
7. Tips To Help You Decide
Generally in life, you get what you pay for. I would say that is true here to a certain degree. Exception being the portable ovens which have been refined and are sold in big quantities, so you get a really great oven for a really great price. Be wary going off the main brands in this article, as I’ve seen other low priced ovens with terrible reviews.
With the larger dome ovens you typically pay more and get more mass, which means more insulation. You’ll probably get better quality materials too which will avoid cracking. The brands in the section below are recommended.
For more info on price, I did a comparison of the cost of all types of pizza ovens which you should check before buying. Find it here: how much do wood fired pizza ovens costs?
Time And Effort
For some people, the idea of a project to build a pizza oven is the fun and fulfillment of acquiring a pizza oven. For other people, having the oven ready to use as soon as possible and without any manual effort is the goal.
How quickly do you want to get up and running? You can have a mass produced oven or precast pieces in days. Constructing will take much longer. For assembling a precast oven, it might take you 20 hours or so, so in a solid weekend you could complete the project. But building a brick oven might take you more like 50+ hours. It’s something to consider if you want your pizza oven operational quickly.
Paying for labor will obviously cut the time here, but will cost you. Pretty much everything comes down to three things: price, speed and quality – you can only pick 2 of those things!
Your Skill Level
If you are going to do-it-yourself then you either need to have some decent masonry and engineering skills, or be willing to learn. It can be a large and costly project and the chances of a beginner making mistakes are high. So you’ve got to be realistic in your ability here.
If you like the idea of doing more cooking in the pizza oven the next day, then identify how well the oven will retain heat. Portable ovens are usually pretty poor as the mass you get from a permanent oven provides the insulation. Even here, if you get a thin vermiculite oven then it won’t be too successful. A proper brick oven with some layers of insulation is your best option. With better heat retention comes better fuel efficiency, as you don’t need to use as much wood to keep the fire going.
If you like the idea of being able to take your oven with you – on a camping trip, to your next house or even just around your yard, then portable will sway your opinion. A fixed oven is pretty permanent. You will need a crane and a forklift if you want to move it to a new location. If you plan on moving house any time soon then think twice on your oven decision.
Size And Space Available
I’ve mentioned size in this article and how it is not so important as you probably think due to the speed in which a pizza oven can cook pizzas. So as a deciding factor, think about how size will bring an extra cost, extra time to heat up, and extra wood. I’ve heard quite a few pizza oven owners state that they wished they had made a smaller oven.
A 32 inch oven can cook 2 large pizzas at once, and is probably fine for any family cooking. Even for larger parties, you can cook a pizza every minute to feed everyone. Commercial ovens need bigger sizes.
Portable ovens can be on the smaller side, with most only being able to cook 1 pizza at a time. You might be limited on space if you want to cook larger food.
Position And Access
Think of a couple of things in relation to position: wind, smoke and heat. The position of your oven might be a trade off with the appearance in your backyard. The type of oven you choose can affect the positioning – a portable oven can be re-positioned.
You obviously don’t want to cause damage to your property by the chimney, so ensure it is positioned far enough from overhanging roofing and trees.
Wind direction related to the pizza oven is an important positioning factor. Aim for a crosswind rather than a headwind towards the door. This stops wind drawing too much heat from the oven, and ensures that smoke is taken away efficiently. Too much wind can be a problem though, so aim for a location that is protected from the wind, rather than exposed. Things like vegetation can be good wind breaks. Portable ovens allow you to move your pizza oven out of the wind to improve its performance on a windy day.
Smoke can be a factor if you are burning wood which isn’t completely dry, or if you don’t get your oven hot enough. So think of the prevailing wind direction and where that smoke might go. This could be your neighbors house, or an open window – so find the prevailing wind direction from a local weather forecast and take that into account.
Weight And Lifting
A completed oven weighs a considerable amount so will need to be lifted in with machinery. For some properties, this might not be possible due to access. If that’s the case, then a modular kit might be a better option as it can be lifted by hand. This could be completed by a professional on your site if you don’t feel comfortable building it yourself. You then have the option of going for a fully portable oven, or building your own oven on site, which removes the hassle of lifting and positioning a heavy oven.
8. Where To Buy When Your Ready
Here is a list of some popular sources to buy pizza ovens. There are a number of specialist companies worth noting. These can offer fully assembled ovens, oven kits or individual pieces to start from.
Portable Ovens (world wide)
USA Permanent ovens
UK Permanent ovens
9. What Else Do I Need?
It’s impossible to know what temperature the pizza oven is without a thermometer. You can buy an infrared one for very cheap, and point it to the oven floor to give you a reading. You can know if you need to build the heat for longer, or start cooking. Make sure to get one that goes to a high enough temperature, like this one on Amazon.
A wooden peel is best for loading the pizza as it is less prone to sticking than metal (which can ruin your hard earned pizza!). You can build the pizza on top of the peel, dusted with some flour and slide it off easily. The metal peel has a lower profile so can get under the pizza to turn and retrieve it. If you can only get one then go for metal, but I highly recommend buying both.
I have the best recommendations of pizza peels with long handles suitable for pizza oven, including where to get them, in my article the best pizza peels for wood fired ovens.
You’ll need to clear up ash and sweep the oven floor clean periodically. A two sided brush which has metal bristles and scraper like this one on Amazon is a useful tool. The oven gets super hot, so consider buying some heat proof gloves when going inside, and be careful.
My Favorite Pizza Cook Book
Get yourself a copy of The Pizza Bible from Amazon which is my favorite pizza book and written by a 12 time pizza champion. It goes into every detail and has recipes for traditional Neapolitan pizzas, including how to build a fire and cook in the oven properly. It’s got other recipes there for your pizza oven which aren’t just pizza too.
Hopefully you have a lot more information now to inform you buying decisions. If you’re still stuck then revisit the comparison table at the top of the article to compare times, prices and skill levels. My section on the decision tips should top you off to help you decide.