Ten tips to get the most out of your pizza oven
Everyone loves pizza, it’s such a crowd pleasing food, so it’s no wonder pizza ovens have exploded in popularity. Especially considering how many more of us found a love of baking and cooking during the lockdowns. The idea of entertaining your friends whilst serving up top quality pizza, with a delicate wood smoke aroma filling the garden, is simply dreamy.
But, the best pizza ovens aren't cheap, they’re usually several hundred pounds, so it’s not something you want to fail at. And having recently reviewed two of Ooni’s top pizza ovens, I believe the more you know, the better your pizza oven experience will be and so it follows, the more you will use and enjoy it. So here’s my list of the most useful things I think you need to know…
Written by our cooking expert
1. Choose a good spot for your pizza oven
Positioning is everything, ideally the pizza oven should be up on a heat proof table so you can stand at it. This means you can see inside easily and launch pizzas onto the stone without bending into a weird crouch.
Smaller models like the Ooni Fyra (which you can read my review of) are easier to position, while portable models like the Gozney Roccbox have the edge when it comes to venturing with your oven outside of the house.
2. Invest in a good peel (or two)
Without a pizza peel you’ll find it virtually impossible to get pizzas in and out of the pizza oven, so don’t even hesitate in ordering one of these. I have two, one that I use during cooking to turn and remove the pizza. Meanwhile the other one can be loaded up with the next pizza ready for cooking. A word of warning though, don’t leave an uncooked pizza on the peel for too long or it’ll stick.
3. Use semolina to dust bases
To help avoid the problem of pizzas sticking to the peel or worktop, I find a generous dusting of fine semolina works wonders. And unlike flour, it doesn’t soak into the dough which can potentially dry it out.
4. Don’t overload on toppings
This one is hard at first and it’s always tempting to add lots of tasty toppings. But if you go overboard it can affect how the base cooks and stop it from crisping properly. Don’t forget there are lots of additional toppings you add after cooking like rocket and parmesan shavings, to give you pizza extra pizazz.
5. Make sharing pizzas
You may need to wait up to five minutes between pizzas for the stone to heat back up to the right temperature, so it can get pretty awkward if you’re doing an individual pizza for everyone, not to mention stressful. I’d suggest going for a relaxed sharing style of dining and choose crowd pleasing toppings, then chuck a couple of big bowls of salad on the table for good measure.
6. Always check the temperature of the pizza stone
You’ll come unstuck if you start loading pizzas onto a pizza stone that's too cold or even too hot. An infrared thermometer is easy to use, inexpensive and makes all the difference.
7. Prepare well
Once your pizza oven is hot and ready to cook, you need to be ready too. So I find it helps to get the dough stretched and all your toppings ready to go in bowls while the pizza oven is heating up. Then when it’s hot enough to cook in, assembly is quick and stress-free.
8. Turn frequently
In the smaller back garden pizza ovens, the heat is usually very concentrated at the back of the oven. This means it’s vital that you turn the pizza as frequently as every 20-30 seconds for the most evenly crisp and browned crust.
9. Experiment with cooking other foods
There are so many other foods that you can cook in a pizza oven, I enjoyed cooking meat, smoky charred potatoes and even vegetables so much that I even wrote about all the surprising things you can cook in a pizza oven. You won’t have to do much scrolling to come across exciting non-pizza recipes.
10. Have fun
It might be last on the list but this is the most important. Cooking pizzas in the garden is super fun, so relax and enjoy it!
In our review, the Gozney Roccbox excels in many areas, with the capability to cook pizzas to the quality that you'd get in a restaurant. It's also dual fuel, which means that you can either use gas or wood to fire it up, and has a detachable fabric handle and collapsible legs for portability. That means you can take your perfect pizzas to the beach, park and beyond.
Got your heart set on a wood-fired pizza oven for that authentic Italian feel? The Fyra is the oven you need, with a price tag on the lower end (for pizza ovens!) and an incredibly good performance, proven in our review.
Woody Oven - Wood Fired Pizza Oven Kit
Make life easy with this all-encompassing pizza oven kit from Woody, which we tried and loved in our review. It's portable, (relatively) affordable, and boasts an integrated thermometer too. This is a wood-fired option, but you can pay more to have a gas burner included.