This post was last updated on February 17th, 2018 at 02:13 am
Wood-fired pizza ovens have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. The main reason for this fame is for sure an excellent taste and flavor of Neapolitan style pizzas, cooked in a wood-burning pizza oven.
But, besides wonderful pizzas, in a wood-fired oven, you can bake and cook plenty of other foods.
And, there’s not only tasty food and the unique outdoor cooking experience that matters. A wood-fired pizza oven is a great place for socializing and hanging with your friends and family.
So, why don’t have your own home wood-fired pizza oven?
But, there are several types of outdoor wood-fired pizza ovens out there.
Brick ovens are the most known and appreciated, but portable pizza ovens are getting very popular too.
You might be wondering how to choose the right oven from all that stuff.
Here’s the deal:
In this post, we’re going to present the major features, advantages, and disadvantages of different types of wood-fired pizza ovens.
In addition, you’ll get some insights into various cooking techniques in different types of wood-burning ovens.
Finally, you’ll learn how to choose the best home wood-fired pizza oven.
So let’s get started!
- How Does a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Work?
- Wood Fired Brick Pizza Ovens
- 2 Basic Types of Brick Pizza Ovens
- Half-spherical or Igloo Oven (Tuscany or Neapolitan Dome?)
- How Much Should Be the Neapolitan Wood Fired Pizza Dome Height?
- 2 Types of Barrel Vault Oven
- Masonry Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
- Modular Pizza Ovens (Wood Fired Pizza Oven Kits)
- Assembled Brick Pizza Ovens – Best of the Best
- Why Choose a Portable Wood-Fired Pizza Oven?
- 12 Main Features of Different Types of Wood-Fired Ovens (Correlation Table)
- What Can You Cook in a Pizza Oven Besides Pizza?
- Before You Buy: 5 Things to Consider When Purchasing the Wood-fired Pizza Oven
- Reviews of Best Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
How Does a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Work?
You may be wondering what is the secret of wood-fired pizza ovens. Why is this ancient cooking technique still popular today? It’s ancient, but it’s very efficient.
Wood-fired pizza ovens operating is based on the chemical process of burning and physical process of thermodynamics. Anyway, wood-fired ovens had been invented thousands of years before scientists described those processes in theory.
During the operation of a wood-fired pizza oven, fire is normally placed on the back or side of the oven. When burning, fire produces hot air mixed with gases and their volume is much bigger than a volume of the oven.
Therefore, hot air is constantly moving in the upper half of the oven towards the oven opening and chimney. On the bottom half of the oven, fresh air is moving towards the fire, because the fire needs oxygen for burning. The burning process is very intensive, so the temperatures in wood-fired ovens can reach up to 540°C (1000°F).
The high temperature is the first condition for a true Neapolitan pizza. By the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) Method of production, “Neapolitan pizza must be done exclusively in a wood-fired oven which has reached the cooking temperature of 485°C, (905°F).”
So, the good wood-fired pizza oven, capable to reach and keep high temperature is essential for the true Neapolitan pizza.
And, besides very high temperature, there is also a unique way of heat transfer in wood-fired ovens, consists of three types of heat.
- Radiant heat is electromagnetic radiation and it comes mostly comes from the high-temperature fire. This energy heats pizza pies, directly and indirectly, bounced from the oven dome. Radiant heat also heats dome and cooking floor. Higher the thermal mass of dome and hearth is, more heat can be “recharged”.
- Conductive heat is the transfer of heat from the cooking floor, preliminary heated by fire and radiant heat, into the pizza pie.
- Convective heat transfer or simply convection is the transfer of heat by the movement of hot air and gases. This movement is natural and is caused by fire, burning in the oven.
I can’t stress enough, how important is for efficient operating of wood-fired pizza ovens to use only a quality and well-seasoned firewood.
Find out more about best wood for the pizza oven, firewood seasoning, moisture content in article Which is the Best Wood for Pizza Oven? (5+5 Most Popular Woods in Italy).
Wood Fired Brick Pizza Ovens
2 Basic Types of Brick Pizza Ovens
Almost all brick ovens are single chambered or ovens with direct combustion. It means they have one chamber both for firing and cooking.
On the base of ovens dome shape we know two basic types of brick pizza ovens:
- Half-spherical or Igloo dome
- Barrel Vault Oven
Half-spherical or Igloo Oven (Tuscany or Neapolitan Dome?)
Tuscany dome has a typical half-spherical design, with a higher dome and higher oven opening too. Because of its shape, Tuscany type ovens are very useful.
Besides pizzas, you can use it for baking bread and Foccacia, or for cooking in larger pottery and Dutch ovens.
Tuscany domes are often called “general purpose ovens”. If you like to cook different food in your wood-fired oven, then the Tuscany dome is the best for you.
The Neapolitan dome is lower with a slighter flatter ceiling. Therefore, more radiated heat to the pizza pies. This dome has been designed for pizza especially. How could it call, if it’s Neapolitan?
Now you might be wondering: Is this oven for pizzas only?
The answer is No. You can bake bread and cook many other foods in Neapolitan ovens without any problem. But, it’s good to be aware of a size limitations: the dome is little lower and so, the oven opening is lower.
Because of its design for high temperature, the Neapolitan dome is more demanding for maintaining a lower temperature. But if you love a Neapolitan pizza, then this type of oven is the logical choice.
How Much Should Be the Neapolitan Wood Fired Pizza Dome Height?
This is a very common debate among Neapolitan style pizza lovers. Well, we’ll tell you the secret now. The old Italian “magic formula” for Neapolitan dome height says:
“The pizza ovens’ dome height should be one-half of the three-quarters of the dome’s diameter.”
To make this simpler we can also say:
h (height) = ½ * ¾ * D (diameter) or h=0.50.75D or h=0.375D
That’s it! That’s the great secret of antique wood-fired oven builders:
To get a better idea, see the table below for some examples.
|DOME DIAMETER (internal)||DOME HEIGHT (internal)|
Dome Height/diameter Ratio for Neapolitan Wood-fired Pizza Ovens
2 Types of Barrel Vault Oven
Barrel vault oven has a half a barrel shape and rectangular floor space. It’s more suitable for baking bread or cooking pottery, but you can use it for pizzas as well.
There are two types of barrel vault dome:
Enclosed type or standard type has the opening with the door on the front side. The door width and height of the opening are about 60% of the vaults dimension.
You can use it for baking pizzas, bread, Foccacia and all other snacks.
It’s also very good for grilling and roasting meat and vegetables.
This type of oven is perfect for normal and low heat cooking in dutch ovens and all kinds of pottery.
The enclosed type of barrel vault oven is really a general purpose oven. If you want to use your oven in a many ways, this’ the oven for you.
The open type has a front side entirely open. In this type of oven, you can also use a wider grill and can be used for barbecuing.
You can also close the oven with metal or insulated door to keep the heat inside, but only when the open fire is over. Because of the wide opening, the loss of heat with the open door is bigger than on the enclosed type. This makes this type of oven less suitable for cooking pizzas.
The open type is more suitable for barbecuing. You can bake, make Foccacia and all other snacks without problems. You can use it for grilling and roasting meat, vegetables and snacks.
Baking bread, normal cooking, and low-heat cooking in dutch ovens and pottery are also possible, but only on one condition:
Because of its construction, the open type of barrel vault oven has a door on the very outside place. So you have to put the damper in the chimney for preventing heat loss.
In general, barrel vault ovens are not so space efficient for baking pizzas. It’s because of the rectangular shape of the baking floor while pizzas usually have round shape.
The heat distribution at barrel dome ovens may not be as even as a half-spherical type. But, this is more of an academic debate and it’s not an issue at all.
The main property of the barrel vault is its massive construction. The walls are thicker than a half-spherical vault. So, a thermal mass is bigger too. This leads to 2 or 3 times longer heat up time and elongated cooling time.
Consequently, you’ll also need much more firewood to heat the barrel vault pizza oven. But, it will keep a working temperature longer.
If you prefer baking bread and slow cooking with retained heat, then an oven with the barrel vault is the right choice for you.
Construction Techniques and Materials for Brick Ovens
To avoid misinterpretation, I want to point out the term “brick pizza oven.” This phrase is not used for ovens made of bricks only.
In industrial manufacture, modular and assembled ovens are made by molded refractory technology. Despite being built otherwise, the ovens form and functionality remain the same. So, a term “brick oven” remains in use as a mark of ovens concept.
Thermal insulation is crucial for the proper functioning of all types of brick ovens. It reduces oven’s heat losses. Due to lower heat losses, retained heat cooking is possible also when the fire is gone out.
The lower the thermal mass, the better the insulation. Insulation should be of right quality and thick enough to do well.
The best pizza ovens are insulated with aluminum silicate ceramic fibers. Usually, rigid boards are used for cooking floor insulation and blankets for dome insulation.
Expanded Vermiculite or Perlite beads mixed with concrete are often used as insulation. Especially in the masonry and DIY versions.
Be aware of Vermiculite insulation! It could be contaminated with asbestos, which is a health hazard!
You can find more information about this hidden killer on www.epa.gov by clicking this link:
Protect Your Family from Asbestos-Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation
Masonry Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
Committed pizza lovers claim, that the best pizza ovens should be made of refractory bricks directly on the site itself.
If you decide for this type of oven, you can completely personalize it, but it takes longer. You can find many plans and instructions how to build a wood-fired pizza oven.
And a lot of people have built beautiful ovens. Some of them have also made more ovens. And the last one is usually the best.
If you have time and patience, a DIY project could be the right choice for you.
A little help from your friends would also be essential for a DIY project. Otherwise, it may be better to choose some of the other possibilities you’ll learn about in this guide.
Almost unlimited design possibility.
Good possibility of placement on locations with limited access.
Able to reach very high temperatures (485°C or 900°F).
Big thermal mass enables long retained heat and low-temperature cooking.
Lower costs in DIY version.
They take more space compared to other types of ovens.
Prolonged heat up time and high firewood consumption.
Potential risk at DIY version (good masonry skills and reliable plans needed).
Complex and time-consuming installation.
Curing of the oven is necessary.
The oven is stationary without the possibility to move it to another place.
Modular Pizza Ovens (Wood Fired Pizza Oven Kits)
Modular pizza ovens or outdoor pizza oven kits are made of prefabricated elements. A refractory material, which retains its strength at high temperature is used for oven parts molding.
The building of a wood fired oven with the pizza oven kit is easier and faster than building on a classic masonry way, because you don’t need to build the oven dome. Dome is the most important and at the same time the most complicated and time-consuming part of an oven.
In this way, the oven’s heart is fixed, but you still have a lot of possibilities for the exterior. Building an oven with the pizza oven kit is more reliable and faster.
The dome of modular pizza oven is about half as thick as the traditional masonry brick oven dome. Therefore, a thermal mass is lower and heat up time is shorter too.
There are different types of modular pizza oven kits on the market. So, to get the best pizza oven for yourself, you first should decide which type of ovens dome suits you the most.
Pizza oven kits usually consist of:
- Prefabricated elements for the dome, cooking floor, and arch.
- Ceramic fiber insulation in boards for cooking floor and blankets for dome insulation.
- The metal door and thermometer are usually included.
- Some other accessories like pizza peel could be added also.
Good flexibility for ovens’ exterior.
Able to reach very high temperatures (485°C or 900°F).
Optimized thermal mass enables a right balance between heat up time and temperature stability.
Shorter installation time compared to masonry ovens.
The potential risk in DIY version (depends on your skills).
The oven is stationary without the possibility to move it to another place.
Find the best wood-fired pizza oven kits in this review.
Assembled Brick Pizza Ovens – Best of the Best
Purchasing an assembled pizza oven is for sure the shortest way to get the best pizza oven. A completed oven is settled on the pre-prepared desktop or counter, ready to use.
They are mostly made of prefabricated refractory elements. Of course, they’re completely insulated and with a finished exterior, practically ready for use.
Some producers of assembled brick pizza ovens also use bricks for their ovens, especially for commercial use.
The best pizza ovens are cured in a factory, while others need curing before regular use.
Straightforward and short installation time.
Able to reach very high temperatures (485°C or 900°F).
Optimized thermal mass enables an excellent balance between heat up time and temperature stability.
Assembled brick pizza ovens are movable.
Little flexibility for oven exterior.
Difficult placement on the locations with poor accessibility.
Why Choose a Portable Wood-Fired Pizza Oven?
Portable wood-fired ovens are not a new invention either. Of course, nowadays portable ovens are entirely different and more convenient than thousands of years ago.
Portability doesn’t mean that you can just grab the oven and take it away. Indeed, they’re still quite heavy, but of course, we can’t compare them with a brick pizza oven.
Thanks to the wheels, you can push them out from the garage or move around to the backyard or garden. The bigger wheels are more right for displacing the oven to rough ground or grass.
Portable wood-fired pizza ovens are delivered assembled and insulated. You might have to put them on the chart or put the wheels on the place, and the party can begin.
There’re some budget price ovens on the market without any insulation at all. But, with no thermal insulation and with very low thermal mass, you can keep the temperature on the adequate level only with the non-stop fire monitoring.
Depending on the operating mode, there ‘re two essential principles of portable wood-fired pizza ovens:
- Ovens with Direct Combustion or Single Chamber ovens.
- Ovens with Indirect Combustion or Dual Chamber ovens.
Portable Wood-fired Pizza Ovens with Direct Combustion (Single Chamber)
The single chamber portable ovens look like brick ovens with a barrel vault. But they have different construction and materials too.
The cooking floor has square or rectangular shape. It’s made of fire bricks or ceramic refractories. These materials make sure higher heat accumulation and enable better baking.
There’re some ovens with refractories also for the oven’s front side to increase the thermal mass.
The dome is not made of bricks because they’re too heavy. And, the brick dome on portable ovens would also be too sensitive. Particularly for the mechanical damages during the movement.
The most common solution is two layer metal sheet dome with rock wool insulation. A high thermal conductivity of metal’s dome shortens the heating time.
On the other side, a cooling time is shorter as well. Insulation is necessary for reducing heat loss and enables a retained heat cooking.
If you prefer usability and short heating time, a single chamber portable pizza oven could be the best outdoor pizza oven for you.
But be aware!
Due to the huge difference in thermal mass, the capacity of retained heat cooking in portable pizza ovens is limited and can’t be comparable to the brick pizza ovens.
There’re some budget priced ovens on the market with one layer metal dome and without any insulation at all. Ovens without any insulation don’t have enough heat stability for proper cooking.
Don’t believe the excessive selling promises and keep away from stuff like that! Unless if you like to burn your meals.
Consider the significant advantages and disadvantages of single chamber portable wood-fired pizza ovens.
They are portable, so you have more usage freedom.
Lower thermal mass leads to shorter heat up time.
Because of the low heat up time, they burn most of the time at high temperature, so they’re more efficient.
Effectiveness means also lower firewood consumption compared to brick ovens.
Simple installation – oven comes almost ready to use.
Single chamber portable wood-fired pizza ovens are suitable for many other cooking methods (bruschetta’s, tandoors, roasts, barbecues…)
Since the fire is present in a cooking chamber, less cooking space is available.
Due to the lower thermal mass versus brick ovens, a temperature control is more demanding.
Not able to reach and hold the highest temperature (430°C or 800°F) required for True Neapolitan pizza.
Portable Wood-fired Pizza Ovens with Indirect Combustion (Dual Chamber)
As their name suggests, they have two chambers. Fire burns in a lower or combustion chamber. Therefore, flames and hot air heat the upper or cooking chamber.
This principle is well-known from traditional wood-fired cookers or cookstoves. Double chamber wood-fired pizza ovens in some way represent our grandma’s cooking technique revival.
Double chamber portable pizza ovens are made of steel, while firebrickss are used for the cooking floor. Sometimes refractories are used also for cooking chamber’s side walls. As bricks increase the thermal mass, also the temperature is more stable.
Suitable thermal insulation is necessary for these types of ovens. Ceramic fiber from Aluminum silicate in insulation blankets is applicated often for this purpose.
If you want to have a lot of cooking possibility and you’re not a Neapolitan style pizza fan, this could be the best home pizza oven for you.
Consider the significant advantages and disadvantages of dual chamber wood-fired pizza ovens.
Up to 4 times more cooking space, compared to the single chamber ovens for the same price.
Energy efficiency is even better compared to the single chamber ovens. This results faster heat up and lower firewood consumption.
Easy temperature control assures long-term cooking.
Simple installation – ovens are delivered almost ready to use.
In double chamber portable wood-fired pizza ovens you can cook in many ways. You can bake bread, bruschetta’s, tandoors, roasts, barbecues, pottery and so on.
Faster cooling disables retained heat cooking. It’s possible anyway, but maintaining low temperature is quite demanding.
Not able to reach and hold the highest temperature (430°C or 800°F), required for True Neapolitan pizza.
12 Main Features of Different Types of Wood-Fired Ovens (Correlation Table)
As you may have noticed by now, every type of wood-fired oven has its own characteristics. The leading features of different oven types are collected in the table below.
Here, you can easily compare the different types of wood-fired pizza ovens.
¹ In industrial manufacture, modular and assembled ovens are made by molded refractory technology. Despite being made otherwise, the ovens form and functionality remain the same. So, a term “brick oven” remains in use as a mark of ovens concept.
As you can notice, some features in the table are in correlation.
- Masonry brick ovens have big thermal mass and very high-temperature stability. They can also reach very high temperatures. Because of the big thermal mass, there’s a lot of accumulated heat in the walls. Therefore, they’re able to cook a long time after the fire is stopped. But, big thermal mass requires long heat up time (1,5 – 3 h).
- Modular and assembled brick ovens have lower thermal mass than masonry oven. Consequently, also the heating time is shorter (1-1,5 h).
- Portable ovens have the shortest heat-up time (20-30 min). But, they don’t reach extreme temperatures. While the retained heat is much lower, they’re more energy-efficient.
So, if you plan to use your oven for making few pizzas or grilling, then ovens with less thermal mass would be a good choice. This kind of pizza oven is also suitable for other meals with short preparing time. Like grilling, such as. You will heat them up quicker, so the firewood consumption would be lower, too.
But, if you want to use your oven also for low-heat cooking, you need a higher thermal mass (thicker walls). So, assembled or modular brick ovens anyway could be the right choice for you.
However, slow cooking is possible also in dual chamber portable ovens. They can keep up the lower temperature for a long time very well.
What Can You Cook in a Pizza Oven Besides Pizza?
This is a common question for newbies, but it worths asking. It would be unfortunate to have a wood-fired oven just for cooking pizza because all the food from wood-burning oven is excellent. Tasty and healthy, rich in flavors with light hints of smoke.
In a wood-burning oven, you can apply several cooking techniques like baking, grilling, or cooking in cast iron skillets or carbon steel pans. You can bake delicious hearth bread and focaccias, grill and roast different meat and vegetables, or cook the turkey.
Wood-fired pizza ovens are ideal for cooking in Dutch ovens and pottery. This way, you can cook not only stews and beans but also seafood, meat, potatoes and so on. In some types of oven, a low-temperature cooking is also possible.
You’ll find the most popular cooking techniques and belonging temperatures for the main types of wood-fired ovens in the table below.
¹ In industrial production modular and assembled ovens are made by molded refractories technology. Despite being manufactured otherwise, the ovens form and functionality remain the same, So, a term “brick oven” remains in use as a “mark” of ovens concept.
² True Neapolitan Pizza by Verace Napoletana Pizza Associations (The Original Brand name is “Verace Pizza Napoletana” by “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana”).
Temperatures in the table are from Meat and Poultry Roasting Chart by foodsafety.gov.
Before You Buy: 5 Things to Consider When Purchasing the Wood-fired Pizza Oven
Maybe it’s a good to accept the fact, that one-size-fits-all pizza oven doesn’t exist. But much more important is that you find out, which is the best pizza oven for you. Or the most suitable one.
It’s not as hard as you may think. We’ve prepared five the most important issues to consider before choosing the wood-fired pizza oven.
You’ll find them further below. Just consider about and you’ll get the answer.
1. Your residential habits
If you change your house often, you’ll want to take your oven with you. In this case, assembled brick oven or portable oven would be the best choice. And opposite, you may hardly see yourself in a new house in the foreseeable future. In this case, thinking about masonry or modular brick oven makes sense.
But, it could happen, that you must move anyway. Brick oven settled in an outdoor kitchen is an extension of living space. It could add great value to your home.
2. Location of your oven – check the access!
If you want to install an assembled oven, it’s good to test the possibilities of oven’s placement before. First of all, oven’s dimension and weight are the most important figures.
Outdoor pizza oven kits are made in that way, that every single piece can be taken up by two persons. So you can install it also in the less accessible places.
Portable pizza ovens are the most flexible regarding the location. We could call them backyard pizza ovens indeed because we can move them around the backyard.
If your backyard is not inclined too much, of course. However, the place where the pizza oven is used should be horizontal.
3. How much time do you intend to spend with your outdoor wood-fired oven?
Yes, this could be a relationship. If you can afford a few hours to yourself to heat up your masonry oven, then it makes sense to maximize its potential.
If you start with pizzas, you can go ahead with baking bread. Then you can put in some pottery for dinner. After that, you can also take advantage of the oven’s retained heat for overnight slow cooking.
As you can see, cooking in a brick oven could be a whole day activity. At the same time, you can use it as a “social corner.” It’s a great opportunity for hanging out with your family and friends.
But, you may don’t want to spend so much time on your pizza oven. Then a wood-fired oven with lower thermal mass would be a better choice for you.
Modular or assembled brick ovens have the shorter heat up time than masonry ovens. Well, portable wood-fired ovens are the fastest. So, you can start firing an oven a half of hour before you plan your dinner.
4. What would you like to cook in your oven?
When deciding about the wood-fired oven, we usually have only pizzas in our mind. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you can’t eat pizza every day. Believe me, sooner or later you will start to prepare other food.
And there is a variety of meals that can be cooked in the wood-fired oven. The most common wood-fired ovens cooking techniques are presented in the chapter Cooking Techniques & Temperatures in Wood-fired Ovens.
As you can see in this table, both brick ovens and portable ovens can do almost all cooking styles. Including cooking pizzas of course.
But, if you would really like to make a True Neapolitan Pizza in 90 seconds, then you need a temperature of 430-480°C (800-900°F). Only brick ovens can reach this high temperature. Not only masonry made but also some modular and assembled ovens are able this.
On the other side, brick ovens (especially masonry ovens) also have significant thermal mass. This fact is decisive for many hours or over the night ongoing low heat cooking.
Low heat cooking is possible also in dual chamber portable ovens. They have excellent temperature control. With a little patience on fire maintaining of course.
5. Dimensions of cooking surface
You’ll usually cook only one pizza at once because it’s much simpler and manageable. But, this doesn’t mean that also the smallest oven is big enough.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have some extra space on the cooking floor. First, you need the space for handling and rotating pizzas.
And you don’t like to have the pizza right beside the fire. In this case, you’ll have to turn the pizza all the time. Otherwise, you’ll burn it.
In the previous section, we saw that you can cook many different meals in the wood-fired oven. The more cooking floor will allow you to realize this as far as possible.
So, don’t look at one-pizza size ovens. Consider the two pizzas oven to the smallest size.
Have in your mind as a standard the medium size pizza with 30cm (12”) diameter. Some oven producers calculate the oven capacity by 25 cm (10”) or even 20 cm ( 8”) pizzas.
The smallest cooking surface for a wood-fired pizza oven should be around 0,30 m2 (3,3 sq ft). This surface means oven’s internal diameter 62cm (24.5”), or 55 x 55 cm (21.5” x 21.5”) if the oven has a square floor plan.
But anyway, don’t exaggerate. An oven with 1m (40”) diameter or 0.8m2 (8.5sg ft) cooking floor is more than enough for home use.
There are many possibilities when purchasing a wood-fired pizza oven. You deserve the best pizza oven so you should make the following steps:
- Consider your lifestyle, your wishes, and your (financial) possibilities.
- Choose the type of pizza oven that suits you the most.
- Purchase the best pizza oven you can afford.
We at MyOrangeWay.com are doing our best to help you in this way. We strongly recommend you to take a look at our reviews of best pizza ovens on the market.
I would just like to finish with this quote:
Reviews of Best Wood Fired Pizza Ovens
Read our reviews and choose the best home wood-fired pizza oven: