Indoor Pizza Ovens, and Should You Buy One?
Everything you need to know about indoor pizza ovens and how we really feel about these kitchen appliances.
We love biting into a crisp, chewy, golden-brown crust, but heading out to eat every time we’re craving a slice in cutting into our pocketbook. The only solution: make it yourself. A lot can be said for homemade pizza. While it’s not a perfect replica of the delectable pizza produced in a wood-fired brick pizza oven, it is pretty darn close.
Pizzacraft Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza
These are the only two units we recommend if you are going to purchase an indoor oven
A brick oven usually reaches temperatures of up to 800 degrees. The only way to approximate this condition is by cranking your traditional oven up to the max, generally around 500 degrees, and then preheating a pizza stone for over an hour.
They key to a great pizza is the perfect crust. Sure, the sauce, cheese and toppings matter too, but it all starts with a crust. The perfect crust will make up for make up for topping imperfection but the opposite is not true. However, the perfect pizza should have both: a great crust with perfectly cooked toppings; including bubbly cheese with its trademark brown spots.
With that being said, here's where homemade pizza falls short.
The problem with homemade pizza
A well cooked pizza requires intense heat. But not just intense heat, the heat must be evenly distributed across the surface of the crust while simultaneously maintaining the perfect ambient temperature to cook the toppings before the crust burns.
Alternatively, when using a traditional backyard grill to cook a pizza, you can get the high levels of heat needed to generate a good crust, but then the toppings don’t get enough heat before your crust burns. While we have had levels of varying success using a traditional backyard grill to yield a good pizza, it’s definitely an art that we’ve never perfected. Since we are are the subject, we do stand behind grill attachments specially designed for making pizza with your grill; our top pick here is PizzaCrafts Kettle Grill Conversion Kit.
Bottom line, a conventional oven will never get hot enough to yield the perfect crust. And the standard backyard grill involves a tone of guesswork and practice to get the crust right while cooking the toppings properly.
In an attempt to replicate the intensity of a brick oven, without burning down the house, small indoor pizza ovens were invented.
Overview of indoor pizza ovens
This simple kitchen appliance claims to make great homemade pizza without the hassle of a traditional oven. Needless to say, we’re intrigued.
A typical indoor pizza oven fits easily on any countertop and reduces the preheating time while simultaneously increasing the temperature, saving as much as 60% of the energy used with a traditional oven.
As an additional treat, many pizza ovens can also be used to prepare your favorite frozen goodies, such as chicken nuggets and tots.
Indoor pizza ovens have a lot of allure. Cranking up the oven to 500 degrees for an hour is rough. The energy used and the heat generated in the house can deter many from an at-home pizza during the summer. I live in Arizona, and I have a thing against making bread in the summer, as much as i love bread. Therefore, on the surface, the small indoor oven seems like a perfect solution.
Everything you need to understand about indoor pizza ovens
How they work
Most indoor pizza ovens rely on convection heating, which should warm up quickly and thoroughly cook a pizza in a short amount of time. Other indoor pizza ovens use electric heat, and while they warm up quickly, the temperature in the oven often fluctuates.
How they’re designed
Typically, indoor pizza ovens are easy to use and maintain, as they usually have baking stones or non-stick surfaces. The casings are commonly made of aluminum or steel; both are easy to clean and resistant to corrosion.
Most pizza ovens have a 12-inch surface. That means you’ll have to be careful and precise when loading your pizza and when trying to rotate it during cooking. It also means small personal-sized pizzas.
A few models place the upper heating element too close to the cooking surface. The top element needs a couple of inches of clearance; otherwise, when the pizza puffs up, it will come into contact with the element causing burning, smoking, and awful pizza.
Indoor ovens have a variety of features. Depending on your needs and budget, you can choose which are most important to you. Some models become more compact when not in use, making storage easier. Others have removable parts to make clean up simpler. Rotary or digital controls, built-in thermometers, automatic shut off timers, and cooling features are just a few other options.
Space and Storage
Most indoor models are made to fit easily on your countertop, but you may need some clearance depending on how hot the oven gets. You’ll especially need to pay attention to the location of your cabinets. To use an indoor oven properly, you’ll need countertop space that does not have cabinets above it. Heat and steam from the oven can damage cabinets above the units. Plus, if your cabinets are placed too low, you may have difficulty opening the lid fully.
Another essential consideration is storage space. Unless you plan to let it live on the counter, you will need to evaluate your kitchen storage to accommodate the oven. Indoor pizza ovens may be your dream come true, or they may be just another kitchen fad. If you’ve ended up with dozens of unused kitchen gadgets, then think carefully about purchasing an indoor pizza oven.
The heat problem
A high-quality pizza oven will achieve very high temperatures, at least 500 degrees, with minimal preheating. The problem is, there are very few, if any, indoor ovens that can reach those temperatures.
For an authentic brick oven pizza, the oven needs to reach around 700 to 900 degrees.
Using a traditional oven and a pizza stone, you can get to about 500 degrees.
Indoor pizza ovens claim to reach temperatures of 600 to750 degrees. However, with a little research, you’ll see most don’t even get close to those temperatures. Some of the most popular ovens only reach 260 degrees, while most run between 300 and 400 degrees, with only a very few reaching temperatures above 500 degrees.
Indoor ovens are praised for cooking frozen pizza pretty well. If you’re an average Joe who dabbles in pizza making, then you might find a pizza oven that will meet your needs. But if you’re passionate about pizza, you’ll want to look elsewhere for the perfect cooking assistant. Investing in an indoor pizza oven is not going to be worth your while. The best way to get authentic pizza, at home, is still with a pizza stone/steel, outdoor oven, and even cheap grill attachments.
However, if having an indoor pizza oven is an itch you have to scratch, then consider these options, they are the best available models on the market now.
THE 2 BEST INDOOR PIZZA OVENS
#1 Forno Magnifico Electric Pizza Oven
The Forno Magnifico uses a high powered heating element covered by a ceramic baking stone.A dome-shaped chamber acts as the lid and closes over the pizza, enclosing it in the high-temperature oven. Another factor that puts this model above the others is a simple design feature. On the Forno, the chamber door opens fully giving you easy access to the pizza. Other ovens have doors that only open partially, making it difficult to move the pizza in and out.
The Forno Magnifico pizza oven weighs about 10 pounds and is approximately 13 x 13 inches. With the lid closed, its 7 inches tall, and with it open, the height is closer to 17 inches. This small countertop oven cost around $109.
How it works
The stone can reach just over 500 degrees, and with the chamber closed, the air inside can reach almost 600 degrees. With temperatures this high, you can produce a crispy crust, with those telltale char marks that characterize a well-made pizza. The Forno Magnifico also has a 10-minute automatic shut off timer.
Care and Maintenance
Wait until the oven, and specifically the baking stone, have cooled completely. Clean the stone by scraping off melted cheese with a wooden spatula, and wiping it down with a damp cloth. Don’t use chemicals or soaps on the stone. A simple damp cloth with a dab of dish soap can be used to wipe down the outside and clean the peels.
The toppings should heat up beautifully, and the cheese should be bubbly. Many customers have found success with the Forno, but many others complain their pizza is not cooked evenly.
When using the Forno, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, don’t stretch the dough beyond 11 ¾ inches, or it will be too big. Secondly, rotate the pizza 180 degrees halfway through the cooking time. Finally, be extremely careful of escaping steam when opening chamber lid.
Easy to clean
Uneven or inconsistent cooking
Shorten preheating time
Storage space needed
#2 Pizzacraft Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven
Unlike the Forno, this pizza oven is not a stand-alone kitchen appliance. The Pizzacraft is designed to sit on top of a gas burner. If you have an electric range, you’ll have to stick to our number one choice, the Magnifico.
The Pizzacraft weighs about 14 pounds and is about 14x16x3 inches. It will easily fit on a standard gas burner.
The design of the oven makes it challenging to see and access the pizza, which can create difficulties when you need to rotate the pizza.
The Pizzacraft has a sturdy and heavy steel base and a vented hood with a built-in thermometer. The interior has two cordite baking stones, stacked on top of each, to distribute heat more evenly.
There are a few things we discovered when working with the Pizzacraft:
You need to be diligent about centering it directly over the oven burner. If placed askew, your pizza will be burnt on one side and undercooked on the other. Another thing, you need to make sure to keep the access door closed. Every time it’s opened heat is released from the oven, making the interior cooler.
While PizzaCraft claims the oven will reach temperatures of 600 degrees, we didn’t find this to be anywhere close to true; at best, we’re looking at 350 F. On a positive note, the temperature in the oven chamber escalates fairly quickly due to the intensity of the gas burner. The crust typically turns out crispy and golden brown. While the crust is usually well done, the toppings are often cooked unevenly.
Cleanup is pretty straightforward: use a damp cloth with a drop of mild soap to clean the outside of the oven once it has cooled completely. Use a pizza stone brush or a wooden spatula to scrape off the stone then wipe it down with a clean damp cloth.
Lastly, check out different retailers before picking up a Pizzacraft. This oven, direct from the manufacturer, will cost you nearly $180, while Amazon lists it for half that price.
Compatible with gas burner
Not for use on a glass top
Difficult to access pizza
Low heat and uneven cooking
Storage space needed
Is buying a pizza oven worth it?
According to a lot of buyers, pizza ovens are an excellent investment because they can save you a lot of time. But, we believe, what you save in time, you lose in pizza quality. However, they are more energy-efficient, taking less time to preheat and not warming up the entire house.
So what’s the answer to the question, “Is it worth it?” The answer depends on what is important to you. With our hectic lives, an indoor pizza oven can be a godsend to many, but only if you’re willing to sacrifice quality in exchange for effort. For the best homemade pizza, you’re better off using your traditional oven and quality pizza stone or steel. You will have high-quality results every time. Nonetheless, here's some other uses for these indoor pizza ovens should you choose to purchase one.
Shop around before taking the plunge. Some pizza ovens run less than $50, but we caution you to do your due diligence since many cheaper versions will disappoint. The two options we discussed above both run around $80-$100. There are some models that ring in around $800. While these expensive ovens may produce a good homemade pizza, they are not superior enough to justify the drastic difference in price. The price of products will also vary depending on the seller; a quick search online will give you an idea of where to get the best price. You'll likely want to add a few of these pizza cooking accessories.
Do-it-yourself Pizza Oven?
Is it possible? Not really. You might be able to construct an actual brick oven in your kitchen, but then that would defeat the whole purpose of the small indoor pizza oven. And the only way to duplicate one of these appliances is by purchasing a quality stone and using your regular oven, with better results we might add. If you do manage to build a brick oven indoors, please put the fire department on speed dial.