Pizza is good. Pizza done on the grill is better. The absolute best pizza you could hope to have is made in a wood-fired pizza oven. We all know that. But why?
The main reason a wood oven does so much better of a job than your kitchen hotbox is heat. Your home oven maxes out at around 500 degrees. Depending on fuel source and oven construction, a wood oven can exceed 800 degrees. That means a faster cooking time and a crispier crust, more browning on the cheese, and a flavor that can’t be duplicated. A wood fired oven is surprisingly simple to get in your Virginia outdoor kitchen.
Oven kits are typically the most cost effective way to get a wood fired pizza oven in your backyard. There are several manufacturers out there, but with all of them you get similar components:
- an insulating base, on which you set the oven
- a masonry (often concrete) dome or vault, either shipped in one piece or in pieces you assemble on site
- an insulating blanket
- a chimney or flue pipe (these may be less costly to source locally)
You still need to have the base of the oven and all the masonry buildout constructed on site, but this makes for a much simpler installation. When dealing with specialized trades, less time means less cost to you.
Of course, if you really want that Old World look and feel of a brick dome or vault, you’re typically looking at having a mason build your oven completely from scratch, one brick at a time. The materials cost will be much less than buying a kit, but unless you’re building it yourself it will likely cost more to have it built this way.
Accessories you’ll want
You’re dealing with high temperatures with a wood-fired pizza oven, so you’ll want accessories that can stand up. You’ll also want items that will make your life easier. Look for:
- a temperature gauge that can be built into the oven
- a great pizza peel
- brush and scraper for cleaning the floor of the oven
- high heat gloves
- a door or something to block the opening and keep heat in
What you need to know about your wood-fired pizza oven
If you haven’t gotten to play with one of these ovens there are a few things you may not know. Here goes:
- they can take several hours to heat up, since they’re a lot of thermal mass. You can’t just come home from work at 6 and be cooking at 7.
- they’ll hold heat for a long time, especially if they’re well insulated. Think of ways to use that residual heat – baking, roasting veggies, etc. Sounds like a baba ganoush opportunity to me!
- the wood you use is important, so be sure you have a good source for hardwoods.
- wood storage is a good thing to factor into the design
- it’s not a fireplace. Your wood-fired pizza oven sits much higher than a fireplace to allow for easy access while cooking. There are some combo units, with a fireplace below and a pizza oven above, but they’re much more complex to build. They also tend to be less efficient.
What does a wood-fired pizza oven cost?
You’re going to love the answer: it depends. For a starting point, a kit will probably set you back anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 just for the oven itself (the “igloo” in the picture from the kit section). Add in either a metal frame or a masonry surround, and for a kit oven with a built-in surround you’re probably in the $10-15k range, done nicely with stone veneer and some accessories. Built from scratch, it depends on your mason.
If your budget doesn’t allow for that, you can always get a unit like the Tuscan Chef. They can be fully or partially built in, or totally freestanding on a cart. Shipped to your door, you can get the smallest one for well under two grand.
Admit it, you want one. Shoot me an email and we can start designing your outdoor kitchen.