The muscle-flexing machismo and FOMO of flaming ovens--and why you can be happy with your standard home appliance…
There is so much chest pounding about pizza ovens out there. It’s tiresome. I have nothing against the ovens. I have nothing against the people who use them. Some of those people are doing amazing things with them.
But for the most part, when I see consumer-grade outdoor pizza ovens being touted around and about on social media, I also see a lot of (choose one):
b) scorched crust
d) all of the above
An oven is just a tool. It does the job it’s supposed to do in concert with the skillset of the user. There is also nothing wrong with using a home oven to make pizza. And with 20 years of making pizza—half of it with a 1,200-pound wood-fired dome oven living inside my kitchen—the electric home oven remains my favorite way to make pizza. Am I just a gadfly?
Someone on a Facebook pizza group recently asked for recommendations for an indoor pizza oven. Unleash the enthusiastic dogpiling! This oven! That oven! Another oven! Here’s a list of ovens from Google! Only one person commented not with an oven recommendation, but with a question:
“Why an indoor pizza oven instead of just buying a steel?” Everybody else was jumping on with oven intel. But nobody was interested in qualifying the question.
The first question you need to ask yourself before buying a pizza oven is this: Do I know how to make pizza? If the answer is no, you don’t know how to make pizza, the best thing I can recommend is to step away from the ovens and step towards your kitchen. It's less expensive than buying an oven. And the pizza you make will be far better than most pizzerias you've been to--and definitely better than any delivery pizza that's been steaming inside a cardboard box for 30 minutes or more.
It’s not sexy, but you’ve already got a pizza oven sitting right there in your kitchen. When you bring the right tools to your home oven, you can make some killer pizza. The trick is this: you need to know what you’re doing. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you start messing with little, annoying, hard-to-use pizza ovens, you could learn to hate making pizza and never want to do it again. The joy of pizza is lovely. Burning lots of starter pizzas is not.
It's possible that you’ve been enchanted by the new breed of outdoor pizza ovens. They’re made by companies like Ooni and Rocbox. These ovens can range anywhere from about 300 bucks to over $1,000. They’re usually fired with wood pellets or gas. And they have legions of rabid fans.
Want to know the dirty secret about these ovens? They will not make pizza for you. Just as a $900 camera does not know how take the pictures for you, a $900 oven does not know how to make pizza for you. That’s your job. And the oven doesn’t make it easier to bake a pizza. In fact, if used to the fullest extent of its thermodynamic insanity, it can make baking a pizza one of the most challenging things you’ve ever done. See also: black and charred crusty things.
There's nothing wrong with buying a pizza oven--but it helps if you do it AFTER you've made pizza one of your favorite bad habits. Habits are second nature. They can be practiced almost subconsciously. And you can get there with pizza. Knowing how to make dough without thinking about it, and going into The Zone, slinging half a dozen pies for a night of pizza with friends, is far more impressive than spending money on an oven that you can't use.
Nobody wants to hear it but developing the habit of making pizza is cheaper and easier than buying an oven. Don't buy a pizza oven. Yet. Buy the simple tools for your home oven. Read the right books. Practice the pizza. A dedicated oven can follow. And if you'd like to be on the mailing list for when the Free The Pizza book is released, click here.
Free the pizza!
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the new, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, professional-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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