The key to homemade pizza is a hot, hot oven. Not long ago, you had to build your own.
Kim Ode, the former Baking Central columnist for the Star Tribune, hauled brick, timer, rebar and more than a dozen 90-pound bags of concrete mix to construct her behemoth wood-fired oven. It has a 32- by 36-inch baking floor and feels, she says, like "having a draft horse in the yard."
To build hers, Ode took a class to adopt techniques from wood-fire proponent, blacksmith and baker Alan Scott, but such dedication isn't necessary. There's a new era in pizza ovens as designs that attach to grills, fit on a patio or sit on a table bring the once-elusive, spongy-thin crust to any kitchen. Now, at-home pizza ovens come in models that heat up to the same temperatures and bake pies in the same amount of time as their brick counterparts.
For example, the Ooni series comes in two sizes and with a choice of fuel source. Other options include add-ons that sit atop kettle grills for an easy weeknight pie. And soon, hybrid pizza-convection ovens for home kitchens will be on the market.
Liz Lacey-Gotz and her husband wanted to build a brick pizza oven in their kitchen remodel years back, but couldn't due to logistics with their fireplace stack. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they purchased an Ooni Pro pizza oven that they use on their rooftop deck in St. Paul.
Their compact metal oven heats up to 900 degrees in 15 minutes and cooks pies in less than two minutes. The couple turn out pizzas with charred crust, oozing mozzarella and seeping tomato sauce — and also roast cauliflower, fish and broccolini in their oven.
"We can put a cast iron pan in there with whatever we want," Lacey-Gotz says.
Brick ovens like Ode's will cost several Home Depot trips, while Ooni models run between $300 and $600. Toaster-like pizza oven grills and grill attachments start around $150. The GE Appliances hybrid kitchen Trattoria pizza oven, which customers will start receiving this winter, goes for $3,499.
Kate Kluegel of New Prague bought a pizza cooking attachment that sits atop her Weber kettle grill. She and her husband prep the pizzas together, cook a few pies and enjoy it as a "little add-on" that doesn't take much storage space.
"The biggest thing for us is it's an event," Kluegel says.
When deciding what model to invest in, pizza oven owners say to consider the features you want, weighing size, speed and cost. Whatever you do, Ode warns against comparing oven costs with purchased food. An oven "isn't about self-sufficiency as much as it is about creativity, and pushing the envelope," she says.