Outdoor oven: complete buying guide
A lit oven, the scent of pizza in the air and a table of friends with whom to share freshly baked dishes is the dream of those who love gathering together for great food and fun.
If you’re one of the many people considering a new outdoor oven to transform open spaces into outdoor cooking areas, you likely have numerous questions. There are many options to choose from and it can be difficult to decide what’s the right choice for you.
The main elements, initially evaluated, are the type of power supply and the design, as well as the size and ease of movement of the oven.
However, there are also other important aspects to know, which if not taken into consideration, could lead to regret or buyer’s remorse after the purchase.
The market today offers numerous solutions from which to choose that are high performing, technological, practical and functional; so as to meet the various cooking and space needs of each amateur chef or pizza maker.
This guide will help you discover the fundamental elements found in the latest generation of outdoor ovens, so that you can more easily choose the model that best aligns with your spaces, your lifestyle and your needs.
In this article, in particular, we will see:
- The heat transmission methods
- Outdoor ovens: wood, gas or hybrid? Which is better?
- Wood-fired outdoor ovens
- Outdoor gas ovens
- Hybrid outdoor ovens
- What characteristics must a good outdoor oven have?
- Convenient installation
- Right size and correct cooking chamber capacity
- Quality of materials and excellent thermal efficiency
- High safety standards
- Refined aesthetics and design
- Available accessories
- How much does an outdoor oven cost?
- Outdoor ovens: all the Alfa options
- Alfa outdoor wood-fired ovens
- Alfa gas or hybrid ovens
- Outdoor oven: what to know before buying one
Let’s get started!
What are the methods of heat transmission?
What makes pizza, or any other dough, baked to perfection is not the fuel, but the transmission of heat, which can occur in three different ways:
- By conduction: through direct contact with the pan or the hot surface of the oven
- By convection: thanks to the movement of hot air inside the cooking chamber
- By radiation: through the flame of a wood or gas oven and, to a lesser extent, by the materials with which the cooking chamber is made, such as refractory tiles
In order to have consistently perfect cooking, similar to that of a professional oven, one must choose an oven designed and built to intelligently combine these three elements, especially to bake pizzas worthy of a restaurant.
Each element of the oven, from the shape of the dome to the size of the cooking chamber and the materials used, must be capable of guaranteeing that the temperature and radiation are consistently homogeneous.
In this way, it is possible to obtain the maximum cooking performance and the lowest fuel consumption.
Shape, design and materials with a high thermal capacity are all features that affect the performance of the outdoor oven; as they allow the heat to be managed in an optimal manner.[/vc_column][/vc_row]
Outdoor ovens: wood, gas or hybrid? Which is better?
Under utilized outdoor spaces like balconies and gardens can become a pleasant extension of the house, if furnished with care and equipped with practical and functional tools such as outdoor ovens.
Thanks to these ovens, we can bake tasty pizzas, fragrant loaves of bread and cook an infinite variety of dishes, ranging from vegetables to roasts and even delicious sweets.
No two dishes are cooked alike so the optimal oven is as versatile as possible and capable of reaching and maintaining even the highest of temperatures.
When we think of an outdoor oven, the first model that comes to mind is undoubtedly the traditional wood oven; however, it is not the only solution on the market.
In fact, according to the type of power supply, we can distinguish between:
- Wood-burning ovens
- Gas ovens
- Hybrid ovens
Each of these types uses different fuels and, as a result, have different characteristics related to the type of fuel used. Let’s have a look at them in detail.
Wood-fired outdoor ovens
The images that come to mind when we think of the classic outdoor oven are slow cooking, traditional dishes and pizzas baked from a very hot and traditional wood oven.
In most cases the wood burns directly in the cooking chamber and is moved to the side of the oven to cook the various dishes. The flame, once lit, heats the chamber by radiation and the heat is maintained for a long time thanks to the materials that cover the cooking chamber.
The initial lighting of the wood oven is not complicated, just make sure that the flame and, consequently, the temperature reaches 300° very slowly. By doing this, the structure of the oven and the refractory materials have time to get used to the heat and will be able to offer excellent cooking capabilities.
This type of oven is perfect for cooking pizzas, bread, roasts and lasagnas.
There are several reasons that lead to the purchase of an outdoor wood-burning oven. After all, the advantages of this type of instrument are numerous, one need only think of the unmistakable aroma that only wood is able to give to dishes that require long cooking times such as bread and roasts.
In economic terms, the caloric yield of wood, i.e. the amount of heat developed by each kilo of fuel, varies according to the type of wood used and, consequently, the price of the various types of wood used is also different.
Usually, oak and beech are preferred to other types of wood to feed wood-fired ovens because, in addition to a good caloric yield, they also release an excellent aroma when cooking, which is reflected in the flavor of the various dishes.
On the other hand, handling a wood-burning oven can require a little more effort, both in managing the flame and in the cleaning phase, due to the ashes to be removed once its use is finished and the oven is cold.
Finally, as far as ordinary maintenance is concerned, it is sufficient to make sure, before turning on the instrument, that the flue is free from any object and that the previous cooking residues have been properly cleaned.
Outdoor gas ovens
Not infrequently, one enters a shop with the idea of buying a romantic and traditional wood-burning oven, and then walks out with a modern outdoor gas oven.
The reason is quite simple: gas-powered models easily facilitate the management of the oven and are user-friendly for the novice amateur chefs and pizza makers.
In terms of performance, an outdoor gas oven, as long as it is the result of an accurate design and made with quality materials, can reach very high temperatures in a short time.
The “Stone Oven” model produced by Alfa, for example, allows you to bake up to 4 pizzas at a time, maintaining a constant temperature of around 500°C, which enables the dough to be cooked in roughly 60 seconds.
The fuel source can be either a home gas network or a cylinder fueled by LPG or methane.
To turn the instrument on, simply turn the knob, press the start button and adjust the flame according to the desired temperature.
The oven will thus begin to heat up evenly, thanks to a burner placed under the cooking chamber. The chamber, once heated, cooks the dishes both by radiation and by conduction through the pan in which the various foods are placed.
In addition, some gas ovens come with the cooking surface made of refractory stone, this means that the cooking capability is quite similar to that which would be obtained in a classic wood oven.
There are many advantages to purchasing an outdoor gas oven:
- Simple and immediate handling of the oven: a simple knob is all that is needed to ignite and adjust the intensity of the flame
- Efficient power supply: gas offers an excellent ratio between caloric efficiency and fuel price
- Quick and easy cleaning: simply remove the residues of burnt flour or food from the hob, while the steel parts can be cleaned with a soft cloth and a water and soap solution
- Minimum maintenance: if you do not use the oven during the winter months, just clean it thoroughly, grease the metal parts and place it indoors, protected from adverse weather conditions
- Convenient installation: simply connect the oven to the home gas network or to the cylinder, so as not to have any positioning constraints and to be able to easily move the instrument wherever you want
- Resistance and excellent durability over time: the absence of particularly fragile components makes gas ovens perfect for being placed outside, exposed to various weather conditions without being damaged
While this type of oven is easy to manage, it lacks the charm of fire and the aroma provided by the wood.
However, this does not mean that pizzas baked in a gas oven are less tasty than those cooked in a wood oven. In fact, the few seconds required to cook the pizza are not enough to ensure that the dough fully captures the scent of wood.
For this reason, this type of fuel supply is particularly suitable for cooking meat and vegetables, but also Neapolitan or pan-fried pizzas.
Hybrid outdoor ovens
For those who wish to enjoy the charm and unmistakable aroma of wood cooking without giving up the comforts offered by the gas oven, Alfa has developed and patented a kit that allows you to combine the best of the two typologies.
Thanks to the ‘Hybrid Kit’, all Alfa ovens can be powered by gas or wood, with the exception of the portable oven in Nano steel, due to its small and compact size.
The Hybrid Kit consists of placing a special lid over the gas burner, so as to protect it from soot and the heat of the flame released from the wood and placing the special wood guard on the side of the cooking chamber.
The advantage of having a hybrid oven is undoubtedly linked to being able to decide each time how to cook a certain dish according to the needs of the moment, which could either be due to the type of recipe or the availability of wood.
What characteristics must a good outdoor oven have?
In addition to the type of fuel supply, when choosing the best outdoor oven you must also take into account your particular cooking needs and habits.
For example: there are those who need to churn out several pizzas at a time, those who have problems related to space, those who prefer the convenience of moving around and those who want a solution that can adapt to their style of outdoor furniture.
So, what do you need to know before buying an outdoor oven?
When choosing a new cooking tool, it is always ideal to have clear ideas about the type of use you intend to make of the oven and the area where it will be placed.
Certainly, however, there are some elements that affect the quality of the oven and, consequently, reflect on the performance that the chosen model will offer both immediately and in the future.
Before making the purchase, therefore, the following features should be taken into consideration:
- Convenient installation
- The size of the oven and the capacity of the cooking chamber
- The quality of materials and thermal efficiency
- The degree of security offered
- The aesthetics and design of the outdoor oven
- The range of accessories available
Let’s take a closer look at these features.
Modern outdoor ovens can be installed very easily, without the annoying masonry work required by more traditional solutions, such as the old wood-burning ovens that are often still found in country houses.
You don’t need a large outdoor area or expansive outdoor kitchen to make use of an outdoor oven. There are solutions on the market such as the ‘5 Minuti’ by Alfa, which can be easily installed on the balcony and, if necessary, it can be easily moved thanks to its practical wheels.
As we have seen, the type of fuel supply affects the type of installation. As for gas ovens, they can be positioned near the methane network found in your home, thus obtaining a fixed solution, or you could choose a mobile model that uses a gas cylinder.
For example, an internal kitchen overlooking the garden is a solution that facilitates installation: in this case, in fact, you can take advantage of the wall, through which the pipes pass, to connect the external oven.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to have the convenience of being able to move your oven around, you can connect the instrument to a gas cylinder so as to no longer have any positioning constraints.
As for the installation of outdoor wood-burning ovens, however, you only need to have a solid support base since no masonry work is required, unless your aim is to create a fixed outdoor kitchen.
For example, Alfa ovens are practically ready for use: just remove them from the protective packaging and place them where you prefer in the garden or on the terrace without worrying about anything, the fumes are in fact managed thanks to a small flue supplied.
As with the gas models, there are also mobile wood-burning ovens, which have no installation restrictions. These solutions are particularly useful for those who do not want a fixed location but want freedom of movement.
Right size and correct cooking chamber capacity
Modern solutions not only take up little space, but they are also light and equipped with bases specifically designed for storing wood and can be easily moved from one corner of your property to another.
Space can be an important detail to take into consideration when choosing an outdoor oven, particularly for city dwellers whose space is a premium.
The best model, in fact, is the one that manages to combine the right size of the cooking chamber, which depends on the number of people for whom you intend to cook, and the space available in your outdoor area.
Choosing the largest oven is not necessarily the best solution: large ovens, in fact, require more time and more fuel to reach and maintain the desired temperature.
Also worth considering is that a wood-burning fuel supply requires a bit more experience both in managing the fire and cooking a large number of pizzas or dishes.
This is why, in choosing the right size it is important to identify:
- How you intend to use the oven
- The number of people you usually cook for
- The amount of available space for the instrument
After all, there are many solutions on the market: like the compact and efficient ‘Nano’ by Alfa which, despite being small and weighing only 50 kg, manages to reach 500°C in just 10 minutes and perfectly cook a pizza in 90 seconds.
Quality of materials and excellent thermal efficiency
The quality of an oven is mainly recognized through some features such as: duration over time; cooking results; degree of security offered; fuel consumption.
The materials used for constructing the oven and the construction techniques guarantee the highest quality level and the right protection against wear.
Alfa manufactures outdoor ovens with great thermal performance thanks to the:
- Quality of materials used
- Components made entirely in Italy
- Continuous investments in research and development that allow for innovation year after year, improving the performance of its products
We need only think of the Forninox™ technology which allows you to obtain excellent results with the wood-burning oven at home through maximum energy efficiency and reduced consumption, without having to give up the high temperatures necessary to cook pizzas.
The wood-fired ovens made with this patent are equipped with a dome covered with a layer made up of various types of steel which, combined with the refractory stone base, allows the heat to be retained inside the cooking chamber.
Furthermore, reaching temperature quickly saves both time and the amount of wood needed to heat the oven. Suffice it to say that this type of oven reaches 840°F in roughly ten or so minutes.
In addition to improving thermal efficiency, Forninox™ technology allows for the creation of lighter ovens, a detail that has made it possible to develop mobile bases that are particularly useful for moving the oven where desired.
To improve the thermal efficiency of its wood-fired garden ovens, Alfa has also patented a second type of technology called: Flue system™.
This innovation consists of slowing down the discharge of the fumes from the combustion chamber so that they are able to release all their heat. In this way, all the heat released by the wood is optimized, avoiding unnecessary heat loss through the flue.
Thanks to this solution it is possible to optimize the thermal performance of the oven both because the latter heats up more quickly and because it requires less wood to raise the temperature.
High safety standards
Consumers have a tendency to prefer other types of fuel supplies, as opposed to gas, because they are thought to be safer and more reliable; yet, this is not the case.
While it is true that gas leaks, albeit rarely, are possible, it is also true that a quality outdoor gas oven should be designed taking this possibility into account, adopting safety devices to protect the people who use it.
It is always advisable to purchase an instrument equipped with protection mechanisms capable of activating immediately in case of danger.
All Alfa gas ovens meet high safety standards thanks to continuous research and the innovations implemented, but also to the numerous tests on each of the individual components.
In addition to using quality materials for even the smallest elements, Alfa installs a patented burner specifically designed to combine high performance in terms of both cooking and safety.
This component differs from other burners on the market because it is equipped with two particular devices which, working in synergy, make the use of the gas oven as safe as is possible:
- The pilot light: a very small flame located in the oven burner, useful for preventing gas from accumulating inside the cooking chamber.
- The thermocouple: a temperature sensor capable of detecting the presence of the flame in the oven. If the flame is not lit and the gas knob is turned on inadvertently, the thermocouple will intervene to prevent the gas from escaping, thus avoiding dangerous leaks.
When choosing an outdoor oven, therefore, we should never underestimate the safety factor and we should always check the technical specifications of the oven we are buying, in order to be able to churn out Neapolitan pizzas and delicious food without any safety concerns.
Refined aesthetics and design
The characteristic shape of the shell of outdoor wood-fired ovens is not only an aesthetic characteristic, but it also determines the high heat capacity of these tools and their cooking performance.
Yet, the soft and timeless lines of the dome, combined with a steel structure that has a contemporary character, manage to make garden ovens a design element that lends itself well to being placed in different contexts.
Accessories and cooking tools, if well selected, are capable of turning gardens and terraces into extensions of the house, to be enjoyed throughout the day and to be shared with guests.
Alfa ovens are designed to have a minimal and clean style that manages to convey elegance to the setting thanks to the essential lines and attention to every detail.
Attention to design makes Alfa outdoor ovens perfect for both classic and modern settings, consistently managing to be aesthetically pleasing and enhance the dishes of the chefs who use them.
This last feature makes them particularly suitable for all amateur pizza chefs who enjoy organizing show cooking evenings at home to entertain guests before enjoying freshly baked pizzas.
Well thought-out oven equipment and optional accessories, which can be purchased at a later time, can undoubtedly facilitate the use of the instrument and allow the preparation of countless dishes.
In fact, an outdoor wood oven isn’t enough to bake restaurant-type pizzas, you also need the right accessories. Here too, it is useful to have a clear idea of the type of use you intend to make of the oven before making your purchase: for example, those who mainly cook roasts and timbales will certainly have different needs than those who bake bread and pizzas every week.
This is why Alfa has come up with a wide range of accessories, all rigorously Made in Italy, in order to make the most of your residential oven.
Whether it be pizza peels or oven covers, multifunctional tables or kits for enjoying excellent BBQs, nothing is left to chance, so you can savor excellent leavened products or grilled meat, fish and vegetables to perfection.
How much does an outdoor oven cost?
Numerous proposals are available on the market that vary from company to company and according to the needs of those buying the oven. In general, it can be said that to buy a good quality oven you need to spend roughly $1,300.
In an intermediate price range, between $2,200 and $3,400, there are good solutions that manage to combine thermal efficiency, consistency of performance and quality of materials.
Amounts exceeding $4,000 are top-of-the-range outdoor ovens that can offer performances comparable to those of professional ovens with a particularly refined design.
In general, the price of an outdoor oven depends on several factors, including:
- The quality of the materials used
- The technology implemented
- The care and research of design
- The size of the cooking chamber
- Accessories included
Buying a quality Italian product, even if a little more is spent on the initial purchase, gives you the certainty of using a reliable and high-performance tool, as well as having made an investment that can pay for itself over time.
Outdoor ovens: all the Alfa proposals
We have seen the main characteristics of outdoor ovens to be taken into consideration when buying one, yet what are the various Alfa proposals and, above all, what are the peculiarities that distinguish them?
The Alfa line of domestic ovens includes seven models designed to meet everyone’s needs in terms of fuel supply, available space, design and budget.
According to the type of fuel supply used, you can find:
- Wood-fired outdoor ovens
- Outdoor gas or hybrid ovens
Let’s have a look at them in detail:
Alfa outdoor wood-fired ovens
All Alfa wood-burning ovens have in common high cooking performance and thermal efficiency, only the sizes, colours and style vary.
All proposals can be purchased in three different versions:
- Top: the oven is provided which must then be placed on a surface
- Top and table: the oven is sold together with the Alfa multifunctional pizza table
- Top and base: the oven is supported by its own tailor-made base equipped with wheels
There are four wood-fired models. Starting from the largest, we offer:
- Allegro: cooks up to five pizzas at a time, due to its size and technical characteristics it is very similar to a professional oven
- 4 pizze: a wood-fired garden oven that can cook up to four pizzas in 90 seconds
- Ciao: handy and light, this model can cook two pizzas in the same oven and is also perfect for cooking bread, roasts and grills.
- 5 Minuti: as we have already seen, this is a compact solution, perfect for those who have little space and cooks two pizzas at a time
Let’s now look at the gas-powered or hybrid models in the Alfa range.
Alfa gas or hybrid outdoor ovens
Alfa also offers, with regard to the line of ovens designed for amateur chefs and pizza chefs, convenient solutions that can operate on gas or in hybrid mode, thanks to the special Hybrid Kit that allows you to choose, from time-to-time, which fuel to use. They are:
- Brio: quick in heating up, this model is equipped with the Alfa Flue System™ patent, which keeps the heat in without losing it, and can cook three pizzas at a time
- Stone Oven: the hybrid two-pizza oven, with a completely steel design, perfect for cooking any type of dish, whether it be pizzas or meat, vegetables or sweets.
Outdoor oven: what to know before buying one
We have reached the end of our guide having analyzed the various types of outdoor ovens and the main features to take into consideration when choosing the oven that best suits our needs.
Among the various solutions on the market, Alfa offers a wide range of residential ovens that are increasingly efficient, versatile, offer cooking precision and are practical to maintain and clean.
All models are ready for use and do not require special masonry work for installation, so the pleasure and fun of grilling, roasting and cooking as many dishes as they please is almost immediate.