outdoor oven buying guide: how to choose an outdoor oven

Dried Hardwood

Outdoor ovens come in a variety of styles and designs so it is important when selecting one for your garden that you know what to take into consideration. We’ve put together a buying guide looking at all the different factors that distinguish outdoor ovens so if you’re on the lookout have a read of our guide. It will help you make an informed decision so you can get the most out of your purchase. 

Fuel

There are two types of fuelled outdoor ovens. Wood burning ovens are the traditional choice and probably the most popular option, however, while gas fired ovens are relatively new to the UK they are becoming increasingly popular. 

Wood fired ovens involve burning timber – while this is pretty straight forward it is important to know there are certain types of wood you can’t use when cooking. Hardwoods and wood chippings/pellets are fine but if a wood has been coloured or treated, it can cause chemicals to be added to your food. You need to be careful then when choosing the type of wood, you use for the fire. Wood fired ovens will also require more attention when cooking. You need to ensure there’s enough fuel and that the temperatures are keeping the same throughout when cooking. You do have to be careful however when positioning the oven to make sure it has proper ventilation, and you may need to monitor how much smoke there is when cooking. Wood burning ovens require more maintenance but they reach higher temperature cooking food faster and the smoke infuses the food with better flavours.

Gas fired ovens are perhaps easier to light and control. You don’t have to worry about lighting wood and making sure you have enough fuel in the oven throughout the cooking process. Gas pizza ovens require less attention which is why they are more popular in a commercial environment. Rather than constantly monitoring the oven, staff members can perform other kitchen and serving tasks while the food is cooking. Gas also means you get consistent temperatures for longer periods so they are more reliable. Gas ovens do take longer to heat however and your food doesn’t get the added taste benefits that a wood fired oven provides.

Both wood fired and gas fired ovens have their advantages but you should certainly consider the benefits of both when deciding which outdoor oven to purchase. 

Outdoor Clay Oven

Materials

When looking at the various types of outdoor oven, there are a few material differences you may want to take into account. Insulated walls will help keep the heat in the oven when cooking and tiled floors will help to store heat. When cooking in a pizza oven you need to ensure the entire oven is capable of maintaining heat so your food cooks evenly throughout. This is especially true when cooking pizzas. The pizza will sit on the oven floor and if only the top of your oven is hot, only the top of the pizza will cook. There is nothing worse than a soggy based pizza with crisp toppings. One of the reasons outdoors ovens are so popular is because of their cooking process – they reach higher temperatures than conventional ovens which cooks the food more evenly and quickly. 

The materials used when building outdoors ovens are important and when looking to buy one for yourself you should take a few factors into consideration.

Refractory tiles are known to hold heat and so are perfect for the oven floor. 

Brick and stone are popular building materials used for heavier and larger outdoor ovens. If you opt for an oven made out of these materials however you should also consider you will need to cure them before use. As a result of building, your oven will contain a high ratio of water so you will need to essentially dry out of the oven. You can find out more information from our curing your oven guide but you will need to heat your oven to certain temperatures over several days. This will get rid of the moisture. You must be careful not to heat the oven too high too soon as this may cause your dome to crack – curing your oven properly however will strengthen the oven and improve its longevity. 

Outdoor ovens made from refractory clay work in the same way as the tiles described above. They are great for holding heat and so clay ovens tend to heat quicker. Stainless steel ovens tend to be another option for your building material – steel is a better insulator so allows the oven to reach higher temperatures without using as much wood for fuel. You will need to check a stainless steel oven has weatherproofing however to ensure it won’t rust when left outdoors in adverse weather conditions. 

When choosing your materials, you should consider how well insulated the walls and floor of your oven are. You may also want to take into consideration whether you’ll need to cure the oven – this is only necessary for brick or stone outdoor ovens. 

Size/Style

When considering which outdoor oven to buy, you should consider the style and size of the oven. Even if you’re not necessarily bothered about the aesthetics of which oven will sits best with your garden theme, different styles will have slightly different cooking purposes and benefits. Take a dome shaped oven for example – these tend to be larger pizza ovens in which you can cook multiple dishes at once. These types of oven also tend to be the most decorative. 

The size is also important. Do you have enough room in your garden for a large outdoor oven? Do you need a large dome oven? Larger pizza ovens are often associated with commercial purposes so if you’re looking at outdoor ovens for family home use, you may want to consider one of the lightweight models with wheels so you can move in to the garage when not in use.

Of course, these are just guidelines, you may want a larger dome oven even if you only plan on using it for family cooking – and that’s fine. We advise you do consider the size and style however so you can choose an oven that is capable of producing what you need. 

Commercial/Residential

This may seem obvious but not all outdoor ovens will be fit for commercial purposes. Ovens differ in size and material. If you are looking for a commercial oven, perhaps for a restaurant, you should consider the size of the dome and the efficiency of the materials used for the build. When using outdoor ovens in a commercial environment you need to be able to produce quick cooking times and retain constant temperatures. When choosing an oven enquire about how long it takes to cook certain dishes and how long the oven takes to preheat to the necessary temperatures. For example it is fairly normal for a pizza oven to take up to an hour to heat but the most efficient ovens will be able to cook the perfect pizza in as little as 60 seconds. 

For residential purposes you don’t have to worry as much about the type of outdoor oven you choose – although if you have a lot of dinner parties or have a large family you may want to look for something larger. 


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