Why An Outdoor Pizza Oven Was One Of The Best Investments I Ever Made

I consider myself an unequivocal pizza snob. I was born and raised in Connecticut, which is home to the best pizza city in the country: New Haven. It means that I scoff when I even think about Chicago's deep dish or the oddity of the New England Greek-style pie. That high bar for excellence extends to my pizza pursuits at home.  

I've shopped for the best quality Neapolitan pizza dough flour and learned how to rotate and cook pies during a working stint in a pizza joint in college, but it all came down to the oven I was using to cook the pie. Every pizza I made with my home oven didn't crisp up like I wanted, and the long cooking time always left the toppings overcooked but the underside of the pizza raw. So, I took the plunge and splurged on an Ooni Koda 12, a portable outdoor pizza oven that can hook up to my propane tank. At $399, this oven is no small financial investment, but it has been one of the best purchases I've ever made. 

Home ovens could never compare

Ovens manufactured specifically for pizza speak for themselves in terms of quality and the product you get from every bake. If you use your oven properly, you won't be able to tell the difference between pizza from your local brick oven or coal pizza joint.

Pizza ovens are preferable to your home oven because they can reach temperatures up to 900 F, which will perfectly blister the crust within minutes. In comparison, your home oven tends to max out at around 550 F. It also needs to preheat sufficiently, which can take up to 20 minutes, and it will take upwards of 15 minutes to ensure that your pizza is baked throughout — and you still won't get the characteristic blistering that you'd get with an outdoor oven. 

The other advantage of using an outdoor pizza oven is that it has a stoneware surface that perfectly cooks the bottom of your pie to ensure it doesn't end up getting soggy. Provided that you stay attentive to your pie as it cooks, you'll end up with consistent and wonderfully textured pizza every time ... and at a fraction of the cost of takeout.

Outdoor pizza ovens are easier to use than you'd think

As someone who admittedly isn't handy with anything related to grills or appliances, I thought that using my Ooni Koda 12 would come with a bigger learning curve than it actually did. But in reality, it wasn't that hard to follow the instruction guide, hook up the gas, and preheat the oven for use. Plus, the oven is relatively lightweight, so it's easy to pick up and move from place to place. In addition, one of the biggest hesitancies I had after getting this oven was that it would be difficult to clean in between uses. But you should never wash a pizza stone, so there isn't much cleanup to do besides dusting it off and storing it in a safe place.

The most challenging aspect of the process was actually making the pizzas. The dough has to be thin to cook correctly, so it can be tedious to roll out the dough, top it, and fire it in the oven. Since the oven is also scorching, you can't walk away from your pizza as it's cooking. You have to continuously pull, rotate, and re-fire the pie to ensure it's cooked correctly. Abandoning your pie for too long will lead to a crust that is too crispy, so I recommend buying extra dough and ingredients if you need to re-make your pie entirely. 

You can make more than just pizza

I classify myself as a frugal human being, so spending so much on an oven to only use it for pizza seems like just a waste. But there's more to a pizza oven than just making pizza. One of the best uses for your outdoor pizza oven is making corn-on-the-cob. Soak the entire cob, husk, and all, and let it char in the oven. Serve your corn elote-style with cojita cheese, butter, and spices, or add it to a refreshing summer salad. You can also bake bread in the pizza oven; it's an especially helpful option in the summer months when baking anything inside your home oven would be a bit too toasty. 

One of my absolute favorite ways to use my pizza oven, though, is to roast vegetables. I don't have to flip on the grill to get perfectly charred tomatoes and onions, and I can serve a roasted veggie salad alongside my pizza without having to turn on another indoor appliance. Its utility to make many different recipes, including amazing pizza, just means that the oven pays for itself.