Got a new pizza oven? Learn how to make the most of it with these insider tips.

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man testing homemade pizza from his home pizza oven
Credit: Cavan Images/Getty Images

One of the things that has been a positive to the pandemic is that many people have discovered cooking skills ranging from basic competence to true mastery. Whether you had to learn to cook and assemble simple meals for sustenance, or went on a deep dive into sourdough bread or baking projects, mastered homemade pasta or the perfect roast chicken, almost everyone is coming out the other side with some kitchen skills that they will have forever.

Brick-Oven Pizza (Brooklyn Style)
Credit: CDM68

For me, it was pizza. Which was a surprise, because pizza is not one of those things we eat a lot of at my house. It tends to be a quarterly indulgence, often when returning from travel, or when we really need a last-minute pivot. And I live in Chicago, where we have an embarrassment of pizza riches. It never really occurred to me to make pizza at home, until I got a pizza oven. And now, we make homemade pizza all the time!

Home pizza ovens are becoming more and more popular, from indoor electric units to outdoor propane-fueled versions, ranging from under $100 for units designed mostly to bake frozen or store-bought pizzas, to nearly a grand for a machine that is as close as you can get to commercial functionality in a residential appliance.

Many people have either invested in these ovens in the past months, or are thinking of getting one soon. Regardless, there are some basic tips and tricks that I have learned in using my own pizza oven these past six months that will help take you from novice to pro in no time.

Choose the right oven.

If you really want that wood-fired feel, go with an outdoor propane unit. Just realize that your pizza-making then becomes weather-dependent, just like grilling. If you live somewhere that is temperate year-round, this is easier than if you live somewhere with long bitter winters. Indoor units are a year-round delight, but only the most expensive get the intense heat of the outdoor units. These are also all electric, so they will not give you that wood-fired flavor, but you will get better results than just using your regular oven.

Not all are kid-friendly, so if you want your children to participate or even be able to use on their own, be sure to research which unit has the most safety features and ease of use.  For indoor, Breville has two great units, the more moderately priced Crispy Crust Pizza Maker is kid-friendly and a good place to start, but their Smart Oven Pizzaiolo, which is a true investment, is widely thought to be the single best indoor pizza oven on the market. For an outdoor oven, check out the Ooni, which has quickly become the cult favorite among home pizza makers.

The pizza ovens all come with whatever cooking stone or surface they need, so no need for a separate pizza stone.

Read all the materials that come with your oven. Twice.

This is a potentially dangerous piece of kit, so be sure to fully familiarize yourself with all the instructions for safe usage, cleaning, and storage, and you will be rewarded with a lifetime of great pizza.

Heat is everything.

Whether you are using an indoor or outdoor oven, the hotter the heat, the better your pizza will be. High heat and fast cooking will give you that perfect crust, crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and toppings that have melded into one instead of tasting like bread with layers of things on top.

I recommend getting a laser temperature gun — they are not expensive — to ensure that your oven is as hot as you want it before you put in your first pizza. While the ovens will give you a general time frame for hitting their max heat, conditions will affect that, so go by actual temperature instead of timing. You want your oven as close to what it lists as its maximum temperature as possible.

Start simple.

Pizza Margherita
Credit: Meredith

Many of the best pizzas are super simple, and as you begin your journey, don't start with pies loaded with a zillion toppings. Get a good sense of how you move pizzas in and out of the unit, how well it cooks, to start to find your sweet spot of everything from crust thickness to scale and number of toppings. A medium-thin crust with just sauce and cheese and maybe one topping is a good place to start and build from there.

Try this recipe for Authentic Pizza Margherita.

Use great ingredients!

fresh tomatoes, grated cheese, arugula, and pizza dough ingredients for homemade pizza
Credit: istetiana/Getty Images

Whether you are making your own pizza dough or buying balls of pizza dough from your local pizzeria, buying or making pizza sauce, or visiting the Italian market for cheeses and sausages, your pizza is only as good as its raw ingredients. Resist the temptation to buy packaged preshredded Italian cheese, no matter how convenient it may be. The truth is, it never melts as well or tastes as good as cheese freshly grated or sliced by hand.

Add any spices, herbs or greens after cooking.

The high heat of these ovens means that the gorgeous fresh basil or arugula or dusting of Italian herbs or red pepper flakes you are putting on top will burn. Be sure to wait till your pizzas are cooked and then add these toppings after the pies are out of the oven.

Hungry for more? Browse our entire collection of homemade pizza recipes.