Lifestyle | Food Features

The Hype Behind Home Pizza Ovens: Are They Worth It?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for details.

If you are a foodie, or basically have ever searched the word “pizza”, you have probably been bombarded by online ads for home pizza ovens. The Ooni is quite popular, and the images of pizzas coming out of the 900°F ovens are seriously tempting, but are they worth the hype? And what if you want to cook pizza outdoors but don’t want to invest in one of these ovens? You do have options! In fact, you can use the grill you have now.

We put all of our favorite pizza tools in an easy to navigate shop. Plus we gathered all of our favorite home made pizza recipes so you can get cooking now! Read on!

Pizza & Fire = Pie Nirvana 

Ooni pro pizza door attached; pizza inside cooking
Photo credit: Dédé Wilson from FOMAP Everyday®.

First, why cook pizza outdoors? Simply put, because it offers a unique experience! Pizza cooked over an open flame possesses a distinctive flavor that eludes conventional home ovens. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the campfire method below, it doesn’t have to be excessively complicated to achieve.

Outdoor Choices for Cooking Pizza

grill over live flame.
Photo credit: Sindre Fs via Canva.

This article is going to go over cooking pizza on your charcoal grill, propane grill, kamado style grill, using portable pizza ovens, as well as right over a rustic campfire. And we will talk about true grilled pizza that is grilled right on the grates of your grill.

As you can see, there are many choices for outdoor pizzas. For all of the recommended tools and ingredients to buy you can find them all here.

Cooking Pizza With Your Grill

overhead of pizza on dark background.
Photo credit: igorovsyannykov via Canva.

We have to first get a pet peeve out of the way. When people mention grilled pizza, only to refer to pizza cooked on a grill without direct contact with the grates, that my pizza loving friends is not true grilled pizza. We will get to real grilled pizza in a bit, but it is more involved, so we will first address what many of you are seeking – assistance in using your grill to make pizza without the precision required by a true grilled pizza.

Regardless of whether you have a charcoal grill or a gas grill (natural or propane), you can make pizza that will acquire a delightful smoky flavor unique to live fire and smoke. Before we delve into ingredient recommendations, let’s discuss the equipment involved.

Recommended Equipment

pizza on peel.
Photo credit: Eneida Nieves via Canva.

In addition to your preferred method of igniting the fire, it’s essential to have the right surface for cooking your pizza upon. Having experimented with various options, we can provide some guidance. For instance, a metal pizza peel will make getting your dough round from here to there much easier.

Note: You can utilize a cast-iron skillet on your grill (or even over a campfire) but ensure that the grill lid can fully enclose the entire pan, including the handle; this may not be possible with all grills.

For all of the recommended tools and ingredients you can find them all here.

For Charcoal Grills

charcoal grill.
Photo credit: aruba2000 via DepositPhotos.

When it comes to charcoal grills, you have several basic choices for a pizza cooking surface: stone, ceramic, iron, and steel. Here are a few options we recommend, as they conduct heat effectively and come in various sizes and price ranges. It’s important to select a surface that fits within your grill, allowing enough space for the lid to close and for proper airflow all around.

Soapstone Pizza Stone – There are soapstone pizza stones is available in sizes ranging from 10-inch (25 cm) to 18-inch (46 cm), allowing you to choose according to your specific needs (based on the interior dimensions of your grill). You preheat on your grill and cook your pizza directly on the soapstone.

Cast Iron – We are big fans of cooking with cast iron, both indoors and outdoors, and a flat cast-iron surface for pizza is no exception. (More on using a skillet in the Campfire section below).

Ceramic Disc With Frame – This option combines the best of both worlds: a ceramic disc within a metal frame. The disc goes onto your grill grate, conducts heat well, and your pizza is cooked on top of it.

Pizza Steel – Pizza Steels are made from steel, are heavy, expensive, can withstand the heat of the grill, and also make a fantastic pizza.

For Kamado-Style Grills

kamado style grill.
Photo credit: Audriusvenclova via DepositPhotos.

Kamado-style grills, such as The Big Green Egg, offer the advantage of even heat distribution. They are like a grill and pizza oven, all in one. While you can theoretically use any of the previously mentioned equipment options on these grills, it’s important to consider that the grilling space is often smaller. Therefore, ensure that any pizza cooking surface you choose fits your specific kamado-style grill.

Big Green Egg – If you own a kamado grill from this brand, their ceramic pizza stone designed for their grills is an excellent choice.

Kamado Joe – This brand also offers its own pizza stone, which provides a more elaborate set-up (which we highly recommend). It allows you to keep the top of the kamado closed while conveniently sliding the pizzas in and out, which helps maintain high temperatures inside the grill.

For all of the recommended tools and ingredients you can find them all here.

For Gas Fueled Grills

propane grill.
Photo credit: tab62 via DepositPhotos.

If you have a propane or natural gas grill, you can use any of the aforementioned options for charcoal grills. However, we also recommend considering stones set within metal frames, such as the Fiero Casa Italian Pizza Stone. It is specifically designed for gas grills.

Campfire Pizza

young boy collecting firewood.
Photo credit: SashaKhalabuzar via DepositPhotos.

We must confess that when it comes to campfires and food, s’mores always come to mind first. Fortunately, we have several recipes for classic-style s’mores as well as variations like cookies, cupcakes, and one-bowl bars. However, after trying pizza cooked in a campfire, it has quickly become a close second for our favorite campfire food – and our #1 for the main dish.

Making pizza in a campfire is relatively easy as long as you have a cast-iron skillet. We prefer using a 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet, but you can choose the size that suits you best. There are two approaches we recommend: Approach #1 is more cautious, while Approach #2 yields better results and requires comfort around the fire. Ensure that your campfire is prepared with nice, ashy coals and has a grate in place.

Campfire Pizza Technique #1: Grease your cast-iron pan and use your fingers to press the prepared pizza dough directly into the pan, spreading it to the edges. Brush the top with olive oil. Place the pan on the cooking grate and cook until the bottom of the crust turns a light golden brown. Remove the pan from the fire, use tongs to flip the crust over, and add your sauce, cheese, and toppings. Return the pan to the fire and cook until the bottom is crispy, and the toppings are bubbly. If needed, tent some foil over the top of the pizza to retain heat and aid in melting the cheese.

Campfire Pizza Technique #2: Grease your cast-iron pan and preheat it on the grate over the fire. Meanwhile, shape your prepared dough and transfer it onto a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal. Make sure the size of the crust fits inside the pan. Use the peel to carefully place the crust into the pan (this requires finesse and comfort handling a hot pan). Cook until the bottom of the crust is light golden brown. Remove the pan from the fire, use tongs to flip the crust over, and add your sauce, cheese, and toppings. Return the pan to the fire and cook until the bottom is crispy, and the toppings are bubbly. If needed, tent some foil over the top of the pizza to retain heat and aid in melting the cheese.

Outdoor Pizza Ovens

man using peel to get pizza out of Ooni Pro.
Photo credit: Dédé Wilson from FOMAP Everyday®.

We thoroughly enjoy the experience of cooking pizza outdoors using purpose-built portable pizza ovens. 

When it comes to outdoor ovens, we have a strong preference for the Ooni brand. We have used several of their models, but our favorite is the Ooni Karu 16-inch Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven. According to Ooni, this oven holds the distinction of being the first and only pizza oven to receive the “Recommended for Domestic Use” endorsement from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, a highly regarded international authority on authentic Neapolitan pizza. 

While most of us may not be located in Naples, using this oven allows us to come remarkably close to the authentic Neapolitan pizza experience, which we always respectfully refer to as Neapolitan-Style. The multi-fuel feature gives you the flexibility to use hardwood or charcoal, as well as the option to connect the Ooni Karu 16 Gas Burner if desired. This versatility allows you to enjoy the incomparable flavor of hardwood and charcoal or easily switch to gas when hardwood is unavailable. Whichever fuel option you choose, the oven quickly reaches temperatures of up to 950°F (500°C) in just 15 minutes. Use a dough with high hydration for these ovens. Pizzas will cook in 30 to 90 seconds!

The oven is equipped with a mounted digital thermometer that displays the internal ambient oven temperature, allowing you to closely monitor the heat (we also recommend having an infrared thermometer on hand). With its spacious cooking area, the oven accommodates pizzas up to 16 inches (40.5 cm) in diameter, as well as a variety of other foods. Imagine cooking a mouthwatering standing rib roast or indulging in fire-roasted chicken wings—this oven offers endless possibilities.

If you want to learn more about the Ooni we wrote an in-depth review here.

True Grilled Pizza

Photo credit: Dédé Wilson from FOMAP Everyday®.

OK, we told you that we would address true grilled pizza, which we define as pizza that is cooked directly on the grates. It can be accomplished with a propane grill, but results are far superior when cooked over charcoal, both for the searing heat, as well as the flavors that charcoal and hardwood impart. It is a thin crust, with a nice char on the bottom and top (more on that later) and features varied, yet sparse, toppings. This is all about the grilled crust.

So, how do you do it? It is all about technique. It was popularized by Johanne Killeen and George Germon (RIP) of Al Forno restaurant in Providence, RI and I was lucky enough to learn directly from them. They were trying to replicate the taste and texture of the beloved wood-fired pizzas that they had experienced in Italy. They came up with the grilled pizza technique explained below.

Get The Crust Right

grilled pizza on white background
Photo credit: Dédé Wilson from FOMAP Everyday®.

The dough that Johanne and George created used unbleached white flour, whole wheat flour and fine ground white cornmeal, and the recipe can be found in their book, Cucina Simpatica: Robust Trattoria Cooking From Al Forno (HarperCollins 1991). The dough is soft, with high hydration. Grab the cookbook here.

You could go to the store and pick up premade pizza dough and attempt to make grilled pizza, but it will not hold a candle to the exquisite flavor and texture of their crust. You can also find a gluten-free version.

Your Set Up

people eating pizza with tomatoes.
Photo credit: Ponyo Sakana via Canva.

You need to have a large work surface set up next to your grill. Make your fire, with high heat on one side, and no heat on the other.

Pat out a dough ball on a rimmed sheet pan coated with olive oil. That’s right! No rolling pin and no flour. Pat it out so thin that you can see through it here and there. Pick it up on one edge (it will be hanging down from your fingers) and quickly get it onto the grill, over the heat. Brush the top with more olive oil. Grill until char marks appear on the bottom, then flip it over using tongs, drag over to cool side of grill. Apply a scattering of grated cheese, a few dollops of sauce and use tongs to bring the crust back over the heat and grill until cheese is melted. Drag pizza onto cutting board, sprinkle with some fresh basil and dig in!

The Takeaway

pizza with lots of toppings.
Photo credit: ponce_photography via Canva.

Making pizza in the great outdoors creates a pizza like no other – and we think it is well worth the effort. Whether you have a propane or charcoal fueled grill, a kamado, a portable pizza oven, or even just a campfire, smoky, incomparable pizzas can be yours with attention to equipment and technique.

This article is based upon one that first appeared at FODMAP Everyday®.

Slice into the Ultimate Homemade Pizza Experience: 25 Recipes!

Sourdough Pizza. Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

Pizza! The world loves pizza – and apparently Norwegians eat the most (who knew?). The USA comes in next with statistics saying 350 slices are eaten every second of the day! We have 25 recipes for you, from gluten-free and vegan, crusts that feature rice paper, sourdough and French bread, toppings that include arugula, prosciutto, carne asada, and of course, pepperoni. Deep-dish, too! Read: Slice into the Ultimate Homemade Pizza Experience: 25 Recipes!

10 Gluten-Free, Low FODMAP Pizza Recipes for True Pizza Lovers

Slice of pizza being lifted from whole pizza showing melted cheese

Pizza! The world loves pizza – and apparently Norwegians eat the most (who knew?). The USA comes in next with statistics saying 350 slices are eaten every second of the day! But what about folks who love pizza, but it doesn’t love them back. We have assembled pizza recipes for you that are gluten-free, lactose-free and low FODMAP. Have a slice! Read 10 Gluten-Free, Low FODMAP Pizza Recipes for True Pizza Lovers

Pizza Equipment & Ingredients

Feature image for Low FODMAP Equipment and Ingredients

Making pizza at home is fun and easy – and you will get the best results if you use the ingredients and equipment that we call for in our many individual pizza recipes. This article has information and links for purchasing all of the ingredient and equipment recommendations. Read: Pizza Equipment & Ingredients

For an overview of recipes and commercially prepared pizzas, boxed mixes and frozen crusts, please read Everything You Need To Know About Low FODMAP Pizza.

Top 10 Low FODMAP Pizza Toppings

pizza with lots of toppings.
Photo credit: ponce_photography via Canva.

You are following the low FODMAP diet and want pizza! We get it, we really do. At FODMAP Everyday® we are all about teaching you to THRIVE on the low FODMAP diet. We are the anti-deprivation folks! Pizza is high on many lists of favorite foods, and we all have our favorite toppings. Read: Top 10 Low FODMAP Pizza Toppings

You Might Also Be Interested To Read