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The Ultimate Guide To Commercial Pizza Ovens

Intro

This is the most comprehensive guide to commercial pizza ovens on the internet.

In this guide, we're going to look at every single category of commercial pizza oven, explain the pros and cons, break down when to use each type, and highlight the leading product in each category.

Pizza’s popularity stretches around the globe—Americans alone shelled out $46 billion last year to curb their craving for the chewy, cheesy goodness.

To fulfill this demand, the pizza industry and creative chefs and restauranteurs around the world have built pizza ovens to match any environment where pizza is sold.

You’ll find pizza everywhere, from high-end fancy restaurants to truck stops along the freeway, and I guarantee both will scratch your pizza itch, but each situation calls for a different kind of pizza oven.

Which pizza oven is right for your pizzeria and unique pizza-making needs?

Which Oven Is Best For Commercial Use?

The answer to that is—it depends.

It depends on what kind of pizzeria or restaurant you operate. 

Do you serve pizza only, with breadsticks and cheese sticks as appetizers, or do you offer a menu with fish, side dishes, and pasta as well?

There isn’t a hard and fast rule here.

But you can narrow down the best commercial pizza oven by asking yourself a few questions.

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How To Choose The Right Oven

There are four major factors to consider before you buy your pizza oven. 

  • How many pizzas do you make per day?
  • How big is your restaurant's kitchen?
  • What style of pizza do you offer?
  • What is your fuel source?

Some of these may seem obvious, but it’s worth looking closely at these questions. 

Your pizza oven is the heart of your restaurant, and making an investment of this size should be looked at from every angle. 

How many pizzas do you make per day?

Not only do you want to consider how many pizzas you make per day, but let’s dream big and think about how many pizzas you want to crank out if you’re insanely busy every day.

It might take a minute for business to trickle in when you first open, but once it’s go time, you’ll need your oven to handle large numbers and not let you down.

Granted, having a pizza oven that can’t handle the current volume of business is a wonderful problem to have, but you don’t want to close for the day or two it takes to switch out your oven at the height of popularity. 

How big is your restaurant’s kitchen?

The footprint of your kitchen is a big deal. 

You need to strike a balance between having an oven big enough to handle a busy Friday night while at the same time leaving room for your employees to do their job. 

You’ll also need room for refrigerators, a pizza-making station, a cutting station, and a place to store a large number of folded to-go pizza boxes. 

One of my favorite pizza spots only does pies to go. Looking through their little window, I can see that the oven takes up over half the space of the kitchen. 

It’s a tight squeeze, but due to popularity, they need that big oven. Employees get the job done, but the crew works in a tight submarine-like workspace.

What style of pizza do you offer?

There are many styles of pizza offered in the US, and depending on which pizza you offer, you’ll need an oven that can help you create it to your customer's expectations. 

You can cook Neopolitan pizza in a conveyor pizza oven, but the quality and experience will be dramatically different from the pizza that's cooked traditionally in a wood fired oven.

Look closely at the details we cover in the next section, and buy the oven that best fits the style of pizza you’re selling.

The right oven will give you a better, more authentic pizza.

What is your fuel source?

Pizza ovens run on propane or natural gas, electricity, wood, or coal. Some ovens can be a hybrid or a combination of two sources. 

For example, wood fire ovens can have a gas assist set in place if the oven isn’t staying hot enough from the wood fire alone to cook the pizzas properly. 

This means that a high BTU burner is placed underneath the oven's cooking surface and will kick on whenever the thermostat drops below the ideal cooking temperature. 

Your budget can determine your fuel source as well. Buying wood or coal every week can become incredibly expensive, and the price can fluctuate with the seasons and availability.

You can save money by buying from a local wood dealer, but then you’re at the mercy of their wood quality. Any wood you buy needs to be cut and cured—meaning the cut wood has had time to sit and dry out. 

Wet wood won’t burn.

Each commercial pizza oven has a specific fuel source, but to fully understand which oven will best fit your pizzeria’s needs, we need to look at the details of what each oven has to offer.

Now that we have covered the different types of pizza ovens and the best way to choose an oven, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of each oven so you can make the most informed decision possible when buying the a new commercial kitchen pizza oven.

Commercial Wood Fired Pizza Oven

Wood fired pizza ovens are all the rage right now. 

There’s no mistaking the smell of a wood fired oven when you walk into a restaurant, and because most of these ovens are built beautifully, owners want to showcase them by using an open kitchen. 

Customers can walk by and see pizza cooks working the oven, and watch steaming hot pies being transferred from the oven to a cutting board using a long spatula-shaped tool called a peel.

This craze doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a wood fired pizza oven. All trends come and go, including pizza trends. 

Remember when stuffed crust pizza came out in the 90s? 

That stuff (pardon the pun) was everywhere.

Wood-burning ovens are very popular, but there are many factors to consider when buying one.

First, what kind of pizza are you serving? 

Wood fired is perfect for Neopolitan-style pizza. With an ultra-thin crust in the center, the toppings are placed sparingly across the top, but the very edge of the pizza is left bare to puff up into a light and airy crust.

Wood fire ovens use extremely high heat, anywhere from 750 to over 900 degrees.

The cook time is very quick, sometimes less than two minutes—but the result is a light, chewy pizza that embodies a slight smokiness from the wood oven.

You’ll also need to consider that wood fire ovens produce fewer pizzas than a conveyor-style pizza oven. 

The space is smaller and can’t duplicate the mechanical precision and efficiency of an electric conveyor pizza oven.

Because of this, the kind of pizzas you cook should cook quickly. I’d steer clear of Chicago deep dish pizza in wood fired ovens. They can take upwards of 28 minutes to cook

Wood fired pizza ovens mean that you need to hire skilled labor. It takes time to learn how to manage a high temperature of 750 degrees while spinning pies during food service on a busy weekend for hours and hours. 

It takes the right kind of person to consistently turn out perfectly cooked pizzas through a busy service. 

If you can’t find that person, your business will suffer from the low quality of pies.

Because your fuel is wood, you’ll need to ensure you have plenty on hand at all times. You don’t want to run out in the middle of service. Wood can take up a lot of space and be very expensive when it’s in short supply.

Be sure to buy a high-quality oven that is built well. There are three things to look for when purchasing your wood fired oven.

  • Dome shaped interior
  • Quality insulation
  • Appropriately sized cooking surface 

A dome-shaped interior is essential because it’s the secret to how a wood fire oven works. 

The fire is pushed either to the side or back of the oven. As the heat spreads, it makes the bottom surface of the oven exceptionally hot, cooking the pizzas from below (conduction heat).

The domed walls allow the flame's heat to travel along the top and come down on the sides, creating a circular motion with the heat (convection heat). 

Heat trapped in the body of the oven (reflective heat) is what cooks the top of the pizza, giving the crust that speckled texture we all look for when eating wood fire pizza.

Since wood fired ovens run at higher temperatures than other ovens, quality insulation helps to trap the heat inside the oven. 

Poor insulation will result in lost heat which can give you sub-par pizzas, and you’ll burn through more wood trying to keep the oven hot, costing you a lot of money.

The oven needs to be made from materials that can withstand high heat, like refractory firebricks or refractory concrete. Some ovens are made from a combination of the two. 

If you don’t want your oven to be hot to the touch on the outside, you’ll need an added third layer of ceramic fiber insulation. 

We’ve already covered this some, but your wood fire oven needs to match the size of your restaurant. You can’t have people waiting too long for pizza. 

I recently went to a wood fired pizzeria, and it was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The problem was that it took over an hour to get two fourteen-inch pizzas. 

The owners had converted an old church and its outdoor space into a pizzeria. Their little oven couldn’t keep up with the capacity of their dining room. 

We like Mugnaini ovens because of their stellar reputation and ability to perform. They also offer a wide range of sizes, so you’ll be able to find an oven that is proportionate to your restaurant’s needs.

Commercial Electric Pizza Oven

There are several kinds of ovens that fall under the category of electric pizza ovens. 

We’ll look at a few of these more closely below, but what we want to cover here is the versatility, convenience, and affordability of electric pizza ovens.

Electric ovens give you a precision of temperature that you won’t find in a wood fire oven. You’ll have a temperature dial or button to pick your degree, and then you can forget about it.

It also doesn’t require fuel storage as you need with a wood fire oven, so you’ll save a lot of space, which comes at a premium in any restaurant.

Electric ovens are very affordable, easy to clean, and easy to maintain cooking equipment. They aren’t complicated and can be run anywhere there is an electrical outlet. 

Some can be placed on countertops or taken with you along with all your other restaurant equipment if there’s an outdoor event. You’ll just need to get an extension cord to power it up.

We like the Waring double-deck pizza oven because of its compact size and ability to cook multiple pizzas at once. It can be placed on a countertop in the kitchen without taking up too much workspace.

The Waring pizza oven would be a great fit for kitchens that offer pizza, but it’s not the menu's focal point. 

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Commercial Brick Pizza Oven

Brick pizza ovens are exactly what they sound like—pizza ovens made from brick. 

We’ve already covered many of the attributes and features of a brick oven in the wood fired pizza oven section. 

While all wood fired ovens technically fall under the category of a brick oven, not all brick ovens are wood fired—some are heated by gas or coal. 

Gas is a much more straightforward approach to using a brick oven because you can set a temperature, and the oven will self-regulate to keep it at the optimal cooking degree.

Using gas, though, means you’re missing out on the delicious flavor profile that results from using wood or coal.

Either way, pizza chefs use the same cooking techniques because the ovens' heat behaves exactly the same way. 

How this works might surprise you. 

While wood or coal definitely plays a part in cooking your pizza (it’s why pizzas have to be rotated), the bulk of the work is being done by heat retained in the thermal mass, which is heated by the fire.

What does that mean?

Thermal mass refers to the walls and floor of the oven. When we say walls, we mean the entire dome shape of the oven. The wood or coal fire puts the heat in the thermal mass, and the thermal mass is what cooks the pizza.

One of the drawbacks of using a brick oven is the heat-up time. To get an oven ready for service, you’ll need to start heating it at least 45 minutes to an hour before you want to cook food. 

The reason it takes so long for the oven to heat up is that the refractory brick and concrete store large amounts of heat and hold onto it. To store that much energy takes a long time to build.

There’s so much heat in the oven that it can take up to 36 hours for a brick oven to cool down. Some restaurants use the residual heat to cook bread in the oven the next day. The heat has mellowed a lot, but it’s still hot enough to do morning batches of baking.

The heat stored in the thermal mass (wall and floor) radiates from every direction—also called reflective heat. The dome shape cooks your pizza from every angle, while the floor cooks from the bottom up. 

Pizza stones were made to mimic this way of cooking without the brick oven. The flat stone is heated in a oven, and when the pizza is placed on the stone, they create a crust that is close to what you’d find in a brick oven.

There’s mixed reviews of how well pizza stones actually work.

Brick ovens also create a natural convection oven. 

The front opening sucks in cool air while hot air is able to escape out of the chimney. A regular convection oven is installed with a fan and vent to recreate convection.

Convection is ideal because it keeps hot air moving around your cooking food. 

If the air is not moving, whatever room temperature food you put in the oven will cool the air directly around it, creating a thin barrier from the more intense heat. This barrier is called a ‘cold halo.’

Moving air disrupts the ‘cold halo’ that’s in contact with the food, replacing it with hot air, which results in a faster cook time. 

Convection heat and reflective heat are why brick ovens can cook pizzas so fast. 

Forno Classico built a beautiful hybrid gas/wood brick oven. There are many benefits to using a hybrid oven, including being able to heat the oven faster by using both heat sources simultaneously. Once the oven is hot, you can back off the gas heat unless you need it again.

Another benefit of a hybrid oven is a less experienced employee can still operate it. Managing a fire while at the same time cooking pizzas is an acquired skill that takes time. Having the option to turn on the gas when the fire is dying during a rush could help you avoid a potential disaster. 

Commercial Conveyor Pizza Oven

Conveyor pizza ovens are built for volume, efficiency, and consistency. 

Conveyor ovens work using a steel mesh belt (like a conveyor belt, but metal) that is made into a loop to travel through the oven in a continuous cycle. 

Because the speed and oven temperature controls are adjustable, all you need to do is find the balance between belt speed and the degree of the oven to have a perfectly cooked pizza roll out of the opposite end.

Unskilled labor can easily use these ovens since it only requires the pizza to be built and put in one end of the oven.

Another employee will be stationed at the other end of the oven to receive the pizza (place a stainless steel table at this end to catch any unattended pizzas), cut it into the desired number of slices, and put it in a box or on a tray.

Chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Dominos use these ovens at all their locations. They are reliable and simple.

Pizzerias with a smaller footprint but want a conveyor pizza oven should know that the ovens come in stackable forms. Meaning as many as three conveyors are built into one unit.

You’ll be able to handle the high volume of a larger oven while, at the same time, taking up much less space. 

An added benefit of stacked ovens is if different food items require different cooking times, you can control the speed of the belts. If a few items require more oven time, you can slow down one of the belts to hold it in the oven for the time necessary to cook. 

Some conveyor pizza ovens come with impingement cooking. The idea is the same as  convection ovens but imagine a more intense version.

Air is moved around the oven to break up the pizza's cold barrier (cold halo). The difference with impingement cooking is that air is aimed directly at and into the pizza at a much higher volume, resulting in a pizza cooked in a very short time. 

Conveyors will be either a gas pizza oven or run on electricity.

The Lincoln Triple Conveyor Impingement pizza oven is an excellent oven for any pizzeria looking to grow and needs to lean on the simplicity and consistency a conveyor pizza oven provides. 

Three ovens mean you can handle busy weekends, and as your business grows, you’ll be able to take advantage of the high volume capacity this oven can handle. 

Commercial Countertop Pizza Oven

The most obvious benefit of a countertop pizza oven is its compact size and ability to do the same task as a large pizza oven but at a lower volume.

Countertop pizza ovens come in deck oven or conveyor oven models, and they will run on either  natural gas or electricity. Each one has the advantages of the larger ovens but takes up a fraction of the space.

A lot of restaurants might consider using one of these ovens when pizza isn’t the focus of the menu. Maybe you also serve sandwiches, pasta, and larger entrees, but pizza is a small portion of the menu, or maybe it’s only offered during happy hour.

Countertop pizza ovens are very affordable, so if you’re trying to offer more crowd favorites and are looking to expand your menu, a countertop pizza oven allows your guests to eat pizza without the heavy bill of a full-sized oven.

Employees will find countertop pizza ovens extremely easy to use, and training will only take minutes. Some ovens come with timers, so employees don’t need to guess when a pizza is done. The timer helps during the early phases of learning how to use the oven.

Bringing a countertop pizza oven into the kitchen could mean expanding the menu to other items as well since each oven can cook more than just pizza.

Countertop pizza ovens are also ventless so you don’t need to worry about an expensive hood system.

The Avantco double-decker oven with glass doors is super heavy duty and a great example of what a countertop oven can do. It’s compact, easy to use, affordable, and a great asset to any kitchen.

It has an impressive temperature range, going as high as 840 degrees. The heating element spans the whole interior of the oven, so you don’t need to rotate the pizza as it cooks.

Commercial Rotating Pizza Oven

A commercial rotating pizza oven is the answer for anyone looking for a brick oven-style pizza but can’t find the skilled labor to run one. 

It’s also to brick oven version of a conveyor oven. Employees can put the pizza in the oven, let it take one rotation through, and the pizza is done when it’s at the front of the oven again.

The oven works by having a rotating floor, but the shape and concepts are the same as a brick oven. Meaning it cooks using reflective, conduction, and convection heat. The heat hits the pizza from every angle as the floor spins, giving you a brick oven-style pizza without having to tend the pie during the entire cooking process. 

It sounds pretty wild, but it creates a remarkably consistent pizza.

There are a couple of options for a fuel source. 

You can use gas alone or a hybrid model that uses gas with either wood or wood pellets. The wood definitely adds to the heat but is more there to impart the traditional wood fire flavor that customers find so appealing.

Getting a hybrid model would mean you are using three different forms of energy. You’ll use gas and wood for cooking, but you’ll also need electricity to turn the rotating floor.

That being said, you aren’t locked into one fuel source. If wood is suddenly scarce, not in stock, or astronomically expensive, you can still cook pizzas using gas to get you through a bump in the road.

Another difference between a rotating wood fire oven and a traditional wood fire oven is there should be a catch for the ashes. 

Because of the gap between the rotating floor and the fixed body of the oven, it would be difficult to clean out the ashes through the front hole. The rotating oven should have a catch below that traps any debris falling from the oven.

All rotating ovens should have custom controls for rotation speed and temperature.

Marana Forni was the company to create and patent the first commercial rotating pizza oven. Their ovens come in many styles, with many options, including hybrid models and fixed pizza ovens as well.

If you’re interested in a rotating pizza oven, these guys don’t cut any corners and are passionate about delivering the best pizza ovens in the world.

Commercial Outdoor Pizza Oven

The only thing better than cooking pizza is cooking pizza outdoors. It puts an energy and excitement into the air that can’t be duplicated with other outdoor cooking. 

When using an outdoor pizza oven, you’ll use wood fire, natural gas, or propane as a fuel source. Electric ovens aren’t very common since they live outside.

An outdoor pizza oven can be great for restaurants that have a large patio, especially if that patio is only open during the summer. People love to smell the pizza while sitting outside, which alleviates pressure on the kitchen inside, whose workload can double when the patio opens for summer.

Another great application for an outdoor pizza oven is with a food truck. Taking your oven with all your restaurant supplies down to the farmer’s market, local game, or town event means an automatic line for your food truck. People smell it before they see it and will gladly wait to get a pie.

Most outdoor pizza ovens will be made of stainless steel or come in one of the wide varieties of wood fire ovens, typically made from refractory brick and concrete.

Outdoor pizza ovens are more than anything about creating an experience. It’s not very common to see people cooking pizza outdoors, but when they do, everyone wants to participate in the fun.

The WPPO outdoor pizza oven covered in mosaic tiles will look great in any outdoor area while cranking out pizza and other dishes throughout a busy weekend on the patio.

This model is wood fired, but it comes with a convection fan to help speed the cooking process and keep oxygen flowing to the fire. 

Small Commercial Pizza Oven

Small pizza ovens mean anyone can get a slice of the pizza industry. 

Small pizza ovens are great for concession stands, cafes, food trucks, sandwich shops, and restaurants looking to serve pizza, but in a smaller size, like for happy hour. 

Small ovens are also great for other foods as well, like toasting sandwiches, melting cheese, or cooking breadsticks.

Small pizza ovens come in all types—wood fired, natural gas, propane, deck oven, conveyor, outdoor, and electrical.

You might not be able to produce the high volume of a larger oven, but if you find that your pizza is really popular, you can always upgrade.

If you want to serve great pizza, I guarantee there’s an oven out there that will serve your needs.

The Bakers Pride single deck oven is the perfect small pizza oven. It’s compact enough to fit in most kitchens, and because of the cooking chamber height, you can cook more than just pizza.

Bakers Pride installed a continuous ringing bell that goes off when the timer is up. An employee then needs to manually turn it off, reminding them to pull the pizza out of the oven. They did this to help eliminate burnt pizzas by workers who forgot a pizza was in the oven.

Bakers Pride built the interior with a Cordierite stone deck and aluminized steel baking chamber to handle the high heat of 550 degrees.

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Next Steps: Pizza Marketing

Hopefully this guide to commercial pizza ovens was helpful for you.

Once you have the right oven or ovens in place, you're ready to make the pizza itself.

Selling the pizza is another story.

For help with that, check out our in-depth guide to pizza marketing.

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