Is a specialty appliance the secret to making great pizza at home?
Published Sept. 1, 2018.
Our top-ranked indoor pizza oven, the Forno Magnifico Electric Pizza Oven, has been discontinued. Since we didn't like the other models we tested, we recommend that cooks interested in making pizza at home stick to using our favorite baking stone, the Pizzacraft All-Purpose Baking Stone. We also highly recommend the Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo. At nearly $1,000, this high-end indoor pizza oven is a lot more expensive than a baking stone, but it makes restaurant-quality pizza in record time.
We love making pizza, but it can be challenging to get good results at home. Restaurants often have special ovens that reach upwards of 800 degrees, cooking the dough and toppings quickly and producing pizzas with crisp, golden-brown crusts and chewy interiors. To approximate that high heat at home, we crank the oven to 500 degrees and preheat a baking stone for a full hour so it becomes saturated with heat that it will transfer to the dough. Meanwhile, heat reflects off the top of the oven and cooks the toppings. It works beautifully, but we're always on the lookout for quicker, easier methods. We were intrigued by indoor pizza ovens, midsize countertop appliances that minimize the preheating time and can reach higher temperatures than conventional home ovens.
We purchased five models, priced from about $35.00 to just under $170.00, including four electric ovens and one that works on a gas stovetop. We churned out dozens of pizzas, including a variety of homemade doughs and store-bought frozen pizzas, and evaluated the quality of the finished pies. For comparison, we held blind tastings of pizzas baked in the indoor pizza ovens, comparing them with each other and with identical pizzas prepared in a conventional oven according to recipe or package instructions. Throughout, we timed how long the pizza ovens took to preheat and cook, rated how easy it was to unload and remove pizzas, and assessed each product's overall design.
Three of the electric models resembled waffle irons, with hinged lids and lightly textured nonstick plates or flat ceramic baking surfaces. One was relatively compact, like a fat frisbee; two were closer in size to a basketball. The fourth machine was a clear outlier. It didn't have a lid or even any walls. Instead, it had an exposed nonstick plate that rotated on a spindle between two wedge-shaped heating elements.
The stovetop model consisted of a metal frame that held two ceramic baking stones about an inch apart, creating an insulating layer of air. According to the manufacturer, this helps the top stone, which holds the pizza, heat more evenly.
All the machines' cooking surfaces were roughly 12 inches in diameter, so we stretched our homemade doughs—even the ones we cooked in the oven—to 12 inches rather than the 13 we call for in our recipes. (It didn't make a noticeable difference in the thickness.) We used the manufacturers' instructions for guidelines on baking time and temperature, but we used our own judgment, too. If a pizza looked too soft or pale, we let it cook a little longer.
Most models produced acceptable frozen pizzas, but more delicate homemade p...
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Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.