Pizza Ovens

Some could logically argue that pizza is one of the greatest foods in the world. A bold statement, we know, but it’d make for a great debate. Regardless of whether you agree, it is hard to deny that pizza has been one of the most popular foods for quite some time. It is equally hard to offer a blanket statement like “all pizza is delicious” when in fact there are countless styles and techniques to preparing the “perfect pizza.” It might be a matter or preference, but in reality, not all pizzas are created equal.

The same could be said for commercial pizza ovens. Deciding which one is right for you has just about everything to do with what type of pizza, and how much of it you’re looking to produce. Here, we offer an overview of common types of pizza ovens, pizza styles, whether you should opt for gas or electric, and popular accessories that go hand in hand in creating your perfect pizza.


Some of our popular pizza oven vendors include:

Middleby Marshall

Lincoln

Garland

Baker's Pride

Star Manufacturing

Marsal & Sons


 

Types of Pizza Ovens

Conveyor Pizza Ovens

Conveyor pizza ovens, as the name suggests, operate with the use of a conveyor belt, making the baking process quick and easy. With a commercial conveyor pizza oven, the pizza is prepped beforehand, then placed on the conveyor belt and moves through the oven to cook. When it moves on through to the other side, it is placed to rest on the outside of the oven, ready to be served or boxed for delivery.

Due to the convenience of this oven, little supervision is required on the operator’s part, freeing them up to work on other tasks. This makes it the best option when there’s a limited staff and a lot to do. The little attention and adjustments conveyor ovens necessitate also make them a viable solution for inexperienced cooks as they ensure a consistent product every time. You can also pop in pizza after pizza, one right after the other, allowing you to prepare multiple products quickly and efficiently. The quick, hassle-free cooking speed of commercial conveyor pizza ovens make them ideal for large scale operations with high volume, like pizza chains.

On the other hand, operators sacrifice a certain amount of control over the cooking process as compared to deck ovens (see below). This limits you to cooking only one style of pizza in the oven at a time. Conveyor ovens are not ideal for experienced chefs who need the ability to make adjustments on the fly. Therefore, an experienced cook will only be able to produce the same quality of product as an inexperienced one.

There are more moving parts with conveyor ovens, meaning they may take longer to clean and cause maintenance issues. They are bulky machines taking up more work space than other oven types, often producing more noise and viewed as less attractive. Due to the size and nature of conveyor ovens, it’s important to have an open space with plenty of clearance on both ends for access.

Some additional considerations when selecting the right pizza conveyor oven include: 

  • Conveyor length and width. Longer conveyors are useful for staging products to be cooked. A greater volume of product can be cooking without additional labor, and wider conveyors can accommodate larger products.
  • Temperature range. A greater range allows for more flexibility. Lower temperatures are often used for melting or finishing a product for a nicer presentation whereas higher temperatures are ideal for cooking raw proteins.
  • Control styles. Manual controls are typically less expensive and simple to operate. Digital controls, however, enable more consistency in bake time and temperature.

 

Deck Ovens

Deck pizza ovens are the better option if you’re looking to serve more gourmet style pizzas, ideal for traditional, sit-down pizza spots. There is a deck inside these ovens constructed usually of either metal, brick or stone, or ceramic tile. The deck serves to transfer heat to the pizza, evenly heating the crust and toppings.

Deck ovens are more versatile, enabling users to not only prepare decadent pizzas, but also breads, sandwiches, or steaks, thus ideal for establishments with a larger menu looking to serve plenty of food options. They are also more adjustable than conveyor ovens, allowing for greater control over temperatures and air flow, and a grants operators decision power of when to remove foods.

This greater degree of control and versatility translates to more variety, making it possible to prepare and offer different styles of pizza. They are easier to clean than conveyor ovens, less expensive to repair, and take up less space because there’s no need to factor in the additional clearance space. There’s even the option to add wood or stone paneling for a visually attractive appearance.

However, whereas the benefits of deck ovens offer solutions to compensate for the conveyor oven’s shortcomings, the same is true for the disadvantages. Deck ovens can’t produce as much in as short a time span as conveyor operated units. Therefore, they aren’t as adept at keeping up with the demands of high-volume rushes. Production is a bit slower too as they require more recovery time, and they are not as simple to operate, meaning there’s need for an experienced cook, increased labor and attention, making multi-tasking all the more difficult.

Common questions to ask prior to purchasing a commercial deck pizza oven include: 

  • How many pizzas are you looking to produce an hour? The overall size and number of decks determine how much product can be produced. Sizes range from 19”x19” for individual pizzas, to 84”x51” for higher volume and larger sizes.
  • Will the oven be used to prepare other items other than pizza? If yes, then the deck height needs to be considered. For example, a whole chicken will need a taller space than flattened dough. Be mindful, however, because the taller the deck height, the less heat retention.
  • What type of dough will be used? Countertop deck ovens of 3200 watts or more are great for fresh dough, whereas all other units are ideal for partially baked or frozen dough.
  • What type of deck service should you go with? This ultimately depends on the style of pizza you’re looking to serve. Ceramic hearth bricks promote even bottom heat distribution and a crispy, old-world style finish with quick recovery. A brick lined decks offers faster bake times and a quicker recovery, better for high volume.
  • Does your kitchen have the correct utility hook-ups? Check the oven’s BTU output and verify you have the proper electrical configurations to support its voltage and phase.
  • Does your kitchen have the correct ventilation? Free standing deck ovens must be under a standard or direct hood.
  • Will you need an insulated deck oven? Some deck ovens come with added insulation that provides better heat retention while keeping the surface of the oven cooler.

 

Brick Ovens

Brick pizza ovens are the real deal, great for preparing craft or artisan style pizzas. This style of oven can often be seen in authentic or trendy pizzerias who seek to take the pizza-making enterprise back to its roots, branding themselves as “a taste of Italy!”

Often referred to has wood-fired brick ovens, this type of pizza oven enables users to concoct wood-fired creations. These ovens are said to be as common in Italy as the barbecue grill is in America. These ovens work to endow a smokier flavor, crunchier toppings, and a crisp yet fluffy crust.

They function by lighting a fire, either via wood or gas insert, in the oven and then placing the prepared pizza through the opening and onto the deck to let the fire finish the job. Some primary benefits include:

  • Higher cooking temperatures. The heat from the fire radiates out from the source and quickly heats the dome chamber, warming everything inside. Since heat rises, the top of the dome captures the most intense of the heat while the oven floor remains cooler. The longer the fire burns, the hotter the inside. Some brick ovens can get up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit!
  • Fast cooking times and more pizzas. These ovens are designed to cook pizzas quickly, due to the high heat stored inside. Depending on the size of the oven, you can fit in several pizzas at a time, all baking relatively quickly. Even if you can only fit in one at a time, the cooking rate is quick enough to accommodate fast change outs.
  • Better crust and a more individualistic flavor, thus setting your pizza apart from big chains and other competition. Due to the heat intensity, the radiant heat from the fire and the heat retracted from the walls quickly crisps the outside of the pizza, sealing in the moisture in the dough and preventing it from becoming soggy. The result is a crust that’s crispy on the first bite, yet delightfully chewy. If users opt for wood-burning over gas, there’s an added smoky quality imparted to the product that can’t be replicated in normal kitchens.
  • Crispier toppings. Due to high heats and constant air flow, brick ovens seal and cook toppings quickly and evenly. Vegetable toppings tend be crispier than those baked in standard ovens, and the cheese yields to an appealing, golden color.
  • Ultimate control over production. In stark contrast to the aforementioned ovens, commercial brick ovens grant the user control from start to finish.

There are, however, certain drawbacks to note prior to considering installing a brick oven. Brick ovens generally take the longest to preheat and they necessitate the highest level of attention. They should only be used by experienced culinary professionals. They don’t lend their way to multi-tasking like conveyor ovens do. It’s much easier to burn the product or fail to cook consistently, and adjustments must be manually adhered to. For example, if one side is placed too close to the fire and not rotated in a timely manner, then that side is at risk of burning while the other side is at risk of being undercooked. Many brick ovens are also installed into the kitchen layout as opposed to other equipment that just plug into the wall. These ovens take up much more space than commercial deck ovens and it’s imperative that you research electrical, gas, and ventilation options, as well as local fire codes, prior to installation.


 

Countertop Ovens

Countertop pizza ovens offer a viable solution if space is an issue, and are traditionally the most affordable of the mentioned pizza oven types. Many models are available in conveyor or deck type, and can also be stacked, allowing you to prepare different types of product with varying configurations depending on how much you’re looking to produce. However, they don’t have the same high production capacity as their standard counterparts and yield less room to adjustability. Therefore, commercial countertop pizza ovens are best for establishments that wish to offer pizza as a quick and easy option, but not the primary focal point.

Convection Ovens

Convection Ovens

Pizza convection ovens are another common type of pizza ovens. Commercial convection ovens circulate hot air with the use of a fan throughout to cook all sides at the same time. A big distinction between convection ovens and deck ovens is in the way heat is transferred to the product. With a convection oven, the heat comes from the air which is forcefully moved about, which means the cheese is often melted before the dough has sufficient time to bake. With deck ovens, the heat is transferred from the deck, meaning the dough, which takes longer than the cheese to properly prepare, gets most of the attention.


 

Gas vs. Electric: 

After you decide on the type of oven right for your needs, the next consideration comes down to whether you want gas or electric unit. Both have their pros and cons.

Gas pizza ovens are often more affordable and cost less to maintain then their electric counterparts. They are generally not as large as electric ovens, which means they may be easier to fit in where kitchen space is tighter; however, they may also struggle to fit oversized pans or screens. Gas ovens are great for making smaller portioned customized pizzas rather than large pizzas.

Gas ovens may require more labor and time as they’re harder to operate; however, it’s been said that gas ovens often taste more authentic and not as “mass produced” as the products prepared in electric ovens.

Commercial electric pizza ovens are easier to use and more modern than gas ovens. They give products a uniform and similar taste, which is perfect for busier restaurants but not preferable if you’re looking to craft specialized crusts, styles and flavors. They cost a bit more upfront but mandate less time and labor to operate. They tend to be larger and can more readily accommodate different types and sizes of pans.


Pizza Sizes and Production

Common considerations when determining the type of pizza oven to choose often include the intended use, the style of pizza you wish to produce, the production capacity, and the cooking time. This table provides some approximations, but it should be noted that ovens are available in various sizes and cooking power, which create varying results.

General statistics are:

Oven Type Pizzas Produced/Hour Cooking Time
Countertop 25 Varies depending on oven
Conveyor 80 4-5 minutes
Deck 50 6-8 minutes
Brick 80 2-5 minutes
Convection 40 5-6 minutes

Pizza convection and countertop ovens generally have a much lower product output than the others. Convection ovens allow for approximately 2-5 racks per chamber, fitting roughly one or two 16” pizzas per rack. Deck ovens have more of a medium range of output, producing less than a conveyor oven, but are generally considered to have a higher degree of quality. Brick ovens can vary depending on how large you opt to install. A large brick oven can fit up to 10-12 pizzas at a time and, if the fire is maintained, have less heat recovery time.

A lot of ovens can be stacked 2 or 3 high for increased production.


Pizza Styles

How much you’re looking to serve and what style should ultimately have the final say in which type of oven you choose. These days, there are countless styles of pizza and restaurants continue to add their own flare. That’s the beautiful thing about pizza. Having for generations staked its claim as a trademark of traditional cuisine, it continues to evolve.

Some popular styles include:

  • The original pizza that migrated from Italy. It has thin, charred and crunchy crust usually prepared in wood-fired oven, characterized by minimal toppings because too much will weigh down the crust, making it soggy.
  • Similar to a Neapolitan but usually baked in a rectangular pan and cut into squares.
  • New York thin crust. An evolution of the Neapolitan, featuring a thin and crunchy crust with a robust balance of tomato sauce and mozzarella. It’s usually eaten folded over.
  • Chicago Style. In stark contract to the New York style, Chicago style is usually synonymous with deep dish, featuring a deep layer of dough that forms a bowl where layers of cheese and toppings are added. It’s much denser than other styles. Chicago style is also similar to pan pizzas.

Hand Tossed. Perhaps the American standard, the dough is prepared by being hand tossed into the air after kneading. It’s a happy medium between New York and Chicago styles.


 

Accessories

In addition to commercial pizza ovens, there are also a variety of accessories that enable users to make more efficient use of their time and appliances.

Dough Accessories

It all starts with the dough

It all starts with the dough. While prepping your pizza prior to baking, you may consider certain dough utensils like dockers, a small, spiky utensil used to roll dough, creating small vents to prevent it from blistering while baking. For high production, consider electric rollers, sheeters or dividers that save valuable time.

Where to put the dough?

Pizza pans, screens and stones are all designed with different functionalities and come in a variety of styles and sizes to help prepare the right style of pizza you’re after. Deep dish pans, for example, are ideal for Chicago style pizza, whereas screens, which are flat metal disks, function to produce more airflow and therefore a crisper, evenly baked crust. Pizza stones are used for more authentic, pizzeria styled pizza that can simulate the same style of crust often crafted from a wood-fired oven.

You’ll often see different variations of pans and screens, from solid, to perforated and super-perforated, to nibbed. Solid pans generally produce a softer and chewier crust. Perforated and super-perforated pans allow more air to hit the product, often resulting in faster bake times and a crispier crust. Nibbed pans are characterized by raised bumps on the bottom that enable air circulation while freeing the dough from any excess grease or moisture that may accumulate at the bottom. For more on the different styles of pizza pans, check out this blog.

Serve it up hot!

There are also accessories great for holding or serving your prepared pizzas, from pizza holding cabinets, proper pizza cutlery and serving trays for an authentic serving experience, as well as insulated carrying bags to keep your product warm while on the go.


If you found this buying guide helpful, you might also enjoy our blog A Brief, Delicious History of Pizza.