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Roccbox Crowned #1 Best Backyard Oven

For those unaware of the incredible work of Serious Eats, they are a hugely respected authority for all things cooking. Known for their rigorous product reviews, trailblazing cooking techniques and innovations in home cooking through food science from The Food Lab, a wealth of culinary wisdom can be found by checking them out here. In the summer of 2017 J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats’s culinary director, put 10 outdoor ovens to the test. We at Gozney are delighted to have come out on top and been chosen as #1 best backyard oven. The content below was not written or created by Gozney, these are the words of Serious Eats and written by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

Serious eats review

I’ve always contended that pizza is the one food I could never get sick of, and if you’ve been following my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I’ve recently been putting that claim to the test. I’ve had pizza coming out of my ears. There were days when I cooked over two dozen pizzas, and tasted at least a bite of each one. You’d think that being that guy who always has pizza to give away would make you really popular with the neighbors, but I’ve had people turn down free pizza after I’d offered it to them too many times. I never got sick of pizza, though I can’t say the same for my wife, Adri.

All this because, for the last few months, I’ve been testing outdoor pizza ovens. Why outdoor? Well, an indoor oven typically maxes out at around 550°F (290°C). Even with the help of a Baking Steel, that’s still not hot enough to get true Neapolitan-style pizza. Only with temperatures arcing up to and over the 900°F (480°C) mark can you get that incredible contrast between crisp, leopard-spotted exterior and poofy, moist, and stretchy interior that is the hallmark of a really great pizza crust.

The Testing

I tested nearly a dozen different stand-alone and grill-top pizza ovens over a three-month period. To narrow down the very wide field, I tested only ovens designed to be ready to use in your backyard. If you had to install it on a permanent or semipermanent stand or base, I did not include it. All of the ovens I tested are either tabletop units, freestanding units with wheels, or units designed to work in conjunction with your existing gas grill. I also set a price cap of $1,000—so, for instance, the $7,000 Kalamazoo pizza oven I tested last summer did not qualify.*

For the testing, I cooked dozens of Neapolitan, New York, and other styles of pizza, using both homemade and store-bought dough. I cooked pizzas with toppings and without. I cooked pizza stretched by hand, and rolled out with a rolling pin.

I also invited two world-class Bay Area pizzaioli to come over and try the ovens out for a day: Keith Freilich of Emilia’s Pizzeria in Berkeley, and Jeff Krupman of PizzaHacker in Bernal Heights. You can catch a Facebook Live video of part of the action, if you’re interested in seeing two dudes who know pizza make pizza. We made over a dozen pizzas that day, using Jeff’s sourdough pizza dough.

While testing, I paid attention to a number of factors:

  • The temperature of the base and of the air in the dome above is generally a good indicator of how rapidly a pizza can cook, though it’s not a perfect measure and should be taken with a grain of salt. The relative conductivity and heat capacity of different materials can mean that two different surfaces at the exact same temperature can produce wildly different results in the base of a pizza, while different air currents and the relative emissivity of the top of a pizza oven can produce different results in the top of a pizza, even with the same temperature as measured on a thermometer. (This effect is similar to the way direct sunlight or wind speed can change how hot or cold it feels outside, even given the same air temperature.)
  • Timing was important, and I measured it in three ways: the time it takes to properly preheat a given oven before you can cook your first pizza, the time it takes to actually cook a single pizza, and the time it takes before the oven is ready to cook a subsequent pizza. Obviously, faster preheat and recovery times are better. Faster cook times are better if you’re after that true crisp-tender texture of a Neapolitan crust, though less important if you prefer a drier, extra-crispy crust.
  • Ease of use. Using some of these ovens is literally as simple as turning them on. Others require a little more finagling and monitoring to ensure that they’re operating at optimal efficiency and heating properly.
  • Robustness and looks. Is the oven sturdy and reliable? Does it have many moving parts that are likely to fail at some point? And, while I’m generally in the performance-over-looks camp, given that most of these ovens require investments of at least several hundred dollars, I want them to look good in my backyard as well.
  • Cooking other foods. In addition to cooking pizzas, I tested a number of other foods in these ovens: roasted vegetables, broiled fish, seared steaks, and more.

The Sleek and Reliable Workhorse

The Roccbox:

  • Fuel type: Gas, hardwood kindling, or charcoal briquettes
  • Max floor temp: Over 900°F (480°C)
  • Max air temp: Over 900°F (480°C)
  • Fastest cook time: 75 seconds
  • Preheat time: 30 minutes
  • Recovery time between pizzas: 5 minutes
  • Largest pizza: 11 inches
  • Good for other foods? Yes
  • Portable? Yes, though heavy
  • Fuel consumption: A standard 15-pound propane tank will last about 20 hours at full blast.
  • Cost at time of writing: $599, plus $49 shipping to the United States
  • Where to buy: Order directly from Roccbox

The Bottom Line:

This is an incredible little oven with simple, reliable operation, whether you’re using gas, wood, or charcoal to fire it. It consistently hits wood-fired-oven temperatures and maintains them for as long as you are cooking, with no fussing or babysitting, which means you can spend more time enjoying pizza with your friends and family and less time coddling a temperamental flame. It’s attractive, solidly built, weatherproof, and portable.

How It Works:

The Roccbox is a heavily insulated, stainless-steel-and-stone box with a rubberized exterior. You can place it on any surface, including wood or plastic, and it stands up on three heavy-duty folding legs. There are two burner attachments, depending on the fuel source you want to use. The burner box is a rocket stove–style combustion chamber that allows you to feed the flame with hardwood kindling or charcoal briquettes, while the gas burner allows you to heat the Roccbox with a standard propane tank.

Once it’s fired up, the flame rises up the back of the chamber and gets directed across the top of the oven. The stone floor heats indirectly via hot air and radiation from above. After a half hour or so, both the dome and the floor of the oven can hit temperatures above 900°F, allowing you to cook pizzas in under 90 seconds.

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