By Michael Hiller
You can order pizzas to your front door using a phone app, but the people you love will love you more if you make them yourself.
We’re smitten with two portable outdoor pizza ovens that make preparation easy, fun and nearly foolproof. Each comes with simple recipes that require little more than mixing a few ingredients and then letting the dough rise overnight.
Our hands-down favorite pizza oven is the Carbon, designed and manufactured by a Southern California company that specializes in high-end stone hearth restaurant ovens. The Carbon packs commercial quality into a sturdy, compact oven that’s ideal for the home cook.
The designers focus on details: riveted steel, foldable legs, substantial insulation and a hefty stone cooking deck that holds steady heat no matter what we put on it.
Other portable pizza ovens shoot a single propane-fueled jet of flame across the ceiling of the cooking chamber as the heat source. That works fine if you’re only cooking one or two pizzas, but each pie pulls heat from the stone floor as it cooks, which can lead to undercooked dough if you’re baking more than two, one after another. Carbon solves that problem by incorporating a second, independently adjustable propane burner below the stone floor. That extra heat allowed us to make subsequent pizzas without waiting for the stone to reheat.
Two burners offered another advantage; they can blast the oven’s internal temperature to more than 900 degrees. This means making deeply charred, restaurant-quality steaks and vegetables in the oven, where we cooked them in a cast-iron skillet.
We only have one quibble with the Carbon: Its 60-pound hulk means it’s portable, but only in a pinch.
For ease of transport, we recommend our second favorite portable pizza oven, the Roccbox. This silicone-jacketed looker weighs only 44 pounds, yet it’s nearly as capable as its heavyweight competition. The single rolling flame recharged the stone floor with heat in only a few minutes. We couldn’t get the Roccbox as hot as the Carbon, but the difference didn’t hinder our ability to turn out blistered-crust beauties.
We love that the Roccbox baking stone is secured to the bottom of the oven so it won’t fall out and break, and that it ships with a wide Velcro carrying strap for portability. Unlike the Carbon, the Roccbox can be fueled with wood or propane gas. We’d opt for the less expensive, gas-only version; getting our Roccbox to 700 degrees was easy using the propane burner but difficult with the wood burner.
That’s plenty hot to bake pan pizzas and New York-style pies but not fiery enough for the 900 degrees authentic Napoletana pizzas require. However, if portability is important, we’re OK with the trade-off.
Michael Hiller tests and reviews products for 360 West.