Traditional pizzerias, large chains or small kitchens will each need a different type of commercial pizza oven to meet the demands of their concept and their clientele. Each type of oven demands different sources of power and have various cooking times and methods to create distinctly different types of pizza.
Brick Pizza Ovens
Brick pizza ovens have a hearth and dome that are made from refractory bricks (high heat bricks). The design is a direct replica of ancient bakery ovens. Traditional brick pizza ovens are fueled by wood, but gas and coal can also be used. Pizza purists believe that a wood-fired brick oven is the only way to make a pizza.
- Best for: Brick pizza ovens are ideal for any pizzeria that wants to create authentic pizzas using traditional baking methods.
- Heating method. Brick pizza ovens use three heating methods, convection, reflective and conductive. The dome interior creates a natural airflow for convection heat. Heat is also reflected off of the dome back to the pizza, and the stone hearth conducts heat to the crust.
- Cooking temperature. On the stone hearth, where the pizzas will be placed, proper temperatures will be between 700 and 1,000 °F.
- Power type. Brick pizza ovens can use wood, coal or gas to heat up the interior. Some wood-fired units are available with a gas backup.
- Preheat time. The preheat time can range up to 45 minutes to an hour for brick pizza ovens. A visual cue to look for would be the bricks in the dome turning white or clear. Most commercial models will come with temperature readout, but you can also use a pocket infrared thermometer to check the deck temperature.
- Cooking time. When the temperature is in the correct range, it can take between 90 seconds and 5 minutes to cook a pizza, depending on the pizza’s thickness and how many are being cooked at once.
- Heat recovery. Each pizza will absorb some of the heat from the stone hearth, but as long as the fire is well maintained, it should only take a few minutes, at most, for the oven to recover any lost heat.
Pizza deck ovens feature stone shelves, or decks on which the pizzas are directly placed to bake. They are the next best thing to a wood-fired oven.
- Best for: Pizza deck ovens are ideal for pizzerias that want to create a more authentic-tasting pizza without having to invest the time or money in purchasing and maintaining a brick oven.
- Heating method. The individual pizza stones are heated by burner, so the hot stone is what cooks the pizza. The chamber will heat up as well, so the toppings and cheese are cooked with radiant heat.
- Cooking temperature. The stone decks should be between 400 and 700 ºF to properly cook the pizzas.
- Power type. This type of commercial pizza oven can use either gas or electricity to heat the stones.
- Preheat time. Starting with a cold deck, a deck-style pizza oven will take about an hour to reach the proper cooking temperature.
- Cooking time. At 500 ºF, a single pizza will cook in six to eight minutes, depending on the crust thickness and toppings.
- Heat recovery. Each pizza that is cooked in this type of pizza oven will remove some of the heat from the stone deck, so some recovery time is necessary. During a rush, it can take several minutes for the deck to return to the proper temperature. One way to avoid this downtime is to make sure the pizza deck oven you select is large enough to meet demands.
Pizza Convection Ovens
With rising utility costs, all restaurants are looking for ways to save money. A pizza convection oven decreases both cooking time and energy use while producing pizzas that are comparable to traditional methods.
- Best for: Pizza convection ovens are ideal for establishments with limited space and who want to reduce energy costs while still producing high-quality pizza.
- Heating method. As the name suggests, these pizza ovens have a fan in the back that circulates hot air for convection heating.
- Cooking temperature. These pizza ovens cook at 460 °F, which is a lower temperature than other pizza oven types. The convection heat means a lower temperature is needed and helps save on energy costs.
- Power type. Both gas and electric models are available.
- Preheat time. The unit will heat up to the necessary cooking temperature in 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cooking time. At 460 ºF, pizza convection ovens can cook a single pizza or its full capacity of pizzas in five or six minutes.
- Heat recovery. These units have perforated metal shelves that help increase cooking efficiency and reduce heat recovery time to pretty much nil.
Conveyor ovens are one of the slower methods for making a pizza. The pizza is pulled through the cooking chamber on a chain conveyor belt. Though this cooking method is slower, you can also cook more than pizza in a conveyor oven.
- Best for: Conveyor ovens are ideal small-scale pizzerias that do not experience a lot of demand. You can also use a conveyor oven to toast sandwiches, seer fish or bake pretty much anything that will fit under the opening.
- Heating method. Countertop models will use radiant heat, whereas full-size units employ forced air (impingement) for even heating.
- Cooking temperature. The ideal cooking temperature for a pizza in a conveyor oven is between 400 and 600 °F.
- Power type. These commercial pizza ovens function off of gas or electricity. On gas models you will still need a power outlet to operate the conveyor and controls.
- Preheat time. Since there are no stone decks to heat up, this commercial pizza oven type has virtually no preheat time.
- Cooking time. A conveyor oven set between 500 and 520 ºF will cook a pizza in four to five minutes.
- Heat recovery. Since the pizzas are passing under the forced air or radiant heating elements, little or no heat is actually lost, so there is no heat recovery time for these ovens. You can have a constant stream of pizzas (or anything else) going through the oven.