Outdoor pizza ovens have surged in popularity since the pandemic. It seems most households now have one — after all, the backyard became everyone’s go-to for over a year, so we had to make the most of it. While pizza ovens have been around a long time, they’ve been reintroduced as a new and glamorous cooking appliance, some with the bonus of portable designs. It seems most of us love the idea of making our own pizzas too, so we’re happy to make the space for one.
Pizza ovens can be fun to use and are a quick and delicious method of cooking for yourself or guests. However, with the rise in popularity comes the rise in fire risks, especially for those who are new to pizza ovens. Here’s a guide to make sure you’re using your pizza oven safely and correctly.
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How can a pizza oven cause a fire?
- Hot exterior — Even though they're insulated, most pizza ovens have a metal exterior, which means it will get very hot on the outside, especially when you consider that the oven needs to reach an internal temperature of at least 450°F for cooking pizzas — and many are designed to get as hot as 900 to 1,000º. This can easily become a fire hazard for any nearby branches or flammable material which happens to catch it or be blown into it.
- Windy conditions — Some pizza ovens are not designed to be used in windy conditions, so it’s always worth checking the manual for this before you start using it. The wind can stoke the fire in some models, raising the internal temperature. The wind could also blow a pizza oven over if it wasn't stable.
- Poor placement — Above all, the pizza oven needs to be stable and secure, away from your property's walls or flammable materials. If it falls over during use, it can be a serious fire and safety hazard. It needs to be placed outside, not in the garage or basement. Aside from being a fire hazard, the exhaust gases need to be ventilated properly. Some pizza ovens can be used indoors, but if yours isn’t designed for it, don’t do it.
- Poor assembly — Most pizza ovens come fully assembled, however some will need to be put together on arrival. Make sure you follow the instructions accurately and cure the pizza oven if necessary before first use. If a pizza oven is not assembled correctly, it won't be structurally sound and may falter down the line, causing a fire. If you’re thinking about buying a pizza oven, be sure to check the product description to make sure it’s pre-assembled.
- Poor attention — Never leave your pizza oven unattended once in use. You should also keep an eye on any small children and pets.
Pizza oven safety tips
Whether you already own a pizza oven, or you’re looking to buy one for the first time, there are certain measurements you can take to make it safer:
- Consider buying one with a heat-resistant body — This will help control the exterior temperature and reduce burns. Some even come with silicone casing which dramatically reduces the casing temperature, such as the Gozney Roccbox ($499 from Amazon).
- Read the manual, especially the safety section at the start — It might be in the fine print and tricky to read, but this section is essential.
- Place and install it correctly — It should be at least 10 feet away from your property and shouldn’t be near anything flammable, such as washing lines or fences. There also shouldn’t be anything directly above it, including gazebos, electric power lines or overhanging branches.
- Make sure it’s stable and secure, with room for ventilation — If you intend to move it, you should only do so once it has completely cooled. You may need to shield it from the wind if necessary too.
- Keep on top of its maintenance — Clean it between uses, including removing the ashes if you’re using a wood-fired pizza oven. Wait until the ashes have completely cooled before doing this.
- Use insulated gloves — do this whenever handling your pizza oven, even when you think it’s cooled. This will protect you from unexpected burns.
- Switch off the gas — Finally, if you’re using a gas pizza oven, make sure you switch the gas off and correctly store it when not in use. You should also always inspect the hoses between uses to make sure there’s no wear or damage. If you notice any, you shouldn’t use the hose and should replace it immediately.
Are pizza ovens safe?
Yes! As long as you follow the safety instructions, cooking in pizza ovens can be safe as well as fun, and offer delicious results. Pizzas cooked in a pizza oven will also have a more traditional look and taste much better than a range-cooked pizza. It will have a smoked flavor which only a pizza oven will produce.
Do I need a permit for my pizza oven?
Laws vary depending on the state and county, however you should check your local government rules as you may well need a permit for your pizza oven. Even if your municipality allows it, you should also check with your Homeowner’s Association as these too can require a licence.
If you're interested in buying a pizza oven, watch this space — we're testing them as we speak!