Since I live in the New York metropolitan area, I’m blessed with an abundance of excellent pizzerias to satisfy my craving for that perfect combination of bread, sauce, and cheese.
But as much as I like eating pizza, I also like the challenge of making it, too. I have several cookbooks just for pizza dough recipes, each with their own take on hydration levels, flour brands, and more. Over the years, I’ve made all types of pizza, too — New York style, Sicilian, focaccia — even so-called Chicago-style deep dish.
But the one limiting factor to my pizza-making prowess has been my oven. That’s because most home ovens can only get as hot as about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about half as hot as you want for the original and arguably the best kind of pizza: Neapolitan.
That light, bubbly crust and crisp, leopard-spotted underside can only be achieved with an oven that you can crank up to 900-plus degrees.
My one real Christmas request was for an Ooni Fyra pizza oven, so I could make pizzas that were just as good as what I could find at some of the best restaurants. And this has proven to be one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. (Thanks Beth!)
Portable pizza ovens were a big pandemic purchase for many, one of the reasons why my oven — which was ordered in late November — didn’t arrive until late February. (As of this writing, there’s a 7-9 week delay between the time you order it and the time it’ll arrive. Order it from Ooni.com, where it’s listed for $299). The model I got — the Ooni Frya 12 — uses wood pellets as a heat source, and can reach those blazing temperatures I need. (You can buy wood pellets at just about any Lowe’s or Home Depot for about $15 a bag).
If you want something you can use indoors, check out my Breville Pizzaiolo review; it's four times as expensive, but runs on electricity.
The pellets are gravity-fed into a chamber at the back of the oven, and the heat and flames are drawn forward up through a flue at the front of the oven. The entire contraption weighs just 22 pounds, and its legs can be folded and chimney removed, making it incredibly easy to store when you’re not making pizzas.
Ooni claims that the Fyra will reach temperatures of 950 degrees in about 15 minutes. Wanting to see that for myself, I bought a $25 laser thermometer to see just how hot things got.
Not only did the Fyra hit the advertised temperature, but it blew past it. I measured temperatures as hot as 1,010 degrees, which seems incredible for something this small.
So what does that mean when it comes to cooking? It means that I was churning out fully baked pizzas in about a minute. It took just 60 seconds to go from raw dough and fresh mozzarella to crispy, bubbly deliciousness.
I’ve made about 20 pizzas so far — the size of the Fyra limits you to 12-inch pies — and I’m still perfecting my technique. For one, you have to rotate the pizza about halfway through (I’m using this 9-inch pizza turning peel, though a smaller diameter might work better), and it requires constant attention so that you don’t turn your pizza into a charred ember.
I’m also trying new toppings and combinations — Marc Vetri’s pizza carbonara is still elusive — but even the mistakes are enjoyable. While the Ooni Fyra was a present for me, it’s one my whole family has enjoyed.