Question: I’d like to start serving pizza at my restaurant. It’s not a fancy place, but we do have a reputation for good, simple food. Should I get a wood-burning or gas-fired pizza oven?

Answer: Good question. There are pluses and minuses with both systems—so it depends on what you’re looking for.

Wood-fired pizza ovens are said to impart the best flavour, and certainly have a more authentic feel than a gas oven. They tend to be less expensive up-front, and can be a focal design point of an open kitchen.

And if you’re really serious about pizza, and looking to get certified by Verace Pizza Napoletana—the Italian organization dedicated to promoting authentic Neopolitan pizza—then you’ll need a wood-burning oven for sure.

That being said, if you’ve ever owned a house with a wood-burning fireplace, you know that there’s a trade-off for the charm of a wood fire. Wood-burning pizza ovens require a fair amount of monitoring to maintain a steady temperature, as well as consistent quality. You’ll have to source, purchase and store firewood—and figure out some way to dispose of ashes. And, most importantly, some zoning bylaws prohibit wood-burning ovens outright.

Gas-fired pizza ovens don’t quite have the charm of a crackling wood fire—but they’re more efficient, fuel-wise, and ensure more consistent quality. They’re ideal for quick-service restaurants for whom atmosphere is less a concern than speed and consistency.

If you’re looking for a commercial pizza oven, there are a few different types to choose from:

  • Brick ovens. These are dome-shaped, traditional pizza ovens, based on ancient oven designs. Brick ovens can be heated by wood or gas, or by a combination of the two. A brick oven will take between 45 minutes and an hour to heat up, but once they’re up to temperature (between 700 and 1,000 degrees), pizzas can be cooked in as little as 90 seconds.
  • Pizza deck ovens. These gas- or electricity-powered ovens feature stone baking shelves, and are the next best thing to a traditional brick oven. They’re ideal if you don’t have the time and money to invest in a traditional model.
  • Convection ovens. While these gas or electric ovens might sacrifice authenticity, convection pizza ovens use less energy and require less cooking time than other types of oven. They’re particularly suited to establishments with limited space and, with little recovery time necessary, might be a good option for busy establishments.
  • Conveyor ovens. This is a slow way to cook a pizza (four to five minutes), but if you already have a conveyor oven for other uses, it will allow you to start serving pizza without investing in  extra appliances. Conveyor ovens take little or no time to preheat, and there’s no recovery time to get back up to temperature—a definite plus during busy times.

Do you serve pizza in your restaurant? What kind of oven do you use?

Image credit: karsten.planz