For any pizzeria, whether it's a chain or an independent, it's simply a no-brainer that the pizza oven is your most important piece of equipment. It's the life blood of your business, the keystone that holds it together, the cornerstone on which you build the foundation, the…OK, you get it. It's important. But knowing it's important and being able to choose the right commercial pizza oven for your business don't necessarily go hand in hand. There are a few important factors that need to be considered before making this decision.
Types of Commercial Pizza Ovens
The four main types of ovens used to cook pizzas are brick ovens, pizza deck ovens, conveyor pizza ovens, and pizza convection ovens. The general consensus in the pizza world is that brick ovens offer the best quality pizza, deck ovens provide the next best, and finally conveyor and convection ovens bring up the rear. However, as stated above, the problem of finding the right oven for your business isn't solved as simply as that—you also need to consider how much pizza you want to produce, how much space you have available, what kind of pizza you want to make, and how much money you are willing to spend. Let's take a look at how each type of oven fits into these considerations.
Gas vs. Electric Pizza Ovens
Conveyor, deck, and convection pizza ovens are all available with either gas or electric hookups. However there are some slight differences between gas pizza ovens and those that run on electric. Working with a gas oven is best for the high-volume, traditional pizza maker. These units will produce a crispier crust and cook the rest of your pizza evenly.
But what it all really boils down to is what utility your establishment has available. If your business doesn’t have a hookup to natural gas or liquid propane, then the electric models will better suit your needs. An electric pizza oven is also a better option for businesses that depend on mobility, like food trucks and concession carts, that most likely won’t have access to gas.
How much pizza do you need to produce?
- Commercial convection ovens have a relatively low pizza production output compared with the other oven types. They generally have 2-5 racks per chamber and can fit one or two 16" pizzas on each rack. It usually takes a convection oven 5-6 minutes to fully cook one pizza. This time will vary depending on the temperature and the number of pizzas in the oven at one time. Also, some heat will be lost due to opening the door to remove your pizzas, but most convection ovens are designed to counter this effect and cut down on heat recovery time. Commercial convection ovens are great for restaurants that wouldn't necessarily be considered pizzerias but still want pizza as a menu option.
- Deck ovens generally have a lesser pizza output than conveyor ovens. Each deck can generally hold around 4-6 pizzas at a time. Cook times are normally longer (about 6 to 8 minutes), and the pizzas need to be monitored and moved around, meaning that it is possible to run out of cooking space and to lose time recovering any lost heat. One way in which deck ovens overcome the lack of cooking space is by having multiple decks stacked one on top of the other in a single oven. The number of decks varies from as few as one to as many as five or six.
- Brick ovens are similar to deck ovens in two ways: they have limited cooking space and slower cook times than conveyor ovens. However, unlike the deck ovens, brick ovens usually only feature one cooking platform. This cooking space will probably be larger than the space provided by a deck oven with a single deck, but it may not necessarily match the space provided by one with five or six decks. Generally, a brick oven can hold 10-12 pizzas at a time and with the right temperature for the type, it can fully cook a pizza in less than 5 minutes. Also, if the fire is well maintained very little time will be lost to heat recovery.
- If producing a high volume of pizza is a priority, then you will want to consider a conveyor oven. Conveyor ovens feature a continuous cooking platform that constantly churns out pizzas as fast as you can make them. Once you place them on the conveyor belt, the oven does the rest of the work by pulling the pizza through a set temperature at a set speed. Some models even feature as many as 3 or 4 stacked conveyor ovens, for an even higher level of production. In total cooking time, it can take 4 to 5 minutes to cook a pizza. Also, because the pizzas are passing under or through the constant heating elements, there is no time lost for heat recovery.
How much space do you have available?
- Compared with the other 3 ovens, convection ovens don't take up a whole lot of space. One of these ovens will fill anywhere from 15 to 60 cubic feet. This is perfect for restaurants that are severely limited with space. Some even have a narrow width and an elevated height so that precious floor space is reserved for other pieces of equipment or counters.
- Deck ovens are ideal for the pizzeria that has a little room to spare or the owner who wants to allocate more space to other pieces of equipment. Obviously it depends on the number of decks and their individual measurements, but a 4 deck oven can fill up to 160 cubic feet of space. Though this can take up as much or more cubic feet as a conveyor oven, the stacking design means that the majority of the space being taken up is vertical space rather than horizontal.
- A conveyor oven needs a lot of room to operate. Space is needed for the extended conveyor belts at the entrance and exit of the oven. Also, most conveyor ovens are wide enough to fit 2 large pizzas side by side. This means you need a lot of floor space to conceivably fit a conveyor oven into your restaurant. A single stack conveyor oven can take up as much as 150 cubic feet, while triple stack ovens can be upwards of 330 cubic feet. If your pizzeria has a lot of spare room, a conveyor oven could be worth purchasing.
- Just like the other ovens, brick ovens vary in size. However, unlike the other types, brick ovens are generally built to fit a specific space. For most restaurants, the brick oven is as much about presentation as it is about function. Therefore, it is the centerpiece attraction, built large enough and in a location where customers can watch and appreciate it in action. Brick ovens can reach from floor to ceiling and have a base as large as 30 square feet. Once again, it depends on the space in your restaurant, but brick ovens can be much larger than the other three types.
How much money are you willing to spend?
- For many people, the deciding factor for choosing which oven to buy is the price. Pizza convection ovens have a general price range of $1,000-$10,000 making them widely affordable as far as pizza ovens go. The upkeep and maintenance is fairly simple and inexpensive. By cleaning the inside on a daily basis and the intake fan on a weekly basis, you can cut down on replacement or repair costs. These factors make it a great fit for pizzerias on a smaller budget.
- Portable and countertop pizza ovens also have a lower cost with prices ranging anywhere from $100-$11,000. Since these models have a smaller size than other lower priced ovens, they’re ideal for food trucks, concession stands, and other places that are limited on space. Most countertop pizza ovens can even be stacked on top of each other or placed on other pieces of equipment, so you can save valuable countertop space.
- Conveyor ovens can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on the brand, size, condition, and any special features it may have. However, because there are many moving parts involved in conveyor ovens, there are more opportunities for something to break. Any replacements or fixes may require professional skill in completing. Also, cleaning (which should be done every day) and general maintenance can take longer to perform than for the other ovens.
- Deck ovens are similar in that they have a wide range in price. The main thing that makes these ovens so cost effective is their long life span and low maintenance. Deck ovens are capable of lasting many years, even decades. This means they can hold their resale value, and ultimately can be a major investment. The maintenance required is as easy as scrubbing burn marks on the decks and wiping down the outside. The fact there are no moving parts means that there is much less of a chance of something breaking and needing a professional to fix it.
- Brick ovens are generally the most expensive ovens to have installed. They require a professional to construct it on site, and, depending on the size, could end up using a lot of materials to build. The combination of the skilled labor and expensive materials required to install personalized ovens means that they are usually reserved for high-end or specialized restaurants. To counter the high cost of installation, you could possibly build your own for as little as $1,000; however this should only be done if you have the experience and skill to meet safety and health regulations set by your state.
What styles of pizza do you want to sell?
Depending on the creativity of the chef, there is almost no limit to the types of pizzas that can be made. The combinations of crusts and toppings are nearly endless; however, the four most common styles of pizza are as follows:
- New York style pizza is best known for its thin and crispy crust that can be easily folded in half when eaten by the slice. These pizzas are round and the traditional toppings are mozzarella cheese over a light amount of tomato sauce. Other toppings like mushrooms, pepperoni, and sausage are common as well.
- Chicago style pizza is known for its deep-dish characteristic. The crust is baked in a pan that can be more than an inch deep. Once it has a crispy bottom, it can be loaded with tons of toppings such as cheese, meat, vegetables, and lots of sauce and put back into the oven to finish baking. This style pizza can create quite the mess, so it is customarily eaten with a fork and knife.
- Neapolitan style pizza is very similar to New York style in general appearance. It has a round shape and usually has a thin or medium crust with a thicker outer rim. The most common topping is plain cheese; however toppings can vary and to be considered a true Neapolitan pizza, strict rules on ingredients and preparation need to be followed.
- Sicilian style pizza is generally square or rectangle with a medium to thick crust. Once again the toppings can vary, but the traditional Sicilian pizza has anchovies, pecorino cheese, and garlic.
Best Styles for Each Oven
|Convection||New York and Neapolitan||Light and medium toppings||Thin and medium crusts|
|Conveyor||New York and Neapolitan||Light and medium toppings||Thin and medium crusts|
|Deck||New York, Neapolitan, Chicago, and Sicilian||Light-heavy toppings||Thin-thick crusts|
|Brick||Gourmet New York, Neapolitan, Chicago, and Sicilian||Light-heavy toppings||Thin-thick crusts|
General Pizza Oven Statistics
|Oven Type||Pizzas Produced|
|Size||Cost||Heating Method||Preheat Time||Cooking Time||Operator Skill Level|
|Convection||40 / chamber||15 ft3-60 ft3||$1,000-$10,000||Convection heat||15-20 minutes||5-6 minutes||Low|
|Conveyor||80 / belt||150 ft3-300 ft3||$5,000-$30,000||Convection OR radiant heat||10-15 minutes||4-5 minutes||Low-Medium|
|Deck||50 / deck||100 ft3-180 ft3||$5,000-$30,000||Conduction AND radiant heat||60 minutes||6-8 minutes||Medium-High|
|Brick||80 / deck||150 ft3-400 ft3 or more||Largely varies by contractor, size, materials, and aesthetic design||Convection, reflection, AND conduction heat||45-60 minutes||2-5 minutes||High|
Note that convection, conveyor, and deck ovens are also available as countertop pizza oven models that will produce fewer pizzas, take up less space, and cost less money than their full-sized counterparts. When compared with each other they will generally follow the same guidelines outlined above.
Outdoor pizza ovens are also an option. These ovens feature similar capacities to countertop models, but with added mobility and versatility. They are also wood fueled, to help you save on electricity and provide the artisan flavor and style that is so coveted in the pizza making business.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when choosing the right commercial pizza oven for your restaurant. The best thing to remember is that every restaurant is different and that picking the right oven is based on meeting the demands and availability of your business. Finding the right match for you is the first step in turning pizzas into profit and eventually placing your pizzeria on the map.