Stone Hearth Oven Choices & Opportunities Part I

This 3 Part series will speak about the choices of stone hearth ovens out there and what oven will work best for you. 


Thirty plus years ago there were not a lot of choices if you wanted a stone hearth oven as part of your concept. If you were able to find a good imported oven or brick layer to build one for you there was a very good chance that the life span of your oven was not greater than 5 years and your only fuel choice was wood.


Today there are a lot of choices when it comes to stone hearth ovens that are manufactured right here in the USA.  There are many traditional Italian brands such as Marra Forni that are built here in the United States.  As well as the number of brands offered, many brands have a variety of shapes, sizes, and fuel options (gas, wood, coal, combination). With all these options the question is, “what is the best oven for you”?


Too often an oven choice is made by a decision maker that does not truly have all the facts. Perhaps they visited Italy and they love the romance of a wood fired brick oven.  Maybe a designer has chosen a familiar brand or they were giving a recommendation for reasons that may not affect a positive outcome for your concept. Very often we use the same oven that we see in an already successful concept that we want to mimic. Ultimately we want a great baked pizza. My job is to use the best oven for the style of pizza you are looking for. Occasionally for one reason or another we can not use the oven we hope to use. At this point it is my job to adjust.

One thing that we can be sure of that more of these brands have improved their engineering and their service. You can pretty much assume that all ovens manufactured in the United States have met UL, ETL and NSF approval for commercial use in North America. 


Let’s begin with asking questions that may be deal breakers for a decision you have already made. Let’s also assume that you have a location.


-        If choosing wood or coal will local code allow for wood burning ovens and what will be the venting requirements?

-        Can the oven that you have chosen actually fit into the building. What will be the cost of rigging if you need that service or can the oven be disassembled or built in place?

-        If you are not using a leading manufacture confirm that the oven is UL, ETL, NSF approved for commercial use.

-        If you are leasing space will the landlord allow for holes in the roof or walls for ventilation.  (consider an electric oven option)


Never buy an oven that is too small!

I am a big proponent on building to scale but never purchase an oven that is too small. This is especially true in the fast-casual pizza segment. The cost of an oven 1 size larger than you may think you need is minimal compared to not having enough oven. The cost of having an oven that is too small may destroy your pizza program.


If you are planning on a Neapolitan wood fired concept stick with the Italian brands!

These ovens were designed for cooking this style of pizza. Smaller doorways, lower domes make all the difference in the world. For this style of cooking these ovens are extremely efficient when it comes to how much wood you will burn and heat retention. Acunto, Forno Bravo, Marra Forni, Forza Forni


Wood or gas, it will not change the texture or flavor of your pizza!

Perhaps there is a fine nuance, but comparison tastings that I have done have proven that 99% of the time, with a 50/50 chance of being correct, our taste buds can not tell the difference.  



To determine what oven is best for you let’s start with answering some questions.


1.    Describe your concept?

Pizzeria, Pub, Brewery, Full Service Dining, Institution Cafeteria, Food Hall…

2.    Number of seats?

0 – 20, 21 – 40, 41 – 65, 66 – 85, 86 – 130, 131 – 185,….Food Truck

3.    Will you have take-out, delivery, catering?

4.    Assuming the oven is for pizza, describe your pizza?

Neapolitan, East Coast, Gourmet, Chicago, Roman

5.    What size pizzas will you offer?

8”,10”, 12”, 14”, 16”, 18”,…Slices

6.    What other menu items might you cook in the oven?

Baked Pastas, Sandwiches/Calzones, Appetizers, Entrees

7.    Have you determined a fuel (gas, wood, coal, combination)?

Have you confirmed with building owners and local jurisdiction on using solid fuel, ventilation requirements, and will they allow for holes in roofs?

8.    Have you considered all the costs and set yourself a budget?

Consider cost of shipping, installation, ventilation. 

If you have gotten this far, it’s time to talk. We can make decisions. pizzageometrics@gmail.com

More to come about oven brand specifics Part II