The Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo is an attention-getter. It promises to reach up to 750 degrees—about 30 percent hotter than most home ovens. That means that it’s theoretically possible to make restaurant-quality pizza (even approximating Neapolitan-style, which usually requires a scorching-hot wood-fired oven) at home. Up until now, two styles of indoor pizza ovens have been available to home cooks: huge, expensive options that require professional installation or small, countertop options that don’t work any better than a home oven. At about $1000, this oven comes with a big price tag, but it promises a lot. Does it deliver?
To find out, we bought one and threw a two-week pizza party in the test kitchen, testing six of the oven’s seven preprogrammed settings for baking different kinds of pizza as well as roasting vegetables. (The seventh setting, “350°F,” is designed for reheating pizza and we didn’t test it.) First, we baked frozen pizzas. (It may sound silly to bake frozen pizzas in a $1,000 pizza oven, but we wanted to test the oven’s “Frozen” setting.) Next, we tested the “Pan” setting by making pizza in the carbon-steel pan that comes with the machine, the “New York” and “Thin & Crispy” settings by making our recipe for Thin-Crust Pizza—both plain cheese and loaded with toppings, and the “Wood Fired” setting by making Neapolitan-style pizza. Finally, we roasted broccoli rabe and asparagus at the “750°F” setting to see how the oven handled foods other than pizza. When applicable, we compared pizzas and vegetables we baked in the Pizzaiolo to pizzas and vegetables baked in a regular oven.
The Pizzaiolo has two heat zones: coiled heating elements located below the baking stone and another set of coiled heating elements located above the baking stone. These sets of coils did a great job at heating the oven quickly. Our pizza recipes generally call for preheating the oven and a baking stone at 500 degrees for an hour. The Pizzaiolo needed just a fraction of that time—just 10 to 20 minutes—to reach 750 degrees.
In addition to getting very hot very fast, the Pizzaiolo was easy to use. The baking stone (or the “deck”) is attached to the oven door, so it slid outward and downward each time we opened the door, giving us easy access to the stone when inserting, rotating, or removing a pizza. A curved backstop at the rear of the deck prevented the pizzas from sliding off. When we closed the door, the deck slid back into place. The preprogrammed settings were also easy to use, as well as a “Darkness’” dial that increases or decreases the heat level in the oven while using different settings. Toggling the dials to a manual mode allowed us to manually adjust the “deck temp” and “top temp” heat levels, thereby allowing for greater customization (more on that later). Two other handy features helped to eliminate guesswork. A small light situated between the two front dials indicated when the oven was preheating and when it had hit a target temperature, and an easy-to-set timer dial counted down the cooking times.
So, how did the oven perform? The “Pan” and “New York” settings produced pizzas that were comparable to the ones we made in our regular oven, which were quite good. It was when we used the higher-heat settings (“Thin & Crispy” and “Wood Fired”) that the oven really started to shine. It reached temperatures virtually unheard of in a countertop pizza oven or any home wall oven or range; both the deck and the air inside the oven heated to the promised 750 degrees.
At the “Thin & Crispy” setting, our Thin-Crust Pizza was elevated to something close to excellent restaurant-style pizza. The dough had great chew but was also impressively tender. It looked as good as it tasted, with evenly melted cheese and a golden-brown, slightly charred crust. We also loved the Neapolitan-style pizza we made using the even hotter “Wood Fired” setting. This style of pizza is known for a just-set, almost soupy center of sauce and cheese and a tender, pillowy crust with distinctive dark-brown and black char marks (or “leopard spotting”) along the outer edges and bottom of the crust. We got even better results with the Neapolitan pizzas by using the manual mode to turn off the inside upper heating coil while keeping the outer upper heating coil and bottom heating coil on. That meant that both the outer edges and bottom of the crust were blasted with intense heat for maximum leopard spotting while protecting the cheese and sauce from burning. It was good enough to impress even our most discerning pizza aficionados.
Because the oven was so hot, pizzas baked extremely quickly. Thin-crust pizzas cooked in 4 to 5 minutes (compared with 10 to 12 minutes in a regular oven) and Neapolitan-style pizzas were done in just 2 minutes. The recovery time, or the time required after baking a pizza for the oven to return to the chosen temperature setting, was less than 5 minutes. It’s as if this oven was designed with a pizza party in mind: You can set up your doughs and toppings while the oven heats and start prepping your second pizza as soon as you slide the first one into the oven.
Although it can make top-notch homemade pizza, the Pizzaiolo isn’t perfect. Breville claims that it can accomodate a 12-inch pizza and that pizzas don’t have to be rotated during cooking, but we found otherwise. We were limited by the size of the deck and the peel, which are 12 and 11 inches wide, respectively. For the best results, we recommend scaling down recipes designed for a regular oven. Instead of rolling our Thin-Crust Pizza dough into two 13-inch rounds (as is called for in the recipe), we instead divided the dough into three balls and stretched them each to 11 inches. We also recommend rotating the pizzas at least once (halfway through baking) to avoid uneven cooking.
Another thing to consider: The manufacturer cautions against using the Pizzaiolo for anything other than cooking pizza, flatbreads, and vegetables. Because the upper heating elements are so close to the food being cooked, splattering fat from meat or poultry could cause a fire. Also, the footprint of the Pizzaiolo is roughly 18 by 14 inches, so it occupies a significant amount of counter space. And at just over 30 pounds, it is cumbersome to move around the kitchen. Portions of its stainless-steel exterior quickly discolored due to the placement of a steam vent on the oven’s front left corner. That said, the exterior remained impressively cool. We wouldn’t recommend storing equipment on it or resting your hand on its sides while the oven is in use, but we were comfortable standing in front of it as we waited for our pizzas and vegetables to bake.
When we evaluated indoor pizza ovens in 2018, we couldn’t fully recommend any of them. Now we can now enthusiastically endorse one. The Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo will set you back about $1000, but it makes some of the best pizza we’ve ever eaten in the test kitchen. We were especially excited that it allowed us to make the Neapolitan-style pies that require oven temperatures topping 700 degrees. And it does all of this with a shorter preheating time, a shorter baking time, and a pizza deck that’s much easier to access than a baking stone set inside a regular oven. The Pizzaiolo can also be used to make flatbreads or roast small batches of vegetables. In our tests, both broccoli rabe and asparagus cooked faster than vegetables we roasted in the regular oven and they tasted just as good. Right out of the box, the Pizzaiolo’s pre-programmed settings will give you great results. And if you want to experiment with deck and top temperatures to make pizzas with different doughs and toppings, you can dial in an exact setting for your perfect pizza.