Pizza oven trend hot for kitchens, backyards

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LAS VEGAS >> Pizza Hut is fine when you feel like going out. But pizza home is the newest trend, with pizza ovens designed for the kitchen or backyard.

This spring, one of the most recognizable names in home appliances will go after a piece of that pie when GE Monogram starts selling a $10,000 electric, residential wall model designed to fit into the space of a standard 30-inch wall oven.

"We saw a considerable market gap when it came to the available at-home options for pizza enthusiasts and home chefs," said Wayne Davis, commercial leader at FirstBuild, a subsidiary of GE Appliances.

GE fired up its oven and cooked pizza in the middle of the Las Vegas Convention Center at this year's recent Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

Sure, their professional chef made it look easy, but like most people, I'd never used a pizza oven. I didn't even know that the tool used to pull pizza in and out of the oven is called a "peel."

Wondering what it's like to use a pizza oven at home, I gave a propane-powered, outdoor, countertop Napoli Pizza Oven from Lynx Grills a try.

Like others, the Napoli has a stainless exterior, a pizza stone, and a stone-like interior designed to reflect heat like a brick oven. It requires about 30 minutes or so to heat to an internal temperature of 700 degrees or more.

After that, a Neapolitan-style pizza should cook in a matter of minutes, but the ovens also can be adjusted to cook other styles of pizza and calzone.

The Napoli was at the mercy of the elements, and my experiment was interrupted by high winds and cool ambient temperature. Working around the environmental curveballs and my own inexperience, I eventually made some misshapen pies that were certainly better than frozen, with a nice crunchy crust. But whether it was the recipe or the receptacle, they weren't quite on par with the ones from my favorite pizzeria, where pizza-making has been a family tradition for generations.

In addition to the $4,000 countertop model, the Napoli also comes paired with a freestanding cart at $6,500 for the set.

Another company, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, has a $6,900 outdoor countertop model called the Artisan Fire Pizza Oven that can be packed up for a tail-gate party.

"It comes in three layers. Each layer can be easily unstacked and moved by one person," said company spokesman Bradley Carlson.

"It's not only about the grill anymore," he said. "People are becoming more sophisticated in terms of what they're cooking outdoors."

Last year, the company unveiled a version of the Artisan Fire Pizza Oven that can be built into brick, stone or concrete for a clean look in an outdoor kitchen. It costs $8,300, plus installation.

At the kitchen show, Kalamazoo debuted an $11,000 "rolling pizza station" that holds the Artisan Fire oven and features built-in bins for storing toppings.

Kalamazoo's Artisan Fire differs in both form and function from the Lynx Napoli, so consumers should do their homework and investigate the scores of pizza-oven options available today from specialty shops and hardware stores.

Will homeowners really spend thousands of dollars on pizza ovens?

Hard to predict. On any given day, 13 percent of the country's population age 2 and older eats pizza, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the number of people making pizza at home using store-bought dough accounted for nearly 10 percent of pizza sales in 2015, up from 3 percent in 2013, according to Consumer Reports.

While most of that was likely not baked in a fancy pizza oven, the good news for homeowners is that should they tire of pizza, the manufacturers say the outdoor ovens can also be used for roasting foods, baking breads or making fajitas.


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