There’s only room for one or two pieces of wood at a time, though. Don’t lose track of the detachable handle that lets you open the back door, because you’ll be opening it several times during a cooking session. Also, there is no secondary burn here—after one use, the smoke emerging from the oven’s mouth blackened the top of the oven. It wipes off, but just a warning.
Too Hot to Handle
The Pi is remarkably compact, especially when placed next to an enormous oven like the Gozney Roccbox. But as I cooked with it over the course of two weeks, other advantages quickly showed themselves.
First, the cooking space is 15 inches in diameter. It’s big enough to fit our 12-inch Lodge cast-iron pan, but—and this is crazy—my pan’s handle sticks out. The body of the pan heats up to 600 degrees, hot enough to roast asparagus within a couple of minutes, but the handle stays relatively cool. As someone who has burned themselves through heat-resistant gloves, this is a revelation.
Second, the top is flat. This is not a feature that it would have occurred to me to request in a pizza oven, but it is a remarkably convenient and sturdy place to quickly put a burning hot pan while you quickly tong out the asparagus, put them in a serving bowl, and replace them with potatoes. This is obviously something that has occurred to Solo Stove as well, since it recently came out with a lid ($75) for its firepits.
I was also a little bit worried that there’s a noticeable split in the middle of the pizza stone—that it would be difficult to clean, or that the dough would sag or burn in the middle. It turns out that when the oven is 700 degrees (and you’ve let the stone preheat for at least an hour), pizza cooks quickly enough that it’s not a cause for concern.
Like most things involving recreation, your choice of your backyard cooking implement comes down to price and personal preferences. That’s the only quibble I have with the Pi—the option I tried is the one with swappable wood and gas attachments, which costs a cool $645 at its current presale price. That makes it a hard sell when compared to the Ooni Karu 12 ($399), which is also a pretty great, attractive, and easy-to-use oven.
However, if you enjoy cooking with wood—and you like your dinner to be fast, hot, and on the table in half an hour—it’s hard to imagine a better, no-brainer summer buy than the wood-fired version. I work full-time and have two school-aged kids, and with a small, high-heat pizza oven, I can still have dinner cooked outside and on the table in a matter of mere minutes. I might even sip a chilled beverage while I’m at it.