Transforming Outdoor Spaces: the Rise of Home Pizza Ovens

magnificent out door wood oven

British families are enjoying a love affair with outdoor living. Alfresco time is spent chilling with a glass of wine, practising mindfulness or practising yoga on the patio, and entertaining family and friends.  The days of only venturing into the garden for a spot of rose pruning or lawn mowing are over. The garden is an essential part of the home environment, where to work, rest, play – and cook.

Outdoor entertaining has become the new house party and invariably involves food.  Fifteen years ago, any garden cooking appliance would invariably have been a barbecue.  Now, home pizza ovens are the new must-have.

But do all outdoor ovens ‘transform’ an outdoor space and put a stamp of quality on it?  Are some seemingly enhancing the space but only over a short period?  What sort of oven do you need to ‘transform’ the garden or outdoor area and add value to your home?  Will every oven facilitate artisan pizza baking so you can serve gourmet pizza at home?  Are there top-grade pizza ovens available in kit form?

We will answer all of these questions.

Choosing a home pizza oven

The choice of home pizza oven available to you is extensive. So, where do you start? In step one, you need to decide whether you want a wood-fired, gas pizza oven or portable pizza oven.

Next, would you like to buy an oven that is ready to go?  Do you fancy one that’s built-in?  Or would you instead give yourself a project by purchasing a DIY pizza oven kit and save yourself some money by using the self-build pizza oven approach?

Finally, on what basis should you decide which pizza oven to buy, and have you done your homework?

Here’s some help that should guide your thought process.

  • Wood-fired oven

A wood oven will give you authentic-tasting gourmet pizza, with the smoky flavour and charred blackened bottom you can’t achieve in other types of oven.  It will also create the authentic ambience of the Mediterranean, with the compelling aromas that infuse holiday memories. 

You can learn a new skill—cooking by real flame—and provide friends and family with the ‘food theatre’ accompanying a wood-fired oven. 

Beware though.  Not all wood-fired ovens can cook a wide range of foods well. 

  • DEFRA-approved ovens

In addition, many wood-fired ovens on the UK market do not have DEFRA certification to allow them to be operated within Smoke Control Areas.  If you light up an oven in such an area, and your oven does not have the DEFRA certification to say it is legal to use, having had its emissions assessed, you might be shut down and incur a fine.

Some manufacturers claim to have DEFRA certification when they do not, so don’t take anything at face value. You can be assured that all Valoriani ovens supplied by Orchard Ovens have DEFRA certification

  • Gas pizza oven

A gas pizza oven is convenient and easy to use if you merely wish to replicate the wood-fired cooking process but do not wish to learn how to cook with a real flame.  Gas burners perform the role of the fire and, in some ovens, may try to replicate the visuals of a real flame. If you don’t mind ‘cheating’, this could be for you.  You will, however, have to manage your gas canister storage and ordering process and keep hooking your oven up to the supply.

  • Portable pizza oven

A portable pizza oven is a good choice if you only want to cook pizza outdoors and are not too concerned about authenticity or providing friends and family with entertainment value around a pizza oven.  Again, UK Smoke Control Area regulations will apply.  It’s an excellent entrée to home pizza oven ownership.  You may quickly want something more authentic, but you already have spent £300-£400 on what you have.

  • Pizza oven materials

All that glitters is not gold with many pizza ovens.  Many are constructed from poor-quality materials that deter easy firing up and heat retention.  Such ovens typically make long-term usage impossible, unable to cope with the extremely high temperatures at which the ovens operate.  This leads to quick disintegration, cracking or oven floor failure.  

Many do not allow the owner to replace a single part, such as the floor or dome.  In a world where we strive for sustainability, many pizza ovens are poorly manufactured, wasting resources and contributing to a throwaway society. It is common for an oven to last one or two summers at best.

The key, as a pizza oven buyer, is to question the construction techniques and the materials used.  Valoriani is the oven brand other manufacturers aspire to be, because it uses top quality refractory materials, a leading design that optimises heat retention and first-class insulation.  Its refractory clay floor is effectively a super-charged ceramic pizza stone, abetting the cooking of gourmet pizzas at home. 

Valoriani’s artisan approach is focused on oven longevity, not fast failure. Cooking excellence and safety are also Valoriani’s goals. You will not get serious burns from a Valoriani oven’s shell, which is, unfortunately, not true of other pizza ovens.

Temporary outdoor living space upgrade or complete outdoor transformation?

The fact Orchard Ovens’ Valoriani Originale 80 oven took centre stage in a Love Your Garden makeover (an episode filmed in Bicester and airing in December 2023) says it all.  Whilst you may upgrade your outdoor living with a portable oven or cheaper wood-fired or gas pizza oven, you are not buying something that will be a fixture in your garden for many years.  You are merely adding a temporary feature.

That’s not good enough for a makeover programme, especially when the whole garden design revolves around the oven as the central wow factor. The same should be true if the oven is incorporated into a swanky outdoor kitchen. Pizza oven longevity is the ingredient you need.

The Valoriani Originale 80 oven installed in Bicester should last 15-20 years.  This is the sort of oven lifespan you need if you want a pizza oven to add value to your property.

Ask yourself how many years you been watching TV chef, James Martin, with his outdoor wood fired oven?  The answer could be ‘very many’, as this is a Valoriani oven fitted over 15 years ago and in frequent use.  That speaks volumes about its quality.

Where can you situate your home pizza oven?

Home pizza ovens can be more than just patio cooking appliances.  You could situate your pizza oven in a more natural part of the garden, as a built-in oven with its surround, perhaps nestled between trees or by a lawn.  Alternatively, you could make it the centrepiece of an outdoor kitchen.  

The key to getting it right is planning. Remember that house access is essential.  You may need to transport food from the fridge.  Guests will not wish to move too far away from the indoor toilet facilities. It would be best to have seating, ideally with shelter, close to the oven for dining purposes and to get guests involved with the cooking process.  Cooking with a home pizza oven should be an interactive process where friends and family can get hands-on and have great fun. They can’t do that if you don’t build access for them in your planning.

Pizza ovens within outdoor kitchens

If you incorporate a pizza oven into an outdoor kitchen, you could choose an L-shaped, parallel or straight-run kitchen design.  Orchard Ovens has created all these options for A-listers and everyday homeowners alike, both here in the UK and in other European locations.

The key is to plot where to place the oven, ensuring proximity to the fridge and sink and ample work surface space available for food preparation beside or very close to the oven. 

You might want to include outdoor kitchen equipment complementary to the pizza oven – perhaps a hotplate, grill or barbecue.  You might also enjoy an outdoor bar and will require lots of cupboard space for outdoor kitchen equipment storage. 

If cooking with a real flame, situate the oven so guests can see it and enjoy the food theatre you are creating. Consider covering the kitchen and landscaping or planting around it to help it blend into the natural environment.

DIY pizza ovens

Want to build your own outdoor wood-fired oven using a DIY pizza oven kit? If so, you can still follow all the layout planning rules we’ve discussed here.

I have many pizza oven kits available, but please look at what we said about materials. DIY kits are comprised of even lower-grade materials than some of the ready-built ovens.

If you want a DIY kit that will have the best quality materials you could wish for, you can look to a Valoriani DIY pizza oven kit.  There is a choice available to you, but whichever you choose, you will be supplied with top-quality insulation, mortar, chimney flues and decorative arches with serial numbers.  The oven door will either be made of high-grade steel or a hinged, ceramic door with an in-built thermometer.

If you have the skills, your cooking floor and dome will be 5cm in depth and supplied in sections, quickly assembled in a self-build way., delivered in sections, and  

Despite the build process being in your hands, you will still have a six-month warranty. That can be extended to 24 months if you utilise the expertise of the Orchard Ovens team.

It may not provide the longevity that comes with an oven assembled by artisans back at the Valoriani factory, as its lifespan will depend on your job. However, it’s a very cost-effective way to become an owner of a home pizza oven. 

How to take the following steps to home pizza oven ownership

If you want to be part of the home pizza oven-owning community, we can help you make the right choice.  Just call us on Jamie Oliver.

If you want to learn more about pizza ovens and their differences, listen to our podcast, ‘When is a Pizza Oven Not a Pizza Oven’. Just click here.