This Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet pizza oven was supplied to us by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes. Kalamazoo in no way influenced this review. Further, we didn’t keep the oven (or any equipment supplied to us by any manufacturer for the purpose of reviews). The opinions are our own based on months of testing and usage; the oven will be returned to Kalamazoo to ensure the integrity of our review process.
I bought my first wood fired pizza oven many years ago and loved it, but didn’t love the inconveniences. If you’ve ever used an actual wood fired oven, you know what I’m talking about.
Sourcing pizza oven wood, starting a fire, managing the fire, keeping it burning at the proper temperature over a long period of time, and cleaning it up get to be quite laborious.
The hassle of operation convinced me to move to a gas fired pizza oven circa 2018, see my review for that oven.
Over the past 6 months I’ve been using the newest generation pizza oven from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. Kalamazoo calls it the Artisan Fire Pizza Oven, which is sort of a misnomer as the oven is capable of much more than pizza.
Kalamazoo actually created the world’s first outdoor countertop gas-fired pizza oven back in 2006, calling it the Outdoor Artisan Pizza Oven. So, they are no stranger to the space.
In this review I’ll discuss the features Kalamazoo has designed into their oven. What I loved about those features and what could use some improvement.
- 24″ x 18″ hollow-core ceramic cooking deck
- Two-burner heating w/ large, open flame to replicate the heat of a wood-fired oven
- Ceiling stone temperature can reach 1,000°F / 537°C
- Safety valves for every burner
- Natural gas, bulk liquid propane or liquid propane cylinder
- Battery-powered electronic ignition
- Countertop design requires no installation
- Marine-grade stainless steel available
What We Loved
The list of what’s to be loved about this oven is extensive; as one would expect from a pizza oven at this price point.
Like everything from Kalamazoo, the quality of the build is superb. Each oven is hand made from 304 stainless steel in Kalamazoo, Michigan. If you live in a salt-water environment, Kalamazoo offers an upgrade to 316L stainless steel.
316L exceeds the corrosion resistant properties of standard 316 marine grade stainless steel, which is used by competitors in the space.
The fit and finish of this pizza oven far exceeds other ovens I’ve used over the years. No sticky knobs, sharp corners, or sloppy welds. All around, this oven is a work of art and built to last, weighing in at 130 lbs.
A downfall to most gas or pellet fueled pizza ovens is the lack of temperature range. Most ovens (other than true wood fired) will only reach temperatures in the 600°- 700°F range, with a few flirting with 900° – 1000°F range.
The higher temperatures work great for making pizza, but are of little use for more delicate cooking like roasting, or braising for several hours.
Most ovens on the market today simply lack the ability to perform well at lower temperatures. Kalamazoo advertises low temperature capability, so I was eager to put that to the test.
Using a reliable thermocouple style thermometer, (capable of reading temperatures from -148° to 2500°F) I recorded stabilized temperatures as low as 170°F, and as high as 1196°F in the dome.
This exceeded expectations based on the Kalamazoo rating of “350° to over 1000°”
Kalamazoo uses not only a main burner in the back of the oven, but a supplemental burner under the cooking deck. This is feature rarely found in gas-fired pizza ovens.
The dual burners allow for a more even temperature in the oven, and contribute to the temperature range of the oven.
Kalamazoo is the first North American grill manufacturer to introduce safety gas control valves across their entire product line. This system prevents gas from flowing, in the event the burner blows out. I talked in depth about this system in my review of their Gas Grill Head.
Why is this feature so important? It’s reported there are approximately 7000 gas grill fires every year. These fires happen when gas flows into the grill, but isn’t burning. Maybe the burner was blown out by a wind gust, etc. Gas then builds up, and when flame is introduced, an explosion happens due to the build up of gas.
This is even more important with a gas-fired pizza oven, as the burner is more susceptible to wind gusts than the burners in a typical grill.
With the technology that Kalamazoo incorporates, gas simply can’t build up. Their gas valves will automatically close if the burners become inactive, preventing the build up of potentially dangerous gas.
With its expansive temperature range, and ability to hold consistent temperatures for long periods of time, this unit is capable of much more than just pizza.
Being able to lower the temperature into sub 200’s is perfect for keeping foods warm. Warming isn’t something that’s advertised, but it’s a feature I’ve used often.
Cranking the heat slightly into the 350°- 425°F range works extremely well for roasting chicken, fish, root and other vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli.
Going even hotter, into the 900° – 1000°+ range is great for pizzas, (indeed this unit can turn out a pizza in about two minutes at those temperatures.) But, the hidden gem is using the oven as a companion piece for sous vide cooking.
Sous vide is a terrific technique to cook meat to a precise temperature, entirely through. However, while the food will be safe to eat after a proper water bath, without the Maillard reaction it tastes (and looks) pretty awful.
Getting a sous vide steak, pork chop, or chicken breast into the oven for a quick sear is the perfect finish. By quick, I mean under two minutes; given the intensity of the oven’s heat.
No need to light your grill, or splatter grease all over your stove top in order to sear your sous vide meats in a cast iron pan.
Clean Up / User Friendliness
Cleaning out a pizza oven is typically not an easy task and often requires the use of a vacuum. This issue is exacerbated by the two piece pizza deck that’s used in many pizza ovens.
The seam between the two pieces of cooking deck not only traps crumbs, but becomes an obstacle for a smooth transitioning pizza peel.
Kalamazoo has incorporated a single piece, hollow core cooking deck, along with a crumb tray that sits out of sight. The single piece cooking deck won’t trap crumbs, and the crumb tray collects crumbs near the front of the oven when it’s being cleaned out.
I found this to be very useful for cleaning up the tiny food scraps that will inevitably collect on the cooking deck of any pizza oven.
This might be my favorite part of this oven. Ok, maybe not favorite but it definitely should be a point of consideration when comparing the Kalamazoo unit to other pizza ovens.
There’s just something very relaxing about watching the flames in the back of this oven dancing around. Many other ovens use an infrared burner (that can’t be seen) to provide heat. While functional — that style of burner takes away from the user experience.
I’ve spent many pizza nights with a glass of wine in my hand watching the flames inside the oven, and appreciating the warmth the oven puts out on a cool fall evening.
What Could Be Improved
Of course I would like to see the price point come down, but that could be said for just about any product on the market. So, I’ll just say that when buying any Kalamazoo product you have to accept you’re in a premium space, and expect to pay accordingly.
In addition, there’s a lack of accessories that could be available to to further improve the versatility of this oven. There is an optional pizza making essentials kit available, but I’d like to see some other accessories as well.
Who It’s For
This oven is for the cook that’s passionate about food, quality, and functional entertainment.
Because it heats up so fast, it’s great for every night of the week. Unlike a traditional wood fired pizza oven that can take hours to preheat, this unit is ready to cook a pizza or roast a chicken in about 20 minutes.
The oven is designed for a countertop, and can also be placed onto a dedicated stand alone cart or optional pizza station. Either way, there’s no installation required. So, this is a great option for those who don’t plan on a full outdoor kitchen but still want to enjoy an outdoor oven.
Don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t just a pizza oven. This is an oven designed for the extreme temperature required to create amazing pizza, with many other capabilities.
It can be used as a warming drawer, a traditional oven, a sear station and an outdoor heater, all while providing the ambiance of a high-end fire feature in your backyard.
I have no hesitations recommending this oven to anyone whose budget allows.