Tech

I tried Gozney’s $499 pizza oven and my grill is getting nervous



David Watsky/CNET

One of the side effects of the past 14 months has been reimagining our home hangout spaces, and that certainly includes kitchen and cooking gadgets. Most people with space to grill probably already have or have at least considered adding a grill of some sort. Propane and charcoal are the obvious outdoor cookers, though wood pellet grills and smokers have also made a splash in the backyard barbecue category. More recently, I’ve been seeing pizza ovens pop up in conversation and for sale online. Two brands in particular — Ooni and Gozney — have made the biggest splash with modern, at-home pizza ovens designed to reach scorchingly hot temps and cook perfect pies in minutes. 

Making pizza at home always seemed more of a fun novelty than practical habit. To make really good pizza, it helps to have an extremely hot oven that burns well above 500 degrees Fahrenheit — most don’t. It’s also good to have a pizza stone to conduct and hold that heat so it can toast the bottom of a pie. While they’re not expensive, pizza stones are heavy, cumbersome and fragile. There are also tools to consider, such as a pizza peel to maneuver the pie around inside the oven for even cooking. The Gozney Roccbox serves up all three of those important pizza-making elements in one gas-powered outdoor oven bundle fit with a built-in pizza stone floor. Plus, it comes with all the tools you’d need to make pizza at home.

I’d previously used the more budget-friendly Ooni Karu, a pellet-powered oven, and had good success. So I had a sneaking suspicion the Gozney Roccbox would make good pizza. What surprised me most, however, when I took the Roccbox for a weekendlong spin was everything else I made besides pizza in this ultra-hot oven, and how easy it was to use. By the end of the two-day cooking spree, my regular gas grill definitely seemed worried.

Setup and assembly

The gas-powered pizza oven is essentially two pieces: the oven itself, which stands on three legs, and a propane burner attachment. The Gozney comes with a few integral accessories, including a large pizza peel for getting stuff in and out as well as a smaller peel/turner for maneuvering pies and other food once it’s inside the hull. 

The propane burner attachment locks securely into the bottom of the oven with an easy quarter turn and the whole thing couldn’t have been easier to set up. The oven is heavy and so needs a sturdy and stable table or another flat surface to rest on. There’s also a wood-burning attachment ($100 additional cost) if you prefer that fuel source, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. 

The Gozney Roccbox is for outdoor use only. 

gozney-behind

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Using the Gozney oven

With a click of the fuel dial, the oven burst on and a roaring flame appeared in the back and rolled across the oven’s ceiling toward the front. Almost immediately, the built-in thermometer started climbing. The Roccbox oven gets as hot as 930 degrees F, but you don’t need it that hot to cook pizza or most other foods. The flame was also fairly easy to control with the dial so you can have the oven hover at much lower temperatures if you desire. I waited for the oven to reach about 750 degrees F before sliding in the first pie.

What I made in the Gozney pizza oven

Pizza, of course, which is why you want the Gozney oven in the first place right? The built-in pizza stone gets scorching hot, as does the rest of the inside of the oven from the roaring flame. My eight-inch pie with sauce, cheese and pepperoni was done in about two and a half minutes. The back of the oven gets roughly 100 degrees hotter than the front, so you have to be careful to give it a gentle turn every 30 seconds or so. If you walk away from your pizza while it’s in this oven, I promise you’ll burn it. 

pizza-before

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Getting the pizza off the peel and in the oven without sticking is probably the most difficult part of using the Gozney. A sprinkling of flour or cornmeal on the peel goes a long way in releasing the dough. The results from our first pie were impressive and pizzeria-quality, to be certain. Everyone agreed the oven delivered us perfect crust crispiness and chewiness without burning the cheese and toppings on top. The bottom of the pizza also has a nice golden crust and no burns. The Gozney passed test No. 1 with flying colors. 

pizza-after

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I didn’t stop at pizza

Curious kitchen tinkerer that I am, I couldn’t help trying a few other recipes in the Gozney. I mean, a hot oven is a hot oven and there is lots of good stuff you can make in one. Also, as much as I love pizza, for $500 bucks I’d expect an oven to make more than just pies. Oddly, the accompanying recipe book was extremely pizza-heavy and there weren’t a ton of suggestions for other foods to try in the oven — save for one fish dish and a simple naan-style bread recipe — but that certainly didn’t stop me.

Salmon: I happened to have a filet of salmon in the fridge around so I flopped it into an oven-safe baking dish with olive oil, smashed garlic and seasoning. I turned the Gozney oven down to about 600 degrees F so it wouldn’t burn and stuck the salmon in. About eight minutes later I had a nicely cooked piece of salmon with a caramelized crust. The garlic and asparagus had also just started to char but weren’t burnt. The fish had just cooked through in the center and was still a little pink — not overdone at all and exactly how I like it.

salmon-after

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Burgers: I was dubious this would work out and nowhere in Gozney’s literature did I find any encouragement to make burgers, the poster child for summer eats. But I have to tell you something: My Gozney oven burgers came out incredible. 

I jacked the heat back to around 700 degrees F because unlike with the salmon, this time I wanted a good char on the outside but wasn’t interested in the middle cooking through. I slid the seasoned burgers in on some aluminum foil with a folded lip around the edge to prevent grease from dribbling all over. 

burger-overhead

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In just a couple of minutes, the burger began to brown and even started to crisp and char up a bit. I pulled them after about three or four minutes and plopped them on some kaiser rolls that I’d also toasted for about 10 seconds in the oven. Slicing through the burger I discovered it was a perfect rare and bursting with juice. Because it sort of cooked in its own fat and juices, it was as flavorful as anything I’ve made over the flames. 

burger-rare

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At this point, I think I heard my grill let out a whimper from inside the garage.

Hash browns: Feeling cocky, the next morning I fired up the Gozney again and made breakfast pizza for a few friends. I noticed we had a bag of frozen mini-hash browns so I dropped a few on a baking sheet and stuck it into the oven, which was at about 700 degrees F. In no more than six minutes, we had perfectly crispy and browned breakfast potatoes. I’m pretty sure they cooked even faster than if I’d deep-fried the suckers.

Some seriously good (and fast) food

Cooking in the Gozney is similar to using a broiler in a lot of ways but, because the oven is just a few inches high, all that heat gets trapped and circulates and so you’re not just browning the top of whatever’s inside. That means fairly even cooking but at high temperatures. It also means fast cooking, which is awesome for parties and gatherings and honestly, it’ll be pretty great for any summer weeknight dinner when I’m looking to linger outside.

The one major drawback is that you can burn things easily and thicker meats and other foods probably won’t cook in the middle before charring or burning on the outside. Using an oven that gets this hot takes a bit of practice but with good control over the flame, you can do a whole lot more with the Gozney than I’d anticipated.

gozney-pizza-in

David Watsky/CNET

Cleanup

We had some cheese spillage which immediately burned into the pizza stone turning it black. I suspect no amount of brillo pad and elbow grease would completely remove it but it didn’t affect the subsequent cooking in any noticeable way. As long as you avoid major oil spills, the most you’ll need to do is take a wet cloth or sponge to the warm pizza stone (after it’s cooled down a bit which does take time).

Some final thoughts

I won’t beat around the bush with this one: I loved this oven and it had me thinking about putting my grill up for sale on Craigslist. (OK not really, but you get the idea.) At $500, it’s not a budget purchase by any stretch, and I would contend that’s a lot to pay for something that just makes pizza. The good news is this Gozney definitely makes more than just pizza — though it does, in fact, make good pizza. 

I suspect I’ll be using the Gozney a lot this spring and summer for quick — and I mean quick — fish dinners, fire-roasted vegetables, burgers, chicken and more. What this oven has over other pizza ovens I’ve tried is the sheer ease of use. Plug it into a propane tank and you can fire the Gozney up with one click. In just minutes you’re at industrial levels of heat. From there, the possibilities for pizzas and other excellent summer eats seem totally endless. 



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