One of the leaders in the mobile pizza trailer business is firewithin.com. They recently updated their site with beautiful photography, an updated catalog and other offerings.
While other mobile pizza trailer companies simply build the ovens, firewithin.com also provides support with classes on running a wood fired catering business and a business manual. Workshops are scheduled throughout the year with one coming right up in June. If you are thinking of going mobile, this is one company well worth investigating.
This is the first in a series of small pizza oven reviews.
About a year ago, Kristian Tapaninaho created a Kickstarter project for his ultra-small wood fired pizza oven idea. The concept was brilliant: combine a small metal oven with a gravity fed wood pellet hopper and a battery powered fan. The response to his crowdsource funding was overwhelming. In two weeks he was fully funded and ready to begin production in the summer of 2013. The result is a high temperature pizza oven that heats up in about 10 minutes and can make great pizzas.
The Uuni, which means 'oven" in Tapaninaho's native Finnish, arrives in a surprisingly small box.
Assembly is easy with only a phillips head screwdriver and perhaps a pair of pliers required. The oven consists of several components. The oven chamber itself is about 48 x 36 x 12 cm or 17 x 13 x 5 inches. At the back of the oven is a combustion chamber, wood pellet hopper, air regulator and battery powered fan.
After assembly, the lighting of the oven is not obvious from the instructions, but fortunately, Kristian offers a youtube video on this topic.
Once the fire is going, the pellet hopper can be filled. Be sure the fire is going strong or the added pellets can put out the fire. After about 10 minutes, the oven is hot enough to bake. (500-700 °F) I was astounded not only at the speed this oven came to temperature but at how little fuel it required.
The pizza I made went in for about a minute before it was ready to turn. Another minute and I checked and turned it again. 45 seconds later it was ready to eat. Great crust, nice char, creamy soft crumb and some smoky taste. A little ash was visible in the cheese but not excessive. I think a longer heat up time would have given a crisper bottom crust, but it was acceptable.
The workflow for baking should remain the same.
1) Make your pizza 2) add pellets if needed 3) tap the chute to be sure the pellets are not stuck 4) put your pizza in the oven.
The one time I did not follow this workflow, the pellets got stuck and the pizza took much longer to cook and was excessively smoky tasting and ashy. I never found the bottom to be as well cooked as this photo from the manufacturer.
This kind of oven, like the rocket oven I made a while ago, tends to heat and cool quickly so monitoring the fuel becomes a high priority as there is little stored heat in the oven. At the end of this review I link to some propane fueled ovens that may provide greater ease of use but will not, of course, offer any wood fired smoke taste to your pizzas.
What are the best features of this oven? First the size is adorable. This little oven would be perfect on an apartment balcony, a tailgate party, or a barbecue. The combustion chamber detaches and fits inside the oven and the whole thing would easily fit in the trunk of a car to bring to a party.
The speed of this oven is also noteworthy. As mentioned, it will reach 500-700 °F in 10-15 minutes. The economy of fuel use is also revelutionary. I baked two pizzas and ran the oven for about 20 minutes using about 2 cups of wood pellets. This is less than the kindling I might use to start my masonry oven. The quality of the bake is very good. It is not exactly the same as baking in a 900 °F Neapolitan pizza oven, but it is better than most home ovens. Finally, the cost of this oven, at just over $300 is thousands less than one might pay for a masonry oven.
Are there any downsides? Yes, a few. The included pizza peel, for example, is functional but hardly satisfying. I would much prefer a sturdier peel (or this one you can cut on) to the sheet of aluminum they include with the oven.
Some parts of the oven seem a little flimsy but given the low price, this may be inevitable. The bracket holding the door handle especially seemed to flex more than necessary. I haven't decided if the handles are chic and minimalist or look like they came from someone's garage wood shop. Perhaps a little more refinement in the handles such as nicer wood and little sanding could be achieved at minimal additional production cost. While the battery pack has a little shelf to sit upon, the whole battery contraption seems more like a prototype than a refined product,
Finally, I found maintaining constant and consistent heat to require more effort than I expected. I could not get a crisp bottom on the pizzas I cooked. This is not a propane fueled oven that you can set and forget. Links to some of those ovens are at the end of this review.
So who is this oven designed for? The ideal user would be someone looking for an outdoor pizza oven who appreciates the results of high temperature wood heat but does not have the space , time or budget for a masonry oven. They have already added a good thick stone to their home oven but want more yet do not have space or budget for a large masonry oven. Comparing this little oven to a masonry oven is comparing apples to oranges. While both can cook pizza, a large masonry oven allows the cook to watch the food baking, stores heat for baking bread and is large enough to roast all kinds of foods. The large oven also uses a lot of wood and takes hours to heat up. This little oven bakes pizza and thats about all it does, but it does it efficiently.
The Uuni is available at these locations for about $325. For even more ease of use, there are propane fueled alternatives to this oven such as the Pizzeria Pronto , The Kettle Pizza Grill or The Blackstone Outdoor Oven with rotating pizza stone. I have not tested these ovens but want to suggest potential alternatives for those shopping for this size oven.
Bill has been trying to make the perfect pizza for over 4 decades. He's still working on it.