I’m from New Jersey, the pizza capital of the nation (don’t question it), so I take the timeless combination of bread, cheese, and sauce pretty seriously. The memories are endless: cringey childhood pizza parties at the bowling alley; oversized, delightfully greasy boardwalk slices; classrooms where teachers sliced communal pies into chopstick-thin pieces; local mom-and-pop shops that have made me foodgasm—the list goes on. Strolling down pizza memory lane leaves me warm and fuzzy, but since I’ve been working on my cooking skills lately, I thought it time to honor my Jersey ancestry by making a few pies of my own.
A wise man once said, the best memories are made in the kitchen. And, while I have no idea who that man was (probably our patron saint Guy Fieri), I’d have to agree. And what better dish to replicate in my home than the pizza that was at the bottom of my personal food pyramid as a Jerseyite? I’m a work in progress right now, but I’ve finally found the gadget that’ll let me hone my at-home pizza making skills, should the opportunity to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives ever present itself. There’s a wealth of amazing home pizza ovens on the market right now, but I'm not talking about using the Gozney Roccbox, the Ooni Karu 16, or even the mighty Easy Bake Oven—no, I only use the Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo.
Released in 2021 to instant cult-fave status, the Breville Pizzaiolo is a first-of-its-kind countertop pizza oven that can reach up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it’s up to temperature, it can cook a pizza that mirrors that highly covetable wood-fired style in as little as two minutes, along with other classic pizza formats including New York-style, pan pizza, and thin crust. Got a frozen DiGiorno pizza you want to eat immediately after a night out? No sweat, the Pizzaiolo will toast it right up way faster than a conventional oven. This home pizza contraption is meant to be similar to a brick oven in terms of its baking powers, which enlist a combination of conductive, radiant, and convective heat. I was recently able to get my hands on one of these pizza-making machines and give it a roll, and here’s how it went.
The stainless-steel oven is a little intimidating at first, because despite my home-state pizza pedigree, the closest I’ve gotten to whipping up my own ‘za from scratch prior to meeting the Breville Pizzaiolo is buying that premade, stale crust you can find in the bread aisle. Vito, the guy tossing the dough in the back of your local slice shop, is my inspiration for exploring the pizza-making business, and eventually I, too, shall conquer the art of the dough throw. I’ve never used a home pizza oven, and the fact that this model can reach up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit kind of freaked me out, since I live in a shoebox apartment on the 28th floor, so any fire-related accident could be dire. However, there’s a heat resistant front window and multi-material insulation surrounding the heat chamber to keep all extreme temperatures inside the appliance. (This also keeps the outside cool—I can confirm, since I touched it by accident while it was on and didn’t feel anything.)
On the surface, it looks like a toaster oven’s daddy, TBH, and this thing is a big boi. You’ll need ample counter space available, since it’s roughly the size of an at-home safe, but instead of storing money, you store pizza—better yet, delicious pizza which you just made yourself. The controls are relatively simple, with two dials to control the heat: one for the “deck” and one for the top. The deck temperature is for browning your precious ‘za, which is what creates a delectable, crispy-crust pizza—like a broiler in a conventional oven. The top temperature dial is what sets the temperature throughout the oven.
The pizza-making process
Once my anxieties about self-arson were quelled, I popped in the included pizza stone and allowed it to preheat for 20 minutes. Round one at my attempt of a New York-style pizza, though, wasn’t so hot. This photo says it all.
It was entirely my fault. I didn’t use any additional flour to coat the bottom of the pizza because I’m
an absolute moron a novice. (My Italian ancestors are rolling over in their graves.) You need to aggressively flour the dough and steel pizza peel when it comes time to toss that sucker in the oven, otherwise the pizza will just stick right to the pan. But, I redeemed myself on the second try.
The delicious results
Saucy, cheesy, and thicc in all the right places, my New York-style pizza was right on the money. Forget spending $7 for a slice on the corner (which makes me want to faint), I’ll be sticking with my Breville Pizzaiolo. I left this pie in the oven for eight minutes for a light, chewy, mad-doughy crust with scattered browning. Not too shabby for a second attempt. The heat for this one was cranked up to 525 degrees Fahrenheit—high, but still well below the full capabilities of the machine—and didn’t really emit any smoke, which I was initially concerned about. Now that the Breville Pizzaiolo and I have gotten to know each other a little better, it was time to get more intimate and take things to the next level.
This time around, I was aiming for a thin and crispy pie—something my Sicilian grandfather would be proud of. Long story short, he would have been disappointed with my first attempt. The pizza came out thicc as ever and anything but crispy, similar to the New York-style I previously made. I’m pretty sure the issue was too much dough. (Although usually, I don’t believe in such a thing.)
I mean, it was obviously still sexy and delicious, but I wanted to feel like a pizza lord capable of all styles. So, before I took another stab at thin crust, I decided to try my hand at the god-tier of pizzas: authentic Neapolitan style. I got this, I thought, this is my time to shine.
In the words of Borat, it was a great success. It had everything I see at the restaurants—distinct blistering, spotted charring, and a crunchy crust. The Breville Pizzaiolo bible says dough should be a little over eight ounces and rolled impeccably thin into a six-inch circle. And you need to make sure the dough is perfectly room temperature before dressing it with whatever your hungry heart desires. I used pizza dough from Whole Foods—I lack patience (sorry, not sorry). And, speaking from experience, for the love of god, use copious amounts of flour. Don’t make my previous humiliating mistake.
TL;DR: Falling in love with a gadget can often take time, but I am smitten with this pizza oven’s ability to prepare a doughy creation in a matter of minutes, in addition to making me feel in touch with my Italian ancestors. Just plug the sucker into the wall and get kneading and rolling.
This pizza oven may give you an inferiority complex at first, but you just gotta get to know its nooks and crannies—it’s honestly very easy to use. The only difficult thing is the process of physically tossing that pizza into the oven, but remember, FLOUR. Am I as good as Vito from the local pizza joint at throwing my dough sky high? Not a chance. I’m more like Michael Scott when he threw his into the fan, but with some light culinary skills mixed in. Who knows? Perhaps one day when I become a pizza-making pro, Mr. Fieri might like to try my culinary creations.
The Breville Pizzaiolo is available for purchase on its website.
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