These days, home pizza ovens are more accessible than ever — which is great, considering the expansion of the backyard outdoor hosting focus that came with the COVID-19 era. Once, you'd need to build an entire brick oven pizza with masonry work in a backyard; now, however, there are portable, easy-to-operate ovens that make these appliances more commonplace — and everyone wants in on the game.
For proof, look no further than stainless steel fire pit brand Solo Stove getting into the pizza oven game. Announced in early 2022, the Solo Stove Pi looks every bit like the round stainless steel fire pits the brand is known for — although with a flying saucer-like enclosure.
The Solo Stove Pi: Key Specs
Fuel: Wood and propane burner
Dimensions: 15.125 inches H x 20.5 inches D
Pre-heat time: Roughly 18 minutes to 800°F
What's Good About the Solo Stove Pi
Setting up this pizza oven is fairly easy
The Pi Essential Bundle I tested arrived in two boxes: one with the stove itself and some accessories, and one with the gas burner and a few other accessories. The bundle includes just about everything you need: a cordierite pizza stone, an infrared thermometer (which I somehow missed in the box until I was packing it back up to return it), a peel, a turner, a pizza cutter and a cover.
I was a little intimidated — at least, before I got into the instruction manual. Once I understood what it was I was doing, the setup was fairly straightforward, but it depends on which fuel type you're going to use. Wood requires putting the wood-burning assembly into the back and chopping up some tiny pieces of wood; going with gas requires a propane tank and attaching the gas burner hookup, which is fairly easy, as it only takes two screws.
Once it's set up, you'll want to place it on a sturdy, heat-resistant surface; the Pi is just shy of 16 inches tall, so it's imperative you place it on something, unless you like sitting on the ground while cooking. Be choosy with the surface, though, when using gas, the oven can reach temperatures of 900º Fahrenheit, which can melt some materials.
You Can Choose Your Fuel: Gas or Wood
Having the option to use propane or wood makes a lot of sense, especially for someone who might not have access to a propane tank. The first time I used it, I opted for gas so I could focus more on the process and not have to deal with tending a fire; after that, however, I tried my hand at using wood. Either fuel is easy to make great pizza; plus, the time for the oven to heat up is roughly 18 minutes with either fuel. (The wood does add a nice smokiness to the pizza, if that factors into your choice.)
The Pi is a good-looking pizza oven
While I happen to like the look of the Ooni pizza ovens, they are odd, what with their cantered legs and smokestack. Solo's Pi, on the flip side, is peak minimalist design — and it looks damn good. Leaving it outdoors in a backyard or on a deck should be no issue; this oven will go nicely with nearly any architectural design or sense of aesthetics
What's Not Ideal About the Solo Stove Pi
The design may be pretty, but it has ergonomic issues
That pleasing-yet-narrow oven opening does make it a bit tricky to slide pizza on and off the slider — especially if the dough is sticky. (This is especially true if, like I did, you don't put enough dough on the slider. First lesson in pizza making: use more flour than you think to slide the pizza into the oven.)
Another issue: the door that encloses the wood area. It opens by placing a hook into a slot and then lifting said hook up...but about halfway through cooking with wood, this slot started to warp due to the heat, making it impossible to open the door until I stopped cooking and let it cool down. It seems like a big design flaw, and made use pretty frustrating.
Different fuels bring different challenges
Cooking with gas is fairly easy, but it involves a careful eye toward the temperature and fuel flow. While I left it on full blast after warming the oven up, it torched the exterior of the pizza in roughly a minute— basically defeating the purpose of having the control of gas.
When using wood, the oven only gets to 850 degrees when using wood, making burning the pizza less likely. (Also, I'd already gotten some experience with the oven, making life easier.) But cooking with wood necessitated adding more wood three times while cooking two pizzas. You also have to be certain to tend the fire, to keep the coals hot.
Another issue: when wind started blowing from behind the oven while cooking with wood, it caused ash to blow onto the pizza when I opened the access door. Suffice it to say, the blocker inside the oven that is supposed to help keep this from happening doesn't block everything.
The oven is also not entirely smokeless, as you can see in the photo below. This happened while using wood, and is probably related to the wind blowing hard into the back of the oven, but the Solo Stove trademark of smokeless fires only applies to the brand's fire pits and not the Pi (Solo Stove makes no claims that the Pi is smokeless).
Solo Stove Pi Alternatives: Other Pizza Ovens to Consider
These days, there are a plethora of options that are affordable, easy to use and can help you make great pizza at home. The Ooni Karu 16 bundle is probably the most similar option (a dual fuel oven with a bunch of essential tools). It'll run you about $100 less than the Pi and has a built-in thermometer and a hinged door with a larger opening; you can read our full review of the Karu 12 here.
The Gozney Roccbox is one of the cheaper and more effective dual-fuel pizza ovens on the market at just $500 (read our review here). If you're looking for a gas-only option, it's hard to beat the Ooni Koda 12 (you can read our review here). Additionally, the strictly wood-burning Pi without the bundle (i.e. it just includes oven, wood-burning assembly and pizza stone) can be had for just $470 when on sale.
The Solo Stove Pi Pizza Oven: The Verdict
While the Pi's dual-fuel capability offers versatility, it ups the cost drastically for a pizza oven. Just like its fire pits, Solo Stove's pizza oven looks great, and is great at what it does — and just like its fire pits, there is almost always some sort of discount you can wait for. (As of publish date, this essentials bundle is just $795).
One factor to keep in mind when considering is that Solo Stove has had to ramp up production due to huge demand early on. Even if you ordered today, you'd be looking at a mid-July delivery date.
If you're looking for top-of-the-line and want to cook pizza with wood or a propane tank from your gas grill, then it's hard to beat the Pi — even with its smattering of practical flaws. But if you're just looking for a regular pizza oven and don't need the ability to use propane, I'd recommend saving some of your money and going with a wood-only option.