Best fuel for pizza ovens - wood vs gas pizza ovens

There's a lot to consider when it comes to the best fuel for pizza ovens

An image showing the best fuel for pizza ovens; a split view of pellets next to an Ooni Fyra 12 and the gas jets of the Ooni Karu 16
(Image credit: Ooni)

Pizza ovens are everywhere at the moment and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. There are dozens of models on the market and more are launched with every passing month.

However, it can be a tricky decision when you're working out which oven to buy. Part of that is that it isn't always clear which fuel is best for a pizza oven. Wood seems like a steep learning curve, and gas seems expensive.

I've tested dozens of the best pizza ovens and I know first-hand which fuel is best for different situations, I also spoke to pizza experts and chefs about which fuel is best.

Green pizza oven

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Head to head

Before we get started, here's a quick head-to-head of two of my favorite pizza ovens, so you can see the difference between the two types.

You can see here that there's little difference between the two types on paper. Both have the same capacity, maximum temperature, and cooking time. The only thing that really sticks out is that the gas model is more expensive, which tends to be the case. 

Pizza restauranteur Hakki Akdeniz gave me a helpful summary. 'The choice between wood and gas is based on personal preferences and usage. Wooden ovens provide a true flavor, but they take more effort to run. Gas ovens are easier to operate and regulate, but they may not provide the same flavor quality as wood-fired pizzas.'

However, there are some more technical differences that are worth knowing.

A headshot of pizza restaurateur Hakki Akdeniz
Hakki Akdeniz

Hakki is the founder of Champion Pizza, an NYC pizza chain with 14 loactions. He is best known for the Discovery+ and Prime Video film "Hi, I'm Hakki," showcasing his unwavering commitment to serving others and making a positive impact.

What are the benefits of gas pizza ovens?

Gas pizza ovens are a lot easier to use than wood-fired ovens. It took me a while to get the hang of starting a fire for a wood-fired pizza oven, but I've never had this problem with a gas pizza oven. All you need to do is switch it on and wait; it's no more difficult than using a kitchen oven or a gas range. 

Pizza expert Gregorio Fierro told me that this also means you have much more control over a gas pizza oven than a wood-fired pizza oven. 'Gas, while not as sexy as burning wood, is controllable and consistent'. A wood-fired oven can reach high temperatures, but maintaining the temperature or turning down the heat is an art rather than a science.

On a gas grill, you can turn the heat up and down as you need without having to think about it. Chef Tamara Earl agrees, telling me that 'I often rely on gas because it allows me to quickly adjust the heat to achieve the perfect texture and flavor'. 

A headshot of chef Tamara Earl
Tamara Earl

CEO, Founder, and head chef Tamara runs vegan restaurant Delectablez, a vegan restaurant located in Wilmington, Delaware. Her pizzas are currently sold in Shop Rite Stores, and Tamara has created a digital cookbook of her recipes.

A headshot of pizza expert Gregorio Fierro
Gregorio Fierro

Gregorio is a highly qualified, internationally-recognized instructor to the Pizza industry. He owns and operates a consultancy business based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but he travels the entire world, instructing and consulting pizzerias and Italian restaurants. He is also a judge at all the major national international pizza competitions, including Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.

What are the drawbacks of a gas pizza oven?

Gozney Dome S1 against a window with wooden blinds.

(Image credit: Gozney)

Gas grills taste a little sterile compared to wood fuels. They still taste fantastic - some of the best pizzas I've had have come from gas pizza ovens. However, they lack some of the deep, smoky flavor of wood-fired grills. Gas grills don't produce much smoke, so while they do a great job of melting cheese and adding in leopard spots of char, the pizza isn't as smoky.

The other issue is the tedious logistics of propane. It can be tricky to store propane safely if you don't have a lot of room, and if space is particularly tight, you may struggle to store propane in the first place. You will also need to go and get your tank refilled, which is a lot less convenient than ordering wood or pellets for a wood-fired grill.

Crucially, gas grills are almost always propane. Some are adaptable for natural gas, but this is an extra expense, so if you have an outdoor kitchen you may be better off with a wood-fired grill anyway.

There are also some environmental issues with gas ovens. Chef Tamara points out that 'One concern is the environmental impact of methane emissions associated with natural gas production and distribution. While gas burns relatively cleanly in the kitchen, its extraction and transportation contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.'

Charcoal grills: Pros

wood fired white pizza oven on a decked patio

(Image credit: Gozney)

The single most important feature of a wood-fired grill is the smoke from the fuel. This makes for better pizzas than any other style of pizza oven. Even mediocre doughs and sauces take on a fantastic depth of flavor that cannot be matched by other overs. Chef Tamara told me that 'At Delectablez, we occasionally incorporate wood-fired cooking into our menu to add depth and complexity to certain dishes. The smoky aroma can elevate even the simplest ingredients, enhancing the dining experience for our customers.'

This is also perfect for cooking other dishes as well as pizza. When we've tried other foods, we've found that wood-fired pizza ovens do a great job on meats, and a particularly good job at roasting vegetables, giving them a delicious char without drying them out. Wood also tends to burn a little hotter than gas, so wood-fired ovens are faster.

Wood-fired ovens also tend to be cheaper than gas grills, because they don't have all the hardware like gas connectors, spark plugs, or temperature controls. There are also diminishing returns with these ovens. At a certain level, a wood-fired oven is just a space for a fire and a pizza. Spending more on a wood-fired oven doesn't mean it's easier to use or that the pizza is better, so you can get great results without having to spend hundreds of dollars.

What are the drawbacks of wood-fired pizza ovens>

Adding wood into a pizza oven

(Image credit: Ooni)

Wood-fired ovens are also more dangerous than gas ovens. Used properly, they're perfectly safe, but there's always a chance of a burn. You can use a gas grill without ever getting close to an open flame, but a wood-fired pizza oven needs to be stoked, so your fingers need to get close to the flame. You may think that a pizza isn't worth the risk.

Wood-fired grills are also much less convenient than gas grills. You need to learn how to light the firebox and keep it going, and if you have a large, traditional brick oven, you need to learn how to light a fire in the mouth of the oven and then push it into the back. Unlike a gas pizza oven, you can't turn this oven off.

This also means that wood-fired ovens need a little practice. The temperature hits a peak and then dies down. This means that it's easy to burn one pizza and then undercook another a few minutes later. All in all, pizza expert Gregorio Fierro told me that he far prefers gas to wood. 'A wood fire offers very little temperature control. It is also messier & more challenging to light. Maintaining the fire through a longer pizza baking session will also require more skill and time.'

While the smoke means that wood-fired pizza ovens taste better, smoke is bad for your lungs. It can also be a nuisance, and it's easy to disrupt the harmony of your neighborhood by blowing smoke into someone's yard by accident. In fact. some homeowners' associations even have laws about grill smoke.

What's more, this smoke may not even transfer to the pizza. I - and other chefs I spoke to - believe that wood gives food a smoky flavor. Gregorio, however, disagrees. 'Our brains are very powerful, and if we smell smoke while we’re eating a woodfired pizza, we can convince ourselves that it has a smoky taste. At high temperatures, there is very little smoke in the chamber anyway, and furthermore, the product is in the oven for such a brief period, that the actual wood plays no role in flavor.' If he's right, you could be using a trickier fuel for no benefit. 

Buy a gas pizza oven if:

  • You want something easy

Buy a wood-fired pizza oven if:

  • You want the best-tasting pizza
  • You want to save a little money.

Pizza oven FAQs

Are pellets or wood better for a pizza oven?

You can trust Homes & Gardens. Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing the latest products, helping you choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

I've found that pellets tend to be easier to use than logs. It's easier to control a fire with pellets than with wood because you can always add a couple of pellets to maintain a flame, whereas logs always tend to increase the heat. However, there's no real difference in taste or price.

For more information about pizza oven fuel take a look at our coverage of how to light a pizza oven or the best wood for a pizza oven.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.