So you've mastered the art of the perfect slice, and you're looking for new ways to put your brand-new pizza oven to the test? Or perhaps you're considering whether it's worth investing in an appliance that's specially designed to cook just one specific item?
When CHOICE experts recently reviewed a range of pizza ovens, they found many that reliably turned out excellent pizzas – perfectly charred, puffy and crispy in all the right places (others were not so great, but you can find out more about those in our reviews here).
It's definitely an appliance that will take your outdoor entertaining game to new heights. But even the most dedicated pizza aficiona-doughs need a break from margheritas every now and again, and you may want to experiment with cooking foods other than pizza in your pizza oven. Before you get carried away, though, what you're able to cook will depend on which type of pizza oven you have.
What type of pizza oven can cook more than just pizza?
"Some styles of pizza oven do just cook only pizzas, particularly the smaller countertop models," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair. "This is mainly due to the size and shape of the appliance, and that they have pre-set functions and a pizza stone specifically designed for cooking pizzas.
"But if you have a larger wood-fired pizza oven for example, such as the Matador Woodfire Pizza Oven or Gasmate Deluxe Pizza Oven, these are more versatile. They have a fairly large oven area that you can fit various different foods in, everything from desserts to a roast dinner."
"The key to cooking foods other than pizza is getting the right temperature and having the right cooking tools. And be prepared for a bit of trial and error – practice makes perfect!"
What other things can you cook in a pizza oven?
If your pizza oven is large enough, you can roast things such as whole chickens, pork loins, and beef or lamb joints.
"The trick with cooking roasts in a pizza oven is that you need to monitor the temperatures very quickly, as they can get extremely hot and burn food quickly," says Fiona.
"Temperature gauges are not always accurate either, so invest in a sensor temperature probe so you can easily check what temperature the oven is and also a meat thermometer so you can check your meat is ready to eat.
"For best results, you'll also need to use a heavy-based stainless-steel roasting tray with a rack."
Steak or fish
Some pizza ovens have relatively flat or narrow openings, so foods such as a piece of fish or steak that you can easily fit in while placed on a cast-iron frying pan, are fine to try. Again, you need to be mindful of the temperature, as foods cook extremely quickly – when you cook pizza, the oven temperature will be as high as 400–500°C.
But for fish you'll only need a temperature of 300°C, so you will need to wait until the oven cools down. A pair of long-handled tongs and heat-safe cookware is important too, according to Fiona.
"Pizza ovens can be quite dangerous because of the intense heat they produce," she says. "So it's important you use frying pans and cookware that can withstand high heat and use long-handled tools so you don't get burnt."
Wrap jacket potatoes in foil and place them in the pizza oven alongside your roasted meats.
Bread and jacket potatoes
A woodfired pizza oven is essentially an outdoor oven, so you can cook a huge range of foods in it, once you get comfortable with cooking over fire and practising getting the right temperature.
You can wrap jacket potatoes in foil and chuck them in with your roast – they'll just need to be turned a few times throughout the cooking process and may need to be placed on a rack off the brick or stone base.
"Foods such as bread require a lower temperature for cooking than pizzas (around 250°C) and a longer cooking time (around 30 minutes)," says Fiona.
"Remember the heat on the stone is very hot, so foods can easily burn on the base. When cooking bread in a pizza oven, you'll need a cast-iron bread pan for best results, too."
Desserts and sweets
Cooking in your pizza oven can be an all-day affair, taking you from the beginning of an event into the night, or even perhaps the next day. Some of the woodfired pizza ovens we tested can take two to five hours to cool down (if you stoke the fire, though, it can run as long as you need).
So, you could kick off your shindig with pizzas when the oven is at its hottest, then let the oven cool down for a few hours, then use the residual heat to cook dessert.
As with savoury foods, cooking desserts in pizza ovens can require a bit of trial and error to work out how to get the best resultsFiona Mair, CHOICE kitchen expert
You'll have best results with desserts that don't require constant, specific temperatures, as this is difficult to monitor. Try sweet foods that can be cooked in a frying pan/skillet such as brownies, Tarte Tatins, baked apples or apple crumble.
"As with savoury foods, cooking desserts in pizza ovens can require a bit of trial and error to work out how to get the best results," says Fiona.
"Remember that foods will cook much more quickly than in a standard oven. Where you place the food is important too – obviously the further away from the flame the food is, the less intense the heat will be.
"Turning the food a few times throughout the cooking will help it cook evenly as well."
Can't I just use my oven or barbecue?
"Many conventional ovens these days do have a 'pizza mode' as standard that's really great at turning out good pizza," says Fiona. "Plus, if you have a barbecue with a hood you can also just purchase a pizza stone and cook pizzas outdoors with that.
"So if you don't actually think you'll be using your pizza oven to cook a lot of pizza, perhaps you need to reconsider whether you really need one."
The fun factor
Of course, a conventional oven or barbecue won't necessarily help you with that 'summer pizzaiola party in Napoli' vibe you're going for. And as our CHOICE kitchen experts found out when they were turning our dozens of pizzas a day for testing, a pizza oven is fun to use, once you get the hang of it.
Find out more about the pros and cons of pizza ovens here: Should you buy a pizza oven?