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Wood- and gas-fired outdoor ovens that really cook

Q: I want a pizza oven for my backyard. What are my options?

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A: For people who enjoy entertaining, a pizza oven—either wood-burning or gas-fired—offers a fun addition to an outdoor kitchen or backyard. Unlike traditional ovens, these babies sometimes reach temperatures as high as 800 degrees and produce a blistered, Neapolitan-style pizza in minutes; they can also be used for calzones, steaks, poultry, and bread.

Most models don’t have racks or shelves. Rather, your pizza cooks right on the oven’s piping-hot floor, which is usually made of a high-temperature-resistant composite material or covered with fireproof tile. Outdoor pizza ovens vary a great deal in size, substance, and shape, presenting an enticing array of options.

DIY-ers can jump right in with a build-your-own-oven kit. Just ask Gregory Kay, president of Chicago-based Lightology and a pizza aficionado. A few years ago, he built a wood-burning oven in the outdoor kitchen of his Lake View home.

Kay ordered the interior of the oven from EarthStone Ovens (Glendale, Calif., earthstoneovens.com) and installed it himself, with help from a few handy pals. The kit, which cost about $3,300, included detailed plans, concrete blocks, and fireproof tiles that Kay used to build an igloo-shaped oven. He encased it in a streamlined frame, finished the project with a stucco façade, and presto! Three days later, he was turning out beautiful pizza pies. “I’m a good mechanical guy and my friends are carpenters,” says Kay. “If you’re handy, you can handle this project.”

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