A budget backyard pizza oven that gets the job done.
Since 1990, when founder Ty Meacham began making portable camping grills, Camp Chef has expanded its product line to include smokers, pellet grills, fire pits, flat tops, and modular “cooking systems” with multiple accessories, including pizza oven attachments that sit over a set of propane burners. The company’s Italia Artisan Pizza Oven is a stand-alone unit that marks Camp Chef’s entry into the ballooning gas-fired pizza oven market. Like all their products, the oven is reasonably priced and sized for portability. Here is our detailed review.
Italia is constructed primarily of steel and weighs about 47 pounds. A mid-size oven, the overall dimensions are 26W x 16H x 15D”. Inside, the cordierite pizza stone measures about 20Wx 13D”, big enough for a 12-inch round pizza or a larger oval-shaped or rectangular pie. The oven’s mouth stretches about 22W x 4H”, not quite high enough to bake a loaf of bread. A simple steel shelf affixes to the front of the mouth, easing the launch and retrieval of pies. Italia comes with a steel door to help retain heat. Optional accessories include a cover, rolling cart with fold-down side shelves and storage drawer, large steel pizza spatula, wooden pizza peel, rocker-style pizza cutter, and scraper tool. Learn all about the best tools for making pizza here.
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Fuel & heat control
The Camp Chef Italia Artisan Pizza Oven runs on gas, either a 1-lb disposable propane bottle or a larger 20-lb propane tank, using the included 5-foot adapter hose and regulator. The H-shaped burner tube sits just below the pizza stone and pumps out 17,000 BTUs per hour.
Temp is controlled by a turn of the dial. When you first fire up the oven, it can be a little tough to see if it’s lit since the pizza stone covers the burner tubes. But you can hear the gas flowing, and when it’s lit, and you can feel the heat, especially on the sides of the stone. The H-shaped burner has ports on the left and right sides, front to back, so the heat travels up the left and right side of the stone toward the dome of the oven. With the stone in place, you can just see the lit burner. Click here for everything you need to know to achieve Pizza Perfection.
Camp Chef recommends igniting the oven with the vented door removed, then replacing the door and preheating Italia with the door in place for 10 to 15 minutes. My first test was on a 60°F day in the shade with no wind. It took about 15 minutes for the stone to reach 650°F on high heat with the door on. After 25 minutes, the stone read 750°F in the center, according to my IR gun (I don’t trust the built-in bi-metal thermometer on the lid). Check out our Infrared Gun Reviews.
Now, don’t shoot me here, but I’m guessing that 750°F is a little too hot for properly cooking a pizza in this oven. “Hotter is better!” you say. Normally I agree. But not if you don’t have sufficient top heat. In any oven, your goal is even heating top to bottom, front to back, and side to side. Even heat all around. With all the heat coming from below this oven’s floor and only a thin steel dome, heat is constantly escaping from the top, as well as the sides and back. Italia boasts double-walled steel, but the steel is millimeters thin and uninsulated. That creates a heat capacity imbalance between the oven’s floor and dome, as well as a heat transfer imbalance between the 5/8”-thick stone on the bottom and the thin steel on top.
Yes, a hotter oven cooks a pizza faster, but your ultimate goal is a properly cooked pizza with an evenly charred top and bottom. If you simply crank Italia to Warp 10, you’ll burn the crap out of the bottom of your pizza well before something like raw sausage on top even approaches safe doneness.
So, before launching a single pie, I tried to achieve some oven equilibrium on Italia: I lowered the temp knob to about Medium-High and let the oven stabilize for 10 minutes or so, which brought the stone temp down to about 700°F.
With my first pie ready to go, I scraped the pizza stone clean with a brass bristle brush, which left the stone a bit dusty. I blew it off a few times to avoid eating cordierite dust.
For my first pie in Italia, I decided to try something new — a Shredded Zucchini with Garlicky Mushrooms, Mint, And Egg Pizza. After a few minutes, the bottom started to burn before the egg was done cooking, so I “domed” the pie, lifting it off the floor to grab some heat from the dome. It didn’t really work. Not enough top heat. I should’ve saved the egg pie for later in my tests. Oh well. At least doming the pizza kept the crust from burning up like paper. You can still see some serious char on the rim. Total cook time was just under 5 minutes.
For the next pie, I wanted to find that even-heating sweet spot. I turned the temp dial back to Medium, and let the oven stabilize–with the door on–for about 8 minutes. Stone temp: 650°F. The lid thermometer read 525°F, for what it’s worth. Wooosh went the second pie into Italia, a Pesto, Gorgonzola, Pine Nut, and Fresh Tomato Pizza, a.k.a. the DJ Magdalena.
Set to Medium, Italia cooked the Magdalena in about 6 minutes. There wasn’t as much char as I like to see on a pizza, but at least it was evenly baked and not burnt underneath. Camp Chef says to keep the door on the oven between pies –- and even during baking –- to help maintain steady oven temps. Good advice.
After a few more pies over several different cooking sessions, I found that, for pizza, Italia runs best set just a touch above Medium with a stone temp of 650-675°F. No, your pizza won’t cook in 90 seconds at that temp. It’ll take 5 to 6 minutes. But it will be properly cooked. And yes, Italia can achieve ambient temps upwards of 700°F, and stone temps nearing 800°F, but it does a pizza no good with all that top heat escaping the oven. You also have to be quick on the launch: get that pie in the oven and replace the door immediately to help retain heat. Keep the door on between pies too.
For my Bruschetta Pizza, I tried to retain a little more top heat with some DIY insulation (a folded up moving blanket slung over the top). Marginal gains there. But that Bruschetta Pizza was one of the best pies I baked in Italia, especially with some fresh basil leaves from the garden.
Italia’s assembly was easy. At 47 pounds, this oven is portable enough to toss in a car with a disposable propane bottle to make pizzas at camp. You can even throw a cast-iron pan or full-size griddle in there to cook burgers, fish, bacon, eggs, or anything else you like to cook on a griddle.
If you happen to crack Italia’s pizza stone, it’s easily replaceable. These are all big pluses. Just keep in mind the inherent heat imbalances in Italia’s construction. It’s also worth comparing Italia to other pizza ovens in this price range to make sure you’re getting the best for your money. If you already own a Camp Chef cooking system, you may also want to look at their pizza oven accessories that fit over the top your 1- or 2-burner system: these pizza oven accessories function in much the same way as Italia.
Unimpressed with gas? Tempted to buy a wood-fired pizza oven? Don’t bother, unless you’re a die-hard, wood-loving pyro. Wood smoke barely touches the top of a pizza, and the pie cooks so quickly, it barely has time to pick up smoke. What you really want in a pizza oven is high top heat and equally high bottom heat and side heat to quickly crisp and char a pizza all around. Italia does that best with a 650°F stone temp for a 6-minute pie.
Camp Chef has a knack for reaching a moderate price point with products that cut production costs yet still manage to get the job done. We like Italia, but must knock a couple points off because of the temperature imbalance between the lightweight hood and pizza stone over the burner. You can get around that weakness by setting Italia to medium heat to produce a properly cooked pizza without burning the crust, but we want even, high heat all around to crisp the bottom crust and char the top simultaneously. Close but no Gold. Italia earns our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Silver Medal.
Camp Chef products come with a standard one-year warranty on manufacturer defects.
We thank Camp Chef for providing an Italia Artisan Pizza Oven for our tests.
Italia artisan Pizza Oven
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Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
Grill, Griddle grills, Tailgater, Pizza Oven
65.38 Heat Flux is the BTU per square inch and is a more useful measure of how much heat a grill delivers than BTU alone.
260 square inches
Small(about 12 burgers)
Camp Chef’s tag line is “The way to cook outdoors”. They began in 1990 to address the cooking needs of campers, outdoors-men, and nature lovers. The initial product line grew to include patio cooking. The Camp Chef catalog is impressive and comprehensive. Grills, ovens and smokers are often integrally designed with add ons such as lidded grill boxes, griddles and their new pizza oven. They offer a vast array of cookware, tools and utensils, lanterns, firepits and other cooking items designed or adaptable to outdoor applications.
Dave Joachim - Editor of AmazingRibs.com, David Joachim has authored, edited, or collaborated on more than 45 cookbooks, four of them on barbecue and grilling, and his Food Science column has appeared in "Fine Cooking" magazine since 2011. He’s a perfect match for a website dedicated to the “Science of Barbecue and Grilling.”