Solo made their name with highly efficient portable “smokeless” fire pits and camp stoves. Now these innovators have turned their attention and expertise to the busy category of countertop pizza ovens.
We tested the Solo Pi Prime Pizza Oven that burns propane. Solo offers a Pi Dual-Fuel Oven that can burn propane or wood, and a Pi Fire Pit in three sizes that must be used with a wood-burning Solo Fire Pit. Although burning propane doesn’t produce much smoke, all three have Solo’s smokeless design.
This sector has recently been dominated by various options from Ooni, Gozney, and others, but this elegant newcomer is a worthy contender. Pi Prime has a capacity of one 12-inch pizza at a time; ideal for a 9-ounce/250-gram dough ball. It has a sophisticated, organic shape that, to me, beats out the angular look of many other tabletop ovens. It’s made of top-quality 304 stainless steel, weighs in at 30 pounds, and has a powerful, 15,000 BTU burner. Dimensions are 15.5″ Height x 20.5″ Diameter.
Prime is ready to roll right out of the box. Depending on whether you opt for the Pi Prime Starter Bundle or the Pi Prime Basic, you may have some extra goodies to unpack in addition to the oven itself and its tailored weather-protective cover.
As shown in this photo, The Pi Prime Starter Bundle includes a pizza cutter, a nice infrared thermometer, and a heat-protective silicone mat that rests on the oven top to keep errant fingers and cocktails from coming into contact with the hot roof. An infrared thermometer is essential for pizza making. Click here to read our IR Thermometer Reviews. If you are new to pizza making, I recommend the Starter Bundle. But if you already have some or all of these tools you can save a few bucks and get the Pi Prime Basic. Both bundles are described below.
The Pi Prime Starter Bundle, MSRP $469.99 includes: Pi Prime oven Cordierite 2-piece pizza stone Pi Prime Shelter (the oven cover) 12” bamboo peel IR thermometer Stainless pizza cutter Stainless turner The silicone mat for the top Extendable match-holder for any time when the ignition system might fail
The Pi Prime Basic, Oven-Only, MSRP $349.99 package includes only: Pi Prime oven Cordierite 2-piece pizza stone Pi Prime Shelter (the oven cover) Extendable match-holder for any time when the ignition system might fail
To get started, just remove the efficiently packaged pieces, and carefully slide the two-piece pizza stone into place on the inside floor of the oven. Hook it up to propane, and you are ready to cook. Note that the propane hose is rather short, so if your countertop is high or unusually deep, you may need to lift the propane tank up on a small table or stand. The top of the oven gets really hot, but happily, there is virtually no heat on the bottom so you can place it on a wooden or even a plastic surface.
The piezoelectric ignition works like a dream, just turn the dial to the lightning bolt shown in this picture to fire up the burner.
The instruction book is somewhat vague about the orange settings on the dial. I found that the higher, large orange flame was the way to go, but I do like the idea that I can quickly reduce the temperature if things get hairy.
One caveat; with this high heat and fast cooking time, you’ll need to be ready to rotate the pizza for even char on the corniccione (Italian for “the rim”). If you aren’t paying attention, there are likely to be tears, burned crust, and scorched toppings.
A generous opening
The opening is nice and wide (13″ x 3.5″) and gave me plenty of elbow room for launching, rotating, and retrieving the pizza. Initially, I’d hoped that I would be able to add a few small bits of wood if I desired some smoke, but in the end, I’m glad that’s not an option. Using propane is clean, and quick and there’s not going to be much smoky flavor imparted cooking at high heat in such a short time anyway. Pi Prime has no ash-removal system as it is never supposed to have ash buildup. If you want to use wood, take a look at the previously mentioned Dual-Fuel and Fire Pit models.
At 17.5 minutes, we reached 644°F. Not quite hot enough for my first pie.
By the twenty minute mark, we were rocking almost 850°F. A fine time to start the first cook.
Ready for your next pie?
Heat retention is superb due to the thick walls and efficient rolling flame convecting in the dome, so there is little to no recovery time necessary between pies. If you use a lot of cornmeal on your pizza peel, like I do, be aware that it will flame up dramatically for a second after you retrieve each pizza. Just stand back and don’t worry. After your oven has thoroughly cooled, you can easily pull out the two-piece pizza stone and brush it off, ready for the next pizza session.
It’s not unusual for many ovens to overcook the bottom crust before the top is done. Solo Pi Prime passed a key make-or-break pizza oven requirement; the top of the pizza was bubbling and charred right at the same time as the bottom was done and nicely leopard-spotted. It doesn’t get any better than that. Click here for our pizza and flatbread recipes.
Packaging and assembly
The included glossy instruction book is filled with safety warnings before you get to the instructional and the fun stuff, and there is even a permanent metal safety card attached to the unit reminding you that:
1. Propane is a dangerous and combustible substance and requires your attention and respect.
2. This unit gets HOT.
The only assembly that’s required is the careful placement of the two pizza stones. This takes at most 25 seconds. You may wish to remove them later on for cleaning after the oven is completely cool, but remember never to use any cleaning product on the stones. Just brush them off and perhaps swipe with a damp cloth. Make sure the stones are thoroughly dry before your next bake. The flaring up of cornmeal will gradually darken the stones. I think the discoloration will just become part of the Solo Pi Prime’s rustic, lived-in look.
Solo Pi Prime is a fantastic addition to my masonry wood-burning oven and stainless steel wood burner. I really like this unit. The great performance, affordable price, and strong warranty make it a standout contender in the growing residential pizza oven arena. I give this oven an unqualified Platinum rating.
The Solo Pi Prime comes with a Lifetime Product Warranty against manufacturing defects.
We thank Solo for providing a Solo Pi Prime Propane Pizza Oven for this review.
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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.
132.74 Heat Flux is the BTU per square inch and is a more useful measure of how much heat a grill delivers than BTU alone.
113 square inches
Small(about 5 burgers)
Private: Solo Stove
Solo made their name with their highly efficient portable “smokeless” firepits and camp stoves. The firepits and camp stoves use a proprietary “secondary burn”—referred to as their Signature 360° Airflow Design”—that “nearly” eliminates smoke. “The secondary burn takes place near the top of the Solo Stove’s burn chamber. The upper vent holes along the inside…blasts the fire with preheated oxygen, creating a hotter and more beautiful fire while burning off smoke.”
According to Good Housekeeping “In our testing, the Solo Stove proved to be smokeless once it got hot enough. Flames could still be seen, but it was not smoky. Instead, it emitted something similar to the clear gasses you see when you light a Sterno to keep food warm.” Note that Snoop Dog has recently become a spokesperson for the Solo firepits, as he has also gone smoke-free.
Solo began in 2011 with a Kickstarter campaign and has since grown into a two billion dollar business with a diverse catalogue.