Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has been making high-end patio cooking appliances for years, and its countertop Artisan Fire Pizza Oven has been a popular option with the brand's customers since it was introduced back in 2010. At KBIS 2015, we got to try our hand at the company's new take on the same concept: the Built-in Artisan Fire Pizza Oven (MSRP $8,295).
How's it different? Well, it's all in the name. Instead of sitting on your outdoor kitchen's countertop, it can be built right into a wall. Depending on what kind of setup you have, that may be a vastly preferable solution. For its part, Kalamazoo says it's a feature customers have been asking for ever since the original came out.
At KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas, the company had one of the new pizza ovens set up in its booth, pumping out pies to awe passersby. We had the chance to cook one of our own. Here's what we found.
Sleek and simple
Like the original countertop version of the Artisan Fire Pizza Oven, the built-in sports a simple, approachable design that underscores the point of the oven—producing piping hot pizza with less hassle than what you'd endure with a wood-fired oven.
There's not much to the layout, because not much is required. A large, always-open mouth dominates the front of the oven, and it's wide and tall enough that you can easily avoid accidental contact with molten cheese.
Just three controls adorn the stainless-steel face. One ignites the gas fire (the oven can use either propane or natural gas) while the other two control the heating elements, simply labeled "upper control" and "lower control." The former is actually a wall of flame positioned at the rear of the oven, while the latter is a hidden element under the pizza stone that Kalmazoo says balances the heat. (You know, so your pizza doesn't come out crispy on top but soft on the bottom.)
Between the two control knobs is a finely cut grille vent with an eye-catching design. It's attractive without being too shouty, and since it's positioned beneath the protruding ledge of the oven's cooking surface, it doesn't detract focus from the Artisan Fire's star attraction—the beautifully reflective cooking cavity.
Everything about the grill feels extremely well-made, including the dials, which have a pleasant weight and tactility. That's no surprise, since all Kalamazoo grills are built by hand using stainless steel inside and out.
Cooking With Gas
Convenient and fast
After cooking with Kalamazoo's latest creation on the KBIS show floor we came away pretty impressed. Sure, you could build yourself a wood-fired oven in your backyard and it would probably cost less than the Artisan Fire, but this thing is just so much easier. It's also far sexier than most DIY solutions; that may not matter to some buyers, but for others it's a key consideration.
With a maximum operating temperature of around 800 degrees, this oven can do more than just cook pizzas. It's flexible enough to bake breads, and even good for roasting meat, fish, and veggies. Our favorite Artisan Fire feature is undoubtedly its quick warmup time—you can go from stone-cold to blazing hot in just 20 minutes. And as a bonus, you don't even need to tend the fire.
We cooked a Neapolitan-style Pizza Margherita with Kalamazoo's grillmaster Russ Faulk. In less than five minutes, a lump of dough, dollop of tomato sauce, handful of basil leaves, and slices of fresh mozzarella were transformed into a beautiful pie.
Ours didn't quite achieve the intense leopard-spotting that characterizes the best Neapolitan pizzas, but it was delicious and certainly in the right ballpark. If you prefer a toastier result, you can use a pizza peel to "dome" the pizza, using the heat reflected off the stainless-steel ceiling of the oven cavity to achieve a nice char.
Grillmaster Russ told us that under ideal conditions he's able to crank out Neopolitan-style pizzas in as little as three minutes. Other kinds of pizza take a little longer, but that's down to different dough, pizza construction, and desired texture.
Live out your pizza chef dreams
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet's products have always impressed us, and the built-in Artisan Fire Pizza Oven is no exception. If you're in the target market—i.e., someone who not only has an outdoor kitchen but is also looking for a dedicated pizza oven—there's no better ready-made choice available. Those who are fanatical about authentic Neapolitan pizza have probably already built their own wood-fired ovens. This is an oven for everyone else.
Sure, it's expensive. At $8,295, this isn't something most of us would buy on a whim. But if you're feeling priced out, there are some far more affordable options out there.
Let's be clear: These are not products on the same level as the Artisan Fire Pizza Oven. But with that said, we like the $269 Mighty Pizza Oven and the even cheaper Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box, both of which simply sit on the grating of your grill and trap/reflect heat. Of course, neither of those solutions can match the Artisan Fire as a showpiece, nor can they compare to its quality of design and construction.
If you don't need a built-in solution, bear in mind that Kalamazoo continues to offer the otherwise identical countertop version at a slightly more affordable $6,795. No matter which Artisan Fire you choose, trust us: You can count on some world-class pizza. We've tasted it.