In the outdoor cooking world there’s nothing quite as hot as outdoor pizza ovens right now, and Alfa Ovens has been creating them for over 40 years.
Today, we’re going to be talking about the Alfa Allegro pizza oven and how you can cook more than just pizza in this oven. What follows is an interview between David Gafford of The Barbecue Lab and Michael Stone of Alfa Ovens at the 2020 HPB Expo.
David: Hey, we’re with Michael here from Alfa Ovens, and Michael tell me a little bit about this this oven and what is it that’s really taking this market segment and just blasting it through the roof right now. What’s so hot about pizza ovens?
Michael: Well, I will tell you that what’s making the category go up is that it’s just extremely fun to cook your own pizzas and other foods in these ovens in your backyard.
A couple of things that really set us apart from our competition is our flue system. We do not have a hole in our ceiling. We have a baffle flue here so that gives you more circulation and allows the temperature to heat up much faster. You can be cooking pizzas in here in about 30 minutes. Your typical brick-and-mortar pizza ovens they’ll take 3-4 hours to heat up.
So, in no time at all you can be cooking food.
David: Is that due to the baffle system or is it due to the refractory brick?
Michael: The refractory brick is better for your pizza, now that gets hot and stays hot longer. It’s better than your traditional ceramic or lava stone base that most of other people are using. But, the refractory brick is manufactured in scratch at our Factory just south of Rome in Italy.
David: So these are coming straight from Italy? You guys are bringing them overseas, and then you’re actually distributing them through different store fronts?
Michael: Correct. We are setting up a retail storefront throughout the whole U.S. We’re the master distributor based in Chicago. We have about 160 storefronts right now and we’re growing fast. The category’s exploding, we’re expecting our numbers to double this year from last year.
David: Wow. So, tell me a little bit about how this is used for more than pizzas. This is for all different types of food, so walk me through a little bit more how rather than just pizza, what all could you cook with it?
Michael: So, you’re cooking with a live wood flame. So, you know one of the things that’s hot right now is when you go out to restaurants they’re cooking on wood flame pizza ovens and things like that. But the flame of the wood gets very hot, okay?
So, if you’re thinking about something like a steak you’re cooking a steak at 900 degrees Fahrenheit with a flame roaring across the top of the oven and a cast-iron pan on the bottom, you’re cooking from the bottom up in the top down so you can cook your steak just like a Ruth’s Chris or Mortons or anything like that. It’ll be crispy charred on the outside, nice medium, medium-rare on the inside.
David: So, you have like a wood-fired salamander?
Michael: That’s right. You’re talking about you can get this amazing crust because you’re using that cast iron, and the sear from the top flame. The flame is literally curving around the top of that stainless steel chamber.
David: So, I’ve also heard that someone is crazy enough to use this as a smoker, so give me the idea of like, how am I gonna use a pizza oven that’s known for nine hundred degrees, as a smoker.
Michael: So, you can use lump charcoal in here as well as wood. So you get your coals going and you throw a few pieces of lump charcoal in there and then you can use the door to regulate your air temperature to get the coals, depending on what temperature you want to do and then if you want to bake something at 350 degrees 400 degrees it’ll stay at that temperature for long periods of time.
David: So, one of the things, I mean I feel like is making this category just explode is that this is just more fun than your traditional, “I’m gonna go stick a pizza on a egg style grill.”
Michael: Right, exactly. So, you can entertain family friends, you know, if your kids are in sports and their teammates come over and everybody hangs around the oven and you’re cooking pizzas, you’re hanging out, you’re entertaining. Everybody’s having fun. The kids are making pizza as your co-workers are making pizzas, you can do contests for who makes the best pizza. You know, it’s just a lot of fun to be at entertaining and have it in the backyard.
David: So, we’re talking about pizzas, like how long does it really take to make a pizza in this oven?
Michael: From the time you put the pizza in the oven to the time you take it out, about 90 seconds.
David: Now can you actually do things like deep-dish in an oven like this?
Michael: Yes, but you’re gonna have to use a lower temperature on your cook because the deep dish pizzas have to stay in there for about a 15 to 20 minute cook depending on what kind of Detroit style or Chicago deep-dish style pizza that you’re doing, and you’ll want to use a pan for that.
David: So you’re talking more Neapolitan style pizza?
Michael: Right, the Neapolitan styles are the ones that are done about 90 seconds. And everything is based on your dough.
This pizza oven will cook anything spectacularly, but the dough is what makes the pizza. If you want a traditional really thin flat bread, cracker-crust kind of pizza, you have to make a dough to get that result. If you want a traditional Neapolitan style pizza, then you need a Neapolitan style dough that’s gonna give you that round crust, the doughy crust but still the flat bottom, crispy…
David: Now, are there recipes on the website that are going to help you with those?
Michael: We have recipes, we have a recipe book that could be downloaded on there as well. We also have YouTube videos, we have social media with a bunch of people cooking and sharing their recipes online as well.
David: Well hey, Michael it’s been a pleasure getting to know Alfa Ovens. I look forward to seeing more about you guys online.
Michael: Yeah, and I Iook forward to working with you guys at The Barbecue Lab.