Deco Chef Outdoor Review
Pros: Even airflow, large opening makes for easy access, classic appearance
Cons: Low stone temperature, lack of insulation, difficult to maintain an adequate fire
Compare to Similar Products
Deco Chef Outdoor
$279.99 at Amazon
|$250 List||$349 List||$300 List||$110 List|
|Pros||Even airflow, large opening makes for easy access, classic appearance||Reasonably priced, large capacity, heavily insulated firebox, transformable design improves versatility||Fantastic crust quality, high-fire temperatures, compact and portable||High-fire temperatures, amazing airflow, multi-fuel option||Affordable, designed for a normal range oven, fast bake times|
|Cons||Low stone temperature, lack of insulation, difficult to maintain an adequate fire||Bulky, heavy, slow to preheat||Steep learning curve related to control, prolonged cook times||Dangerous flame blowback, awkward attachment of the gas adaptor||Heat profile depends on oven, heavyweight|
|Bottom Line||An alternative "wood-fired" option that uses charcoal or pellets for increased convenience||Top-notch cooking performance, output power, and versatility, all at a fraction of the cost of direct competitors||The brand that put portable pizza ovens on the map lives up to its name with outstanding performance||A powerful pizza oven with the special capability to cook with gas and wood simultaneously||A heavy-duty carbon steel slab capable of serious heat transfer to make the best pizza you've ever experienced out of a normal oven|
|Rating Categories||Deco Chef Outdoor||BakerStone Original||Ooni Koda 12||Bertello Outdoor||NerdChef 3/8" Steel...|
|Cooking Performance (30%)|
|Output Power (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Deco Chef Outdoor||BakerStone Original||Ooni Koda 12||Bertello Outdoor||NerdChef 3/8" Steel...|
|Fuel Type||Wood||Gas||Gas||Gas, Wood (w/ conversion)||n/a|
|Power Output||n/a||25,000 BTU||13,648 BTU||Not listed||n/a|
|Size of Firebox||74 cu. in.||n/a||n/a||97.5 cu. in.||n/a|
|Average Stone Temperature||423°F||732°F||733°F||777°F||686°F|
|Footprint||306 sq. in.||345 sq. in.||368 sq. in.||301 sq. in.
441 sq. in. (w/ gas attachment)
|228 sq. in.|
|Maximum Pizza Diameter||12"||13"||12"||12"||14"|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Deco Chef Outdoor has all of the trappings of a multi-purpose, "wood-fired" oven. We put that in quotation marks because this oven is actually designed to be heated by either wood pellets or lump charcoal — not wood. A 12" pizza stone is easily accessed through a 50 square-inch front door, and an integrated thermometer helps you keep track of the internal temperature. A lightweight build, smaller footprint, removable chimney, and sturdy handle also make this a reasonably portable option.
To get a closer approximation of the wood-fired performance of this oven, we decided to fire the Deco Chef exclusively with hardwood pellets, instead of charcoal. Though convenient to buy in a bag and load into the hopper — especially because they include a scoop as an accessory — pellets are tough to light, and even more of a pain to add additional fuel to an already burning fire without smothering it. In fact, on our first attempt, the coals of the pellet fire died out before we even finished baking our pizza.
Though we were able to successfully stoke a fire up to its maximum internal temperature within 10-15 minutes, the convective heat was not effectively transferred to the pizza stone. Average bake times took nearly 9 minutes, with an average pizza stone temperature of only 421°F — this is really only adequate for cooking particular types of pizza, like Chicago-style deep-dish pies. Crust quality ranged from a beautiful golden brown when the fire was just right, to more of an ashy grey (with a similar texture) when baking times ran longer. Although the rolling flame is capable of producing a beautifully singed upper crust, this oven has a really tough time reaching the necessary temperatures to quick-fire a pizza before the internal chamber turns ashy.
The issue with the Deco Chef oven is not that you aren't able to build an adequate "wood" fire with pellets. Instead, the issue is that the oven has a difficult time retaining enough of that heat to properly cook a pizza. The oven appears to have little insulation and opts for an air gap instead of some form of ceramic fiber like other models. The air-form insulation is less of an issue than the air gap beneath the pizza stone — any convective heat absorbed by the pizza stone from above seems to simply escape into the air below, and out the bottom of the oven. An average oven temperature of 567°F, plus our anecdotal evidence through cooking pizzas, all point to an agreement that this oven simply isn't able to cook at the types of temperatures needed to produce high-fire varieties of pizza.
But this seems to contradict the internal thermometer, which consistently read more than 800°F while firing. As the flames make their way from the back, across the ceiling of the oven, and up and out the chimney, they are indeed producing temperatures in this range — we verified this with an infrared thermometer. Unfortunately, the integrated thermometer rests up and inside the ceiling, only reading temperatures just along the top of the oven, and this placement is the cause for the misleading readings.
The issues with control with this oven begin at the source — the firebox itself is far too exposed to the exterior air. Even though the design of the oven does a nice job directing airflow so that the flames roll inward, the relatively small volume of fuel held in the hopper simply burns too quickly. Unlike a true wood fire, where small bits of kindling or flatwood will light up immediately and keep the fire stoked, pellets take time to catch fire and build into a usable flame. Additionally, the oven body seems to quickly lose heat through the front door every time you open it to turn, load, or unload a pizza. As a result, it takes additional fuel and additional time to reheat.
Despite the exposed hopper, the Deco Chef sports a beautiful design — one that is both aesthetic and that does a good job of imitating the airflow of traditional wood ovens. When the fire is at its peak, it rolls beautifully over the ceiling of the oven. And thanks to a higher profile of the oven body, it is easy to run this oven for longer baking times without turning crusts to blackened crisps. This oven is also designed to be loaded with either hardwood pellets and lump charcoal as fuel, which are both accessible and easy to handle in comparison to natural wood.
Ease of Use
We've already mentioned issues with losing heat through the front door. But the biggest issue with the design of this oven overall is that the door won't stay in place. The handle is both too long and too heavy, and without any sort of counterbalance or door jam, we had to get creative and brace it to keep it in place.
Thanks to the fact that the Deco Chef uses slower-burning fuels like charcoal and pellets, this is one of the few "wood-burning" options that is reasonably simple to fire without the assistance of a dedicated fire tender — we believe that with practice, you can easily time when to load the fire to achieve enough burn time to properly cook a pizza. The lightweight design, though a negative for cooking performance, is a positive when it comes to portability. Even though the body of the oven is not as sleek as others we tested, the removable chimney, front door, and fuel hopper improve its storage capability.
Comparing price point and overall performance, the Deco Chef costs a bit too much to justify its relatively poor performance. For the same amount of money, other wood-fired ovens are available with far fewer disadvantages. However ironic, the lower temperature output and taller profile make this oven a more versatile option for other forms of baking or cooking. Additionally, if aesthetics are more important to you than either baking efficiency or efficacy, then this pizza oven moves closer to the top of the wish list.
A solid base oven, the Deco Chef Outdoor could see significant improvement in performance with a few simple design tweaks. If you consider versatility as an important factor, then the lower operating temperature is a plus. However, if you are looking to bake anything other than thicker crust pizzas, we suggest looking at higher-fire options.
— Aaron Rice