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Deco Chef Outdoor Review

An alternative "wood-fired" option that uses charcoal or pellets for increased convenience
Deco Chef Outdoor
Credit: Amazon
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Price:   $360 List | $219.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Even airflow, large opening makes for easy access, classic appearance
Cons:  Low stone temperature, lack of insulation, difficult to maintain an adequate fire
Manufacturer:   Deco
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 14, 2022
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48
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 12
  • Cooking Performance - 30% 4.0
  • Output Power - 30% 5.0
  • Control - 25% 6.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 4.0

Our Verdict

An oven that looks better than it performs, the Deco Chef Outdoor is suited for lower-fire pizzas that require longer cook times. Offering an alternative to more traditional wood-fired ovens, it runs on either hardwood pellets or lump charcoal. Though convenient in theory, this presents issues in practice. We had trouble maintaining consistently high enough temperatures to cook pizzas above 550°F. Despite a beautiful design that promotes fantastic airflow, this oven has a few too many other fatal design flaws that simply don't justify its price point. However, those looking for a versatile pizza oven will ironically appreciate the lower firing temperatures. This feature, combined with a higher profile body and larger front door, makes a handy and versatile kitchen appliance better suited to baking French bread than a Neapolitan-style pizza.

Editor's Note: The Deco Chef Outdoor review was updated on February 14th, 2022, with additional information on what products we would buy and more in-depth product comparisons.

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Deco Chef Outdoor
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Price $360 List
$219.99 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Even airflow, large opening makes for easy access, classic appearanceReasonably priced, large capacity, heavily insulated firebox, transformable design improves versatilityFantastic crust quality, high-fire temperatures, compact and portableHigh-fire temperatures, amazing airflow, multi-fuel optionAffordable, designed for a normal range oven, fast bake times
Cons Low stone temperature, lack of insulation, difficult to maintain an adequate fireBulky, heavy, slow to preheatSteep learning curve related to control, prolonged cook timesDangerous flame blowback, awkward attachment of the gas adaptorHeat profile depends on oven, heavyweight
Bottom Line An alternative "wood-fired" option that uses charcoal or pellets for increased convenienceTop-notch cooking performance, output power, and versatility, all at a fraction of the cost of direct competitorsThe brand that put portable pizza ovens on the map lives up to its name with outstanding performanceA powerful pizza oven with the special capability to cook with gas and wood simultaneouslyA 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%)
4.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Output Power (30%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Control (25%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Ease of Use (15%)
4.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
8.0
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 make this a reasonably portable option.

Performance Comparison


Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - the pellet-fired deco chef is more convenient than a true wood-fired...
The pellet-fired Deco Chef is more convenient than a true wood-fired oven, but with an equivalent trade-off of quality and performance.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Cooking Performance


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.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - the firebox is well-designed for tending pellets, but without any...
The firebox is well-designed for tending pellets, but without any direct instruction, we were a bit confused about setting it properly (there is supposed to be a grate to keep the pellets from spilling out.)
Credit: Aaron Rice

Though we were able to successfully stoke a fire up to its maximum internal temperature within 10-15 minutes, the oven did not effectively transfer the convective heat to the pizza stone. Average bake times took nearly 9 minutes, with an average pizza stone temperature of only 421°F — this is 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 can produce 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.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - unlike wood, which depending on the variety can burn very cleanly...
Unlike wood, which depending on the variety can burn very cleanly, pellets tend to produce more ash, that ultimately ends up on the crust of your pizza.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Output Power


The issue with the Deco Chef oven is not that you can't build an adequate "wood" fire with pellets. Instead, the problem is that the oven has a difficult time retaining enough of that heat to cook a pizza properly. 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 might be acceptable, but the air gap beneath the pizza stone is a bigger problem. Any convective heat the pizza stone absorbs quickly escapes into the air below and is lost from 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.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - don't be fooled by the high temperatures indicated by the integrated...
Don't be fooled by the high temperatures indicated by the integrated thermometer. Taking an average of both internal oven and pizza stone temperatures revealed a very different level of heat output.
Credit: Aaron Rice

But this seems to contradict the internal thermometer, which consistently read more than 800°F while firing. As the flames make their way across the oven ceiling and up through the chimney, they indeed produce temperatures in this range — we verified 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.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - less than ideal pizza stone temperatures, regardless of the style...
Less than ideal pizza stone temperatures, regardless of the style you are hoping to bake.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Control


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 an actual wood fire, where tiny 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 when you open it to turn, load, or unload a pizza. As a result, it takes additional fuel and additional time to reheat.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - once lit, the firebox burns very efficiently, directing flames...
Once lit, the firebox burns very efficiently, directing flames upward and into the oven chamber.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Despite the exposed hopper, the Deco Chef sports a beautiful design — one that is both aesthetic and that does an excellent 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. You can also load this oven with either hardwood pellets or lump charcoal as fuel, which are both accessible and easy to handle compared to natural wood.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - when the fire is roaring, this oven is designed to promote airflow...
When the fire is roaring, this oven is designed to promote airflow to get a rolling flame to extend out and over the top of the pizza stone.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Ease of Use


We've already mentioned issues with losing heat through the front door. But the biggest problem with the design of this oven overall is that the door won't stay in place. The handle is too long and heavy, and without any counterbalance or door jam, we had to get creative and brace it to keep it in place.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - this cannot be the designer's intended purpose of this tool, but...
This cannot be the designer's intended purpose of this tool, but there was no other way to keep the door in place!
Credit: Aaron Rice

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 cook a pizza properly while simultaneously prepping pizza ingredients. Though a negative for cooking performance, the lightweight design is a positive when it comes to portability. Even though the oven's body is not as sleek as others, the removable chimney, front door, and fuel hopper improve its storage capability.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - the oven body is fitted with a carrying handle, which is a nice...
The oven body is fitted with a carrying handle, which is a nice addition to improve portability.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Should You Buy the Deco Chef Outdoor?


Comparing price point and overall performance, the Deco Chef costs a bit too much to justify its relatively poor performance relative to other pizza ovens in this review. Different wood-fired ovens are available with far fewer disadvantages for the same amount of money. However, 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, this pizza oven moves closer to the top of the wish list.

Deco Chef Outdoor pizza oven - while we were eventually able to produce satisfactory pizzas, this...
While we were eventually able to produce satisfactory pizzas, this oven is far too expensive relative to its overall performance.
Credit: Aaron Rice

What Other Pizza Ovens Should You Consider?


A solid base oven, the Deco Chef Outdoor could significantly improve with a few simple design tweaks. If you consider versatility an essential factor, the lower operating temperature is a plus. However, if you want to bake anything other than thicker crust pizzas, we suggest looking at higher-fire options. The Bertello Outdoor is a highly rated option that also has the ability to work with different fuel types and costs less than the Deco Chef.

Aaron Rice

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