Deco Chef Outdoor Review
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Deco Chef Outdoor
$229.99 at Amazon
$284.00 at Amazon
$384.99 at Amazon
|$330 List||$130 List|
$109.95 at Amazon
|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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 others in our best pizza oven 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.
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.
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