Among the newer entries to the outdoor pizza oven space is Carbon, which came on the market in late 2020. The Carbon stands apart from other outdoor pizza ovens because it has two sources of propane-fueled heat, one for the main oven chamber and another burner under the brick floor of the oven. This ensures that both the top and bottom of the pizza are cooked at the appropriate temperature and keeps the stone hot between bakes.
The Carbon Pizza Oven is manufactured by Proluxe, a company that is well known for crafting commercial food preparation equipment as well as stone hearth ovens. They are headquartered in Perris, California, and the oven is designed and assembled in the USA.
The dual heat sources with individual controls are perhaps the biggest differentiator between the Carbon oven and its competitors, but there is more to the product than that.
In this review, I’ll show you everything from unboxing, features, preheat tests, and most importantly, the performance while cooking a variety of pizza styles.
Design and Features
The oven was designed with heat retention in mind and is constructed of durable carbon steel and one inch of insulation. The black is really slick looking and is actually ingenious for pizza ovens as the soot is harder to notice.
The overall build materials remind me a bit of the Bertello ovens – black sheet metal, lots of rivets, and without many refined edges. But none of these are bad things, so long as it holds up well. However, moving onto the inside, you can see there are pieces of insulation visible at the seams. In addition, when looking at the burner assembly, I really don’t like the amount of connections in the gas piping. It kind of looks like a DIY job. This obviously doesn’t impact the performance at all, I just made sure to double check all of the connections for leaks.
The 15 x 15 inch brick cooking space allows you to make pizzas up to 14 inches. This is one of the few portable pizza ovens that come equipped with a fire brick floor rather than cordierite stone, the former of which is typically considered a premium product.
Whereas many pizza ovens on the market have only one radiant flame that comes from above (apart from the Bertello Grande and Halo Versa 16; I’ll compare these more in the performance section below), the Carbon sets itself apart by having a second heat source under the brick floor. Normally, when the pizza is placed in the oven, it quickly cools the floor down due to the cold dough. The Carbon’s under the brick burner ensures that the floor always stays hot, even between bakes. A common complain with the Ooni Koda 16 is that the stone cools off too much after cooking one pizza, requiring you to wait 10 minutes to heat back up before making another.
The under-brick burner faces a stainless steel deflector that diffuses heat outward and across the bottom of the brick. The result is an incredibly consistent temperature.
This is particularly helpful when you are cooking several pizzas, because you won’t lose floor heat from having the bottom blocked from the heat source.
Two Separate Heat Controls
In addition to the under-brick burner, the Carbon allows you to adjust both the ambient and floor temperatures independently via the separate temperature controls, one for the main burner and another for the burner under the brick floor. Many competing outdoor pizza ovens don’t allow for this fine-tuned temperature control.
During my tests (more on this below), I found myself needing both burners on high when cooking Neapolitans. However, with New York styles or other pizzas that require a longer bake at slightly lower temps, the adjustment came in handy.
Unboxing and Setup
Now that we’ve covered the Carbon’s design, let’s take a look at setting it up.
What’s in the box?
Included with the Carbon purchase are:
- The oven
- Fire brick
- Aluminum pizza peel
- Gas hose and psi regulator
- Hardware and tools
- User manual
Everything is packed pretty well, but the pizza peel had a slight bend in it. The box was fine so I’m not sure if it was like that before shipping. It’s paper thin though, which I really like in a peel.
The setup is crazy simple.
Installing the Brick Cooking Surface: When you first get the oven, you’ll need to install the brick cooking surface. Unscrew the two screws under the trim to remove the lower frame trim at the oven opening, place the brick on the angle supports, slide the brick straight into the oven and re-attach the trim.
Connecting the Gas: Make sure the gas tank is closed. Screw the oven’s regulator to the tank valve by turning it clockwise until it is tight. It’s recommended you check for potential leaks by applying soapy water to any areas that might be cracked and looking for bubbles or any sign of gas leaking.
Heads up! When using it for the first time, let it burn before putting in food. This is common for all portable pizza ovens; most companies call it “seasoning” the oven, which is just heating the oven up to burn off any oils from the manufacturing process, and then wiping it down with a dry cloth. I will say, the Carbon oven had a lot more smoke and smells from the first lighting. Even at 30 minutes of heating, there was still a bit of smoke coming out of the oven. However, by the time I used it for the second time, it stopped.
Performance is always more important than looks. And this oven makes an incredible rolling flame. From the etched Carbon logo you can see the flames from the bottom burner heating up the stone while the top engulfs from above.
Between the power of the top burner and the addition of the bottom burner, I thought this oven would preheat crazy fast like the Bertello Grande did, but it was pretty comparable with the average. Take a look below at the 5 minute temperature readings, which were taken on the center of the stone on a 45 degree Fahrenheit (and windy) day.
Because I was curious, I retested this with the bottom burner completely off; the result was just a little bit lower temps. I then also tested using only the bottom burner. As you can see, it topped out around 400 degrees after 30 minutes. So while the bottom burner does help preheat times a little bit, the bigger benefit is during cooking.
The manual suggests launching your pizza when the stone reaches 670 degrees. I thought that was a bit too low for Neapolitan style, but figured I’d give it a shot in case the stone burner does more than anticipated. You can see below that the crust is definitely a bit under-done on my first pizza, but I had to pull it out before the cheese burned. The top crust is a bit underdone for my liking, but had a great cheese melt. The bottom definitely needed more heat.
So that’s exactly what I did. For my second attempt, I let the stone reach 740 degrees. This bake only took about 80 seconds and the result was fantastic. I love the leoparding on the edge crust, and the bottom was solid but maybe could have used another 15 seconds.
760 degrees ended up being perfect. The great thing is, it only took me 5 minutes to prep this pizza from the previous bake. And in that time the temperature of the stone actually rose 20 degrees. Sometimes the Ooni Koda requires 10 minutes or so to heat back up after launching a cold dough. So the dual burners do work nicely and allow for back-to-back cooking.
For the Superbowl, I also cooked up these NY styles. The oven can only fit a 14” pizza, so it’s a bit smaller than I’d normally make but they still turned out great. I launched these when the stone was around 625 and cooked it on a lower flame – about 4 or 5 minutes total.
Overall, there’s no question you can cook awesome pizza in this oven. The biggest hurdle is the price. I would have liked to see this closer to the $500 mark. The build quality seems a bit closer to the Bertello lineup than it does Ooni or Gozney, and the cooking surface is a bit smaller than I’d like. But since it cooks great pizza, I can’t NOT recommend it.