Walmart’s very own outdoor grilling brand, Expert Grill, released a 15″ pizza oven that’s been getting some attention for its attractive price tag.
At just $117, this is easily one of the cheapest pizza ovens you can buy (not counting those awful turntable style ones on Amazon that are only good for heating a frozen pizza).
But here’s one catch: it doesn’t come with any accessories like most other budget pizza ovens offer. Add in a cover and 15” pizza peel, and you’re approaching 150. And you WILL need a cover, because it does not hold up well in rain (more on that later).
This oven is also only fueled by charcoal – or at least that’s what the box says. But I later realized wood also plays a crucial role.
In this review, I’ll see how well it performs while considering the cost, and also compare it to some other budget ovens. Let’s get started.
Not interested in reading? Here’s the takeaway: $150 sounds appealing, but it doesn’t get you far. Spending a bit more returns a huge performance upgrade. These budget pizza ovens performed way better.
Unboxing & Design
The packaging is ok, but smelled awful. Like wet cardboard that also had some animals in it. There were also a few dents on the door and on the side of the oven body. I had mine shipped, since my local Walmart didn’t stock these, so maybe you’ll have better luck grabbing one off the shelf.
Setup basically involves attaching the legs and handles; but be on the lookout for the screws as you toss out the cardboard box. Mine were floating loose in the bottom of it.
You can see the legs are really long, making this oven a lot taller than any other I’ve tested. But the length also decreases the stability a bit. They seem pretty flimsy, and they don’t fold in for storage.
You’ll really want to buy a cover because it doesn’t even come with a chimney cap, so water can get right into the stone. And after just 1 week of owning this, there are multiple rust spots developing already. Unfortunately, Expert Grill does not make a cover for this product (but they do make the charcoal and pizza peel). This backpack cover from Amazon does the job, but you have to pull the chimney off and store that separately.
Overall the design isn’t too bad at all in terms of appearance. A stainless door and chimney offsets the black dome and legs. But the black metal is where the rust issues happen, mainly along the seams and rivets. The quality difference between this and an Ooni oven – who also uses a black coating – is night and day.
The door can be a bit awkward to use, but it has a heat resistant handle on the front, and there is ample space inside with a flame diverter shield in the back.
I’m not much of a charcoal guy, so I didn’t have a chimney to kickstart the fire. I used the old-school trick of making a little nest for the charcoal, using paper, a bit of kindling, and vegetable oil. After it turns white, I laid it in the charcoal basket and put more on top of it, along with a little more kindling. After a bit, we ignited.
Temperatures seemed to hover in the 600-700 range, which had me thinking… maybe I do need a chimney.
So I got a chimney.
It was definitely easier to light, but the temperature did the same thing, preferring to land around 650.
First Pizzas – Charcoal Only
Since I had a bunch of dough made, I decided to launch a Neapolitan for the heck of it and, as expected, it was poor. The temperatures were just way too low – both stone temperature and ambient heat.
New York style was another story. This is an ideal temperature range for this style pizza, so it performed decent. But watch out for the big holes in the flame shield – they tend to creep through and can burn the crust if you get too close.
Second Pizzas – With Wood
Next, I grabbed a few chunks of wood and placed them on top of the coals. This picked up the thermometer to around 775 and produced a nice rolling flame, but the stone temperature still struggled to increase much beyond 700.
So once again, Neapolitan was no good.
This oven is definitely only suited for bread-flour-based doughs. Adding wood – or even pellets – on top of the charcoal seemed to result in a better cook. But it seems as if this oven design was better fitted to be a 12” oven – maybe then the stone temperature would be easier to heat up.
You couldn’t pry my Ooni or Gozney from my cold dead hands. But if we’re talking budget ovens, I’d take the Pizzello Forte oven any day over this. They’re a bit more but come with a bunch of accessories and offer hybrid fuel choices. In addition, the oven really struggles to obtain hot enough temperatures for Neapolitan pizza.
Sure, the $117 price tag is appealing, but factoring in the cost of a peel and cover, and the fact that rust appeared in the first week of owning it, I’d much rather invest in a slightly better product.