So I happened to be strolling through Sam’s Club the other day, planning to purchase some batteries and paper towels. But I left with another pizza oven.
Same old story.
But with the box claiming 900F in 15 minutes (yeah, FIFTEEN minutes), I had to give it a shot. And considering the $200 price tag, there’s a strong chance this will end up as a “you get what you pay for” product. But there is also a chance that this pizza oven can be a decent entry into pizza making. After all, if it really can reach that temperature, it just might be worth the money.
So let’s unbox this thing, test the preheat times, and make some pizza.
Unboxing & Design
Everything was packed pretty well and setup was simple. Simply unfold the legs, insert the pizza stone, and connect the regulator to a propane tank. Inside the box you’ll find the following:
- Pizza oven
- Pizza stone
- Pizza peel
- Pizza cutter
Let’s talk about a few of these.
Right off the bat, and without using the oven yet, I can tell the pizza stone will be a bit of a problem due to how thin it is. This is definitely the thinnest pizza stone I’ve used; most are at least half an inch thick these days. Thicker stones are better at retaining heat, keeping the surface hot between bakes. Thin stones can cool off too much once the dough hits the surface.
However, the free pizza peel looks fantastic. I absolutely love peels like this that have raised ridges to improve launching and holes to remove excess flour. The texture of the peel has that similar non-stick feel that the high-end Gozney pizza peel uses. And overall it feels really well made. I would buy and use this.
The cover had a strong, wonky smell, but the fit was really tight and included carry handles. At the time of this review, I’m not sure how well it holds up to sun and snow.
Now, for the oven itself. It’s a bit ugly, if I can be honest. At first I couldn’t even pinpoint why, but then it struck me. My daughter watches a Disney show called Big City Greens, and the oven opening looks like the kids mouth.
But the oven is also small (like really small), easily the smallest of any portable pizza oven I’ve used so far and I think could be what’s throwing me off. I like the looks of the built-in thermometer on the side, though.
Moving onto the back, you’ll find the straight forward gas burner dial along with some instructions. Like most gas pizza ovens, the “turn slowly” part is very important in order to get it to light.
Burner / Flame
If it weren’t for the sound of the burner, I never would have known it was on. It’s not too often I see a pizza oven with an invisible flame.
Every now and then (if there’s a gust of wind or something), I’ll see an orange flame appear. But it looks like they basically used a gas grill burner back there. It seems to resemble one of my Weber burners with a small blue flame.
Enough about looks. Let’s see how the Member’s Mark pizza oven performs. First up, I’ll run a preheat test and compare it to some of the more popular portable pizza ovens. Then, I’ll make some Neapolitan pizzas.
The following graph shows how the Member’s Mark gas pizza oven compares to other pizza ovens I tested (55F degree day with moderate winds – so expect a bit higher numbers in the summer months). I always test by pointing the infrared gun at the center of the stone.
It kept up with the Ooni Koda 16 for awhile, but the Member’s Mark oven topped out around ~755F at the 35-40 minute mark, whereas the Koda was still climbing. Keep in mind, the Member’s Mark oven is so small in comparison to the Koda 16 in terms of overall space to heat.
In addition, the Koda still has a large flame on the burner which can cook the pizza quickly; whereas the Sam’s Club oven has a near-invisible flame. If a pizza oven has a weak flame, then it really needs to make up for that with good insulation and high max temp. And I’m just not sure if we’ll get that – but let’s find out for sure.
Test #1: First Pizza
After about 42 minutes of preheating it reached 760F and I launched my first pizza. I used my go-to poolish pizza dough and a basic cheese and red sauce. The peel worked fantastic, and everything went smoothly with launch. As some flour kicked up, I finally got a glimpse of some fire in the back of the oven. I pulled the pizza after a minute and 42 seconds of cooking.
Unfortunately I dumped it face-down on my deck while trying to get a picture of it.
But you can still the crust. Overall, it’s ok. The bake was too slow to get a good rise in the crust and the spotted leoparding I like on a Neapolitan.
Test #2: HOTTER!
I let the oven keep heating for quite a bit after the first pizza, and it eventually reached around 775F. This second pizza cooked in a minute and 38 seconds. Again, the crust just didn’t get the good rise that quick, hot flames can offer. But the bottom turned out solid.
Test #3: Closer To The Flame
Like most pizza ovens, the stone is much hotter closer to the flame. So I tried keeping this pizza further in the back and close to the flame in an attempt to reach hotter temps. Unfortunately, it just scorched the crust a bit, but the stone definitely was hotter. Take a look at the base of this one.
At the end of the day, you can make an ok pizza. The temperatures just aren’t hot enough to create great Neapolitan pizzas, and since the oven is so small, traditional New York pizzas (which do better at lower temps) won’t fit. Moreover, the flame is very weak and the stone is super thin, which means you’ll need to reheat the oven a bit between pizzas.
If you’re looking for the cheapest entry into pizza making, then perhaps this oven will work just fine for you. But if you want to make some serious Neapolitan pizza, I suggest taking a look at the Gozney Roccbox (or for a multi-fueled option, the Ooni Karu 12G). The Roccbox is another 12″ pizza oven, but this one is like a Rolls Royce of Neapolitan pizza. The intense torch-style burner cooks beautiful pizzas in as little as 60 seconds – take a look at my Roccbox review for a closer look.