Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo review: the provided the greatest pizza oven for both beginners and skilled pizzaiolo
Sage The Ingenious Oven Pizzaiolo is the Jimi Hendrix and Mozart of pizza ovens at home. If you like pizza, you'll enjoy this. That's all there is to it.
REASONS TO BUY
Produces stunning pizza bases
Effortlessly easy to use
Can be used indoors or out (weather permitting)
REASONS TO AVOID
Perhaps not for traditionalists
In a nutshell, here is Sage Smart Oven Pizzaiolo's review: Sage's Pizzaiolo is a true game-changer, as close to having a genuine pizza oven in your home as you're likely to get without taking up a lot of space or money.
This writer has previously reviewed a wide range of outdoor pizza ovens, both wood-fired and gas. But Sage's new 'indoor' electric model outperforms them all in terms of ease of use and unwavering consistency. To be honest, I never expected the Sage The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo – known as the Breville The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo in much of the rest of the world – to perform as well as it did. After all, it's electric and intended for indoor use (or outdoor use in nice weather), so it's far from 'authentic.' Mind you, I should have guessed Sage wouldn't deliver a turkey to the door, and this pizza oven excelled in every discipline, consistently producing perfect pizzas of various varieties.
PIZZAIOLO SAGE THE SMART OVEN REVIEW: DESIGN
Let's get this out of the way right away. Sage is a long-winded name. The Smart Oven Pizzaiolo is enormous, as in 'where the ***k are we going to put it?' enormous. It is roughly the size of a very large microwave oven, measuring 47cm in width, 46.1cm in-depth, and a modest 27cm in height. Whereas a microwave oven is something you'll use almost every day, a pizza oven is something you might only use once a month – unless you're a pizza fanatic who eats them once or twice a week. As a result, storage may be an issue, despite the fact that it should just about fit into an average-sized kitchen cupboard. On the plus side, it isn't as heavy as most outdoor pizza ovens, so you could easily transport it outside on a sunny day and plug it into a suitable extension lead.
The Sage Pizzaiolo looks the part in all that gleaming lukewarm-to-the-touch stainless steel. The entire front fascia folds down, bringing the pizza stone outwards by several inches to make loading easier. This is a fantastic innovation because one of the most difficult aspects of pizza baking is loading the pizza off the peel – it's not as simple as you think when the stone is set back a few inches inside the oven. Keep in mind that the Pizzaiolo's door is spring-loaded, so keep a firm grip on the handle because it closes quickly.
Inside the oven, you'll notice the Pizzaiolo's heat source – two simple oven rings, one on top and one beneath the supplied pizza stone. These two heating elements are independently controlled to provide the ideal heat requirements for a variety of pizza styles, from Neapolitan to deep dish. Because the heat is directed directly above and below, all styles of pizza bake evenly with no turning required (gas and wood-fired pizza ovens usually have the seat of the heat source towards the rear where pizza edges are easily burned). The Sage, of course, came with a carefully packaged 12-inch cordierite stone, a metal pizza dish for Chicago-style deep-dish baking, and a pizza peel (the large flat spatula you use for shoveling the prepared pizza into the oven).
In typical Sage fashion, this pizza oven is designed to be as simple to use as possible, and I applaud the R&D team's efforts because it is. There are only three dials on the front: a timer on the left, a pizza variety dial in the middle, and a small optional browning knob on the right. The icons on the pizza variety dial are as follows: 160 C, defrost, pan, thick crust, thin & crispy, wood-fired, and 400 C. Simply select your preferred pizza icon, and the oven will select the best pre-programmed ratio between the two heating elements as well as the recommended time to bake the pizza. Talk about uncomplicated.
The manual function, on the other hand, is a little more complicated, requiring you to place the included magnetic interface sheet over the dials and press a couple of buttons. Once the interface is in place, the right and left dials to become temperature distribution controls for each heating element (ranging from 160 to 400 degrees Celsius). This enables the user to choose specific heat sources above and below the stone. To be honest, I didn't try this method because the auto settings are so well configured that I didn't see the point in experimenting. Having said that, I'm sure some pizza connoisseurs will appreciate the chance to delve into the oven's finer custom details and experiment to their hearts' content.
PERFORMANCE OF THE SAGE THE SMART OVEN PIZZAIOLO
I chose the 'wood fired' setting on my first attempt because I am a big fan of thin and crispy Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas. It should be noted that no wood is used in this recipe – Sage claims that the wood-fired moniker was chosen to emphasize the extra-high heat output required for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. The oven took about 25 minutes to reach the desired temperature and made a 'beep' sound when it reached 400 C. The small pulsing LED became static as well. During this time, I spent my time preparing the pizza base with freshly-made dough balls and other ingredients provided by Dough Dealers, an online pizza dough delivery service.
Now, I like to think I know what makes a good pizza, particularly a Neapolitan, and this machine completely blew me away. The first thing to mention is that the radiant heat was so uniform above and below the entire pizza that I didn't need to turn it at all during the bake. Granted, there is no light inside the oven, so unless your kitchen is as well-lit as a football stadium, you may need to open the door for a quick peek from time to time.
I'm also the first to admit that I'm no expert when it comes to preparing and baking pizzas, but the truth is that I've never made better pizzas on any of the other ovens I've reviewed (though I should mention that some of the credit must go to Dough Dealers, whose ready-made dough is probably the best I've ever used).
With the exception of a few irregularities in the shape of my bases, the Neapolitans that came out of this machine-checked every box. In fact, the results were spectacular, with massive mountainous peaks of crisp, light, and airy crusts replete with 'leopard spots' and stiff, dark, dusty, dirty, mottled bases that looked like they'd been in a real wood-fired oven. The bases were indeed stiff enough that I could hold the edge of a slice without the tip collapsing. I also made an amazing Chicago-style deep dish pizza with the provided metal dish, but unfortunately, I ate the evidence before I could photograph it. Outdoor pizza ovens, particularly wood-fired models, are unquestionably more authentic, but I swear I couldn't tell the difference in taste and texture between this electric upstart and the Ooni wood-fired oven I still have to lie around the garden.
Aside from the excellent pizzas produced by this beast, the main attraction of this machine is its ease of use. I never scorched my hand, which has happened at least once with every other oven I've used. Similarly, no crusts caught fire, no out-of-control flames, and no cats jumping on top of a scorching exterior. It also produced far less smoke than expected – in fact, almost no smoke at all.
Yes, the Sage Pizzaiolo is pricey at £700, but so are most high-quality pizza ovens. After all, you could spend up to £1,500 on a fancy wood-fired pizza oven only to spend the entire evening feeding the flames, sweating in the heat, searing your hand, and burning at least one or two pizzas. In comparison, building this pizza oven has been a breeze from start to finish.
SAGE THE SMART OVEN PIZZAIOLO REVIEW: VERDICT
If you're looking for a pizza oven that will make you the talk of the neighborhood, an oven that is so simple to use that it makes pizza baking a breeze rather than a stressful frenzy, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. This stainless steel-clad monster produced pizza bases with all the hallmarks of a restaurant-grade effort right out of the box. All in all, five stars.