Gas vs. electric: Experts weigh the pros and cons of both types of pizza ovens
Gas ovens may be more popular, but many pizzaiolo prefer electric to achieve certain baking characteristics.
It’s a discussion that has scored space in PMQ’s Think Tank for more than a decade: Gas or electric? Tom Lehmann, consultant for Dough Doctor Consulting in Manhattan, Kansas, notes that gas ovens, being much more popular in the United States, often receive the brunt of manufacturers’—and operators’—focus. But for some, electric ovens may be preferred for their baking characteristics, or in locations where gas isn’t an option.
Billy Manzo, owner of Federal Hill Pizza in Warren, Rhode Island, falls into the latter category. He says it’s a simple matter of cost savings and convenience. “I’ve saved an average of about $426 a month by switching from gas to electric,” he says. “Electricity is safer. It’s contained, and it’s a cleaner burn. It’s also easier to clean and saves me several hours of cleaning work on the weekend. That adds up. Everyone should take the time to compare the costs of running gas versus electric.”
Martin Arellano, executive chef and operating partner at Roots Handmade Pizza in Chicago, sees it differently. “We use gas ovens at Roots,” he says. “For us, they’ve always been great, because we have more control of the temperature and they give us more consistent product, especially for the kind of oven that we use (rotating). We think the stones of the oven get more even heat, which helps spread the heat more evenly on the pizza, helps with the cook times, and creates the crispy bottom of the pizza.”
Both types of ovens have their advantages and champions. To help you make a better-informed decision when you’re in the market for a new model, we created this handy infographic:
A Question of Style
As the infographic above explains, gas is generally cheaper but not available everywhere, while electricity is readily accessible but regulated by local utilities. For achieving the desired bake, Lehmann says electricity provides a dry heat, whereas gas creates moisture as a byproduct of combustion. So, while gas may bake faster, electricity may be preferred by operators who load their pizzas with toppings. The extra time and dry heat can suck moisture from a pie with many wet vegetable toppings, for example, possibly making electric the better choice.
The good news is, baking consistency shouldn’t vary whether you choose gas or electric.
But there’s one more factor to consider, notes Kevin Gregory, creative director at AllDay Industry, a New York consulting firm. “It’s all about the style of pizza an operator desires to make,” he says. “The right oven will always be decided by the concept. For classic, New York-style pizzas baked in a deck oven, gas is the preferred method. With lower energy costs, greater accessibility, and the longevity and quality of the parts of the machine, gas ovens are an ideal choice.”
Arellano agrees. “I know electric ovens can be great for some people, but for us, it’s not ideal for the type of pizza that we make, a Quad-Cities style, and the consistency that we’re looking for while baking the crust and cheese.”