If you dream of dishing out the best pizzas in town with that perfect crunch, you need to get a pizza oven that lives up to its promises. Victoria Burrows on what your options are.

There’s nothing quite like a freshly made, piping hot pizza with its floury crust, rich tomato sauce, melted cheese and variety of tasty toppings. It’s a food that’s recognised and relished around the world.

This major global food trend is estimated to be worth an impressive US$128billion and represents nearly 5% of global consumer foodservice sales, according to Euromonitor International. In Asia, especially, demand is growing.

Those in the pizza industry say there are many reasons that pizza is so popular, from the simplicity, and affordability, of the dish to globalisation and how it’s made access to pizza’s basic ingredients – flour, tomato and mozzarella – so easy.

Pizza also allows chefs to be almost endlessly creative through adding unusual or luxury toppings, or giving them local flavour. Pizza Alvolo in South Korea makes traditional pizza more palatable to local consumers, for example, by incorporating traditional Korean ingredients. They make a purple-coloured dough from Korean black rice, and use toppings such as sweet potato and bulgogi, sweet pumpkin, and shrimp and hot chicken. According to Euromonitor International, Pizza Alvolo was the fastest-growing pizza chain in 2016, growing 26 percent in value from the year before and consistently increasing its market share since 2011.

In China, pizza consumption is strong also because the success of a few well-known pizza brands, according to Li Chang of Emporium Corporation (Shanghai), a China-based company that makes pizza ovens.

“Pizza Hut, La Cesar, and so on – each of these companies creates its own style of pizza and pizza culture that has captured a different consumer base,” says Li. “Another reason is that the Chinese diet already includes a variety of flour products, so pizza is easily accepted here.”

This growing hunger for pizza is spurring booming orders for pizza ovens with the latest technological, environmental and stylistic advances. Oven manufacturers around the world are reporting that sales of electric pizza ovens are especially hot.

“Due to new gas regulations in Asia, we are seeing a significant increase in electric fired appliances, including pizza ovens and feature grills,” says Stephen Trood, Director of International Sales and Engineering at Beech Ovens Australia. Beech Ovens are one of the few suppliers to offer electric-fired traditional stone hearth ovens, and clients include Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, the Hilton Nagoya and the Grand Hyatt Singapore.

Electric ovens are also known for being more environmentally friendly than some other ovens.

“The electric oven is the future of the pizzeria, as it guarantees productivity, cleanliness, and consistent quality,” says Roberta Lombardi of Sud Forni in Italy, which makes a range of pizza ovens. “Electric ovens are also better for the environment because there is no combustion and they therefore don’t produce fumes and pollution. All the chefs in restaurants and hotels in Asia look for the latest generation of pizzeria ovens.”

Sud Forni’s Serie Opale is their most sought-after pizza oven, globally and in Asia. With an artisanal beaten copper façade, the oven was designed for cooking traditional Neapolitan pizza, the so-called Margherita. This pizza cooks to a temperature of around 470° C and has a cooking time of only 1 minute. The circular chamber aims to make it easier to bake and unfold the pizzas.

Along with designing ovens that are more environmentally friendly, manufacturers are looking to boost efficiency and safety in the kitchen.

“The latest advances we are continuing to develop are safer ways to operate and manage our ovens, including advanced gas and electrical controls, exhaust treatment methods and material efficiency,” says Trood.

Smart software is a key advancement that today’s chefs are looking for in their pizza oven, along, of course, with a manageable price tag.

“The latest pizza ovens are fully digital and equipped with a touch-screen panel that can control time, temperature and even have a smart energy-saving function,” says Li Chang. “In China, since brick-oven pizza is now just taking off, restaurants and hotels mainly focus on price when they do the purchase. Chinese-made brick ovens are generally much cheaper than imported ones, but each has its own advantages.”

But any technological advances need to be simple to install and use in busy in kitchens where there is no time to waste on fiddling with complicated dials. Trood says their new E-Series Ovens, for example, are proving popular due to the reduced lead time, easy installation, simple controls, and “plug and play” features.

Finally, some oven manufacturers identify versatility as an important factor when chefs, hotels and restaurateurs choose a pizza oven.

“Our stone hearth ovens are used to cook a wide variety of dishes from breakfast through to dinner,” says Trood. “Beech continue to experiment and diversify with our range of ovens and feature grill products together with our creative partners in the food service industry. I’m amazed daily with the concepts and ideas that we are asked to materialise.”