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Cooking pizza with a wood fire requires a certain amount of artistry. You have to craft the pie itself, but tending to the fire is a skill all its own. The flame lives and breathes as it burns, which was a key selling point for Solo Stove’s first pizza oven, the Pi. Unfortunately, for culinary dunces like myself, that romantic Neapolitan fantasy often ends with sad, burnt pizzas and a call to Domino’s. That’s where the Solo Stove Pi Prime comes in.
This 30-pound, propane-powered oven doesn’t require wood fire at all. Push the electric starter, and the built-in burner churns out a consistent flame that burns with relentless consistency and ruthless intensity. The end result: Crispy crusts and charred pepperonis that are delicious enough to justify the extra Tums you’ll need to digest them. No practice necessary.
- The follow-up to the original Solo Stove Pi, the Pi Prime only works with liquid propane like you’d use for your gas grill. Wood fire isn’t an option.
- It cooks 12-inch pizzas at temperatures up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit on a removable Corderite pizza stone.
- It weighs just 30 pounds and comes with a durable cover, so it’s easy to lug around in a typical car trunk.
- It costs $349 directly from Solo Stove, but we recommend upgrading to the $469 starter kit, which comes with essential accessories that make cooking much easier.
- Electric start gets the fire going instantly, and it heats up in less than 15 minutes
- It reaches extremely high temperatures. We read over 900 degrees when cranked.
- It burns roughly one pound of liquid propane per hour when set to max (which you won’t need), so it costs less than $1 per hour to operate
- Relatively easy to carry around and fits in a typical car trunk
- Removable pizza stones and stainless steel construction make cleaning simple
- Cheaper than the fire-based model
- Accessories allow for cooking other foods besides pizza
- Monolithic design makes it easier to transport than other pizza ovens with tall chimneys
- Stainless steel outer surface gets very hot and stays that way for more than an hour after cooking
- No built-in thermometer
- Culinary dorks will tell you how much they like fire better and how the pizza was “totally amazing” when they went to Napoli (which they’ll pronounce in an annoying way)
This is a perfect option for cooks who want to spend more time picking ingredients, stretching dough, and actually making pizza instead of fussing around with sticks in a wood fire. It’s simple, portable, easy to clean, and generally a great addition to any quiver of outdoor cooking equipment.
The Solo Stove Pi Prime build
If you’re familiar with Solo Stove’s excellent fire pits, the design here should make sense. It’s a stainless steel cylinder with a hole cut in the side to slide the pizzas in. It weighs roughly 30 pounds, so it’s relatively easy to carry around. It stands just 15 inches high and 20.5 inches across, so even my 14-year-old son had no trouble lugging it around on his own. It does require a liquid propane tank, however, so you’ll need to consider the bulk and weight of that if you’re going to transport the Pi Prime.
It looks and feels like a Solo Stove, which is a very good thing in our book.
The Solo Stove Pi Prime setup
The Pi Prime can sit on any non-flammable surface (it has feet to elevate the hot parts above whatever surface you choose). For my test, I simply sat it on a wall made of patio stone in my yard. But I would recommend getting the dedicated stand to go with it if you can stomach the $250 price. You constantly need to look into the oven to watch the pizzas as they cook quickly, so you want it at a height that doesn’t require endless bending.
Once you find a spot, the rest of the setup process requires little more than attaching the propane tank via the integrated hose, installing the Corderite pizza stones (which consist of two pieces to make them easier to maneuver), and pushing the electric ignition to get the fire going.
The Solo Stove Pi Prime performance
You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of a thermometer on the Pi Prime. Solo Stove sells an instant-read infrared thermometer on Amazon and as part of its pizza oven packages instead of integrating a temperature monitor directly into the device. I thought that would be more of a downside than it turned out to be in practice. I started my test by simply turning the gas to medium/high and letting it rip for about 20 minutes before putting in the first pizza. It worked out just fine.
The burner is localized to the back of the oven, so it’s obviously much hotter back there than it is up front near the opening. As a result, you need to give the pizza constant attention to ensure each quadrant of the pie gets the correct amount of char. This may sound tedious, but pizzas take roughly 90 seconds to a maximum of three minutes to cook at these temperatures. It gives novice cooks like me a chance to get in there with the turning peel (an accessory I absolutely recommend) and really take part in the pizza-making process. After the first pizza, I was totally hooked on the process. I thought that must be how other famous pizza chefs, like Charles Entertainment Cheese, must feel. It’s a rush.
After about seven pizzas, I did need to turn the power down slightly because the heat was getting too intense in the chamber. If you’re going to be doing extended cooks, the infrared thermometer really is a must. The same is true if you plan on doing any proper baking since that process is far less forgiving.
Once everything is heated up and running smoothly, each pizza takes about 90 seconds from when it first slides into the oven until it comes out bubbling from a 750-degree chamber. Times vary depending on toppings–adding fresh mozzarella takes longer because of all the moisture. Overall, though, it’s very pleasant and meditative.
The worst part about cleaning the Solo Stove Pi Prime is waiting for it to cool down after you’re done cooking. Once it’s comfortable to touch, you can remove the stones, which come in two pieces so they’re easy to slide in and out of the chamber. The stones are sensitive to water, so you can’t submerge them. You have to scrape the loose particles off and then gently wash them. They will stain—that’s inevitable. But it doesn’t affect the performance.
The rest of the device is very simple to clean. It’s all stainless steel, so you can wipe it with a damp rag and sauce, cheese, and whatever else comes off very easily. The only part that provides any real challenge is the roof of the cooking chamber, which might get some goop on it if your dough bubbles high enough that the toppings touch it. Even that’s relatively quick to deal with, however.
Solo Stove Pi vs. the Solo Stove Pi Prime
If you’re considering both of Solo Stove’s pizza offerings, the choice should be relatively simple, depending on your desires. Both ovens are nearly identical in size and weight, but the original Pi costs $399, $50 more than the $349 Pi Prime’s retail price. The original Pi can work with propane, but only if you buy the optional burner accessory that you’ll need to install. That adds another $129 to the total cost.
I’m only really interested in propane cooking, so the choice is obvious for me. If you want the flexibility, it may be worth spending the extra money upfront so you can satisfy your culinary whims. I don’t have culinary whims. I want pizza. That’s what makes the Pi Prime work for me.
So, who should buy the Solo Stove Pi Prime?
For $349, this is one of the most portable, durable, and versatile gas-powered pizza ovens available at the moment. It weighs more than a similar model from its main competitor, Ooni, but it’s also cheaper, and I like the form factor better overall. While some serious cooks may find the lack of wood fire support limiting, I’m grateful for it. And I think other enthusiastic novices will feel the same way. Pizza ovens aren’t worth the money they cost and the garage space they occupy if they’re too annoying to use. The Pi Prime is so simple, quick, and effective that I used it way more than I would have initially thought. Sure, I did slightly burn off my fingerprints when I carelessly touched the stainless steel outer surface that’s clearly marked “hot,” but I also made and ate a bunch of great pizzas. And that’s what outdoor cooking is really all about. Just stock up on Tums when you add it to your cart. Those pepperonis will get you.