ilFornino if5002 Elite Plus Generation III Wood Fired Pizza Oven Review
These days more and more backyard chefs are attracted to the idea of grilled pizza, particularly from an outdoor wood-fired oven. The concept itself has tried and true roots that reach deep into the soil of Italy, where brick ovens with Roman-arched domes were used to bake all manner of things.
ilFornino has a line of professionally designed and constructed wood-fired pizza ovens, and other backyard cooking accessories. Their ilFornino Elite Generation III represent the top of their line. Rather than use traditional fire brick this model uses a stainless steel dome with a thick blanket of ceramic fiber insulation sandwiched between the inner and outer layers.
The baking chamber’s floor is constructed from thick refractory pizza stone that has been rated to handle extremely high temperatures, just like you find in commercial ovens. The Elite has an impressive 755 square inches of baking space, which is technically a little smaller than their “Professional” model in the middle of their line.
The door has a thermometer built in. This allows you to monitor the temperature at the opening, as well as how quickly the temperature is rising.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the ilFornino Elite is made in the United States in Elmsford, New York The initial purchase includes some added extras such as a stainless steel pizza peel as well as a brush and a manual.
Construction & Ease of Assembly
The ilFornino Elite Generation III doesn’t technically use brick in their “Pompei Dome.” Yet replacing rustic charm with sleek stainless steel doesn’t diminish its look on the patio. Nor does it lessen its performance.
The thermometer on the door is a nice touch. However, the door doesn’t seal completely tight. It’s hard to tell if this is a design flaw, or if it’s intentional for maintaining the air draft to feed the fire when the door is closed.
The ilFornino Elite Generation III is made from commercial grade stainless steel. This provides it with superior acid corrosion resistance, which also helps extend the internal baking chamber’s lifespan. While it is intended to live outdoors in the elements, it still wouldn’t hurt to keep it covered when it’s not being used.
There isn’t a lot of assembly involved with the ilFornino Elite Generation III. It comes largely put together, you just need to install the chimney and secure the oven to the stand.
The problem is that it weighs in just under 500 pounds, and most delivery companies will only deliver it to the driveway or another hard level surface nearby. If your patio or outdoor kitchen is far away from the driveway or up a flight of steps, you may need to rent a pallet jack, heavy duty hand cart, or recruit some friends who are willing to trade back-breaking labor for free pizza!
You should expect it to take you a little while to get dialed in with the ilFornino Elite Generation III. The first thing you want to focus on is starting and maintaining a consistent fire. The stainless steel and blanket of ceramic insulation are designed to absorb a massive thermal load and radiate it back to the rest of the chamber. This means that the early stages of the fire are perhaps the most important.
There are a few different methods you can use for starting the fire. The first is to build a small “Cabin” of hardwood kindling, with some shredded newspaper that’s been lightly drizzled with a tablespoon or so of cooking oil. When lit the cooking oil and paper will replicate a wick effect to burn slowly while the kindling ignites.
If you have a little less patience, you can simply jam a propane or butane torch into a pile of kindling and after a few minutes, it should keep the flame on its own. Just don’t give in to the temptation to start the flame and leave the canister in there unmanned. This could turn into a major safety problem!
Another easy way to start the fire is to load some charcoal briquettes and jumbo lump charcoal into a charcoal chimney. Let it start just like you would a traditional charcoal grill, and then dump the burning coals at the back.
In all reality, the easiest to maintain a fire is one that has a bed of charcoal with some hardwood chunks and wood chips on top to punch up the smoky flavors. Just make sure you only use hardwood. The resin and sap in softwoods can be toxic and tarnishing.
When it comes to the type of pizza you want to make, fresh, moist dough with simple ingredients is the best place to start. High quality frozen pizzas might be tempting, but they still aren’t going to bring any real magic with them.
Of course, this wood-fired oven isn’t a one trick pony. It can make a lot more than just pizza. In fact, it absorbs and radiates heat long after. You can use this to make an amazing batch of cornbread, bake bread and even make cookies.
If you do want to try cookies, you want to let the temperature come die down a little after you are done making the pizza. When it reaches the 400-degree range, you can slide the cookie sheet in. I think you’ll find that the smoky flavor plays better with earthy flavors, like oatmeal cookies, or even dark chocolate and walnut. When you try the classic milk chocolate chip cookie, it kind of feels like you’re messing with a comfort food classic.
The ilFornino Elite Generation III offers 755 square inches of baking space. This is enough to prepare one large pie or perhaps two medium pies.
The thermometer on the door is a nice touch. Still, I would recommend keeping an infrared thermometer on hand to monitor the temperature of multiple surfaces during the preheating process.
Ease to Clean
There really isn’t a lot to clean with the ilFornino Elite Generation III. The ash and spent coals in the back of the oven need to be scraped out after every use. Then use a damp tea towel to wipe away any trace ash. Be mindful not to let your shirt touch the lip, which could cause an embarrassing smudge-stain.
Close down the chimney cap to make sure that rainwater can’t get into the baking chamber. Even a small amount of water can mix with ash to make a highly corrosive substance capable of tarnishing even commercial grade stainless steel.
The ilFornino Elite comes with a 1-year comprehensive warranty
A high-quality wood-fired pizza oven is a thing of beauty that can take your outdoor kitchen to new heights. The Elite is the top of the ilFornino line. The more you use it the more creative cooking methods you will come up with. Just be mindful to clean out all the ash, and do everything you can to keep water from invading the baking chamber.
- Commercial grade stainless steel construction
- Made in the USA
- More than just a pizza oven
- Heavy and hard to move in place
- The door doesn’t fully seal
- Doesn’t have the rustic brick look
- Relatively short warranty