To hear the trend forecasters call it, the outdoor pizza oven marketplace is hot, hot, hot. More and more people are buying portable outdoor ovens — which are (perhaps not coincidentally) getting more and more affordable, too.
Pizza nerds will get into heated (ahem) debates over which ovens make the best pizza, but for me, it’s more important to remember that “pizza oven” does not translate to “must cook only pizza.” What it really means is that, whether your pizza oven costs $300, $500, or $8,000, it gets really, really hot, which makes it an excellent tool for cooking all kinds of things.
For the purposes of researching this article, I started cooking a whole bunch of stuff in one of these portable outdoor pizza ovens. In the process, I discovered two key items that will make a tailgate party or backyard hang centered on your pizza oven a lot more versatile:
- An oven-safe skillet. (Just make sure it fits inside of your oven and is suitable for really hot temperatures — 800 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe limit. For most ovens, you’ll be looking for something like a 10-inch skillet. Cast-iron and carbon steel are both great options; Ooni sells its own version.)
- Compound butter.
The skillet allows you to cook basically anything inside of a screaming-hot oven without having to worry about damaging the surface of your porous pizza stone. (In fact, you could even use it to make these Charred Vegetables With Spiced Labneh.)
But the real star of my testing show was the compound butter. It made every single thing just taste better. Simply stir up some room-temperature butter with herbs, aromatics, and seasonings, throw it in a cooler, and you have an instant flavor bomb. Inspired by the classic mâitre d’hôtel butter, which uses parsley, lemon juice, and black pepper, I made a supercharged version that also includes shallots, garlic, soy sauce, and a little jalapeno. The result is an ingredient that covers all culinary sins: mansion butter.
It works, frankly, on everything. Heck, even if you are making pizza, you can dip your crusts in it for some extra flavor. With mansion butter, the world is your oyster. Here’s a look at a few other ways to put your so-called pizza oven to good use with the stuff.
Speaking of, oysters are a great way to use a pizza oven and compound butter. Shuck some oysters and place them in a skillet (held in place with a layer of rock salt, damp kosher salt, or even wads of aluminum foil that you fiddle with until the shells stay put). Top them with dollops of mansion butter and then blast them in a fully preheated oven for a minute or two until the juices are just sizzling and you get some light browning around the edges. Instant party.
Seafood, in general, is a perfect vessel for both mansion butter and a hot oven. It cooks quickly and benefits from a bit of char. Scallops are another case in point. Sear them in a hot skillet with just a touch of oil for about 30 seconds, then toss them in a pat of flavored butter to finish them off. Those scallops, with a squeeze of lemon and a hunk of bread to soak up the remaining juices, are a meal I would happily eat any day of the week.
Clams and Mussels
These require a little more finesse, since smaller pizza ovens emit a lot of direct heat in the back. But if you toss some mansion butter and ¼ cup of white wine in a skillet, get it sizzling away in the oven, then throw in a couple of pounds of cleaned clams or mussels, the results are delightful. The only thing to keep an eye on is that you will want to take the pan out and give the shellfish a stir every minute or so to prevent the ones in the back from cooking too fast. As with the scallops, you’ll want some crusty bread to soak up the juices here, too.
This one is so easy, and so obvious, that I almost feel guilty telling you how to do it. Preheat the skillet in a hot oven for a few minutes, then add a pat of butter and 1 to 1½ pounds of shrimp (you want them to fit in a single layer). Cook them in the oven, pulling the pan out and stirring the shrimp a few times, until they’re just barely cooked through (this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes). A squeeze of lemon and — obviously — some good crusty bread complete the dish.
Any vegetable that can take a good char will work well here, too. Summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and tossed in a light coating of oil, will get charred and tender. Finish it in the skillet with a some mansion butter for a decadent veggie side. The same goes for broccolini or baby broccoli, sprouting cauliflower, or snap peas.
If this is the first you’ve learned that mushrooms and butter are delicious together, you’re in for a wonderful week. Any mushroom, torn into bite-size pieces (or even whole button or cremini mushrooms) and roasted in a hot oven with mansion butter until tender and juicy, is an absolute hit. Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon at the end.
Does any vegetable get along better with butter than corn? Lightly grease some ears of corn with a neutral oil (like grapeseed or canola), then roll them in a heated skillet in a hot oven until they’re charred and browned to your liking. Then slather them with mansion butter and enjoy the golden silence as everyone stuffs their face full of corn.
Yes, there is also meat. A seared pork chop, finished with mansion butter, will be excellent. But the thing I made that got my family the most excited was an oven-roasted steak with mansion butter: simple, classic, and dare I say, primal? Even if you overcook your meat a little, the butter will cover all mistakes. The key here is a hard sear on your steak, using the heat of the oven to create a beautiful crust, then topping it with the butter to melt over it while it rests.
Oven-Roasted Steak With Mansion Butter Recipe
Serves 1 as an entree or 4 as a snack
For the mansion butter (makes just under 1 cup):
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1½ tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1½ teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¾ teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari to make it gluten free)
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
Several twists of freshly ground black pepper
For the steak:
1 thick-cut steak (at least 1 inch thick) of your choosing (I prefer a New York strip or a rib-eye for this method)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (like canola or vegetable)
3 tablespoons mansion butter
Make the mansion butter:
Step 1: It’s very important that the butter is truly at room temperature before it’s mixed, otherwise the lemon juice and soy sauce won’t get absorbed properly. Once the butter has softened, combine it with all of the other ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix them until very well combined. If you are using the butter within the next couple of hours, you can leave it at room temperature — otherwise keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 4 months.
I recommend doubling or even quadrupling this recipe, since compound butters freeze quite well and you can save extras for future adventures. Use any extra at home to simply dip bread into or toss with pasta for a quick meal.
Make the steak:
Step 1: For best results, I highly recommend seasoning your steak generously with kosher salt 1 to 2 days before cooking it, and leaving it on a wire rack in the refrigerator to dry out. This will allow the salt to penetrate the meat while also removing excess moisture. After that, you can wrap it in a plastic bag and throw it in a cooler if you are taking it on the road.
Step 2: Place a skillet in a fully heated pizza oven. Allow it to preheat for at least 5 minutes, making sure that the pan is quite hot. The preheating of the skillet is the most important step in this process; if it can fit into the oven with the oven door closed — even better. Just keep on feeding your fuel source as needed, and get the pan screaming hot before you start cooking. Oh, and remember that you definitely need dry kitchen towels or a thick oven mitt before you touch the handle.
Meanwhile, if the steak has any moisture on it whatsoever, use a paper towel to pat it completely dry (moisture is the enemy of a good sear).
Step 3: If you have not yet salted the steak, do it now. Then pour the oil in the skillet, lay the steak in, and place the pan in the oven. If you don’t have time to season it in advance, season the steak generously with salt right before you cook it.
Step 4: Use tongs to flip the steak every 30 seconds or so, and even turn it on its side, holding it with the tongs to brown the fat cap. Continue cooking it, flipping it every 30 seconds, until the steak is cooked to your liking. I highly recommend an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature: 120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare, and 140 degrees for medium.
Step 5: Once the steak is cooked, place it on a plate or cutting board to rest. If the mansion butter is at room temperature, simply dollop it right on top. If the butter is quite cold, toss it into the skillet to wilt just briefly, and then spoon it over the steak.
Allow the steak to rest 7 to 10 minutes before slicing.
Noah Galuten is a chef, author, and host of the YouTube cooking show Don’t Panic Pantry and the author of The Don’t Panic Pantry Cookbook.
Dina Ávila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning