Well friends I am now an official "Blackstoner". I received my oven via UPS this afternoon. It was in pretty good shape, although one of the square tubes into which the side table arm slides was damaged slightly in transit. I fixed it easily with a hammer and pliers. Other than that everything was intact and aligned. I was quite impressed with the build quality considering the price. You really do get a lot for your money with this oven.
Assembly was child's play. It took me about half an hour to put it together. I have spent a great deal more time assembling a scooter or other supposedly simple assembly item. The instructions were written by someone fluent in English which is a real plus. Everything fit together very nicely. No broken stones; Scott123, don't for get to add that data point into your product defect database.
I had made some dough in anticipation of receiving the oven today. I made a 70% hydration dough using Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour, 2.5% salt, and .4% cake yeast, which I fermented for six hours in bulk at room temp, then leaving the dough balls to develop for a couple of hours on the counter as well. The dough was not super easy to work with due to the hydration, but it was OK.
I have no experience using a wood fired oven or really any other oven than my trusty 550F home oven. So using this oven was a very different experience for me. It's kind of like driving a Dodge Viper after you've spent years driving a 1970 Chrysler Town & Country station wagon (complete with imitation wood grain on the sides). Hard to control but very exciting.
I started it up just fine and let it idle a bit on low to get everything burned off a bit. There was probably a bit of oil residue on some of the metallic surfaces, as there was a bit of smoke for the first few minutes. After about 10-12 minutes of heating at around half power, the temperature was up to 650 or so on the lower stone. The upper stone was much hotter, maybe around 800 and up to 900 depending where I pointed the laser on my IR thermometer. I got my first pizza ready and brought it out to the oven and cranked it up to full power for a few seconds, then launched the pie. The first pizza didn't cook quite as well as the later ones did; I assume because the heat hadn't really saturated the lower stone yet. Still, it was promising. I left the heat on higher this time while I went in and prepared the second pie. The second pizza cooked much better than the first, with better browning on the edges and underskirt. It seemed to me that they just kept improving as I left the oven to warm further while preparing more pizzas. By the time I prepared the last pizza the oven seemed to be really hot: maybe 850 on the bottom stone and 900 on top. And the last pizza seemed to come out best.
Overall, I am very happy with the Blackstone oven after one bake. It's really fun to see the pizzas bake so quickly, and I do think there is quite a bit you can do to control how the pizza cooks, between preheating temperatures and using the gas control during the bake. I should note that when you crank the oven up to high the sound of the gas is louder than I had thought it would be. My wife said it sounded like a gas clothes dryer; I would say it was a bit louder than that. Not overwhelming, but I was kind of wondering if my neighbor might stick his head out to see what all that racket was about. (He did not appear.)
I've attached a few pictures. This is the first time I've ever attempted a Neapolitan style pizza so they probably don't look all that great, but I will consider this a baseline for everyone to compare later (and hopefully better) bakes. You may note a couple of ever-vigilant pizza quality control officers in the background of one of the shots. I do also intend to enlist my daughter to shoot some video during the daytime. I tried to do video this evening but it was way too dark outside.