Outdoor cooking has surged in popularity in recent years, with our grilling choices becoming increasingly elaborate. No longer are we restricted to burgers and hot dogs; everything from steaks and ribs to brisket and pizzas have become a staple for outdoor cooking.
The pandemic has certainly helped cement the trend: according to market research firm NPD, consumers spent more than $4.9 billion on outdoor cooking equipment, such as grills and smokers in 2020 – which is 39% up on 2019.
Ooni, having launched in 2012 as a Kickstarter, is now synonymous with outdoor pizza ovens that use charcoal, wood or gas to cook pizza in no time at all. The Ooni Karu 16 is the brand’s latest top-of-the-range pizza oven.
The multi-fuel outdoor cooking appliance can be used with solid fuels (charcoal and wood), while an add-on also makes it compatible with gas. It has room to hold pizzas up to 16-inch in size – and, in a first for Ooni, this oven has a hinged glass door so you can keep a check on your pizza to ensure it doesn’t burn.
The pizza oven can reach temperatures of up to 950ºF / 500ºC, depending upon the type of fuel being used, and heats up in just 15 minutes. A digital thermometer on the front of the oven will display the internal temperature in both Fahrenheit and celsius, so you can instantly see if you need to adjust the airflow in the oven to reach the optimum cooking temperature.
The Ooni Karu 16 is an expensive outdoor cooking appliance, but for those who want to create authentic pizzas in their own home, it’s worth the investment. As well as cooking pizza, the oven can also be used to grill steak and vegetables – increasing its appeal to those who want to up their outdoor cooking game.
Ooni Karu 16 price and availability
- List price: $799 / £699
The Ooni Karu 16 is the brand’s newest top-of-the-range outdoor pizza oven and will set you back $799 / £699 direct from Ooni. It currently isn’t available in Australia.
This model is the most expensive pizza oven that Ooni sells. For those seeking an entry-level model, the Ooni Karu 12 is capable of cooking 12in pizzas and is made from brushed stainless steel. It’s priced at $349 / £299.
- Cooks 16in pizzas
- Uses charcoal, wood or gas
- Bulky design
There’s no denying that the Ooni Karu 16 is a bulky appliance, measuring 31.9 x 19.7 x 32.7 inches / 81 x 50 x 83cm and weighing 62.6lb / 28.4kg. It’s designed for use outside.
The oven itself is made from powder-coated carbon steel and stainless steel, and comes complete with a 16.7 x 16.7-inch / 42.42 x 42.42cm pizza stone that’s 0.6-inch / 0.15cm thick. It can comfortably hold pizzas up to 16 inches in size. It has three fold-out legs to raise it 4.9 inches / 12.5 cm off the surface on which it’s placed, while the plastic feet on the bottom of the legs ensure it remains stable during use.
As already mentioned, the oven can be used with charcoal, wood or a combination of the two. Alternatively, it will also work with the Ooni gas burner, which is an additional extra that will set you back $149.99 / £79.99. When it comes to cooking temperatures, the Karu 16 is capable of reaching up to 950ºF / 500ºC. However, this is only possible if it’s used with wood or gas. If you use charcoal then the oven will reach only 572ºF / 300ºC. A digital thermostat that attaches to the front of the pizza oven allows you to check the current temperature of the oven.
The Ooni Karu 16’s hinged glass oven door uses the brand’s own ViewFlame technology to maintain temperature, while also allowing you to keep an eye on your pizza while it’s cooking. The appliance comes bundled with an assembly manual and an essentials guide that offers cooking tips and recipes.
For further tips and tricks, download the Ooni app, which is available for iOS and Android. It also offers a selection of videos and even more recipes to help you get the most out of your pizza oven.
- Maximum cooking temperature of 950ºF /500ºC
- Cooks a 16in pizza in just 60 seconds
- Hinged glass door lets you keep a check on pizzas
We found the Ooni Karu 16 relatively easy to set up. It does require some assembly, but the instruction manual guides you through every step, with the help of clear diagrams. We were impressed that Ooni even includes a compact screwdriver, so there’s no need to track down one that fits the super-small screws on the back of the digital thermostat.
Following Ooni’s pizza dough recipe, we prepared a batch of three 16in pizza bases and set to work topping them with our favorite ingredients. For me, this meant recreating my favorite dish from UK pizza chain Pizza Express – Pollo Ad Astra, which has chicken breast, red onions and piquant peppers, along with a pinch of cajun seasoning. We also made a margarita and garlic pizza bread.
We found it easy to fill the cooking grate with fuel, following the advice in the accompanying booklet, and were impressed to see that it took just 15 minutes for the digital thermometer to reach 950ºF / 500ºC when we used wood as the oven’s fuel. We also used charcoal when testing the oven, and here the thermometer didn’t rise above 572ºF / 300ºC.
Ooni says the sweet spot for cooking pizzas is 850ºF / 450ºC. We were able to ensure the oven’s temperature remained at this level by closing the ceiling vents to slow heat escape. In instances when the temperature dropped too low, opening the ceiling vents and the chimney baffle increased the air flow and raised the temperature.
Note that you will need a pizza peel – which looks like a large baking tray with a big handle – to ‘launch’ your pizza into the oven, as well as rotate it every 20-30 seconds and retrieve it once it’s cooked. The window made it easy to see if our pizza required rotating sooner because the crust was burning. After 60 seconds, the pizza was evenly browned, with a crisp, crunchy crust but moist toppings. Quite frankly, it was delicious.
While we found the glass door useful for checking on our pizzas, if we’re being really picky, we did find that it became dirty very quickly. We appreciate that it’s par for the course when cooking with these fuels, but we’re not fans of having to clean appliances more than is necessary. Since the door must be lifted up first (the hooks on the hinge aren’t connected to the pins on the front of the oven), it’s a little fiddly to open – especially on the first use, as it’s natural to want to pull the handle straight down. However, it didn’t take too long to become used to this way of opening the pizza oven.
While Ooni says the oven can be left outside, it recommends bringing it indoors when it isn’t in use. During testing, it took around 90 minutes for the appliance to cool down enough so we were able to move it.
Cleaning the Karu 16 is simple – just wipe it over with dry paper towels after each use, and use soap and water to clean the glass door. Ooni also recommends the pizza stone should be flipped over after one use, so next time it’s used, the heat will burn off any food remnants on the underside of the stone.
Should I buy the Ooni Karu 16?
Buy it if…
You love authentic pizza
If you’re a fan of authentic pizza, the ability to give your creations a traditional wood-fired taste is a must, and the Ooni Karu 16 offers just that.
You like to keep a check on the cooking progress
This is the first Ooni pizza oven to come with a glass door, so you can keep a check on your pizza. It’s handy if you want to ensure every pizza is cooked to perfection.
You use a range of fuels when cooking
Many pizza ovens use wood pellets as their fuel of choice. However, the Ooni Karu 16 can be used with wood, charcoal or gas, making it a flexible appliance.
Don’t buy it if..
You’re on a budget
At $799 / £699, the Ooni Karu 16 is one of the most expensive pizza ovens on the market, and one to avoid if you’re on a budget.
Space is at a premium
This pizza oven is bulky and takes up a fair amount of space. And since it should ideally be stored inside, it isn’t suited to those who are short on space.
You only cook small pizzas
The Ooni Karu 16 can take pizzas up to 16 inches in size. However, if you rarely cook large pizzas, then consider Ooni Karu 12, which holds pizzas up to 12-inch in size and is more affordable.
First reviewed: September 2021