Can cook a pizza in under a minute
Burns wood or lump charcoal
Can use a gas adapter
Burns more fuel than you might think
Needs attention during cooking
We purchased the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
There's nothing quite as delicious as a crispy, cheesy pizza. While normal ovens can certainly create some tasty pizzas, nothing quite recreates the classic gooey, crispy, and cheesy crunch of a pizza like a pizza oven does. Designed to preheat quickly and reach the high heat needed for a perfect pizza, pizza ovens have become a great investment for those who love to cook this delectable food.
I've tried my hand at pizzas many times, so I looked forward to trying the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven. I whipped up multiple batches of my favorite crust recipe and stocked up on toppings. After warning the neighbors of imminent pizza deliveries, I fired it up and started cooking pizzas. And then I tried a few other things. Keep reading for my final thoughts.
Design: Aw, it’s a cute robot
When I first pulled the Ooni out of its box and started figuring out where the pieces went, I decided that it looked like a weird, long-necked, three-legged robot dog. Once I moved it outdoors, I decided it still deserved a little pat on the back, but it didn’t take long until it became a fire-breathing, heat-emitting pizza beast.
The oven is mostly stainless steel, which looks sleek and shiny on arrival, but I didn't expect it to stay that way forever. The interior quickly got black from smoke and heat, and areas around the firebox and smokestack started to discolor from heat and smoke. The pizza stone started to develop a patina, as well.
With pizzas toward the back of the oven—where the fire is—I cooked pizzas in 45 seconds, with some risk of burning the crust.
Since this oven is likely to live outdoors, it will also acquire some patina from weather, but rain and snow shouldn’t hurt it. Mine sat outside during a snowstorm, and when I checked inside, I didn’t find any moisture. Even my burned coal was dry. Aside from hail or tornados, normal weather shouldn’t cause trouble; however, high winds during a rainstorm could push water into the oven, so a cover isn’t a bad idea.
The oven’s opening is about 12 inches wide and 4.25 inches high, so it was perfect for my 11.5-inch wooden peel. Since the opening is so low and fire licks across the top of the oven, this is definitely limited to low-slung foods.
Setup Process: Easy-peasy
Getting this assembled was simple. The legs fold out easily, the smokestack twists on and off, and the smokestack cap simply sits on top. Inside, there’s a removable firebox with a tray that allows ash to drop through; that just slides in. And there’s a pizza stone that also slips inside. On the back is a tail—uh, no, that’s not right; actually, there’s a door that allows access to the firebox to load wood or coal. At the very back is a draft deflector. There were instructions on how to install the deflector, but mine came installed. An Allen wrench is included to remove the deflector to make room for the optional propane-burning adaptor.
Getting the oven ready to cook is fairly simple, too. The cap is taken off the smokestack, and the baffle is left wide open. Then the wood, coal, or both is put in the firebox and lit. Firestarters can be used, or the oven can be lit with a torch if one is handy.
Performance: Impressive pizza in an instant
My first test of the oven came on a chilly day. Sure, I could have waited for the weather to clear, but I was impatient and hungry. Starting the fire was no problem, but getting the interior of the oven up to cooking temperature took a bit of time since I was starting from below-freezing temps. Also, I kept opening the door to check the temperature with my infrared thermometer since I wasn't sure how long it would take.
As I made more pizzas, I got better at handling the fire as well as the pizza. I liked using lump charcoal, which burned longer than wood, but I also used wood to create the flames that licked across the top of the oven’s cooking space. I added that right before the pizza went in.
The oven is mostly stainless steel, which looks sleek and shiny on arrival, but I didn't expect it to stay that way forever.
It took anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes to preheat the oven for cooking, but I was often cooking on cold, windy, or cloudy days. On a warm summer day, I'd expect the preheat time to be about 15 minutes. Fortunately, the oven is well-insulated, so it held its heat well.
The company brags that pizzas can be cooked in a minute and suggests turning the pizza every 15 seconds, which seems hard to believe. Since setting and stopping a timer would have been unwieldy, I opted to test my timing by counting "one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi." I practiced my counting speed until I felt my count was reliable.
I started with plain cheese pizzas with a basic red sauce before moving on to pizzas with interesting toppings. The more toppings I added, the more complicated the cooking became, but since I was moving the pizza every 15 seconds, and I could see the progress, it was easy to adjust my cooking methods on the fly.
With pizzas toward the back of the oven—where the fire is—I cooked pizzas in 45 seconds with some risk of burning the crust. That was fine for the plain cheese pizzas. When I centered the pizzas in the oven, 60 seconds was just right and seemed to be the sweet spot for the topped pizzas. Then I tried cooking pizzas closer to the front, and it took about 90 seconds.
While the vegetable toppings cooked in that short time, they kept some crunch. I liked the result, but lightly cooked vegetables would be fine, too. When I added sausage, I precooked it so I could use larger pieces without worrying about whether the interior was fully cooked.
Besides moving the food from front to back, heat can also be controlled using the baffle in the smokestack. With it wide open, the oven burns hot, fast, and clean. Closing the baffle slows the cooking speed and creates more smoke.
The fuel also matters. Lump charcoal alone (regular charcoal isn’t recommended) won’t create flames on top of the oven. There’s still plenty of heat inside to cook, but just without that intense top heat.
There are plenty of combinations of fuel and airflow to adjust the temperature for cooking different foods, but for pizza, hot and fast is easy to achieve, and the results are stellar.
Portability: It wants to boogie
This oven is lightweight enough to move, and it’s even easier if the front door, fuel door, and smokestack are removed, so there’s no worry about dropping them in transit. To lighten the load, the baking stone can also be removed.
To make the oven even more portable, a cover/carrying case is available for purchase.
Care and Storage: It’s like a grill
I found that temperatures of 730 to 850 degrees in the middle of the stone were just about perfect for pizza, as well as for making tostadas and quesadillas. When I made cornbread in a cast iron pan, I used a lower temperature. The cornbread was a bit darker on top than I usually get in the oven, but it baked well. Next time, I might cover it with foil for a lighter top.
While the oven is going to start looking used after a while, I was not very concerned—it’s an outdoor oven, not a display piece. Inside, not a lot of cleaning is required between uses. Once cool, the fuel box needs to be removed, emptied, and replaced. Any debris on the stone can be brushed off before the next batch of pizza. If there’s any food residue stuck on the stone from dripping cheese or sauce, Ooni recommends scraping it off, then letting the oven burn at high heat to incinerate the rest. That worked well for me.
For more thorough cleaning, the stone can be removed and rinsed clean, although soap shouldn’t be used. The inside can be scrubbed if there’s a lot of smoke buildup, and ash can be wiped away.
It’s suggested that the oven should be moved indoors if it won’t be used for a long time, but I suspect that’s more about keeping spiders and other crawlies from making a home than it is about protecting the oven from the elements.
Price: Moderately expensive
The Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven retails at around $349. Compared to a permanent brick oven, this is a bargain. On the other hand, for an item that is designed to cook a single type of food, it’s a splurge. I still think it’s a good buy for people who love cooking pizza regularly.
Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven vs. Camp Chef Artisan Pizza Oven
Camp Chef Artisan Pizza Oven: The Camp Chef Artisan Pizza Oven retails at around $152, so it costs less than the Ooni and can bake a larger pizza. It’s made to fit into Camp Chef grills, using the grill as its heat source, but according to users, it can also fit some grills from other brands. I like that the Ooni Karu is a standalone oven that can find a permanent home outdoors, while also light enough to move around. I’ll give the nod to the Ooni.
A satisfying pizza oven that's worth the splurge.
I've made good pizzas before, but ones from the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven were stellar. Aside from producing delicious pizzas, it was fun and easy to start and stoke the fires. Although it's a splurge, I definitely recommend it.
- Product Name Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
- Product Brand Ooni
- Price $349
- Weight 26.4 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 15.7 x 28.7 x 26.6 in.
- Color Silver
- Material Stainless steel with ceramic fiber insulation, cordierite baking stone
- Warranty 1 year, increased to 3 years if registered