Ooni is always working hard to maintain their spot at the top of the pizza oven game. They’re known for their innovation and for staying one step ahead of the competition, and recently proved themselves worthy of that reputation by releasing two new ovens simultaneously. We’ve already looked at the game-changing electric oven, the Ooni Volt. Now it’s the turn of the Ooni Karu 12G, a model that Ooni calls “The world’s most advanced portable pizza oven.”
The 12G is a remodel of their original Karu 12, a popular oven that blended great cooking ability with excellent portability – but also felt a bit unrefined and clunky. So why did Ooni think it needed a revamp? What changes have they made? And is it a success? Let’s unbox this thing and test it out.
I buy the majority of the ovens reviewed on this site. And I can use your help.
Unboxing & Design
I’ve tested a lot of Ooni’s to date, and I have yet to have a problem with shipping or packaging. But they’re really supportive if something does go wrong.
There’s quite a bit more in this box than most pizza ovens, which means there is a bit of setup. Since this is a multi-fuel oven, you’ll have to install the chimney, draft plate or gas burner (depending on fuel choice), and door. Here’s what you’ll find in the box:
- Ooni Karu 12G oven main body
- Fuel tray
- Fuel grate
- Cordierite baking stone
- Oven door
- Fuel hatch door
- Draft defender plate
- Chimney cap
- Torx key
- Ooni Karu 12G Manual
- First Cook Guide
- Warranty card
The upgrade of the Karu 12 has effectively turned it into a smaller version of the Karu 16 multi-fuel oven. The Karu 16 is my top-rated pizza oven, and this new mini version has some great features that the original Karu 12 lacked. This update goes a long way to closing the gap between the two models. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Karu 12 because using it seemed clunky – the solid door means you can’t see progress on cooking. Because of this, you had to cook with the door completely removed, allowing excess heat to escape. The door was also removable and not hinged, like the current models. So overall, I’m thrilled with this remodel and think it could turn into one of Ooni’s best sellers.
The Karu 12G has been given an Ooni makeover to bring it in line with the rest of the range. Instead of the old stainless steel finish, it now has the same sleek, powder-coated matt black shell as the 16. This doesn’t just look better but is more durable, scratch-proof, and weather resistant. Ooni also put a lot of thought into the usability of the oven and have made it as user-friendly as possible by adding heat-resistant handles everywhere you might need them, including on the oven door, the fuel tray, and the chimney baffle.
Don’t forget to also purchase this required add-on for the Karu 12G. I call it required, because this is the only way to make it multi-fuel and truly get the most out of this oven.
The 12G also ditches the old removable steel door for a hinged door with a transparent panel. This door’s borosilicate glass panel is made with ClearView™ technology which prevents soot from building up and allows you to keep an eye on your pizza as it cooks. This means no more opening the door to check your bake and letting the heat out. But they actually improved the door (from the Karu 16) even more by using a magnetic latch instead of the lift-and-pull method.
Another great addition is the built-in thermometer which reviewers (me included) have been asking for for a long time. Unlike the 16″ model, which has a digital thermometer on its front, the 12G has an analog thermometer set into the side of the oven. The thermometer is calibrated to the center of the oven, which in theory should be a lot more accurate.
While still light and extremely portable, the 34lb 12G weighs quite a lot more than the original Karu 12 (26.4lb). It’s also a couple of centimeters wider, but they’ve shaved a couple of cm off the height and almost 5 cm off the depth of this new model.
The Karu 12 G is a multi-fuel oven which I love because it gives you the flexibility to cook how you want, when you want. With the Karu 12G, you can cook with wood or charcoal for an authentic pizza cooking experience. But you can attach the gas burner when you want a quick and easy, mess-free bake.
Swapping between gas and wood is also a breeze, and maintaining proper temperatures with a wood fire is easier in the smaller oven. However, it’s important to point out that you are required to purchase this burner in order to operate the oven with gas, as it does not come included.
There have also been a couple of upgrades to the fuel situation to help maximize your cooking experience. One is that Ooni has fitted the Karu 12G with an extra large fuel tray, so you can heat the oven up more easily and go longer without having to feed the fire.
In addition, Ooni improved this oven’s fuel efficiency and heat retention. It now gets hotter faster, retains heat better, uses 36% less fuel than the previous model, and gets up to optimal cooking temperature up to 29% faster. I’ll test out the temperature in the performance section below.
Ooni claims that the gas burner uses 36% less fuel than the previous model, and gets up to optimal cooking temperature up to 29% faster.
Max Temperature and preheat test
I tested the preheat times on a 68 degree fahrenheit day. The chart above shows the measured temps at 5 minute intervals – you can see it had no problem at all reaching 950. I also included the preheat times of some other top-ranked ovens, but keep in mind, those were tested on a cooler 56 degree day.
There’s no question this retains heat better than the previous Karu 12, and since it’s smaller, it heats quicker than the Karu 16.
I buy the majority of the ovens reviewed on this site. And I can use your help.
Neapolitan Test #1
With the oven hot, I prepped my first pizza using my standard poolish recipe.
I launched my first Neapolitan when the stone temperature read 912 degrees. I left the flame on high throughout the 75 second bake, and these are the results. A really solid pizza, but the bottom finished before the top crust.
Neapolitan Test #2
So I dropped the stone temperature to 865 and baked another pizza for 82 seconds – and the results were great. A puffy crust, despite only using 60% hydration here. A bottom just to my liking, and a great cheese melt on top, complete with cupped pepperoni.
I like to keep the door closed during the first half of the bake while the dough sets up. But towards the end of the bake, I tend to keep it open in order to rotate the pizza frequently. After more testing, I determined 880 degrees is the ideal stone temp.
New York Style Test #1
New York style requires a much lower temperature, so I let the oven cool off a bit and launched at 664 with the flame on low. I quickly noticed this is too hot of a bake. While the top looked excellent, the bottom was underdone and needed a longer bake.
New York Style Test #2
So I tried another at 534 degrees for 4 minutes. I used a low flame, but increased it towards the end of the bake, and my goodness. Look at the crispy bottom here.
Is The Ooni Karu 12G Worth It?
The Karu 12G is currently for sale on the Ooni website at $429. However, if you want the dual fuel capabilities, you’ll need to buy the gas burner separately for an additional $99.99.
Considering the quality of the upgrades made to this oven, it’s surprisingly close in price to the original Karu 12, which was listed at $399.
And in comparison to other leading ovens, it’s better value than the Gozney Roccbox, which costs $499 for gas-fired only. And it’s substantially more affordable than the Solo Pi, which checks out at $894.99 for the multi-fuel option. This price is absolutely solid and one of the main reasons I think this could become their best seller.
I’m really impressed with this oven’s design and specs and the update to the original Karu 12. What’s evident from this upgrade is that Ooni has not only been working on technological innovations but also listening to their customers’ reviews and requests. Many of the Karu 12G’s upgrades are things that the customers have been asking for for a while – such as its appearance, glass door, better insulation, and the built-in thermometer – and we appreciate a company that listens and responds in this way.
Karu 12G vs Karu 16
I also like that this 12G update closes the gap between the Karu 16 and the original Karu 12.
If you watch my other videos, you know I’m a huge fan of the Karu 16 because of its ability to cook a wide range of pizza styles at pro levels. And this 12G is a mini clone. Absolutely impressive performance, and at nearly half the price of its big sister. The drawback is that you’re tied to 12” pizzas.
So, would I still prefer the Karu 16 to this? Yes, because I love making a 16” New York. But this really comes down to your budget. Performance wise, the Karu 12G bakes pizza exactly the same. But it’s also more affordable, more portable, and quicker to heat up.
And these are the reasons I rank it as the #1 12” pizza oven. Get yours here, you won’t regret it.