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Ooni Karu 16 Review: The Good, The Bad, The Fantastic

OUR RATING OF THE Ooni Karu PIZZA OVEN
Large cooking surface, improved insulation, glass door, built-in thermometer... Should I keep going? With wood, charcoal, or gas to pick from, this oven is one of the best we've used while still remaining portable.
The good.
Flexible - You can cook with wood, charcoal, or gas (additional burner required).
Great heat retention - Improved insulation, airflow, and door results in impressively fast preheat times and heat retention.
Large - The large oven and door mean you can cook up to 16" pizzas and makes cooking easier.
Looks good - The revamped Karu has a sleek glass door and redesigned exterior
The bad.
The large size means it's not as portable - It's to be expected from a larger oven, but I wanted to point out that this oven is bigger and heavier than some of the other outdoor pizza ovens out there. Fully assembled, the oven weighs 62 pounds.
5
Our #1 rated multi-fuel pizza oven
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I’ve found there’s nothing quite like cooking a Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizza in your own backyard. If you’re like me and you love to cook pizza outdoors, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven. Ooni is one of the pioneers of outdoor pizza ovens, and the Karu 16 is quickly becoming one of the most popular on the market. In this review, I’ll take a closer look at what makes the Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven so special by thoroughly detailing everything from unboxing to preheat tests, and ultimately the performance while cooking a variety of pizza styles.

The Karu 16 Pizza Oven is the latest oven from Ooni. It’s an update on the 12″ Karu pizza oven, which is also multi-fuel. They not only made the oven more than 30 percent larger, but they added a gorgeous glass door, improved insulation and airflow, along with a convenient digital thermometer.

Not only does this oven provide a great-tasting, Neapolitan-style pizza, but its versatility means you can use wood, charcoal, or gas to cook your pizza, making it the perfect oven for any outdoor cooking situation. It’s a low-maintenance oven that is easy to set up, so you can get up and cooking great pizza fast.

This oven is so good that the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), the international authority on true Neapolitan pizza, gave their thumbs up to the Karu, making it the first and only portable oven to be ‘Recommended for Domestic Use’ by AVPN. If it’s good enough for the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, it should be good enough for our backyard pizzas, right?

Why You Should Buy Direct From Ooni

There’s been tons of scams on Amazon with well-priced Ooni pizza ovens that are turning out to be too good to be true. Ooni offers free shipping from their website.

Also, if you use one of the links below to purchase the Ooni Karu 16, I will receive a small affiliate commission which I will use for more coffee, fueling more pizza oven reviews, and forcing me to eat more pizza.
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The new Ooni Karu 16 features a carbon steel shell made of temperature-resistant, powder-coated, carbon steel and brushed 304, 409, and 430 stainless steel. The finish offers increased weather resistance.

Karu 16 Design and Features

Fuel Flexibility – Wood, Charcoal, or Gas

Cook with wood or charcoal (or both) out of the box, or use gas with the Ooni Karu 16 Gas Burner (sold separately).

That authentic wood-fired oven flavor just can’t be imitated. Perfect for more low-key days where you take time in a more intimate setting. But sometimes convenience wins out.

If you are hosting a big party and don’t want to worry about adding wood, or just want a late-night snack and need your pizza fast, that’s when the gas oven is at its best. What’s great about the Karu 16 is that it gives you flexibility without reducing performance for either type. The oven honestly shines at both fuel sources (more on this later).

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Changing between fuel types is crazy easy. Two screws removes the gas burner, and then simply slide the wood tray in.

Glass Doors

The glass oven door, perhaps the Karu’s most appealing feature, is huge at 17.7 inches wide. The unique hinged door features their proprietary ViewFlame technology, which “keeps glass cleaner for longer.” The door provides easy access and greater heat retention (when preheating). You can watch your pizza cook so you’ll know just when to take it out without having to open the door and let the heat out. Once you do open the door, though, you lose quite a bit of ambient temperature.

If you bake a lot of pizzas back to back, Ooni also sells an optional “half door”. I really like this during summer months as you don’t have to mess with opening and closing a door to rotate the pizza.

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Installing the Full Door.
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Rotating a pizza with the Half Door.

High Heat

The Karu 16 received a lot of improvements from its predecessor, including insulation and airflow enhancements. With such a large cooking area, it takes a lot of insulation and a strong flame to reach 950 degrees – and the oven does just that. The gas burner has a beautiful burner with a really intense flame that puts out a ton of heat without scorching the pizza.

And it can do all this without sucking up a whole tank of propane. Gas consumption is 1.1 lb/hr or 7.3kw (25000 BTU) while wood or charcoal consumption is about 4.9lbs for 10 pizzas.

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Absolutely love the new door design, and the 16″ model offers a huuuuge cooking surface. Bigger than the Koda, since there’s no side burner. This oven also gets HOT. Combined with a door, it preheats faster than any other Ooni I’ve tested.

Why You Should Buy Direct From Ooni

There’s been tons of scams on Amazon with well-priced Ooni pizza ovens that are turning out to be too good to be true. Ooni offers free shipping from their website.

Also, if you use one of the links below to purchase the Ooni Karu 16, I will receive a small affiliate commission which I will use for more coffee, fueling more pizza oven reviews, and forcing me to eat more pizza.

Unboxing and Setup

Assembling the Karu

There is some assembly required before you can use the oven. It’s pretty straightforward with a total of six screws which are used to install the door, thermometer, and rear draft plate. The Allen key and screwdriver you need are included and the manual does a really solid job at walking you through this. All in, it takes about 15 minutes.

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What’s in the Box?

  • Ooni Karu 16 Oven main body
  • ViewFlame glass oven door
  • Cordierite pizza stones
  • Ooni Karu 16 chimney
  • Chimney cap
  • Burner tray & grate
  • Draft Defender Plate
  • Fuel hatch
  • Digital thermometer
  • Essentials guide

Optional additions

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The cover is a bit pricey, but the fit is pretty flawless. I typically go with a cheaper Ooni cover, but it’s nice that the OEM one can cover the chimney as well.
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Comparing the Half Door to the standard Full Door.

Once the oven is assembled, it’s important to put it on the proper outdoor surface. Ooni sells a modular table that we really love, but you can place the Karu on a wooden, stone, marble, or stainless steel surface (take a look at some alternative Ooni tables here). Glass and plastic surfaces are not recommended due to the high heat, however I had no problems using it on a temporary plastic fold-up table.

Before lighting the oven, check to see whether the ceiling vent and chimney baffle are open. The chimney baffle should be vertical, and the vent should be positioned to the right. Once the oven is fully heated, you can adjust the baffle and vent to control the heat.

Seasoning the oven

Before cooking pizza for the first time, it’s recommended you “season” the oven by letting it run for at least 30 minutes. They call it seasoning, but don’t think of it as a seasoning process like a cast iron; you won’t be wiping any oils onto the stone or anything. After it has run at top heat for 30 minutes, allow the oven to cool, then wipe it down with a dry paper towel to get rid of any oils or other residue from the manufacturing process. If you purchased the gas adapter, this will be quick and easy.

The Test

Preheat Times (Gas Only)

Ooni claims a 15 minute pre-heat time to 950F when using gas. While this is true, it’s important to understand that the included digital thermometer measures ambient air temperature. If I were to launch a pizza at this point, the stone would not be hot enough, resulting in a severely undercooked bottom. This is because cordierite pizza stones take quite a while to heat up – but once they do, they hold heat for quite some time. The most accurate way to measure pizza oven temperatures is the stone.

If you are really serious about your pizza, you absolutely want to purchase a separate infrared thermometer that will let you know more precise readings of the different surfaces. Use the infrared thermometer to make sure the pizza stone and the ambient temperature are close before putting in the pizza.

During my test, it took about 30 minutes to properly preheat the oven and pizza stone before launching. Take a look at the chart below where I measured the center stone temperature while using both the FULL door and HALF door (optional accessory). Keep in mind, I tested this on a very cold day with highs of 29 degrees F, making the results pretty impressive.

Ooni Karu 16 Full Door vs Half Door Preheat Times 1

Cooking with Gas

The optional gas burner provides you with the convenience of gas cooking and also allows for a bit more control over the temperature. With the burner attached, you need to turn the gas canister on. Push the button in and turn it counter-clockwise – SLOWLY – until you hear a click, which takes about three seconds. Continue holding the button for five more seconds before you release it. I’m personally surprised Ooni didn’t improve the gas ignitor yet. Once you understand how it works, it’s perfectly fine, but if this is your first Ooni it’s common to be a bit confused on how to use the gas ignitor knob.

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Cooking with Wood

Ooni recommends using their premium hardwood logs, but any kiln-dried hardwood for pizza ovens like beech or oak will provide the clean and efficient burn you want.

Start with placing three to six smaller pieces of wood, about 6-8 inches, in the grate and light with kindling or fire starters (again Ooni has their own brand of starters you can use). You’ll want to continually add more wood as it burns, before you lose the flame. Do not overfill the wood because it could be unsafe and you could block the airflow.

I’ve tested a lot of portable pizza ovens, and I thought this one might be a chore to use since it’s so big. But I was absolutely wrong on that, it was such a breeze to add more wood and manage the flame.

While authentic wood-fired Neapolitans are incredible, I find myself really liking salmon in this oven.

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Cooking with Charcoal

You can also cook with lump charcoal with the Karu, although the temperature won’t be as high as with wood or gas. Lump charcoal is better for non-pizza dishes that don’t need to be exposed to the high heat of flame. Charcoal can be easier to light and deal with than wood, and will still impart some extra flavors you could miss out on with the gas. Don’t use charcoal briquettes because they can block airflow.

Add and light the charcoal, and when it is glowing white with a red center, it is ready to cook. You’ll want to continue to top off to keep a good temperature without blocking airflow through the gate.

Controlling Heat with the Chimney Baffle and Ceiling Vent

The simplest way to control the temperature in Karu 16 is through fuel management. With gas, it’s as simple as turning the dial up or down. With wood/charcoal, by adding more, you’ll affect the temperature in the oven directly. But Karu’s built-in chimney baffle and ceiling vents allow for more adjustments in the amount of air and heat distribution.

There is more draw of air through the oven with an open chimney baffle and ceiling vent, resulting in more powerful flames and greater heat. With a closed ceiling vent and an open chimney baffle, heat escape slows and the smoke stays in the oven longer, giving it more time to impart flavor. A chimney baffle that is closed restricts the draw of air and flames, which is good for low-and-slow cooking. If you notice your pizza toppings cooking faster than the base, you can close the baffle to lower the flames and give the base more time to cook.

Why You Should Buy Direct From Ooni

There’s been tons of scams on Amazon with well-priced Ooni pizza ovens that are turning out to be too good to be true. Ooni offers free shipping from their website.

Also, if you use one of the links below to purchase the Ooni Karu 16, I will receive a small affiliate commission which I will use for more coffee, fueling more pizza oven reviews, and forcing me to eat more pizza.

Cleanup

Because the oven burns everything inside, there really isn’t much cleanup. Wait at least two hours to cool down before moving or cleaning the Ooni. If required, use a dry cloth or paper towel to clean up any debris. Don’t use anything wet.

The oven’s finish means it is fine being left outdoors, especially if you buy the additional cover. But if you are not going to be using the oven for an extended period, or during periods of heavy rain or snow, it’s recommended you store it indoors. I personally leave mine out all year, but I always cover it. You don’t want it out in the rain where the pizza stone can get wet.

Performance

Awesome. That about sums up my experience with the Karu 16. What a HUGE improvement over the previous Karu 12, particularly the oven door design, better insulation, much bigger cooking area, and digital thermometer.

I’ve tested just about every outdoor pizza oven and, at this price, this oven is amazing. This is my new favorite oven from Ooni and it’s currently ranked at the top of our list of best pizza ovens. It earns a whole-hearted endorsement.

I can talk all day about how great it is, but what about the results? Let my pizzas do the talking.

Neapolitans

The first Neapolitan I made was absolutely spot on. I launched it when the thermometer read 846F and the actual stone temperature was around 815. This pizza cooked in exactly 90 seconds. Here’s the beauty shot. 

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After this I switched back to the half door to make a few pizzas. The cooking performance was exactly the same, but preheat took an extra 10 minutes. This first one included sausage, vodka sauce, and fresh mozzarella. One bubble flew a bit too close to the sun, but it was still a fantastic pizza. Next up is a sundried tomato pesto with fresh mozzarella. Another solid bottom, the one end could have used another 10 seconds or so. Overall, I actually like both doors. The full door is better to get the oven hot in the winter months, but the half door is more convenient on warmer days so you don’t have to mess with opening and closing. 

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New York Style

Alright, so Neapolitans were a huge success. Next up it’s time to try New York style. The Karu has a huge cooking surface so I’m excited to make a large 16” pizza. Now, you can go the legit way and just launch the pizza like normal, but when I’m making a huge pizza like this, I like to use a little trick. Lloydpans sells a 16” pizza disk that withstands temps up to 750. You can cook the pizza directly on this for a minute or two until the dough forms up. Then you can slide it off the disk and onto the bare stone to finish cooking. This results in a perfectly round pizza and a fantastic trick for those who might struggle with launching a big pizza. Take a look at the results – a perfectly round, perfectly baked 16” plain pizza.

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I like to preheat the stone to 675 degrees but then decrease the flame to low when launching. This allows for a longer bake without burning up the crust or toppings. I’m blown away by the performance of this oven. Usually, most other pizza ovens are better at one style of pizza over the other. But the Karu can really do both. Their Koda model can do both as well, but I can get a slightly better Neapolitan pizza from this model which uses the torch style burner.

Detroit Pizza

Believe it or not, Detroit styles come out awesome as well as long as you parbake the dough first. I made this Jalapeno Popper Detroit pizza in the Karu oven by parbaking the dough for 4 minutes, letting it cool before adding the toppings, and then finish baking for another 5 minutes.

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Summary

So let’s recap quickly. Neapolitans were incredible. New York style was incredible. Switching fuel types is fast. Lighting a fire is easy. And both doors are great for different situations. A lot of really great things here. And while the preheat times took longer than some other models I tested, we have to keep in mind I did this in the middle of a northeast winter and was still able to make all of those pizzas shown in this video. This is not only the best pizza oven sold by Ooni, but my #1 pick among any brands. Just make sure you get the gas burner with it, because the flexibility adds so much to this product. 

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