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, we’ll take a closer look at what makes the Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven so special and see if it’s the right choice for you.
The Karu 16 Multi-Fuel 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.
The Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven is a great choice for anyone who loves to cook outdoors. 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 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?
Background on Ooni
The Ooni team dates back to 2012 when they began their journey with a successful Kickstarter campaign, which exceeded their goal and was fully funded in just five weeks. From there, Ooni (at the time called Uuni) was off and running. Since that time, they’ve gone on to offer a full range of pizza ovens, up to six with the launch of the Karu 16.
They are one of the most respected players in the outdoor pizza oven space and have cultivated a dedicated following. Through their blog, social media, and YouTube channel they provide a wide range of tips, recipes, and inspiration that creates a sense of community with other owners. The Ooni YouTube channel has dozens of videos and more than 60,000 subscribers, while the Ooni blogs have tips for beginners, like an introduction to dough, dozens of recipes, and more.
Ooni stands behind all their products with the “Great Pizza Guarantee.” As they explain, “If you buy an Ooni pizza oven and you can’t make a great pizza you have 60 days to return it for free. Ooni + you = great pizza or we will buy it back.” They also offer a free three-year warranty when you buy at Ooni.com
Karu 16 Design and Features
The Karu outdoor pizza oven is a great choice if you are looking for an outdoor oven that offers flexibility. In 15 minutes, the oven reaches its maximum temperature of a scorching 950°F (500°C). Once the oven is warmed up, you can cook a pizza in 60 seconds. The 16.7-inch cooking surface accommodates 16-inch pizzas and larger dishes.
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).
If you have the time and the wood to re-create the brick ovens of Italy, cooking with wood might be worth a little extra effort. 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. But 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.
Full Glass Door & Thermometer
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. 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.
The oven needs to be properly preheated before you put the pizza in the oven, which is made much easier with the built-in thermometer. The front-mounted digital thermometer displays accurate and immediate internal ambient temperatures in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
Optimized Airflow Engineering
The Ooni team put airflow as one of the top priorities for the Karu 16. Efficient airflow is vital to getting the best pie possible. Good airflow helps distribute heat evenly so that the pizza cooks perfectly all over. If there is not enough airflow, then the pizza may end up being overcooked or burnt on one side, while the other side is not cooked enough. The Karu was specially engineered for more efficient airflow so that your pizzas will come out perfectly cooked every time. The ceiling vent offers total flame control, while the chimney baffle provides added heat retention, meaning more heat stays in the oven, and it uses less fuel.
Better Oven Insulation
Good oven insulation helps to retain heat, ensuring that your pizza cooks evenly and has a nice, soft crust. The Ooni team has upped the ante with full insulation on the Karu 16, meaning you get better-cooked pizza, improved fuel efficiency, and maximum heat control. If insulation is not adequate, pizza may not cook evenly, or the crust may be too crispy or charred.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Karu oven is not only for pizza. The oven is the perfect choice for cooking a variety of dishes. It can be used to cook roasted meat, seared vegetables, fresh bread and more.
Cooking at the high temperatures reached in the Karu has several benefits. When food is cooked at a high temperature, the Maillard reaction takes place. This is a chemical reaction that creates hundreds of different flavor compounds. These compounds give food a rich and complex flavor that can’t be matched by food cooked at a lower temperature. High-temperature cooking can also affect the texture of food. Food that is cooked at a high temperature will be more tender and juicy than food cooked at a lower temperature.
Assembly and Technicalities
Enough about the features, let’s talk about a few specifics before we get to actually cooking a pizza.
- Cook times – After 15 minutes of preheating, the oven reaches 950°F (500°C) and you can then make flame-cooked pizzas in 60 seconds.
- Fuel consumption – Wood or charcoal consumption is about 4.9lbs for 10 pizzas. Gas consumption is 1.1 lb/hr or 7.3kw (25000 BTU).
- Weight and Dimensions – Fully assembled, the Karu 16 weighs 62.6 pounds (28.4 kg) and its dimensions are 33 x 32 x 20 inches (50 x 81.5 x 83.7 cm).
- Material – 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.
- Cooking surface: 16.7 x 16.7″ (42.42 x 42.42 cm) 0.6″ thick (15mm) cordierite pizza stones
- The opening is 17.7 ” x 5.71″
- Unboxed dimensions: 33 x 32 x 20″ (50 x 81.5 x 83.7 cm)
- Unboxed weight: 62.6 lbs (28.4 kg)
- Boxed dimension: 37.4 x 24 x 15.75″ (95 x 61 x 40 cm)
- Boxed weight: 86.6 lbs (39.3 kg)
- Folding legs with non-slip feet for easier storage
Assembling the Karu
There is some assembly required before you can use the oven. Assembly is pretty straightforward (a total of six screws) and is explained in the instruction manual. The Allen key and screwdriver you need are included. You’ll basically be attaching the parts below to the main oven.
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
- The Ooni Karu 16 Gas Burner
- Oven cover specifically for the Karu
- Infrared thermometer (get one on Amazon, it’s way cheaper!)
- Modular table
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. 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. 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.
Usability and First Cook
Cooking with Wood
Wood is for Neapolitan-style purists. Cooking with wood imparts some extra flavoring to your pizza. Larger wood pieces can be inserted easily through the extra-large hatch.
Start with placing three to six smaller pieces of wood, about eight 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.
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.
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 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.
If you want to change from using wood/charcoal to gas, let the oven cool first before attaching the burner.
Controlling Heat with the Chimney Baffle and Ceiling Vent
The simplest way to control the temperature in Karu 16 is through fuel management. By adding more wood/charcoal or turning the gas up or down, 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.
Understanding Preheat Times
Ooni claims a 15 minute pre-heat time to 950F. During my test on a sunny 75 degree day, this was true. However, 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.
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.
Lift the door up before pulling it toward you, but be sure not to let the handle drop! With an adequately flour-dusted peel, launch your pizza into the oven and rotate every 20 to 30 seconds, watching closely on the backside to prevent burning near the flame. After 60-90 seconds your crust should have leapording, toppings are lightly browning, and your pizza is ready to be removed.
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.
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.