We added the Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel pizza oven to our outdoor kitchen this past summer and have been putting it to the test on numerous Friday nights and the occasional backyard pizza party ever since.
Outdoor pizza ovens were probably already on the rise prior to 2020, but the pandemic seemed to really add fuel to that launch. With everyone spending a lot more time at home, outdoor cooking, in general, has become all the more common and people are looking for more ways to prepare their meals outside.
We already had the propane-fueled Ooni Koda 16 and were very curious to see how the Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel pizza oven would compare. After all, their website claims this oven is "the first and only pizza oven to be ‘Recommended for Domestic Use’ by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the acclaimed international authority on true Neapolitan pizza." That sounds like a pretty big deal to me!
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What size pizza does Ooni Karu make?
The Ooni Karu pizza oven comes in 2 different sizes. The original Ooni Karu 12 makes 12-inch pizzas on a 13" x 13" pizza stone. The newer Ooni Karu 16 makes anything up to 16-inch pizzas on a 16.7" x 16.7" pizza stone. The Karu 12 has an opening height of 3.89" while the Karu 16 has an opening height of 5.71".
Ooni pizza ovens can do more than just cook pizzas though! Just imagine a loaf of fresh bread baked in your own backyard. And with the cast iron grizzler pan (sold separately) you can easily cook roasted meats, flame-cooked steaks, and seared vegetables. Just last week we cooked chicken fajitas in our Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel pizza oven.
Ooni Karu 16 Pizza Oven Specs
The overall size of the unit is 32.9”H x 32”D x 20″W (50cm W x 81.5cm D x 83.7cm H). The un-boxed weight is 62.6 lbs (28.4 kg). The footprint (leg distance & oven coverage for a table) is 25” from the front legs to the back leg and 19” from the outside of the front legs.
The body is made of powder-coated carbon steel and stainless steel, and the oven can be fueled with 2 different fuel types: wood and charcoal. There is a propane burner addon that can be purchased for ($99) or a Natural Gas burner that can be added for ($149) and both are sold separately.
The .6" thick cordierite pizza stone comes in two pieces, 1 piece for under the fire tray and the other for the bottom of the oven where you’ll be cooking. The stone is very low maintenance and Ooni advises simply "cleaning" it by firing it at full heat (think cleaning cycle of your oven) and occasionally flipping the stone over, alternating which side is being used to cook pizza. A good wire brush is also helpful in brushing ash and crumbs out of the way between cooks.
The Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel pizza oven has a full glass oven door providing increased oven insulation and better temperature control.
Just below the opening, there is a mounted digital thermometer reading the internal temperature of the Ooni oven in either Celcius or Fahrenheit.
The Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel pizza oven has a removable 19" chimney along with a chimney cap to protect the inside of the oven from rain.
All of these features work together to make great wood and charcoal-fired homemade pizzas in your outdoor space.
What wood is used for Ooni Karu?
Always use kiln-dried hardwood for best results in your wood-fired Ooni Karu 16. We were very pleased with the box of premium assorted oak that we got from Ooni. You'll want small splits approximately 6" in length.
Can you use wood pellets with Ooni Karu?
The Ooni Karu can run on pellets. It's not specifically designed to run on pellets but as long as you have a fire that you can add pellets to, it will run on pellets because pellets are just compressed wood.
How to build a fire in the Ooni Karu 16
I personally like to start the oven up with both charcoal and wood.
I’ll start by adding in a base layer of charcoal while leaving enough room for wood and fire starters. My goal here is that I want to get the longevity of charcoal to maintain a strong coal bed while using wood to get the immediate burn and fire arcing over the top of the oven to help to brown when we put pizzas in to cook.
Fuel-efficient air flow is important when you’re talking about firing up this oven, so don’t just pack it full of fuel to get things started. Leave some room, because you’re going to be adding fuel as you go.
On the whole charcoal vs. wood debate for fuel, I like that I can use both with the Karu 16. When you’re cooking around 800-1,000° Fahrenheit, there’s not really a flavor benefit for choosing either type of fuel, and that’s a myth that I want to bust here. When you’re cooking this hot, it is much more about how the fuel acts inside the oven instead of the flavor that you think it might add to the cook.
When you’re smoking foods on an offset smoker or cooking on a charcoal grill, flavors matter and fuel type can dramatically affect your cook. In a pizza oven at these temperatures, here’s what I want you to know. Charcoal is going to give you a strong coal bed to keep your fire going in between pizzas. Wood is going to give you immediate combustion and hike the temperature of the fire up whenever it starts to drop. Wood will ignite in an instant if you have a good hot coal bed, and that’s how I like to set mine up.
What We Love About the Ooni Karu 16
Fuel Hatch Hook
It took me several cooks before I even discovered this, but when you open the hatch to add more wood, you can actually hang the hatch door on a stainless steel hook that has been attached to the back of the oven. I love this! You don't exactly want to set it down since it's piping hot, but sometimes it's nice to have 2 hands available when adding fuel to the fire.
Warranty & Guarantee
If you register your pizza oven on Ooni's website, they offer a free 3-year warranty on this product. Additionally, they have a 60-day money-back guarantee. If you buy your Ooni pizza oven and aren't happy with your pizzas within 60 days you can return your oven for a full refund. This is particularly awesome because slinging homemade Neopolitan pizzas into a 900° pizza oven is not exactly easy and does come with a bit of a learning curve.
New Hinged Oven Door Design
The Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel pizza oven has a full glass oven door, providing improved insulation and maximum heat retention. Typically we only close the door for about 25 seconds after launching a pizza, but then it remains open for the remainder of the cook since turning the pizza happens every few seconds. However, the door closes back up after removing the stone-baked pizza to allow it a better chance of heating up and being ready for the next pizza.
Carbon Steel Shell
Unlike the Ooni Karu 12 multi-fuel pizza oven, which is made out of 430 stainless steel, the Ooni Karu 16 is encased in powder-coated carbon steel, providing ultimate weather resistance.
The Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel pizza oven is the first of the Ooni pizza ovens to feature a mounted digital thermometer showing the internal temperature of the oven. With proper fire management, you can watch your Ooni Karu 16 oven climb up to 950° F in about 15 minutes. (It's important to note that while the air temperature of the oven may be 900+, the stone may not necessarily be hot enough yet to properly cook the crust, so it's good to also pick up an infrared thermometer to measure surface temperature.)
For better temperature control the Ooni gas burner attachment is an optional upgrade. It's nice to always have options, isn't it? Personally, I'm more of a wood and charcoal-fired pizza guy myself because it's kind of fun to play with fire, but I know many other people really appreciate the ease of cooking with gas.
Is Ooni Karu worth it?
We have really enjoyed cooking outdoors in our Ooni Karu 16 wood-fired pizza oven. It is such a fun and delicious way to enjoy pizza. It has all the power of a large pizza oven in a smaller, more portable size.
All that said, there are skills you'll need to develop once you own any Ooni pizza oven. And honestly, that's part of the fun of the whole experience.
First, you'll have to experiment with dough making. Can you use store-bought dough? Sure, you can. But it probably won't be as good as some of the homemade Neopolitan pizza dough recipes you can make from scratch using 00 flour. Also, you'll learn what 00 flour even is, and the best brands to buy, and where to source them.
Then you'll want to experiment with making your own sauce using San Marzano tomatoes. We use the recipe from the Ooni cookbook and it's delicious every time. You'll also learn that the longer you let your sauce simmer, the thicker it becomes, and it's worth the wait because watery pizza sauce means toppings all slide off the pizza.
You'll probably end up with a few failed pizza launches and accidental calzones along the way. But no matter who you talk to, everyone experiences a pizza fail every now and then cooking in any outdoor pizza oven. That's not an Ooni pizza oven thing, or a wood vs. gas thing. That's a using-a-pizza-peel-to-launch-a-raw-dough-pizza-onto-a-piping-hot-pizza-stone thing. It's a new skill and it takes some practice. Just plan on making a little extra dough the first few times to give yourself a little room for mistakes.
Is the Ooni Karu worth it? In my opinion, it's not just a device in which my pizza will be cooked. It's the whole experience. It's a backyard full of friends enjoying pizza together. It's learning and developing and refining new skills. It's experimenting with new recipes and dabbling in sourdough starters. It's feeling the need to grow your own basil plant so you always have fresh basil to top your pizza (which is something you've never even considered before).
Having an outdoor pizza oven is definitely all about the experience in addition to the flavor. However, I will say, the experience is elevated even greater when cooking in a multi-fuel pizza oven like the Karu. When you have to create the fire, rather than just turn it on, it adds to the experience in a good way.
Check out our other videos in this series!
Our Recommended Ooni Accessories
We currently own almost all of the products listed below and can wholeheartedly recommend them as quality products that will certainly enhance your Ooni experience.
Ooni Karu 16 Pizza Oven Cover
For added weather protection if you plan on storing your Karu 16 outside, this waterproof cover is about as good as it can get. I can't imagine a more perfect fit for such an awkwardly shaped item. With the elastic edge and adjustable straps, this cover isn't going anywhere if the wind picks up.
Ooni Medium Table
The Ooni Karu 16 fits perfectly on the medium size modular table by Ooni. We love that this table is on wheels and we can easily move it around to wherever we want to use it next. There are also 3 hooks to hang your pizza peels while not being used. The shelves below are great for storing your firewood or any other supplies you need close by. While the medium size table is a perfect fit, it doesn't leave any more prep space to work with, so if you're hoping to have any room at all for other pizza-related tasks, you could gain 8 extra inches on either side of your pizza oven by getting the large table instead.
Perforated Pizza Peel
We have used the 14" metal pizza peel, the 14" bamboo pizza peel, and the 14" perforated pizza peel, and the perforated peel was our favorite. It can be hard to get your pizza dough to slide off of your peel properly during a launch, and using too much flour or cornmeal can result in an unnecessary burned flavor on your crust. We have found that the perforated peel offers the least resistance, contributing to more successful pizza launches.
Pizza Turning Peel
In my opinion, this pizza turning peel is a must. When we got our Koda 16, this was out of stock and we were forced to turn our pizza by pulling it out of the oven on the peel and rotating it with our fingers before pushing it back onto the stone. Using the turning peel is SO MUCH EASIER! I mean, if it's out of stock when you go to buy, turning your pizzas manually is of course doable, but keep checking back because when this is available you're going to want to get one.
Ooni Infrared Thermometer
We own a Thermoworks IR gun, so had no need to also pick up the Ooni brand thermometer. However, if you're already making an Ooni purchase, it would only make sense to also buy your IR thermometer through Ooni while you're at it. For a perfectly cooked pizza crust, Ooni suggests aiming for around 752°F surface temperature on your stone before launching.
Ooni Premium Assorted Oak Pack
Even if you don't plan on always sourcing your firewood through Ooni, I highly suggest starting out with a box of this premium assorted oak. It taught me a lot about what size of wood works best in the Karu 16 pizza oven.
Ooni Premium Natural Firestarters
Firestarters are going to be necessary for getting your fire started (thus the name). I've used just about every brand and variety of fire starters on the market, and have been very happy with these ones from Ooni.
Pizza Oven Brush
You're going to want a good wire brush that can sweep away the burnt bits of flour/cornmeal, and ash before preparing for your next cook. As an added bonus, this brush also features a stainless steel scraper on the end for those times when the toppings move faster than the dough and get baked onto the stone.
Pizza Topping Station
Full disclosure, we don't have this... yet. But it's on my wishlist. I mean, talk about taking your outdoor pizza party to the next level.
Dual-Sided Grizzler Plate
If you ever hope to cook anything besides pizza and/or bread in your Ooni Karu 16, you'll want to pick up this grizzler plate. One side is a flat griddle, but flip it over and you have a sizzler plate with ridges.
Dough Proofing Tray
If you're making your own pizza dough, these trays are perfect for proofing your dough balls.
Our Favorite Pizza Cookbooks
"Cooking with Fire"
"The Elements of Pizza"
"Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast"
"Perfect Pan Pizza"
Other Ooni Pizza Oven Models
Still trying to decide if the Karu 16 is the right model for you? Check out these other pizza ovens by Ooni.
The Ooni Karu 12 is a multi fueled pizza oven designed to cook 12 inch pizzas in approximately 60 seconds using charcoal, wood, or gas (with Ooni gas burner sold separately).
The Ooni Frya 12 is a hardwood pellet fueled pizza oven designed to cook 12 inch pizzas in approximately 60 seconds. Weighing only 22 pounds, this oven offers true portability.
The Ooni Koda 12 is a gas powered pizza oven designed to cook 12 inch pizzas in approximately 60 seconds. Weighing just over 20 pounds, this oven offers true portability.