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 pizza 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 outdoor pizza oven comes in 2 different sizes. The original Ooni Karu 12 makes 12-inch pizzas on a 13" x 13" Cordierite 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 Ooni 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 & pizza 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 pizza 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 stone comes in two pieces, 1 piece for under the fire tray and the other for the bottom of the pizza 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 indoor 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 pizza 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 16?
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 16?
The Ooni Karu 16 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 multifuel pizza 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 pizza 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 pizza 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 Ooni 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 pizza 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 pizza 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 pizza 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 pizza 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.
Things we didn't love
Steep Learning Curve
It takes a lot of practice and a good number of "failed" pizzas before you get it right. And when you invest this much money in an outdoor pizza oven like this, that can be pretty discouraging.
Any time you're cooking with wood or charcoal rather than gas you can pretty much guarantee that there will be more mess to clean up. What I didn't expect was the occasional pops of the fire that launched small chunks of burning coal onto my cooking pizza. It doesn't happen all the time, but it's disappointing when it does happen.
How does the Ooni Karu compare to the Roccbox pizza oven?
If you're shopping around for pizza ovens in this price range, chances are you might have also come across the Roccbox by Gozney. We hope to have the opportunity to get hands on and review the Roccbox for a true comparison between the two brands soon. In the meantime, we've compiled some of the basic statistics on each unit for quick comparison.
As you can see, the Ooni Karu 16 is not even a fair comparison to the Roccbox as its overall size is so much greater than that of the Roccbox. A more reasonable pizza oven comparison would be the Ooni Karu 12 to the Roccbox. The Karu 12 is fueled by wood/charcoal straight out of the box, with a gas burner sold separately, while the Roccbox is a gas-fueled pizza oven out of the box, with a dual-fuel burner sold separately. Without any additional add-ons, the Ooni Karu 12 is priced $100 less than the Roccbox and is slightly larger in size, while weighing considerably less.
Ooni Karu 16
- Fuel: multi-fuel, Ooni gas burner available separately
- External Dimensions: 32 x 19.6 x 33″
- Cooking floor dimensions: 16.7 x 16.7″
- Opening height: 5.71"
- Oven weight: 62.6 lbs
- Cooking Floor: 15 mm Cordierite stone
- Accessories included: none
- Warranty: 3 year on registered purchases, 60 day return guarantee
- Price (at time of publishing): $799 (Check latest price on Amazon)
Ooni Karu 12
- Fuel: multi-fuel, gas burner available separately
- External Dimensions: 30 x 15 x 31″
- Cooking floor dimensions: 13 x 13″
- Opening height: 3.89″
- Oven weight: 26.5lbs
- Cooking Floor: 15 mm Cordierite stone
- Accessories included: none
- Warranty: 3 year on registered purchases, 60 day return guarantee
- Price (at time of publishing): $399 (Check latest price on Amazon)
- Fuel: gas-only, or dual fuel optional for an additional $100
- External Dimensions: 16.3 x 21 x 18.6″
- Cooking floor dimensions: 12.4 x 13.4″
- Opening height: 3.3"
- Oven weight: 44 lbs
- Cooking Floor: 19mm Cordierite stone
- Accessories included: professional-grade pizza peel, bottle opener
- Warranty: 5 year on registered purchases
- Price (at time of publishing): $499 (Check latest price on Amazon)
Is Ooni Karu 16 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 fresh flame cooked 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 16 multi-fuel oven 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.
Our Recommended Ooni Accessories
No matter what type of cooking you're doing, there will always be new accessories and gadgets calling your name that promise to make your experience easier, faster, or more enjoyable. When it comes to Ooni accessories, some will be absolute necessities in order to be able to use your oven. Others you could certainly survive without, but they sure make things more fun. Check out our post on Our Favorite Ooni Accessories to see which ones we've tried and prefer.
Other Ooni Pizza Oven Models
Still trying to decide if the Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel oven is the right model for you? Check out our post on Which Ooni Pizza Oven is Right for You. We compare all the different models and sizes and help you figure out which one best fits your needs and budget.