Ooni Karu 16 review
We've tested the Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven to check whether it's worth the investment – read on for our full review.
- flexible cooking options, impressive results, incredibly quick cooking, compact footprint
- expensive, all extras need to be bought separately even when essential to use
The Ooni Karu 16 is one of Ooni’s latest and most advanced models, combining a larger size with flexibility in cooking due to its multi-fuel capability (wood, charcoal or gas).
It's a step up from the previous Ooni Karu 12, not just in price (this model is £400 more) and size – the 16 in the title reflects that it has space for a 16in pizza – but also in new features. The door to the oven is glass so you can watch your pizza as it cooks, and there's a digital oven thermometer that hangs underneath the door to help you manage the temperature.
At just under £700, it's undoubtedly a big investment that's important to consider. But, it's simple to use, a relatively compact option, speedy and produces brilliant results. When you buy direct from Ooni, it's also covered by a reassuring three-year guarantee. Read on for our full review to see whether we think it's worth the money.
Read our full round-up of the best pizza ovens for more inspiration, including reviews of the Ooni Koda.
What were your first impressions of the Ooni Karu 16?
The Ooni arrives in a large, branded box, with all the parts nestled in polystyrene or plastic inside. The two weighty pizza stones make it a pretty heavy box to unload (39kg boxed weight). The parts all feel high-quality – the body of the oven is made of matte black powder-coated carbon and stainless steel.
We spent some time reading the in-depth 'essentials guide' to be clear on both the assembly and cooking process before getting all the parts out. This is full of useful information on all aspects of using the oven (covering all the different fuel options), plus recipes for pizza dough and sauce to get you started.
How easy is the Ooni Karu 16 to build?
There are several different elements to the Ooni Karu 16, but the assembly manual is clear, with instructions and diagrams for building it. It differs to other Ooni models due to the tall chimney that needs to be built onto the main body of the oven, so there’s slightly more assembly than the smaller models.
The main body of the oven comes ready assembled, so you simply need to attach the remaining components, like the chimney, door and burner tray. Parts generally have clear indicators to help you put them in the right way round – for example, the Ooni logo on one side of the fuel grate should face forward.
You’ll need a sturdy garden table to place the pizza oven on. Once built, it weighs 28.4kg. It is 32in from front to back, and 32in from the bottom of the feet to the top of the chimney – a good option for smaller gardens.
Does it come with additional tools?
The downside of Ooni is that extras all need to bought separately, although there are plenty to choose from. The appeal of the Kari 16 is its multi-fuel functionality, but the gas burner is sold separately (as an ‘optional upgrade’). So, if you want to use this instead of charcoal or wood burning, this is an extra investment.
A pizza peel is an essential tool for using the oven and is not included, but Ooni sells a perforated or classic one separately in various sizes – we used the perforated peel to load our pizzas into the oven.
How easy is the Ooni Karu 16 to light?
The Ooni Karu 16 can be used with wood, charcoal or gas. We tested it with wood and charcoal and found it simple to light. First, you prep the chimney by removing the cap and opening the bale and ceiling vent. The oven is filled via the hatch at the back: we placed charcoal or wood in the burner, used a natural fire lighter to start it, then replaced the hatch to let the oven heat up.
Ooni claims the oven can reach a searing 500C in just 15 minutes, which means you can cook a pizza in 60 seconds. We did find that once sealed up, the oven heated impressively quickly. The addition of the digital thermometer is very helpful for seeing when the oven gets up to temperature. The door to the hatch is large to make it easy to add more wood or charcoal as you burn through it.
How easy is it to cook a pizza in the Ooni Karu 16?
Using a pizza oven always takes a couple of test pizzas to get in the swing of the action, but after this, the Ooni is simple to use. The instruction manual is useful for getting it up and running, but after this, it's pretty intuitive to use with no strict right or wrong – just like you may be used to with a barbecue.
The glass door means you can keep an eye on your pizza as it cooks, though this doesn't take long. Not just for viewing, the door also helps with temperature control: you can keep the door open if the oven has got too hot and you’d like to reduce the temperature, or close it between pizzas to retain heat. The thermometer is also helpful for judging when to add the pizzas or top up the fire.
Loading in a pizza with the peel takes a bit of practice, but once you’re in the swing of it, this is a simple process. We used the Ooni perforated peel and our top tips are simply to keep your peel well-floured or coated in semolina to prevent it sticking, and to shake the pizza off sharply in one smooth movement.
How many pizzas does it fit?
One 16in pizza at a time.
How hot does the outside get?
Like most pizza ovens, it does get hot and smoky when you're stood near it – notably by the open door. But, this is to be expected when heating to 500C and it does not feel excessive. Make sure the pizza oven is on a secure table for safety.
How long does it take to make a pizza?
Ooni claims it takes 60 seconds to cook a pizza, and we found this to be about accurate. Check the pizza after 30 seconds. Our pizzas sometimes needed to be turned around to ensure the crust cooked evenly.
How was the finished pizza?
We were incredibly impressed with the finished pizza results. Ready in record time, the crust was fluffy and had good charring in spots, and the mozzarella was deliciously melted. We did have to spin the pizza while cooking to ensure it was evenly browned all the way round, otherwise our crust came out darker on the side that had been closest to the flame at the back of the oven.
Can you cook anything other than pizza in this oven?
This oven would be great for cooking other items beyond pizza. We made garlic bread, too – other flatbreads, such as pitta or naan, would also be great with the intense heat and charred flavour. We doubt this oven is tall enough to fit a whole chicken (the opening is just over 5in high), but a spatchcocked chicken could work, and roasted veg would be incredibly quick. With the ability to control the temperature and cook over either gas or fire, there’s plenty of flexibility to experiment. Ooni has lots of recipes to get you started, including meat and fish ideas.
How easy is the Ooni Karu 16 to clean?
Once we were finished making pizzas, we let the fire burn out naturally. The pale beige cordierite pizza stone blackened almost as soon as it was used (when tested with wood and charcoal), but this doesn’t affect the pizza. Once completely cool after use, a long-handled wire brush would be useful for brushing away crumbs or any ash. You can also flip the stone over between uses (not mid-use) to alternate which side you’re cooking on.
Can you keep the Ooni Karu 16 outside?
Yes. Ooni sells a pizza oven cover (sold separately for £49.99) that's 100% waterproof and makes it safe and easy to store the oven outside. The bespoke cover fits over the whole oven, including the chimney, and has an elasticated edge and a secure strap. Alternatively, you could store the oven in a cellar or garage, as it is small enough to move once you’ve finished using it (but it is very heavy, so you wouldn’t want to be doing this regularly).
Who would the Ooni Karu 16 be most useful for?
Those who want an investment pizza oven that won't dominate the whole garden. It's perfect for entertaining and feeding a crowd, due to the speed at which you can turn out pizzas.
Ooni Karu 16: the verdict
Overall, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the Ooni Karu 16. It is undoubtedly an expensive piece of kit – especially once the extras begin to add up – but if you’ll get enough use out of it, it’s a worthy investment. It's more compact than large built-in ovens, with the flexibility to move it around as needed. The finished pizza results spoke for themselves, with top-quality pizzas ready in seconds.
Features such as the glass door and hanging digital thermometer give you additional control and flexibility, which are useful both when new to the oven and also once you get more confident and want to get more precise.
It's less portable than previous Ooni models, but doesn’t take up too much garden space.
Ease of assembly 5/5
Overall build quality 5/5
Ease of use 5/5
Value for money 3.5/5
Cooking results 4.5/5
Ease of storage 4/5
Pizza recipes and tips
This review was last updated in April 2022. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@.