After a sellout summer, it’s fair to say that Ooni is the king of pizza ovens. Perhaps that’s because of the entry-level pricing, which makes these mean pizza machines a great gift for foodies or keen pizzaiolos, but if you want the next step up, the Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven is the oven for you. Ooni’s latest pizza oven is double the price of some of the best pizza ovens on the market, but for the price you’ll get some added extras, including an in-built temperature gauge, and a larger base for seriously big pizzas.
Instead of the conventional 12-inch pizza, you can cook pizzas of up to 16 inches in the Ooni Karu 16. That gives pizza lovers the perfect excuse to flex their pizza base stretching skills, although as you’ll see in this review, mine were not up to the task of making a pizza large enough to fill this oven. Another distinctive new feature of Ooni’s Karu 16 is its wide viewing window at the front of the pizza oven, which allows you to spy on your pizza without letting the heat out. I put the newest addition to Ooni’s lineup to the test in this Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven review, and despite some initial reservations, it delivered the smoothest pizza oven experience I’ve ever had.
Ideal Home rated: 5 out of 5 stars
Reasons to buy:
- A larger internal capacity
- Very fast pre-heating
- Temperature gauge makes the process a lot easier
- Viewing window to watch your pizza cook
Reasons to avoid:
- There’s no gas burner included
Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
The Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven is the perfect step up for those who are serious about pizza. It’s an investment, but the step up in quality is noticeable.
- Type: wood or gas.
- Pizza size: 16in/40cm
- Cooking surface: 42.42 x 42.42cm; 15mm thick cordierite stone
- Overall dimensions: 81 x 50 x 83cm
- Weight: 28.4kg (62.6 lbs)
- Temperature: 500ºC/950ºF
Setting up the Ooni Karu 16
The Ooni Karu 16 took more assembly than the other Ooni pizza oven I’ve tested: the Ooni Karu 12. The Karu 12 simply required you to insert the pizza stone and screw in the chimney. Then just push the fuel container to the back and you’re good to go.
The Karu 16 had a half-hour assembly time in total. I had to add the batteries to the temperature display, plug this into its base at the bottom of the oven, and screw the display to the underside of the oven. I slotted on a heat vent at the beck of the oven, and then it was a case of screwing on the door and twisting in the chimney. While it was more assembly than I’m used to, it’s nothing compared to some of the best BBQs on the market, which can take hours and hours to assemble.
Some pizza ovens take a long time to come up to the right temperature, which is around 300ºC at a minimum. The Karu 12 took me about 40 minutes to preheat, the Gozney Roccbox took closer to an hour, and because of its larger internal size, I expected the Ooni Karu 16 to take an age to come up to temperature. So much so that I’d not even finished preparing my pizza toppings when I fired it up. What I didn’t account for was the larger fuel tray, which can take handfuls of kiln-dried wood at a time.
I went inside to get my pizza sauce cooking, and came out to find my oven at 220ºC, just five minutes later. I had it up to 300ºC within 10 minutes, which was incredibly impressive. It was also very nice to be able to watch the temperature gauge go up, but there’s no harm in leaving your pizza stone to heat through, as it will retain heat far better than the pizza oven chamber itself, which will give you a perfectly cooked base with no burnt toppings.
The fire was initially visible through the glass oven door, so I could see when it needed a topup, and in theory, check in on my pizza while it cooked. Perhaps my over-zealous fuelling was at fault here, but I did find that the door fogged up a bit thanks to the smoke inside the pizza oven during cooking. This limited the visibility inside the oven, but I suspect this wouldn’t be an issue if you chose to cook with gas, which is obviously less smokey.
Making pizza in the Ooni Karu 16
Most of Ooni’s pizza ovens claim to cook a pizza in under 60 seconds, but as this was not my first pizza oven review (in fact, it was my fifth!) I knew that my homemade pizza bases are not thin enough to cook at the temperatures needed to meet that 60-second claim. I put my pizza in at 315 degrees and watched through the door to see how it was coming along, opening and turning a couple of times to keep the cooking even.
The larger internal capacity of the Ooni Karu 16 was perfect for turning my pizza easily, because it had room to move about the pizza stone as I turned it. I could see my base cooking from the second I put it on the pre-heated pizza stone, so it was easy to lift away and turn even when not fully cooked.
Some pizza ovens will burn your pizza in seconds, because the fuel can be found at the back of the oven. Perhaps because I was opening the door less, I didn’t experience any burning with this oven. I usually apply the ‘first pancake’ rule when testing pizza ovens, because the first one always comes out terrible. Well, I’ll have to discard my rule after testing the Ooni Karu 16, because the first pizza was perfection. After two and a half minutes, it came out looking evenly cooked and crispy, with perfectly melted cheese.
What else do you need to know?
As with all Ooni ovens, it doesn’t come fully equipped. You’ll need a pizza peel to add and remove your pizza from the oven safely, and while you don’t need the Ooni brand one, it would be worth getting a special wide one to make extra-large pizzas worthy of the added space the Ooni Karu 16 takes up.
Remember to unplug the thermometer after use, as it won’t switch itself off automatically. You’ll risk draining the batteries if you forget.
What is the difference between the Ooni Karu 12 and the Ooni Karu 16?
First off, the price is a big difference. The Ooni Karu 12 comes in at £299, whereas the Ooni Karu 16 is a scarier £699.
Size is another obvious feature, because the Ooni Karu 12 looks pretty teeny when stood next to the 16. It’s not a small pizza oven, either, so the Ooni Karu 16 is something you’ll need to find space to store if you’re not someone who has a shed to put it in.
The lid at the front of the Ooni Karu 12 pulls away with a handle, and you need to find a place to leave it when you open the oven, but the Ooni Karu 16 is hinged and pulls down easily, letting you use both hands to turn your extra-large pizzas.
Finally, the lack of a temperature display is something you’ll need to work around with the Ooni Karu 12. I ended up using a digital thermometer when I tested mine, which did cost extra, but made it easier to judge my pizza cooking timings.
Neither pizza ovens come with a gas burner, but both are compatible with one. It’s a shame you have to pay extra for this, especially because the Ooni Karu 12 definitely runs much better on gas, but I was so impressed by the heating times on the Ooni Karu 16 that I’m not sure I’d bother investing in a gas burner for it.
Should you buy the Ooni Karu 16 Multi Fuel pizza oven?
If you want to step up your outdoor cooking game, or you’re someone who really likes to make their own pizzas, the Ooni Karu 16 is a brilliant investment. The temperature display is particularly useful, as it makes it easier to track the internal levels before you add your pizza and while it’s cooking.
The increased cooking area also makes it easier to turn your pizza as it cooks, and while it’s a sizeable item, the foldable legs and removable chimney makes it easier to store.
What impressed me the most with the Ooni Karu 16 is the quality of the cooking, and that’s the most important thing when testing a pizza oven. It made the process very straightforward, when in the past I’ve found it stressful to serve up pizzas to my entire family. The step-up in price isn’t worth it for those who want a basic pizza oven, but if you’re a foodie who plans to get a lot of use out of your new toy, the Ooni Karu 16 is the best pizza oven for you.
About this review, and our reviewer
Millie Fender heads up all things small appliances at Ideal Home There’s nothing she loves more than testing out the latest and greatest cooking gadgets, for indoor and outdoor use, from toasters to air fryers. Millie lives in South London and is constantly squeezing more appliances into her modest kitchen. If it makes it onto the kitchen counters full time, you know an appliance is worth the hype.