Ooni Karu Review: Is It Worth It? [2021]

There is nothing as delicious as cheesy and crispy pizza. Normal ovens can create a tasty pizza. However, nothing creates the cheesy, crispy, and gooey crunch of a pizza like a pizza oven. Designed to preheat and even reach the high heat required for a perfect pizza, these ovens are a great investment.

If you love cooking pizza, one of the best ovens on the market is the Ooni Karu pizza oven. Check out the information below to know everything you need to know about this oven.

Specifications

  • Fuel – although it is mainly fueled by charcoal or real wood, it is also gas compatible
  • Color options – no color options considering it is designed with 430 stainless steel
  • Use – designed for outdoor use only
  • Dimensions – 30 inches x 15 inches x 31 inches (770mm x 400mm x 800mm)
  • Weight – 12kg

Key Features

There are major features of the Ooni Karu that you need to understand. These features will help you decide whether or not this is the pizza oven for you. They are:

Design

When you pull this product out of the box, you may think it looks like a three-legged, long-necked, weird robot dog. The design is not so much aesthetic compared to others in the same price range.

The material used is mainly stainless steel. It looks shiny and sleek when you unpack it and take it to your desired outdoor pizza cooking spot. Once you start using it, you will notice the interior quickly gets black from the heat and smoke. The smoke and heat cause discoloration around the smokestack and firebox. Additionally, a patina may start to develop on the pizza stone.

Ooni Karu is designed to be used outdoors. As such, some patina may develop from weather elements depending on your location. The good news is snow and rain don’t affect the exterior and interior of the pizza oven.

Users have stated that it is “kind of” waterproof considering the interior and burned coal was left dry when it was snowing. Aside from tornados and hail, normal weather shouldn’t affect the product. Take note high winds during a rainstorm may push water into the oven. As a rule of thumb, covering a pizza oven during rainy and snowy weather conditions is recommended.

The oven’s opening is approximately 12 inches wide and 4.25 inches high. If you have a 12-inch wooden peel, it will fit perfectly. Unfortunately, the oven is limited to low-slung foods. This may be due to a low opening that causes fire to lick across the top of the oven.

You can use your cast iron cookware to roast hot dogs and bake cornbread. If you don’t have iron cookware that fits the Karu, Ooni sells cast iron cookware that perfectly fits into the oven. The back of the oven is where the fire is located. You can cook pizzas there, but you need to be careful to avoid burning the crust.

Setup Process

Assembling the Ooni Karu is easy-peasy. The smokestack cap easily sits on top, the smokestack twists off and on, and the legs fold out easily. The interior has a removable firebox designed to allow ash to drop through. This part just slides into place. A pizza stone is also included and it slips inside without any complications.

On the back, there is a door that allows you to access the firebox to load your coal or wood. There is a draft deflector at the very back. If it does not come installed, refer to the installation instructions manual. The product comes with an Allen wrench. You can use it to remove the deflector to create room for the optional propane-burning adaptor.

Preparing the oven to cook is also easy. Take the cap off the smokestack while leaving the baffle wide open. Then you can put the coal, wood, or both in the firebox. You can use either a torch or fire starter and you are good to go.

Performance

You can cook a great pizza in an instant. Starting a fire on the oven is no problem. However, some people found getting the interior of the oven to cooking temperature took some time. This may be because they were cooking during cold weather. You can use an infrared thermometer to check the temperature.

With time, you will get used to handling the fire as well as cooking pizza. If you want a longer burn, go for lump charcoal instead of wood. You can also use wood to create flames that will lick across the top of the oven’s cooking space. You can add it right before you put in the pizza.

Generally, it takes approximately 15 to 25 minutes to preheat the oven for cooking. Take note this estimate is when you cook during cloudy, windy, or cold days. On a warm summer day, the preheat time can be 15 minutes or less. Fortunately, Ooni Karu is well-insulated to ensure it holds its heat well.

According to the company, they state you can cook a pizza in a minute, they also suggest turning it in every 15 seconds for the best results. If you have cooked pizza before, may find it hard to believe. You can either use a timer or go for the more traditional “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi” counting option.

If you are a beginner, you should start with plain cheese pizzas with basic red sauce. Once you get the gist of using the oven, you can move to more interesting topping options. Take note the more toppings you add the more complicated the cooking. As long as you move the pizza every 15 seconds, you should see progress. It is easy to adjust your cooking methods on the fly.

You can cook pizzas in 45 seconds if you move them toward the back of the oven. This is where the fire is located. This can work for simple pizzas such as plain cheese pizza. If you center the pizzas, 60 seconds is just the right duration for cooking topped pizzas.

Cooking pizzas at the front usually takes about a minute and a half for the pizza to get ready. This is determined by the toppings you use and the thickness of your crust.

Pizzas with vegetable toppings cook in a short time and keep some crunch. This may be a good option for vegans or if you just wanted a vegetable pizza. If you add sausage use small pieces if you want the interior to be fully cooked. Pre-cook the sausage if you want to use large pieces.

You don’t need to always move your pizza from the back to the front and vice versa. You can control the temperature using the baffle in the smokestack. When it is wide open, Ooni Karu burns clean, fast, and hot. Closing the baffle creates more smoke and slows the cooking.

The fuel you use is also a serious consideration. If you only use lump charcoal, you won’t get flames on the top of the oven. Keep in mind regular charcoal is not recommended. Lump charcoal offers plenty of cooking heat with the downside of not getting intense top heat.

There are plenty of fuel combinations or airflow and fuel to adjust the temperature for cooking different foods. For pizza, fast and hot is easy to achieve with stellar results.

Portability

The weight is light enough to let you move it around without breaking your back. It’s easier if you remove the smokestack, fuel door, and front door. This move is recommended to avoid dropping them in transit. The baking stone can also be removed to lighten the load. You can purchase a carrying or cover case to make the oven more portable.

Storage and Care

Temperatures of 730 degrees to 850 degrees in the middle of the stone are recommended for making the perfect pizza. The same temperature range is great for making quesadillas and tostadas.

Use a lower temperature range especially if you are making cornbread using a cast iron pan. You may notice the cornbread may be slightly darker at the top compared to if you cooked in an oven. For a lighter top, consider covering it with foil.

After some time, your Ooni Karu may start looking used. This should not be a concern for any outdoor oven considering it is not a display product. The interior does not require thorough cleaning in between uses. To clean, wait for the oven to cool down.

Once cool, remove the fuel box and empty it before you replace it. Debris on the stone can be brushed off before you cook your next pizza. Sometimes there is food residue stuck on the stone from dripping sauce or cheese. The manufacturer recommends scrapping it off. Let the product burn at high heat to ensure the remaining sauce or cheese is incinerated.

If you feel you need to clean the stone thoroughly, remove it and rinse it clean. Avoid using soap on the stone. Ash on the inside can be wiped away and the inside can be scrubbed if you see a lot of smoke buildup.

If you don’t plan on using the oven for a long time, move it indoors. It will ensure you keep crawlies like spiders from making a home in the oven.

Cost

The cost of all Ooni Karu ovens is moderately expensive. If you compare it with a permanent brick oven, the cost is not as high. The cost may be high considering the oven is designed to only cook pizzas. If you love cooking pizza regularly, then the oven is a good investment.

Pros and Cons

Like any product in the market today, Ooni Karu has its pros and cons. These will help you decide whether to buy it or not.

Pros

  • Versatile enough to cook other foods apart from pizza
  • Portable and lightweight enough to move from one location to another
  • Cleanup is minimal
  • Setup is straightforward
  • Option of choosing from two fuel sources with gas as the third option if you buy a gas burner
  • Cooks pizza in about 60 seconds
  • Heats up in 15 minutes or less

Cons

  • Needs a pizza peel to comfortably put into and take out food
  • Flames shoot out of the burner when the lid is opened
  • Slight learning curve for beginners

Ooni Karu Alternatives

If you don’t want to buy the Ooni Karu pizza oven, there are some alternatives you can consider. The list below gives you insight into 3 great alternatives to Ooni Karu. The list was compiled after thorough research on the top brands and their similarities with Ooni Karu.

Best Large Pizza Oven Alternative – Ooni Koda 16

The large inside space is one of the reasons why we picked the Ooni Koda 16. It’s perfect for gatherings and family dinners. An advantage of this outdoor pizza oven is it can accommodate large 16-inch pizzas. The design is also stylish, which improves the look of your backyard. However, the Koda 16 is pricey when compared to others with similar features.

Apart from being able to cook large pizzas, the Ooni Koda 16 comes with a sleek silver finish. This is combined with hints of black on the oven. The result is a fancy and elegant-looking outdoor pizza oven. Heat retaining capability is thanks to its fiber-insulated interior. The insulation ensures there is minimal heat loss.

Even though it is more spacious than other pizza oven models, you can still move it around easily. It only weighs 18.2 kg or about 40 pounds. On the upside, it is compatible with natural gas and propane. All you need is a gas conversion kit. For natural gas, you need to get a compatible natural gas conversion kit. We discovered these kits are rare and they may be hard to find.

When you are cooking your pizza, you will notice L-shaped flames. This technology ensures the oven heats up quickly and evenly. The only downside most people who bought say is the cost. The new features make it more expensive, but the sentiment of most buyers is it is worth the cost.

Pros

  • L-shaped flame technology
  • Compatible with natural and propane gas
  • Heat retaining capability
  • Beautiful design
  • Can cook large 16-inch pizzas

Cons

  • May not fit in small backyards
  • Pricey

Best Wood Fired Alternative – Ooni Frya

The positive feedback we came across about Ooni Frya makes it our choice for the best wood-fired Ooni Karu alternative. The majority of people who have used it compliment the delicious smoky flavor you get when you cook pizza. Even though there is some negative feedback about the product, it’s mostly about the finish. The general feeling is the finish should be improved.

Ooni Frya can go to more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit in a quarter of an hour or less. These temperatures are achieved using only wood pellets. At such intense temperatures, you can cook your pizza in a minute or less. The fast-cooking capability means you use less energy and save on fuel costs.

The high temperatures the Frya can reach means great cooking results. The toppings are perfectly melted and the crust comes out crispy. A plus is the amazing smoky wood flavor common with wood-fired pizza ovens. Frya comes with a pellet hopper and chimney, even though it weighs approximately 22 pounds. Both these items are detachable making the oven smaller when you want to move it. The legs are foldable meaning you won’t struggle to take it somewhere else or when you want to store it.

To avoid accidental burns, the handle has been reinforced with glass. It’s classified as a small oven. However er, the product measures 13.7-inches wide. The inside is made using cordierite stone meaning it can comfortably fit 13-inch pizzas. The problem with most people is the poor quality finish.

Pros

  • Can cook 13-inch pizzas
  • Glass-reinforced handle
  • Easy to move around
  • Great cooking results
  • Energy efficient

Cons

  • Poor quality finish

Best Gas Alternative – Pizza Party Ardore

Ardore has great reviews when it comes to the best outdoor gas pizza oven. This is why it is our choice for a gas-powered alternative to the Ooni Karu. For starters, the product is made in Italy which says a lot about its quality and authenticity. Unfortunately, it is not easy to get it to the United States. You have to ship it from Italy and wait for some time for it to arrive. Additionally, the shipping costs may be a demerit for some people.

Biscotto is a famous stone renowned for its capability of cooking pizza at approximately 850 degrees Fahrenheit for up to a minute and a half. Unlike other stones, Biscotto can cook pizza at this temperature for the said duration without burning the pizza’s bottom. The reason the stone maintains this great feat is its alluvial clay.

The stone is made by Italian artisans in Naples who don’t use any machinery. Naples is the birthplace of the popular Neapolitan pizza. Take note Biscotto is not part of the pizza oven package. You need to purchase it separately. Instead, the oven comes with Saputo stone. It’s 1.2 –inches thick meaning it has a superior capacity to retain heat. This results in better cooking and superb pizzas.

Ardore has a cooking area of 15.75 inches by 15.75 inches. This is a large cooking surface allowing users to better manage their pizzas as they cook. A wider opening is one of its great features. Such an opening makes accessing the peel a breeze.

This pizza oven comes with a 2-year warranty covering components and materials that manifest construction defects. Unfortunately, Saputo stone is not covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. With the capability of reaching 550 degrees Celsius (1022 degrees Fahrenheit), expect to get well-melted toppings and a crunchy crust.

According to some users, the design is not stylish and is too basic. This shouldn’t be an issue if the aesthetics of a pizza oven is not a determining factor in your buying decision. Additionally, some users find it to be pricey considering the price and shipping costs. If you are not on a budget, then this should not be an issue.

Pros

  • Reaches some of the highest pizza cooking temperatures
  • Great warranty
  • Large interior for cooking large pizzas
  • Stone is thicker than what you find in other pizza ovens
  • Uses high-quality Saputo stone

Cons

  • Can only be shipped from Italy
  • High purchase and shipping cost

Pizza Oven Buying Guide

Outdoor ovens are available in a variety of designs and styles. You need to know the features you need when you plan on buying one. The following is a buying guide with features you need to consider before you purchase an outdoor oven.

Fuel

There are two main types of fuel for outdoor ovens. Wood is the most popular and traditional choice. Gas is increasing in popularity and seems to give its wooden counterpart a run for its money.

Wood

The basic of a wood-fired oven is it involves the burning of timber. It is a simple and straightforward process. Keep in mind you can’t use any type of wood or timber to fire up a wood outdoor oven. For example, wood chippings and hardwoods are fine. Avoid treated or colored wood as the chemicals may end up in your pizza.

Gas

These types of ovens are easier to control and light. You don’t have to worry about lighting your fuel and ensuring there is always enough in the oven. Gas-fired pizza ovens don’t require a lot of attention during the cooking process. This may be the reason why they are more popular in commercial spaces.

Other Considerations

There are other considerations you need to think about when you are buying an outdoor oven. They include:

  1. Materials – Usually, stainless steel, clay bricks, and concrete are the common materials used to make an outdoor oven. The material you choose determines the durability and effectiveness of your outdoor pizza oven.
  2. Style and Size – The size and style need to be considered when you are buying a pizza oven. Maybe you are not concerned with the style per se. Take note the style impacts the benefits and cooking purposes of the product.
  3. Residential or Commercial – Although obvious, not all outdoor pizza ovens are fit for commercial purposes. These items differ in material and size. For starters, if you are looking for a commercial oven for a restaurant or outdoor eatery, consider the efficiency of the materials used and the size of the dome.

Ooni Karu FAQs

Question: Who Should Buy Ooni Karu?

Answer: Whether you are a skilled chef or not there are some benefits of the Ooni Karu pizza oven. To begin with, it is easy to custom-create pizzas using it. For some recipe and inspiration ideas, the product comes with an Ooni Essentials Guide.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are cooking for a large party or your family. Ooni Karu comes with a cooking surface of 13-inches and a 0.6-inches cordierite stone baking board. This oven is also a convenient option if you are busy and don’t have the time to cook. A large pizza gets ready in a minute and the heating time is only 15 minutes!

Question: Where Can I Use Ooni Karu?

Answer: It is a great addition to your backyard or garden. The oven blends in nicely with its surroundings. Since it uses charcoal and real wood, this makes it an authentic oven. People who want Neapolitan-style pizzas should go for this model. Additionally, it is portable meaning you can take it anywhere including campsites and beaches that allow you to use such ovens.

Question: Why is Ooni Karu Special?

Answer: Apart from cooking pizza quickly, it boosts the flavor of your food while ensuring necessary nutrients are retained. Fueled by charcoal or real wood, it bakes a pizza in record time. Very few ovens in this price range can cook a perfect pizza in about 60 seconds. Additionally, it offers even heat distribution to ensure your pizza gets cooked properly and ends up with a smoky flavor.

The oven cooks quickly over an open flame. This means antioxidants and nutrients are retained better than other ovens that have a longer cooking process. Nutrient depletion is affected by cooking times. You lose a lot of nutrients if you cook food for a long duration. Another advantage is that the Ooni Karu is gas compatible. Take note you need to order their gas burner attachment separately if you prefer this option.

Question: Why Should I Buy Ooni Karu?

Answer: For starters, it weighs 12kg making it easy to transport. The lightness should not mean you shouldn’t buy Ooni Karu. Despite its lightweight and portability, it has the same heat and power as a large wood-fired oven.

There is ceramic fiber insulation on the stainless steel body. The patented flame keeper paired with the thick Ooni Baking stone achieves maximum heat retention. It’s a serious option to consider when you are looking for a pizza oven.

Our Verdict

If you crave an authentic cooking experience and fresh meals, consider the Ooni Karu pizza oven. From the above information, you can see it is worth considering due to its unique features. The fact that it heats up quickly and cooks pizza extremely fast is a bonus. It comes with a stainless steel exterior and it uses wood for fuel. Overall, reviews from previous buyers state it was worth their investment.

You can use the alternatives provided to compare it with others in the market. Keep in mind you consider things like the fuel you would love to use, the size, and the cost of an outdoor pizza oven as you look at the alternatives.

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