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Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven review: The ultimate outdoor accessory

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
699
inc VAT

The Karu 16 is a near-perfect pizza oven, if you can afford it

Pros 
Heats up fast
Cooks pizzas quickly
Stylish design
Cons 
Expensive
No accessories included
Results vary with gas
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The Ooni Karu 16 is a premium, multi-fuel pizza oven designed for outdoor use. It’s suitable for use with wood, LPG (gas) or charcoal and, as its name suggests, it’s big enough for 16in pizzas. It’s also suitable for a variety of other bread-based dishes and even meats such as steak – providing you have cookware that can survive the intense, 500ºC heat.

At 28kg, it’s not exactly portable but it’s still relatively compact compared to stone-built variants, making it an ideal for gardens of almost any size. It’s also incredibly easy to put together and use, allowing you to cook authentic, restaurant-style pizzas in 60 seconds. The eye-watering price means the Karu 16 won’t be for everyone but, if you’re willing to splash out, you’ll be getting one of the very best pre-built pizza ovens money can buy.

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Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven review: What do you get for the money?

The Ooni Karu doesn’t come fully assembled but it’s relatively easy to set up. You’ll need to insert the stones yourself, as well as attach the chimney, the glass door, thermometer and “draft defender” plate, which protects the flames from wind. It’s relatively easy to do in around 30 to 40 minutes and there’s a set of tools included in the box, so you don’t need to worry about digging out your own spanner or screwdriver. As with all of Ooni’s multi-fuel ovens, the wood burner comes included as standard but, if you’re planning on using it with gas, you’ll need to purchase a gas burner separately for an extra £80.

Its sleek design, similar to the Koda and Fyra models, is very easy on the eye. At 50 x ​​81.5 x 83.7cm (including chimney), it’s Ooni’s largest pizza oven, yet it still feels surprisingly compact. It looks smart, too, with legs, chimney and wood burner all made from brushed stainless steel, and the majority of the rest of the outer body finished in a matte, powder-coated carbon steel.

The burner grate and plate, which houses the wood or charcoal, sits inside the oven adding to its slick, minimalist look. There’s a hatch at the back for quick access, making inserting your preferred fuel easy. At the front, you’ll find a wide opening to make pizza insertion a doddle, as well as a glass door that lets you see what’s going on inside. There’s also a digital thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of the oven and can be set to Farenheit or Celcius. Three, sturdy retractable metal legs sit underneath, as well as a small hole, which allows you to easily lift and remove the pizza stone for flipping or cleaning.

All this style and simplicity will set you back £699. That’s a lot of money, even for a product that makes cooking restaurant-style pizza this easy but when it comes to size and features, there’s not much else like it. Ooni does have some cheaper alternatives but these are limited in their own way.

The multi-fuel Karu 12, for example, is a more reasonable £299 but you’re restricted to 12in pizzas, there’s no door for added heat retention, nor is there a thermometer, so you’re going in blind when it comes to cooking temperatures unless you shell out extra for a separate thermometer. The Koda 16 (£299) lets you go bigger with your pizzas but has no chimney, door or thermometer and can only be used with gas.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best pizza ovens

Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven review: What’s good about it?

Even on a cold day – around 10ºC – the Karu reached 500ºC in an incredible 20 to 25 minutes using both oak hardwood and gas. On hotter days, it can hit 500ºC in just 15 minutes. Not only is this seriously speedy, it also doesn’t require a huge amount of fuel to get to temperature either – just a couple of large handfuls of 5in oak pieces. Cook times are also impressive: at 500ºC, 16in pizzas cook in 60 seconds, and often faster, and you can achieve a similar cook time even at 400ºC, using both wood and gas.

The oven’s reheat time is fast too, around 60 to 120 seconds in between pizzas, meaning you can knock out five, ten or even 20 pizzas with relative ease. During testing, I found that when cooking with wood, the Karu’s stone kept its heat better than when using gas. Both types of fuel produced decent, speedy results but the bottoms of the pizza were noticeably crisper when using wood and produced a more blistered effect around the crust, too.

Alongside excellent pizzas, the Karu has some premium-level features that give you more control over cooking. The hinged door and chimney allows you to raise and lower the internal temperature of the oven relatively quickly when cooking with wood and it’s even easier if you opt for the gas burner, which has a simple dial to increase or decrease the size of the flame.

You’ll never be able to control the temperature of a pizza oven with exact precision, but having a little extra control is ideal if you want to bring the temperature down to give your pizza toppings a little longer to cook. Alternatively, if you’re planning on digging out the cast iron to cook other dishes in your Ooni with wood or gas, having temperature control should yield better results.

It’s also worth noting the Karu 16 can be used with charcoal to cook at lower temperatures, for foods that require a more delicate touch. It doesn’t quite burn hot enough to reach the extreme temperatures needed for speedy pizza, but it can be used alongside wood if you want a less ashy experience.

Despite all of its professional features, perhaps the best thing about the Karu 16 is that it’s incredibly easy to use, even for beginners. It’s easy to put together, easy to cook with and easy to store – keep it outside without a cover during summer and spring or with a cover in colder months.

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Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven review: What could be better?

While the oven itself is beautifully designed with some excellent features, it’s still disappointing the Karu 16 doesn’t come with any extra accessories such as a pizza turner or pizza peel. Both are essential items for cooking with a pizza oven not including at least one of them does seem a little mean.

Value aside, there aren’t many bad things I can say about the Karu 16. One surprise was how much slower the stone reheat times were with the gas burner – up to 120 seconds compared to 60 with oak – and the stone didn’t keep its heat as well when using gas, either. This meant the end results often varied, with some pizzas cooking more quickly on top than others.

Another small niggle I had was with the glass door. When cooking with wood the window very quickly became covered in ash and, after only a couple of cooking sessions, it was impossible to see inside without opening the door. The ash also gets baked onto the glass after a few uses and it’s difficult to get it sparkling again. You can minimise the amount of ash on the glass by only closing it once the wood is producing less smoke but this does lead to a longer heat up time.

READ NEXT: The best BBQs for you to buy

Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven review: Should you buy it?

There’s no getting away from the Karu 16’s price. It’s a costly item and, if you want the full setup, you’ll want to be fully kitted out with a peel, turner and gas burner, which means you’re looking at another £150 at least, bringing the price to more than £800. If that’s too pricey, the Karu 12 is a perfectly reasonable dual-fuel alternative, although you will have to miss out on a few of the more premium features that make the Karu 16 so special.

If you’re happy to spend big, however, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best pizza of your life, without having to leave the house – or pick up the phone. Not only does the Karu produce excellent, authentic restaurant-style results with wood, you can enjoy a hands-off experience with gas, or BBQ-style cooking using lumpwood charcoal. Heat up is quick, cook time unbelievably speedy and, with a bit of practice, you can control the temperature to cook a variety of dishes, making the Karu 16 a showstopping back garden accessory.

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