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This piece is part of our Outdoor Pizza Party series. Read all of the stories — including a trend report and plenty of recipes — here.
I used to try making pizza at home, but eventually had to put a stop to it. The pizza was never as good as I wanted it to be. Because, well, my oven just didn’t get hot enough (even with a baking stone). The crust was always flabby, the center was consistently underdone — my dreams of homemade pizza were dashed on the regular. That is, until I got an Ooni.
Last summer, it felt like everyone I knew bought an Ooni. It wasn’t just in my head, either: The company’s sales increased by 150 percent and the ovens were constantly selling out. I could not get one. I even tried finding one off Facebook Marketplace, only to be outbid. But this year I thought ahead: I got my Ooni in the very early spring, when making pizza outdoors was just beginning to feel like a whisper of a possibility.
Let me back up for a second. Ooni is the company behind the portable, backyard pizza ovens you’ve (probably) seen by now. They’ve been around since 2012 with a portable pellet pizza oven and, since then, have come out with several different types of ovens. There are gas-powered Oonis (like this and this!), hardwood pellet-fueled Ooni ovens, and the multi-fuel Ooni ovens that allow you to use wood, charcoal, or gas (like this and this!). They all use real, open flames to cook your pizza, and come in two different sizes (for 12- and 16-inch pizzas). And while plenty of other outdoor pizza ovens do exist, Ooni has really dominated the market thanks to their various options, competitive price points, and performance. And sites like America’s Test Kitchen, Wired, and Serious Eats have reviewed Ooni ovens incredibly favorably.
So, I needed to try one for myself … finally. I ended up going with the Ooni Koda 16 Gas Powered Pizza Oven, which, according to the company, is their most popular model. Here’s my honest review.
My Initial Impressions of the Ooni Pizza Oven
The Ooni arrived nearly entirely assembled, which is incredibly refreshing, considering I once spent five hours putting together a grill. Once I added the oven’s stone baking board and connected it to my propane tank, it was ready to go. Easy!
If you are able to make the investment, I do suggest that you buy a table specifically for the Ooni. It’s a safety thing (an oven shouldn’t be placed on, say, plastic), but having your Ooni perched on something higher up also means you don’t to crouch or bend down so much to add, rotate, and retrieve pizza. Plus, the tables that Ooni sells have wheels, which makes your life much easier if you need to roll the oven into and out of, say, a storage space or around a patio.
Cooking in the Ooni Pizza Oven
When I was ready to get cooking, I turned on the gas and the oven (there’s a little ignitor button). After about 20 minutes, I temped it with my infrared thermometer and saw that it was hovering around 950°F — just like Ooni said it would (which is the temperature needed to cook a pizza in 60 seconds). I added my pizza and hung out close by, rotating it every 20 seconds or so.
The Ooni model that I have features an L-shaped burner that’s located at the back left of the oven, it’s the hottest right by the burner and has multiple heat zones (with the coolest spot being in the upper right corner — the farthest away from the heat source). Because of these heat zones, it took some trial and error — and some seriously charred pizza crust — before I felt like I had a better grasp on using the oven. But, by the third pizza I made, I was pulling out pro-level pies! Seriously! I was making the best pizza I’d ever cooked, with a beautiful, bubbly top and brown spots on the crust and the pizza’s underside. The key: Turn your pizza often, as it sits in there, so that it cooks evenly. (Note: This blog post from Ooni includes some Very Helpful Pizza Pointers.)
The Ooni oven also has a super-wide opening, which makes it incredibly easy to access. It’s plenty spacious and easily able to fit a pizza peel in when adding, turning, and removing pizza. I do suggest buying one or two of their pizza peels: I used the bamboo one for adding the pizza and the metal one for retrieving and rotating the pizza, as per this tip.
Can You Cook Other Things in the Ooni?
Yes! Yes, you can. Ooni even sells cast iron cookware to use in their ovens and the ovens come with a recipe book that includes a couple of non-pizza options. I’ve bookmarked the roast pork chops and a fruit crumble, but I’m really excited to try some “wood-fired” vegetables in my Ooni (broccoli, beets, and cauliflower come to mind first).
Cleaning and Storing an Ooni Oven
You should wait 1 1/2 hours before touching, moving, or attempting to clean the oven, according to its instruction manual. It’s incredibly hot, after all! This oven brush (or a similar one) is helpful for brushing off excess flour post-cooking and scraping off any burnt-on, excess food.
As far as storage goes, the oven’s legs fold, which makes it much more compact. And while the Ooni isn’t exactly delicate, it should be housed indoors for longer periods when not in use and during harsh weather conditions (snow! Rain!). And, as with any grill, I’d recommend getting a cover to help protect it. I certainly want to protect mine as much as possible. After all, I waited almost a year for it.
Should You Get an Ooni Pizza Oven?
Simply put: If you make or want to start making pizza at home, yes. Having only used the gas-powered option, that’s the one I’d suggest, as wood has to be chopped to fit inside the fuel chamber and charcoal can be messy and/or finicky. (Of course, if you’re up for those challenges, go for a multi-fueled oven!) There’s also a version that uses wood pellets, which I’ve heard good things about from fellow Kitchn editors.
The gas-powered Ooni oven that I tested is incredibly easy to use and makes pro-level pies. While it’s not inexpensive, it’s at least half the price of other options out there and a solid investment that you can use year-round or, at the very least, summer after summer.
Do you have an Ooni? Let us know in the comments!