Ooni Karu 16: the best multi-fuel pizza oven
Ooni Karu 16 Pizza Oven
The upgraded Ooni Karu 16 was launched in July 2021, making it the latest model in Ooni’s impressive lineup of outdoor pizza ovens. It replaces the Ooni Pro but it’s more of an upgraded version of the Ooni Karu 12 model. It offers the same multi-fuel capability along with everything that the Karu 12 has, with a few exceptions of course.
It has a larger cooking space than the Karu 12 model, allowing you to prepare bigger pizzas. It also features a sturdier, powder-coated carbon steel shell instead of the brushed 430 stainless steel shell. The other distinctive new feature is its full-glass oven door design which gives you better visibility of your pizza without opening it. Another unique highlight is the digital thermometer, which monitors the ambient air temp inside the oven.
All these special features are unique to the Karu 16 and significantly improve the cooking experience. They facilitate better temperature control as well as increased oven insulation. The Karu 16 does heat up relatively fast too compared to the other Ooni pizza ovens and has a much more robust overall build quality. It’s not as convenient as the Karu 12 though since it’s bigger and heavier.
We got our hands on it and put it to test to see how it would compare to the other four Ooni ovens we tested and we were indeed pretty impressed with both its performance and cooking results. We didn’t experience any burning. All of the pizzas we made came out well cooked, with a soft and fluffy interior and a crispy exterior. They were perfectly charred. They equally didn’t take long to cook. In short, like the other Ooni ovens, this Karu 16 model was also generally impressive, even much better we would say if you get a good hang of it.
The Karu 16 sports the classic dome shape design of the company’s previous ovens. It’s a design that has really worked well for Ooni and there are no sharp, apparent seams or bends like the Ooni Pro 16 model. The shell is seamless, almost similar to that of the Ooni Koda models but with the addition of a chimney. It’s a smooth, modern design that looks quite beautiful with the matte black and silver finish, which is more appealing than the plain, brushed stainless steel finish of the Ooni Karu 12.
Another element that enhances the look of the Karu 16 is the full glass oven door featuring ViewFlame technology. This is a new feature that’s unique only to the Karu 16 model. It not only gives it an impressive look but it also allows you to clearly view your pizzas as they cook.
It’s a wide viewing window with its entire surface nearly made of clear glass, so you get to see everything without opening the oven door and letting the heat out. In contrast, the Ooni Karu 12 door is completely opaque. You have to remove it to check on your pizza.
The other Ooni models that have a door don’t offer much in terms of view area either. The Ooni Fyra door, for instance, has only a peephole while that of the Ooni Pro features a letterbox-style peephole, both of which don’t give you a full view of your pizza when inside the oven.
Moreover, the Ooni Karu 16 door is hinged (with aluminum hinges). You just lower it and let it rest. You don’t have to constantly remove it, place it on the top of the oven or some other place, turn the pizza, and then put it back on the oven like is the case with the Karu 12 model and the other Ooni ovens. It also pulls down and up easily with the help of a handle that offers a nice, solid grip.
The overall size of the entire oven is 33 x 32 x 20 inches, so it’s pretty bulky, if not large. It’s bigger than the Ooni Karu 12, which measures 28.78 x 15.7 x 29.32 inches. It takes up a good amount of space, although not quite much compared to its competitors. It’s not too large but it isn’t really suited for those that are short on space either. You’ll need a fair amount of outdoor space to place it.
It’s not actually as portable as the Ooni Karu 12 too. The chimney is detachable and the legs fold in under the oven which cuts its height down substantially making it fairly compact and easy to take on the go or store. The catch is that the whole unit still weighs around 60 pounds, which is practically double the weight of the Karu 12. It’s not really convenient moving it around a lot.
The pizza stones are what contribute significantly to the weight, so you can remove them to lessen the load.
Ooni Karu 16
The build quality of the Karu 16 is excellent. It feels very solid. The main body/shell is made of carbon steel and stainless steel which makes it quite sturdy, although at the cost of being heavy and bulky.
This combination of carbon steel and stainless steel is much more durable than the brushed 430-grade stainless steel of the Ooni Pro and the Ooni Karu 12 models. It also offers great weather resistance, meaning the interior of the oven is very well protected from sunlight, rain, animals, insects, and other factors that are likely to damage it when the oven is left outdoors.
The shell equally has a powder coating that further protects it from the elements. You can use it when it’s raining and will not develop rust or corrode. In other words, the Karu 16 should hold up pretty well to the backyard as well as outdoor conditions, even much better than the other previous models from Ooni.
However, you’ll still need an oven cover in case you’ll be storing it outside. The carbon steel shell and powder coating may make it weather-resistant but it’s not weather-proof. Several users reported that the coloring does wear away – to some sort of dusty, faded grey color – when you leave the oven outside in the rain for a few months. Therefore, the oven cover is practically a necessity when you are not using the oven unless you have indoor storage.
The cordierite pizza baking stones are 0.6-inch (15mm) thick just like that of the Ooni Pro and Ooni Karu 12 models, so they are durable and can withstand high temperatures well and even keep the heat in for a long time.
The door is well built too. It feels really solid like a commercial oven door and the glass is pretty thick and durable as well. Both handles – the one on the fuel hatch at the back and the other on the door – are equally thick and have plastic grips that make them comfortable to hold and also keep them fairly cool to touch, even when the oven is extremely hot.
The Karu 16 has a removable 19-inch chimney and a chimney cap which are also thick and durable. The chimney draws smoke and heat out of the oven when cooking with charcoal or wood, while the chimney cap helps to keep water, dust, and other stuff from getting into the oven when it’s not in use and when it’s placed outside without its cover.
The three legs which support the whole unit are equally very thick and are made of the same carbon steel and stainless steel material, so they are not likely to break over time.
In general, the Karu 16 is more robust and durable than its predecessors. It’s a unit that can last many years with proper care. The only part that may not hold up for long is the wood/charcoal tray. It’s likely to warp from the high heat which can cause it not to nest properly. There were reports that it started to show signs of metal degradation within just a few months of using the unit. The other part that may be affected by the heat is the rear handle (fuel hatch handle). Some reported that the coating/paint on it begins to slightly pucker over time.
Unboxing the Karu 16 was pretty fun partly due to our excitement to see it and the fact that it was well packaged just like all the other previous Ooni pizza ovens we’ve tested. In fact, the pizza stone was packaged in a special kind of solid bubble wrap so as to protect it from cracking or breaking during shipping.
Setting up the oven itself was relatively simple and fast as most of it was already assembled. It comes with an instruction manual guide that takes you to step by step through the entire process, with clear diagrams. Ooni even included a compact screwdriver which we found very convenient as we didn’t have to go through all that trouble of searching for one that fits those super-small screws on the rear of the digital thermometer.
To put the unit together, you just need to unfold the legs on the main body and attach the thermometer bracket to the underside/floor of the oven. You then insert the 3x AAA batteries into the provided digital thermometer by removing the 4x Phillips head screws from the battery cover (this is where the compact screwdriver comes in handy) and screwing them back once you insert the batteries. You then attach the digital thermometer to the bracket and connect it as shown in the manual.
Once the thermometer is set, you just insert the cordierite baking stones in the oven, followed by the fuel tray and fuel grate. From there, you attach the door, ensuring its hook is properly positioned over the door pins on the oven body. You then secure the door using the hinges/pins, ensuring not to over tighten them. With the door in place, you attach the chimney which gently slides right into the top of the shell without a fuss – you just twist it in to secure it in place. The final step is to attach the fuel hatch and then the draft defender plate (securing it without over-tightening). Once you are through with the setup, you just open the chimney baffle and ceiling vent in preparation for lighting.
The whole process takes less than 30 minutes to complete. It’s not difficult at all compared to some BBQs on the market that can take hours to assemble. When you are done, you can place your pizza oven anywhere you want as long as it’s on a sturdy surface, preferably a sturdy table that can handle the weight of the oven.
The legs have non-slip material on their feet, which are effective enough to keep the unit stable during use, even when placed on a slippery surface. However, it would be even more stable and secure, especially at the back part if there were four legs instead of three.
That said though, the legs are sufficiently tall (4.9 inches) to raise the base of the oven off the surface on which you place it. It raises it just high enough not to cause any burn on the surface, plus the insulation is very effective, so as long as you always use the legs, you won’t end up with a burned table.
The box includes the main body of the pizza oven, the glass door, cordierite pizza stones (two), digital thermometer, chimney, chimney cap, thermometer bracket, burner tray and grate, fuel hatch, black draft defender plate, essential guide & assembly manual, and the fixings (screws and washers).
The gas burner attachment doesn’t come standard with the unit. You’ll have to purchase it separately for you to use gas as fuel. There are also several accessories that you’ll need, such as the pizza peel for transferring your pizza into the oven and removing it safely, an oven brush for cleaning the oven after use, and oven gloves to protect you from getting burned when removing the door or fuel hatch and when adding fuel.
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll also need an oven cover to protect your oven from the elements when you leave it outside. Ooni offers a much better cover for Karu 16. It’s 100% rainproof and tightens down snugly to effectively keep out the elements.
Ooni Karu 16
We were generally pleased with the overall performance of this Ooni Karu 16 pizza oven. During our one week of testing it, we used all three fuels (firewood, charcoal, and gas) to heat it and the outcome was fairly impressive, especially with wood and gas. The oven can reach as high as 950°F within a relatively short time, but in our test, it was mostly hovering around 850°F to 950°F probably since we were cooking in cold weather (it was around 15°C outside) and opening the door frequently. The only fuel that was a bit challenging to work with was charcoal.
Temperature and Pre-Heating Time
Wood was our first fuel of choice because we were excited to try out Neapolitan-style pizza with the new Karu 16 and there’s no better way to cook it other than using wood. After adding the pieces of wood (we used Ooni’s 5” oak logs) to the fuel tank, we fired up the oven and waited for it to preheat as we monitored the temperature.
In just five minutes, the oven had heated to 220°C and 5 minutes later, it was at 300°C, which was incredibly impressive. At this point, the flame was becoming low and so we refilled the wood and waited for the oven to heat up to maximum temperature.
It took around 8 minutes after the refill to reach 900°F (480°C) and it seemed not to go past that range, according to the readings of the in-built thermometer. We used an infrared thermometer to check the temp of the stone in the middle and near the firebox and it read 500°C and 531°C respectively.
In other words, the stone had heated to a full 950°F in almost 20 minutes just as specified by Ooni, which was really impressive considering that the weather was a bit cold. The in-built thermometer was mostly hovering around 900°F which was the air temperature inside the oven and not the actual temperature of the stone.
In contrast, the Karu 12 took about 40 minutes to preheat to 932°F when used with wood as fuel. The Ooni Pro equally took almost the same time to preheat to the same temperature when we tested it – on a warm summer day.
However, the Karu 16 takes a little bit longer to heat up when you’re just using charcoal, plus it doesn’t reach the maximum temperature like wood. The built-in thermometer couldn’t rise past 600°F, and we had to refill the firebox at least once to reach that temperature, which took around 20 to 30 minutes. The Karu 12 took around 25 minutes to get up to temperature in the same cold weather while the Ooni Pro 16, which was on a warm summer day when we were testing it, took around 20 minutes.
The performance with gas was just as good as with wood. In fact, it was even much better because the gas burner heats up the oven very fast. It took just about 15 minutes to heat up to 920 to 925°F even though it was 28° outside the day we were testing it – it can get as high as 950°F, just like wood if the weather is fine. The Karu 12 took roughly 13 minutes to heat up to 932°F while the Ooni Pro took up to 20 minutes to get to 900°F, so both Karu models are pretty quick when it comes to gas.
Overall, the preheat time of the Karu 16 is pretty short, even in the cold weather that we tested it in. This is mainly attributed to its bigger firebox and also the L-shaped burner which helps heat up faster. We only struggled to get to high temperatures when we used charcoal. However, when you combine it with wood – lighting a base layer of charcoal and then adding wood – you get a burst of heat that can reach up to 950°F in just 20 to 25 minutes.
Firing up a pizza oven is the easy part, but keeping the temperature steady is another job. It typically involves air, which can be uncontrollable and certainly unpredictable, hence the need for some sort of control. Like the other Ooni Ovens, the Karu 16 offers an easy way to regulate the airflow and ultimately the temperature or heat distribution inside it.
It comes equipped with an inbuilt chimney baffle and sliding ceiling vents (located on the inside of the glass door). These vents and the baffle allow for two different adjustments to be made to control the airflow. They have levers that you easily switch to open up or limit the airways. This way, you are able to control the amount of air getting in and out of the Ooni oven, and as such, the temperature that you want for the particular pizza recipe you’re preparing.
For instance, opening the chimney baffle (lever turned to the vertical position) and the ceiling vents (lever turned to the left), and removing the chimney cap increases the amount of air drawn through the oven hence creating more powerful flames which result in increased heat. It allows for optimum airflow which is essential when cooking with wood or charcoal – it creates a rolling flame that’s ideal for baking a beautiful Neapolitan-style pizza.
Closing the ceiling vent and opening the chimney baffle reduces the airflow and slows the heat escape, allowing for a billowing smoke effect just before the heat leaves through the oven’s side channels. Closing the chimney baffle too reduces the draw of the air and flames significantly which results in a lower temperature, great when you want to prepare something that needs low-and-slow cooking.
In case the temperature drops too low, you just open the chimney baffle and the ceiling vents to increase the airflow and raise the temperature.
Generally, the Ooni Karu 16, like its cousin the Karu 12, does give you a good level of control over the airflow inside the oven, which means you can achieve a fairly precise temperature for the pizza recipe you want to cook. Still, though, it’s not as efficient as the airflow system of the Ooni Pro which is far more advanced due to its additional vents besides just the chimney baffle and the ceiling vents – it has another vent on the side to limit airflow.
Nonetheless, the Karu 16 does have some additional features that also help to improve airflow. The grate, for instance, has holes to increase the airflow through the fuel and the back draft defender plate equally helps regulate the air in the back of the oven for more consistent flames.
The Karu 16 maintained its heat remarkably well in all our tests. This is one feature that Ooni has really ironed out in contrast to other similar portable pizza ovens we’ve tested, like the Gozney Roccbox. The carbon steel and stainless steel shell is very thick and provides astounding insulation, better than the Karu 12 model or the Ooni Pro, allowing it to hold the heat in very effectively.
The insulation doesn’t stop just with the shell. The fuel hatch is equally fully insulated to retain heat. The glass door is also thick and once closed, it seals in the heat completely, preserving the temperature level inside the oven.
The fuel tray is larger than that of the Karu 12 too, so it’s able to hold more wood or charcoal and as such, it burns longer and allows the Karu 16 to be much more consistent in maintaining cooking temperatures. This results in a hotter pizza stone and considering that it’s quite thick (15mm thick) it absorbs, retains, and releases the heat properly hence you get much better crusts.
The vents and the chimney baffle as well as the L-shaped burner help circulate the heat well inside the oven. However, the heat distribution on the surface of the pizza stone is not that uniform, which is nothing odd. It’s the same case with most wood-fired ovens and other portable pizza ovens with the burner positioned at the back.
We used our infrared thermometer to test this and found that the temperature of the stone was uneven by up to 30 to 40 degrees. It’s much hotter closer to the flame than the front – the heat increases gradually as it gets closer to the flame. Therefore, for an even bake, you need to rotate pizzas and food around the oven, although not as often as in many other pizza ovens featuring burners only in the back.
Ooni Karu 16
As mentioned earlier, we were really excited to put this Ooni Karu 16 model to test and we were not disappointed. The quality of the cooking was very impressive, which is the most important thing when purchasing or testing a pizza oven. After making a few pizzas in it, we were convinced that you can make just as good pizza in a portable pizza oven as you can on a huge and heavy wood-fired pizza. The pizzas in the Karu 16 came out perfectly charred with a crispy exterior and an interior that’s soft and fluffy, and the toppings cooked completely.
Cooking with Wood
We started things off with wood partly because it could reach higher temperatures just like a wood-fired oven and it does so faster. The other reason was that we wanted to first try out a Neapolitan-style pizza that needs high temperature (850 to 900°F) and real flame for best results, two things which you can only get from a wood fire. We also wanted that wonderful, smoky wood-fired flavor, which can’t be replicated with any other fuel type.
Therefore, we got our Karu 16 up to temperature (was around 900 to 950°F) and put our Neapolitan pizza (with thin dough) inside it to cook. We rotated it 120 degrees two times after every 20 to 25 seconds and in just less than 1½ minutes, it was done. It came out cooked almost perfectly, which was quite impressive for our first pizza in the Karu 16. From experience, we were very attentive to turning the pizza on time because that’s what makes a difference between a burnt pizza and a well-cooked one, especially when cooking with wood.
The crust was crunchy and nicely charred on the outside while the inside was light and soft just like we wanted. The rolling flame of the wood fire arced over the top of the Karu 16 pretty well, which helped bake and brown the pizza perfectly just like a large wood-fired oven – the toppings were cooked to completion.
The first bite was divine. It took me all the way back to Italy where I got a taste of true Neapolitan pizza. The crunchy crust coupled with the amazing combination of melted mozzarella and tomatoes with zesty peppers tasted really amazing. It’s hard to describe the flavors in words.
If I’m to be completely honest, I couldn’t see any difference between the Neapolitan pizza we made in the Karu 16 and a wood-fired pizza oven. It reaches the right temperature and the stone retains the heat well to cook the crust all the way to the center.
Following the success of our first pizza, we decided to try the Ooni’s pizza dough recipe for our second test pizza, which we set to top it with our favorite ingredients (borrowed from the classic Pollo Ad Astra pizza from the famous UK’s Pizza Express) that included tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppadew peppers, along with cajun spiced chicken breast and red onions. It came out just as perfect as the crispy Neapolitan pizza. It was nicely burnt on the top, while the dough was chewy, the same as the cheese. It had a firewood flavor that was much comparable to the pizza you get in a restaurant.
We also made the classic pizza Margherita using the Ooni recipe included in their essential guide for the Karu 16. This simple yet delicious recipe is a good starting point if it’s your first time cooking with wood in a portable pizza oven.
The ingredients include the Ooni classic dough and sauce, as well as fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. The guide takes you step by step through the whole process. Once cooked, we removed the pizza from the oven and then added a small handful of the fresh basil to garnish. It tasted so nice – the whole crust was lovely and crispy.
Overall, cooking with wood on this Ooni oven was very successful. It’s the best for making amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas no doubt. If you are careful enough to turn the pizzas on time, then they’ll come out cooked perfectly every time – we can guarantee that. We’ve tested all the other previous Ooni pizza ovens and learned through experience the importance of punctuality in rotating the pizza for a perfect and even bake. None of our pizzas came out burnt. One thing I also noted was that placing the pizza right in the center rather than the back gives the best result for the Neapolitan pizza.
Cooking with Charcoal and Gas
Cooking pizzas with charcoal in the Karu 16 was challenging, just as it was getting it to temperature. The first two pizzas weren’t successful. We had the oven up to 600°F which was its hottest as it couldn’t get past that. We placed our first pizza which was the classic pizza Margherita from the Ooni recipe. We rotated it three times after around 30 seconds since the heat wasn’t really hot like the wood fire and the flame was smaller.
After the three rotations and about 2½ minutes in the oven, our pizza was ready and we removed it. The results weren’t pleasing. It never got as crispy as the one we cooked using firewood. The bottom got nice leopard spots but it wasn’t crispy. Even the crust got charred but it was equally not quite crispy as I would like. We tried to give it another try and let it cook a little bit longer (at least 40 seconds) between each rotation but the outcome wasn’t pleasant either. The pizza was hard, chewy, and sad-looking.
Despite these few setbacks, we were not deterred. The low temperature and flame of the charcoal fire were ideal for low-and-slow cooking, which is the ideal condition for making New York-style pizza. So, we decided to give it a try and see if we would get better results this time around. We let it cook for a good 3 minutes, rotating three times like the second pizza to ensure all the sections get cooked properly – and indeed they were.
The pizza dough came out cooked more evenly and completely, including the toppings. The crust was also crispy enough to get a pass. Therefore, for low-and-slow pizza recipes, you’ll get decent results with only charcoal as fuel but for pizzas that require high temperatures and real flame, you’re highly likely to get disappointed.
However, with the Ooni gas burner, it’s a totally different story. All the three pizzas we cooked with it turned out great just as they did with wood. The oven not only heats to high temperatures (up to 920 to 925°F) but the heat and the flame remain steady throughout the cooking hence the pizza gets baked evenly. The gas burner also gives you more control over the heat than both wood and charcoal should want to adjust.
We tried the Neapolitan-style pizza and after 70 seconds in the oven (rotated 120 degrees two times after every 20 seconds), it came out looking amazing. It was evenly cooked and crispy, with the cheese melted perfectly. It didn’t have the same smoky flavor we got from the woodfire but it turned out great. The oven cooked it in about a minute at high heat without burning the crust yet it still had the nicely charred spots on the bubbles. The toppings were cooked to perfection too.
We as well got amazing results when we tried our special pizza that included the Ooni classic dough and sauce, along with special toppings consisting of chicken breast, piquant peppers, red onions, and a pinch of cajun seasoning. The pizza was evenly browned. It has a crisp, crunchy crust with a chewy interior and moist toppings that were cooked to perfection. Quite frankly, it was delicious, even without the smoky flavor.
All in all, we were very pleased with the results of the Ooni Karu 16, mainly with wood or gas as fuel. It’s perfect for cooking Neapolitan pizzas or any other pizza that needs high temperature and good flame. The pizza stone handles the moisture on the pizza pretty well. Except when we used charcoal, the crust always came out crispy with a nice, balanced color.
We found the combination of wood (real hardwood logs) and lump charcoal give the best results in case you really need to use charcoal. The charcoal provides a good base that keeps a consistent heat in the oven for long periods while the wood provides a large flame that arcs over the pizza to cook the toppings to complete and give your pizza the perfect char.
There’s definitely a slight learning curve though in getting the heat and flame just right, whether you use wood alone or in combination with charcoal. It may take a couple of trial runs to control and maintain an even heat or rather master the wood-burning aspect, especially if you’re new to wood firing. Airflow control and as well control of the amount of fuel are the keys to that one. Once you learn fire management, the actual cooking is a delight.
The gas mode is hassle-free to use and burns cleaner than wood or charcoal. The only thing it misses is the smoky flavor. It would be great if Ooni could come up with a setup that allows you to use the gas burner and wood simultaneously so that you benefit from the consistent heat of the gas and the smell and flavor of the wood smoke. This would certainly be the perfect combination.
Ooni Karu 16
From our tests, we noted that the Ooni Karu 16 is quite fast at cooking pizzas compared to the other models. It only takes around 60 to 120 seconds on average to cook a pizza – depending on the thickness of the dough. Still, though, you have to keep your eye on the pizza throughout, as it’s hotter in the back (near the fire box), so the part which gets close to this point cooks quickly and as such, it can burn easily. Therefore, continuous attention and timely turning of your pizzas are a must to ensure they don’t end up burned.
If the oven is at 932°F (500°C), you rotate the pizza 120 degrees two times after every 15 to 20 seconds, meaning it will be done after just 60 seconds. On the other hand, if your oven is at 752°F (400°C), you need to rotate the pizzas 180 degrees two to three times after every 20 to 30 seconds, which means it should be done in 120 seconds or less. This way your pizza won’t burn. You will have an evenly cooked crust and the topping will be cooked completely.
Much like Ooni Pro and Ooni Koda, the Ooni Karu 16 offers a large interior space. Its pizza stone measures 16.7 x 16.7 inches in size. It’s large enough to accommodate a 16-inch pizza but it would be hard to rotate or move it while inside the oven since it would take up almost all the space, plus it would get too close to the back and probably get burned quickly.
You can still make generous-sized pizzas, though. The size is perfect for 12 to 14-inch pizzas. There will be more space around the pizza to allow for a more even bake and sufficient room on the sides for rotating it when needed.
Also launching and getting your pizza out of the oven is easy because the opening of the oven is wide (around 8 inches wide). There is more space to work on – you won’t hit the top or the sides of the oven when launching and removing the pizzas. Generally, the cooking space of the Karu 16 is sufficiently large and great for families. You can make huge pizzas (14 inches) or several pairs of 8-inch pizzas.
The Karu 16 can also do more than just cooking pizzas. It is big enough and does get hot enough to allow you to cook various different dishes. The wide opening and spacious cooking surface are sufficient for roasting meats like steaks and ribs or fish, baking burgers, flatbreads, pasta dishes, grilled veggies, calzones, and even the legendary grilled potato salad, and more.
We tried our hands at cooking the Ooni flame-cooked steaks using the detailed recipe provided in their essential guide. After seasoning the steak and prepping the oven (heating to 950°F), we placed our steak on the Ooni dual-sided grizzler plate, put it inside the oven, and let it cook for about 90 seconds on each side as instructed. We kept flipping and rotating it until it was cooked medium rare (its internal temperature was 135°F), after which we covered it with aluminum foil as instructed in the recipe and then let it rest.
The results were nothing short of amazing. The steak was juicy, tender, and succulent thanks to the high heat from the Karu 16 oven. It was cooked exceptionally well and the smoke flavor from the wood fire made it even tastier – it was really delicious, to say the least.
You’ll need an iron cast though when you want to use the oven for cooking food products other than pizza – you won’t be able to, without it. You can use a cast iron sizzler pan, skillet pan, or an Iron grizzler pan. Ooni sells all of these in case you prefer to get all your cookware from one place.
The opening height of the Karu 16 (5.71 inches) is quite large compared to that of the Karu 12 model, which is 3.89 inches high. As such, you can use the Karu 16 to comfortably bake fresh bread in your own backyard. Ooni engineers even literally raised the roof (internal oven ceiling) of the Karu 16, higher than all the other Ooni pizza ovens. Therefore, there’s sufficient room inside to accommodate full-sized standard bread.
Furthermore, the airflow management allows you to turn down the heat for low and slow baking which is ideal for cooking bread and meats. Using charcoal instead of wood or gas will yield better results too because it allows you to get those reduced, low temperatures and flame.
Ooni Karu 16
Always remember to clean the Karu 16 pizza oven after every use, and the cleaning process is quite simple. After a cooking session, there may be some leftover food residuals on the pizza stone which you need to get rid of.
To clean it, you need to fire up the oven to the maximum temperature it can reach for at least an hour. This pyrolyzes the food residue on the pizza stone and the dirt inside the oven into crisp. From there, you let the pizza oven cool down enough (which takes around 90 minutes) so that you can brush the burnt food off the pizza stone more easily using an oven brush.
If any burnt food residue is stuck on the baking stone, you should use a small bristle brush to scrape it off. This is the best way to clean the pizza stone as it doesn’t do too well with water.
After the oven cools down completely, you can now clean the inside if needed. You just wipe down the whole interior surface with dry paper towels to scrub off the soot buildup. As compared to the other brands, cleaning the interior of the Karu 16 pizza oven is not challenging because the opening is wide hence providing sufficient room to work with.
You’ll also need to get rid of the ash. This involves removing the burner tray and dumping out the ash that may be left behind when you cook with charcoal or wood. You only need to do this occasionally (at least after every five pizzas you cook) and it’s not much of a hustle because the burner tray easily slides right out of the oven. However, you may also need to brush down the burner tray and grate with a small wire brush to free them of any leftover ash.
The most challenging part to keep clean is the glass door. It comes with ViewFlame technology which Ooni claims minimize the amount of soot that builds upon the glass. However, that seems not to be the case as there were many reports that soot from the smoke (when using charcoal or wood) tends to build up way too quickly on the glass during every use, especially when preheating the oven and or adding more wood or charcoal.
The soot blocks any visibility to your pizza during the cook making the glass door sort of useless – you have to keep opening the door or keep the door open to check on your pizza which in turn lets the heat out hence compromising the temperature inside the oven. Clearing the soot itself from the door is not difficult but the fact that you have to do it after each and every cooking session is exhausting. You have to use a dry cloth or paper towels to wipe it off. For more thorough cleaning in case of stubborn marks, you can use warm soapy water once the glass is completely cool.
The oven’s exterior doesn’t present many challenges when cleaning though. It is stainless steel and rarely gets stained or shows fingerprints or smudges, so it’s pretty simple to clean. You can just use a damp piece of cloth to wipe it should it have any stains and then dry it completely. Avoid using an abrasive cleaning product. If there are any marks or smudges, then it’s recommended you use a regular stainless steel cleaner to remove them.
There’s little to do in terms of cleaning when it comes to the gas mode. There is no ash left behind in the burner tray to dump or much soot inside the oven to clean once the pizza is complete. The pizza stone and the exterior surface are the only parts that will need frequent cleaning.
Note: the pizza stone should be flipped over after every cooking session so that when you next use it, any food remaining on the underside of the stone from the previous use is burnt off by the heat.
Ooni Karu 16
In-built Digital Thermometer
One of the highlights of the Karu 16 is the digital thermometer that’s mounted on its front door. It’s a new feature that’s not included on any of the other Ooni’s pizza ovens. The thermometer gives the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius readings. It has a large typeface and the fact that it’s digital makes it easier to read compared to an analog thermometer. However, it only gives you the ambient air temperature of the oven but not actually the temperature of the baking stone, which is what really matters.
In other words, you’ll still need to invest in an Infrared thermometer for checking the stone temperature. For instance, during one of our tests, the in-built thermometer was reading 447°C but when we measured the stone’s temp (at the center) using an infrared thermometer, it was 531°C. So, you’ll certainly need it because the variance is quite large between the readings and you need an accurate pre-heat temp reading before adding your pizza and also when it’s cooking – Ooni does sell its own digital Infrared thermometer which you can get on its website.
Moreover, the batteries on the included digital thermometer do seem not to last long. Several users reported that they needed to replace them more often, after about two weeks of using the oven daily.
The fact that you’ve multiple fuel options to work with makes this Karu 16 model just as flexible as the original version, the Karu 12. The fuel consumption is relatively low. If you prefer to use charcoal, then your supply will last depending on the quality or the kind of charcoal you use.
We always use the Ooni Premium lump wood charcoal because of its good quality and the fact that it’s sustainably sourced, plus it lasts reasonably longer. However, you can consider anthracite coal too. It gives intense heat and burns slowly hence you get a lot more hours when you use it compared to the other types of coal like peat, lignite, and bituminous – lignite is the worst as it has high moisture content.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to purchase the gas burner separately if you need to use gas because it’s an optional upgrade – it’s not actually included with the standard model. The oven can run on either propane gas or natural gas and Ooni sells the burners for either type. With gas, you have total control over the fire and the temperature. The knob of the gas burner allows you to control how much gas goes through it and hence control the temperature.
The fact that it heats up the oven fast and can maintain a steady temperature throughout also means that your gas consumption is fairly low compared to when using the other fuel options. If you are a beginner, then we would strongly recommend you get this. It’s also a great option if you want a low-lying oven design similar to the Ooni Koda model because the chimney comes off when in gas mode. You are only left with the dome-shaped body.
As for the wood fuel, kiln-dried hardwood is the ideal option for best results. We always prefer the premium assorted oak hardwood from Ooni because of its good quality. Using wood does produce some smoke which will give your pizza an authentic and rich taste but avoid wet wood, softwood, and greenwood as they will cause excess smoke and also poor performance.
With regards to consumption, the Karu 16 burns wood very quickly, so it can be sort of expensive. By the time we were using it the second time, we had gone through almost a third of the box of Ooni premium oak hardwood pieces. It doesn’t stay hot longer, so you have to keep feeding it wood. The consumption can also be higher during winter due to low ambient temps.
Ooni has incorporated a large hatch to take handfuls of the kiln-dried wood at a time but its design limits it a bit from holding enough wood. Filling it as needed often leads to some of the wood pieces spilling onto the stone yet getting the oven really hot needs an almost full tray. It’s shallow towards the front side hence pieces usually tumble out.
In short, there’s certainly a learning curve to finding the right type, shape, and size of wood pieces and how to arrange them to ensure optimum airflow through the hatch to maintain the right temperature and cook consistently without too much soot. Small splits (approximately 6 inches in length) or dry hardwood would be ideal.
While it works way better with wood chunks, the Karu 16 can equally run on hardwood pellets, which can be an alternative choice if you’re not tight on your budget. Pellets are dense, meaning they last longer compared to normal hardwood – a 9-kg hardwood pellet can last around 6 to 8 hours.
Moreover, they produce less ash, which is easy to clean. The only thing is that it’s not specifically designed to really run on pellets since they can fall through the holes in the firebox. However, if you have a fire to which you can add the wood pellets, then it can run on pellets as they are just compressed wood.
Fuel Hatch Hook
Ooni has attached a stainless steel hook to the back of the Karu 16 oven where you can hang the hatch door when you open the hatch to add more wood or charcoal. It took us several cooks before we even discovered this and we liked it because it’s a small but useful safety feature. The hatch door is usually piping hot so you don’t exactly want to be setting it down or keep holding it in one of your hands when you remove it. It’s nice to have two hands available when adding more fuel to the fire.
Is the Karu 16 good for outdoor use?
No. All of Ooni’s pizza ovens are meant for outdoor use, including this new Karu 16 model. It has a chimney which drains the heat from the furnace hence it’s not actually recommended to use it indoors.
The insulation is great though. I touched the surface of the oven with a fingertip when it was around 700°F and it was fine, just a little warm, which is important when you’ve it in the backyard and are worried that a stray child or even your beer-drinking friend might end up brushing up against it.
Ooni Karu 16
All in all, we were pleased with the new Ooni Karu 16 oven. There’s a little learning curve on regulating the airflow and temperature, especially when using wood as fuel, but overall, it bakes perfectly charred pizzas that are cooked completely from the crust to the toppings. It’s amazing, particularly for making Neapolitan pizza.
It heats up faster than the other Ooni pizza ovens and cooks equally fast. It’s easy to assemble, use, and clean too. The build quality is also very good. It is more solid and durable, plus keeps in the heat well.
Generally, if you want a larger pizza oven, ideal for a medium-sized or large family, then it’s a great choice. You can as well consider it if you don’t actually plan to travel with your pizza oven a lot or want a multi-fuel pizza oven. Ooni offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on this model and also a 3-year warranty once you register it on their website.