Ooni Koda 12 & 16 in-depth review
Ooni Koda Pizza Oven
The Koda 12 is amongst the latest models in their pizza oven collection and overall, it seems quite impressive. It heats up quickly and cooks the pizzas fast. It did cook the pizzas well for the most part and they tasted great. Its other major highlight is the fact that it’s small, compact and very portable – it can be taken anywhere.
The biggest challenge we encountered in our testing was managing the temperature and turning the pizza. The gas regulator is slightly finicky too and the package didn’t include a peel and thermometer – you have to get them separately.
Home-made pizza is often better than a purchased one but making really great pizzas at home requires a real pizza oven, one that can easily handle temperatures higher than 350°C (650°F).
The Ooni Koda is one of those pizza ovens. We tested it and in this review, we’ll share our views regarding its design, performance, assembly and many more. The unit is a gas-powered pizza oven designed for outdoor use. It’s a product of Ooni limited, which is a company founded in Scotland but the manufacturing of its ovens is done in China.
One of the aspects that were striking to us was how the Koda looks super cool. We liked its shape in particular as it’s a very modern and stylish design with smooth, round angles – it retains the dome shape of conventional outdoor ovens but without unnecessary bells or whistles. There’s no chimney and the front is open making the whole unit resemble a tortoise shell.
The sleek matte black finish on the top and the light grey finish of the opening (with the Ooni brand name) contrast very well. We generally found it quite stylish and appealing to the eye – it looked super cool in our backyard, plus the cover is dark hence it doesn’t glare in your eyes when the sun is out.
Another thing we liked was its portability – it’s very light, weighing just around 20 pounds and since it has no chimney, it’s easy and comfortable to carry and move around without any hassle.
In fact, it’s a single device without any parts (except the cooking stone and the gas supply) and the three legs fold up neatly into themselves which makes it less awkward to carry and move.
It’s also really compact (about 25 inches long and 16 inches wide), so it can fit in your arms. It takes up little room such that it can fit into small outdoor spaces. It’s an oven you can set in a small backyard – it can sit on any medium-sized table like on a kitchen table, picnic table or a countertop, or even a sidewalk.
The oven has no front cover which wasn’t much of an issue since you can control the gas to get the stone hot, plus the U-shaped opening allowed us to see how our pizza was cooking and ensure it didn’t get burned. We were a little disappointed though in its size (the opening) because it’s a bit small which sometimes made it challenging to launch our pizza.
Our Score: 8 out of 10
The overall build quality is good. Everything appears very well made. The shell is thick made out of powder-coated carbon steel and insulated with ceramic to ensure great heat retention. The undercarriage is equally stainless steel. We’re curious to see how long it will last but it seems like we will get a few years out of it.
The removable stone baking board is some sort of ceramic. It’s about 10mm thick and 13 inches wide. It’s one of the thinnest stones of all the pizza ovens we’ve tested. You have to be cautious when handling it, especially when transporting it during camping or tailgating as it’s fragile – it can easily break if it falls out. The propane adapter is also a bit fiddly. It needs some extra care to screw it on straight so that you can get the gas flow.
That said, the structure of the oven felt stable, positioned on three long solid legs with rubber tips at the bottom that limit slippage and protect the work surface.
It’s only unfortunate that they have no locking mechanism – they don’t lock hence can collapse easily if bumped into. Their hinges have some drag that helps keep them where you leave them, but they’ll likely loosen up over time. They didn’t collapse when we tested, but this is not at all safe in our opinion, moreover, a fourth leg would be great for added stability.
Besides that, despite being made for only outdoor use, you can’t leave the Koda outside unless it’s covered in a shed. It’s not weatherproof hence can’t be left exposed to the elements especially the rain or snow.
It doesn’t have a chimney though, so you can put up an umbrella (like a garden or cantilever parasol) around you to protect it if you live in a climate like ours where it can rain at any moment.
Our Score: 8.5 out of 10
The Koda comes well packaged in a sturdy double-walled cardboard box. All the components are well arranged in the box and covered in wraps to protect them from being damaged during transport.
When you open the box, the first thing you see are several booklets, one which is the manual and safety instructions, another which is the warranty and a third one which is Ooni’s cook/recipe book.
The rest of the content includes the Ooni pizza oven itself, the stone baking board ( removable and washable separately), a propane tank gas regulator, insulated gloves, and an extendable match holder which is handy in case the electric ignition ever stops or fails to light the gas.
The company has also included an aluminum pizza peel for inserting the pizza into the oven and removing it but it’s quite flexible to be of any use – it can easily drop the pizza.
Setup-wise, the Koda didn’t give us any trouble. It easy to set up since it comes fully assembled as a single unit – after unboxing all the components, you just place the oven on a table, flip out the three permanently affixed stand legs, slide the stone board inside the oven, and then connect the gas regulator and the hose to a propane gas tank.
There’s nothing complicated or cumbersome about it. You just need a table and an even surface to set it up, and begin your cooking. It takes less than ten minutes and you don’t need tools. It utilizes a standard propane gas hose that features a coupling similar to the one on standard propane canisters.
You’ll need the propane canister/tank with propane though as it doesn’t come with one. It’s compatible with standard propane canisters ( the 20 or 30-pounds type) like a standard barbecue grill propane tank. The hose is long enough (around 3 feet) to allow you to set the propane canister on the ground while the Koda sits on a table above it.
It can work with a small 1-pound propane cylinder tank but you’ll need a converter/adapter to connect to the small tank. The adapter is not included, you have to buy it separately – you can get one on Amazon since Ooni doesn’t sell them. The available connection is designed for large propane tanks only.
You can’t hook up the Koda to a regular gas line either unless you do some modifications which would void the warranty. It doesn’t work with natural gas – it’s designed to work with only propane which is a form of Liquid Petroleum Gas.
The other thing you’ll need is a pizza peel or at least something to launch and take the pizza out with as the unit comes with an aluminum peel, which like we mentioned it’s not really useful because it’s flexible and doesn’t even have a handle, so you have to get a quality metal pizza peel that’s 12-inch wide.
The Koda also doesn’t include a thermometer. We had to pick up one to know how hot the stone and the interior of the oven get – we would highly recommend an infrared/laser gun thermometer.
You may as well need to get the optional carrying bag sold by Ooni – it fits the whole oven neatly without disassembling the gas hose and has carrying handles. It will help keep the rain from getting inside the oven and ruining it, plus it makes it more portable and a great choice for outdoor activities on the go like camping, tailgating, the beach, church outings or just about any social event. The entire unit is compact and light enough to fit in almost any car.
Our Score: 8.5 out of 10
The gas burner of this Ooni Koda oven is the other part that we spot immediately when we first use it. It’s a huge improvement from the Ooni 3 gas burner which had two round holes where the gas came straight from them right down to the middle of the oven.
The gas burner design of the Koda 12 is at the back and it’s totally different. You have a whole row of burners in the back of the oven which provide a wide heat source than the Ooni 3 model.
This straight grid of gas burners develops very fine lines of flame that start from the back and tend to curl overhead although it doesn’t cover the entire stone/pizza. It doesn’t really curl to the middle or front of the oven but the distribution of heat is a bit better than in the Ooni 3 we tested which produced a narrow jet of gas/flame that shot down the middle.
The dome structure of the Koda retains the heat a lot better too due to the powder-coated steel shell. The flame heats the stone and the entire oven to high temperatures – ours reached temperatures of up to 925°F (about 496°C) which is very hot but it can go up to 950°F as advertised.
It heats up fast. It took less than 20 minutes for the stone on our Koda oven to reach about 800°F which is pretty fast considering that most large pizza ovens take at least one and half hours, or longer, to heat up to the ideal temperature for baking pizzas.
We also liked that it cooks quickly. For instance, we cooked a Neapolitan style Margherita pizza at 700°F and it was ready in under 2 minutes.
If you dial down the temperature to about 500 to 550°F, it can take around 4 to 5 minutes, especially since you must pool the pizza out and rotate it frequently. Basically, the average time based on several pizzas we cooked was about 90 to 120 seconds.
We did six separate cooks on this Ooni oven and overall, we found the performance much better than we had expected although it takes some getting used to it to get good results.
We’ll break the cooks into elements because different parts managed to cook well and others required more work to get right. The first part we were really impressed by was the way it cooks the toppings. They come out nicely cooked, provided that you don’t overdo them and you keep the temperature high throughout the cook.
It just manages to heat them at the right angle such that they shoot perfectly above the crust – it just singed the edges of our chorizo, and cheesy salami and mushroom toppings so beautifully. It didn’t burn them like in our tests in the Ooni 3 oven.
The second part is the crust and the Koda 12 also does a great job here provided you frequently turn the pizza because there’s some temperature disparity across the stone’s surface.
The temperature at the back near the burners is the hottest (can go up to 950°F) whereas at the front is the coolest at around 500°F. As such, the edges of the crust that are close to the flame often scorch very quickly, almost immediately after sliding the pizza in.
Not only has this been our experience, but that of nearly every user of this Koda 12 model that we’ve encountered in person as well as on the various online pizza forums. You have to be careful where you place the pizza on the stone – the far it is from the back, the better.
You also need to stay attentive like a hawk while the pizza bakes and as mentioned above, turn it frequently to avoid burning. We noted a few seconds can make the difference between good results and charcoal. Expect to turn the pizza after about 10 to 20 seconds.
Turning the pizza itself is nearly impossible due to the small size of the interior and the opening. The height of the interior is about 6 to 8 inches which is a deliberate design decision meant to keep the Koda compact and portable but makes it hard to turn the pizza inside. It was just too small for the 12-inch pizzas that we were making.
We had to take the pizza out to turn it cause there’s no other way and you must turn the pizza every 5 to 10 seconds or it will burn – you simply can’t turn it that fast unless you make a small pizza like 9 inches. Anything larger than that will be tough to turn. We made 8 to 9 12-inch pizzas and although they were fairly well cooked, they still had large hot spots and inconsistencies.
However, you can cook the crust very well at medium or high heat (450°C or 840°F) if you learn to use the oven more – you have to keep the pizza small and keep an eye on the back part carefully so that you can turn it on time.
We did this and we were able to get the bottom part of the crust to brown like a pizza made in a full-sized wood-burning oven. So, with practice, it’s possible to get proper browning on the bottom part of the crust or the nice small leopard spots without burning the outer crust.
The baking stone provides a good slippery surface if you add a bit of flour – we rarely got any sticking dough. However, if the middle of the pizza doesn’t cook properly, the pizza sticks to the surface of the stone and gets ruined.
Generally, the Koda works and can cook very good pizza but you have to master it to get the bottom and top done properly at the same time. It’s a challenging balancing act that requires managing the temperature (from back to front) and turning the pizza a bit quick in order to avoid inconsistencies and it getting burned on the edges.
The difficult part for us was regulating the temperature inside the oven because there’s some heat lost through the opening. Furthermore, any breeze through the machine tends to blow the gas easily which affects the temperature and the cooking. If where you live doesn’t get much wind then that would be great.
Our Score: 7 out of 10
Keeping the Ooni Koda clean is not much of a hassle. Cooking with gas is much convenient because there’s minimal smoke and soot compared to the Ooni 3 model. The high temperatures it reaches also facilitate self-cleaning. You let it run for a little while after you’re done cooking and the high heat burns off any excess residue.
Even with that, you still need to perform deep cleaning which is a bit challenging because the opening doesn’t provide much room to work with making cleaning the interior of the oven difficult when ingredients fall off or if the stone gets something on it.
We used a wire brush fitted with a scraper at one end to clear off the stone in between pizzas. You can clean it thoroughly once you are done but you have to wait when it cools. The stone is removable, so you can take it out and use a small bristle brush to scrape off the excess burnt residue. You can also turn it over and put it back in the oven so that the heat can burn any residue that’s on the bottom side.
The oven doesn’t take long to cool down – only about 20 minutes which makes it ideal for tailgating – the large pizza ovens we had can take an hour or more to cool down.
If the stone gets really dirty or get cheese or flour burned on it, then you can wash it with water but it’s porous, so you must dry it thoroughly by putting it back in the oven and baking the moisture out for some hours at around 500°F – the stone has to be cleaned totally with no soap.
The shell didn’t give us a hard time to clean either as it rarely stained, even after cooking 8 pizzas. There was no smudging on it and we used a simple cloth to just wipe it.
Our Score: 7 out of 10
The Koda is not the most user-friendly oven when it comes to operating it. It has a simple single knob at the back that serves as the ignition and the temperature control dial. You have to reach over the oven to get to the knob on the back and you can’t even see it properly if there’s a wall behind or beside it.
The knob turns counter-clockwise, which we found to be rather counterintuitive considering that most grill and oven knobs/dials turn clockwise to light and also to increase the heat. The other problem we noted was that the gas always fails to light on the first attempt.
It took about 2 or 3 tries to ignite it every time. Actually, after reading the manual we learned that you need to keep holding in the knob for 5 seconds after ignition to spark the igniter or turn it back off and on again while still holding it in so as to re-spark the igniter. It’s unintuitive, but nonetheless, it did the trick.
However, you still have the option of lighting it with a match using the provided match holder – it works fine if it’s not windy.
The burner remained lit each time we ignite it during our tests but we did notice in some of the forums that a few customers had trouble keeping it lit, especially when using a new propane gas tank. They reported that once in a while the flame fails to stay on.
We also found it a little delicate to control the flame because the gas level adjustments usually happen over a small range of knob rotation. One thing we did like though is the addition of a built-in safety device that automatically shuts off the gas supply in case the flame blows out. We didn’t get to test that but it’s a handy safety considering that the oven runs on gas.
The shell (at the front and the top) can heat to about 200 – 350°C when the oven is on which is too hot to touch. One can certainly get their hands burned should you rest your hand on it.
There’s little to no heat at the back where there’s the gas regulator valve and the knob. The oven also doesn’t get as hot underneath/at the bottom, neither does the heat radiate downward.
The legs don’t get hot too. They are almost twice as long as those of a commercial pizza oven hence they are nicely hiked up from the surface of the table you place the oven on – the heat is not closer to the table like it was the case with the Ooni 3 which has much lower legs. So, the legs remain cool, plus the rubber tips provide further insulation from the heat.
We used it on a wooden picnic table and it was fine – there was no damage despite the interior of the oven getting up to 900°F.
Is Ooni Koda worth it?
The Ooni Koda is worth it as it did manage to perform much better than we expected given that we didn’t get good results when we tested the Ooni 3. It needs a slight learning curve to consistently cook great pizzas, especially with regards to temperature management and turning the pizzas at the right time.
The overall design and build quality is good too and leads to fast heat up and cooking of pizzas. We also liked the fact that it’s compact, highly portable and requires no assembly. It’s a nice small pizza oven suitable for outdoor entertainment, and comes at a reasonable price and backed by a 2-year warranty once it’s registered within 60 days of purchase.
What else can you cook in Ooni Koda?
You can cook several different foods with the open flame of the Ooni Koda despite its small size. You can use it for cooking vegetables, oysters Rockefeller, fish and steaks. You can even make desserts or any bread that’s not very tall like pita or naan.
It does a commendable job, particularly on steak but you’ll need a cast-iron pan because cooking steak or fish directly on the bottom of the oven would definitely make a mess on the stone that you would really find hard to clean.
Can you use Ooni Koda indoors?
No: it’s designed specifically for outdoor use only. It’s powered by liquid propane gas and temperatures can get up to 900°F, so it’s certainly not safe for use indoors.