5 min read

Upping my Outdoor Cooking Game - My Review of the Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven

Steel Ooni Karu pizza oven in front of wood pile
The Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven

First, why am I shilling for a pizza oven on my gardening blog? Is this a sponsored post? Am I finally trying to cash in on the massive success of this blog? Has the Ooni corporation sent me bags of money to do this?

The answer to all those questions is actually no, though if Ooni reads this and wants to send me bags of money or swag they can get in touch here...

This is the first product review I've done on my site and I'm inspired to do it because this pizza oven has integrated itself so well into my garden. I like it so much, I decided I wanted to tell you about it!

In the summer, I've found myself making pizza every week, sometimes twice a week. Even this winter, I've gotten the oven out a few times and done some cooking in the snow. I like the ritual of it, learning a new skill and of course, the delicious pizza I can make with the oven.

Too often, when I go out to sit and enjoy the garden, I notice the weed that needs pulling, or the veggie that needs harvesting and end up working more than relaxing. Having the pizza oven, I get to relax in the garden by focusing on something and ignoring the other work to be done for a bit, while still appreciating the setting.

Man loads wood into a pizza oven outdoors in the snow.
Making pizza outside in Edmonton in December. A totally reasonable pass-time.

How does the oven work?

You load wood pieces (no longer than six inches) into the back firebox and start the fire. The fire draws air through a grate underneath the oven and pushes the flames along the top of the oven, heating up the whole thing and giving your pizza that nice wood-fired char.

Fire starting in the back of the pizza oven.
Two matches, a bit of bark and paper got the fire started easily.

If you keep the oven topped up with fuel and allow it to heat up for 20-30 minutes, according to Ooni it's able to reach temperatures of up to 950 degrees F (500 degrees C). I've never measured the temperature directly, but in my experience, when this oven is really hot it can fully cook a pizza in about a minute, which is about as fast as I'd personally ever want to cook a pizza. At that heat, you have to keep an eye on things, as any distractions and you end up with a burned pie.

Illustration of the Ooni Karu pizza oven, showing air moving from underneath the fire box, building the flames and then out the chimney.
The fire draws air from below the firebox, which pushes the flames along the top of the oven, giving your pizza that wood-fired char. The oven has a ceramic base that holds a lot of heat and gives crisp crusts.
Note: If you want something a bit more convenient than wood, there is also an optional attachment for this oven that let's you use it with propane. You can also cook with charcoal for a lower, more consistent heat.

The oven is easy to set up and take apart for cleaning and transporting. It's design uses wood efficiently, distributes heat evenly and it's well-insulated body holds that heat for a long time. The ceramic base of the oven is also great for producing, beautiful crisp crusts.

I've done all my cooking so far using wood scraps from prunings, wood working and small chunks of firewood I already had. A small basket of wood that takes me a few minutes to source from my wood pile is all I need to cook a batch of pizzas.

Black basket full of small pieces of wood on a table outside.
More than enough scrap wood to cook 5 or 6 pizzas.

As with learning any new skill, it takes a bit of time to get the hang of things. Learning how often you need to add wood to maintain the high heat is one of the things to figure out. The oven burns fuel quickly, so you have to keep it stoked more than you might think.

I also burned a few pizzas before I got any good ones and initially was so bad at getting the whole pizza to slide off the peel and not just the toppings. With practice and persistence however, I find this oven easy to use and the quality of pizzas you can make to be excellent.

This oven is also fairly versatile. By adjusting the damper on the chimney to decrease the air draw through the oven you can get the oven to a lower, more consistent heat.

I'm interested in using this to experiment with slower, lower temperature cooking and making things other than pizza in the oven. I recently got myself a small cast-iron pan and plan on trying to grill some mushrooms and vegetables in the future.

Flatbread on a cutting board with arugula, garlic and peppers.
Garlic flatbreads made in the Ooni and good for dipping.

Should you get one?

There's something about the taste of a wood fired pizza that's impossible to replicate and the Ooni Karu is a portable, user-friendly pizza oven that gets you that distinctive taste.

Other reviews I've seen of the Ooni Karu have focused on BTUs, temperatures and cooking times, but for me, what's great about this oven is that it's so fun to use.

The setup is easy, cooking outdoors in the garden with a real wood fire is enjoyable and the pizzas you can make are so tasty! This oven is great for entertaining and a pizza night makes for a pleasant hangout on a nice summer day. I definitely recommend getting yourself an Ooni Karu 12.