Outdoor pizza ovens are becoming quite popular and it's not hard to see why! They offer a quick and easy way to get that wood-fired pizza flavor right in your own backyard. They're as convenient as a classic grill but super versatile since they can reach such a high temperature and cook all kinds of foods.
We'd been wanting an Ooni pizza oven forever and finally got ours just a few months ago. I know you've been curious about whether I think it's worth the hype or not so I'm here to share my thoughts, tips, and tricks - AND whether I think the Ooni is worth the investment!
Full disclosure - Ooni gifted me this pizza oven. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Ooni Pizza Oven
The Ooni is a portable, outdoor pizza oven. It heats up to about 950 degrees in 20 minutes and can cook your pizza in 60 seconds. It has a pizza stone inside that gives you that delicious, crispy crust of a traditional wood-fired pizza oven.
Ooni has several models to choose from, which means there's likely one that will fit your needs and budget. They offer 12" or 16" ovens that are either wood pellet or gas-powered or use both wood and gas. They range in price from $299-$799 depending on the size and specifications you choose.
We went with the 16" Koda because we liked the ease of being able to use gas and also wanted a larger size so that we had the option to cook larger pizzas or other things like fish, steak, etc.
At $299 for their base model, the Ooni pizza oven is definitely an investment. However, adding a pizza oven to your outdoor area may really spark some joy for you and make pizza night more exciting!
Also, this is a well-made, quality cooking appliance that is going to last for years as long as you take care of it. So while it is a bit spendy, in my opinion - if you're going to use it at least a couple times a month or more - it's totally worth it!
The Ooni comes almost completely assembled out of the box. All you have to do is unfold the legs and put the pizza stone in it!
If you're getting a gas-powered Ooni, you will need to purchase a 1 pound or a 20 pound propane tank. Tracking down that propane tank and having it filled might have been the hardest part of the whole assembly for us! I'm not sure why, but here on the West coast, we had a heck of a time finding a propane tank, and then once we found one we had to find a place to get it filled. Luckily, our local hardware store had one left, and the gas station down the street can fill them so we didn't have to travel far, but I called a TON of places before I could even find one.
How to Use the Ooni
Using the Ooni pizza oven is easier than you might think! It was definitely easier than I expected it to be. Once you connect the propane tank, you just turn it up to high and let it heat up for 20 minutes. Then lower the heat, toss your pizza in, and let it cook for a couple minutes. My partner and I were both pleasantly surprised at how easy the Ooni is to use and how fun it is to watch the pizza cook!
The nice part is that the oven only has flames on the back and left side, so the front right side is the cool spot which gives you more control over how the pizza is cooking. The 16" Koda gives you plenty of space to move the pizza around and also a good distance between the pizza and the flame itself in case it starts to cook too quickly.
Ooni's claim to fame is that it can cook a pizza in 60 seconds - which it totally can. However, for novice pizza cooks like ourselves, we found a couple YouTube videos that said turning the heat to low and cooking it for a bit longer at a lower temp might be easier. With that said, our preferred cooking method is to:
- Heat the oven on high for about 15-20 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and add a pizza to the oven.
- Cook the pizza, rotating it every 20-30 seconds or so for about 2-3 minutes depending on the size of the pie and the amount of toppings
The Learning Curve
I will say I was a bit nervous about the learning curve of cooking with the Ooni. I thought it was going to be a little tricky to get the heat just right and keep it moving. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that after just a couple pizzas you really start to get the hang of it!
I think we get a little better each time as we perfect the dough shaping and topping. But honestly, we kept our Ooni in the box for a few weeks because I just wasn't quite ready to tackle what I thought was going to be a difficult cooking process. I could NOT have been more wrong. Using the pizza oven is super easy and I wish we would have opened our Ooni the day we got it!
- Lightly flour the work surface where you're making the pizza. And lightly flour the pizza peel as well. This will make it easier to move the pizza to the pizza peel and transfer it to into the oven. I've heard semolina flour works best, but we use all-purpose without any issues.
- Don't roll the crust out too large unless you're very comfortable with the process of moving it. You'll have to assemble the pizza, then move it to the pizza peel, and then scoot it off the peel and into the oven. The smaller your pizza, the easier it is to do. The larger the pizza, the more likely it is you're going to end up with a mangled mess. Although the 16" Koda can handle a 16" pie, we still keep them around 10"-12". I typically divide a one pound ball of dough in two, and then roll out two pizzas from that.
- Don't overwork the dough. The secret to getting that signature pizza crust is touching the dough as little as possible. I really lucked out because my partner used to make pizzas for a living so he's basically a professional. He recommends using your fingers to gently create the crust while moving the dough in a circle. Then slapping it back and forth between your hands/forearms until it gets large enough. Ideally, you want the dough to be thicker on the edges, and then very thin in the middle. This will give you that signature wood fired pizza oven texture you're looking for. If the crust is too thick in the middle it won't cook all the way through.
- Don't add too many toppings to your pizza. Another way to ensure that your pizza cooks through, is to top it very minimally. I'd recommend adding half of what you'd normally add to a pizza you're going to bake in a regular oven. Like I mentioned, the transfer of the pizza is a little tricky, and the more toppings you have, the trickier it is. So keep it simple and top lightly. This is not the time to make your signature extra extra cheese pizza!
- Don't get distracted. When you're cooking pizza in the Ooni, you want your full attention on that pizza. With the inside of the oven reaching temps over 900 degrees, it's important to keep a close eye on the pie because it can go from perfectly done, to perfectly burned in a matter of seconds.
I will admit, I was hopeful but skeptical that the flavor would be close to that of a wood-fired pizza oven. And holy cow - I was blown away!
The flavor is nearly identical to wood-fired pizza even though it only uses gas. You get those perfectly charred little bits all over, the crust is tender on the inside and super crisp on the outside, and the cheese gets ooey-gooey melty in just minutes.
I could try to continue to describe how delicious the pizza is, but let me just say, you will be amazed at the difference between the pizza you may in your Ooni and the pizza you make in your oven. They just don't compare.
Which Dough to Use
Honestly, we use dough from the grocery store 9 times out of 10. They have a really delicious dough that's inexpensive and cooks really well in the Ooni. If I'm in the mood for homemade though, we either use my No-Knead Pizza Dough or my Quick Pizza Dough.
- 16" Pizza Peel - We love the 16" pizza peel! The long handle makes it easy to put the pizza right into the oven.
- Pizza Turning Wheel - We have not purchased the turning peel yet but I'd highly recommend the pizza turning wheel to help you turn the pizza while it's in the oven. We currently just use the pizza peel to do it but it's a bit more cumbersome.
- Large Modular Table - The large modular table is something I went and back forth about. I wasn't sure if we should buy it or just try to find something else similar online. But let me save you some time and energy. There is nothing out there that is comparable to this table for cheaper. It's the absolute perfect size, comes with a shelf, hanging dowels and it's on the wheels so you can easily move it back and forth. It also has brakes. For $250 you are really getting your money's worth. It was also pretty simple to put together - or at least I didn't hear my partner swear too much while he was putting it together and I think it was done in less than an hour, even with a 5 year old "helping" him.
- Wooden Pizza Peels - We got these cute little pizza peels as well. Mostly just for ease of having something to make the pizza on and then something to slice the pizza on after it's baked. They're super cute and pretty affordable.
- Infrared Thermometer - We have not yet gotten an infrared thermometer but I've heard that it's super helpful in knowing if the pizza oven has gotten up to temp and is ready to cook!
Where to Buy an Ooni
One thing that really enticed me about the Ooni was that you don't have to clean it! The temperature inside the oven gets so hot that there's really no need to disinfect or sanitize the inside of it. Obviously, you'll need to wipe down the outside from time to time as dust settles on it, but other than that no cleaning is required!
The Ooni Koda 16" is 25 x 25 x 20 inches. Then the modular table that we put it on is 30 x 30 inches. We keep it in the corner of our garage and it doesn't take up too much space. Keeping it out of the snow and rain will help it last longer. If you don't have any covered space to store it though, Ooni does make a weatherproof cover as well.
Good for Weeknight Use
It might seem like a lot of work to get the Ooni all set up just to make two pizzas (which is what we usually do as a family of three) but I assure you, it's really not. The Ooni modular table we got makes it easy to wheel in and out of the garage. Then you just connect the propane and let it heat while you make the pizzas. It's totally doable on a weeknight and we haven't cooked a pizza in our oven since we got it!
It is Worth the Hype?
Yes, it is. I see what all the fuss was about. The Ooni is worth the price for the experience that it delivers. I do say experience because I think that making and cooking food really can be an experience.
My overall thoughts on that Ooni are that I was expecting everything to be a lot more work. I was expecting the setup to be a hassle, the actual prepping and cooking to be a bit time-consuming, and I wasn't sure what the cleaning process entailed. Overall, I am absolutely elated to find that the Ooni is actually a really simple, straightforward, outdoor pizza oven experience. The setup is quick. Prepping, heating the oven, and cooking the pizzas is pretty easy. And clean-up is virtually non-existent.
It's also very lightweight and portable so I can totally see us taking this camping with us when the wildfires aren't raging!
Is the Ooni Right For You?
If you like pizza, have a small outdoor space, a bit of storage space to keep it dry, and enjoy having a beverage outside while you cook dinner, then yes - the Ooni is for you!
If you're ready to check out the Ooni pizza oven and decide which one is right for you - CLICK HERE!