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Italy's Pizza Experts Love This Pizza Oven. We Do Too

No pizza authority has as much credibility as the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletan, and they love the Ooni Karu.

ooni karu pizza oven on table with condiments
Tyler Chin

Anyone, anywhere around the world can call their pizza a New York-style pie or a deep-dish delicacy. But only a select few across the globe can call their pizza a True Neapolitan Pizza. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletan is a regulatory body that has developed its International Regulation to define what makes a true Naples-style pizza from the exact recipe of the dough to the ingredients (bonus points if they're all sourced from Campania) — and that pie better be made in a wood-fired oven.

The pizza oven market has become full of at-home ovens to help you turn into an amateur pizzaiolo, but only one oven has the distinction of being "Recommended for Domestic Use" by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana: it's the Ooni Karu 16, a wood- and charcoal-fueled pizza oven from one of our favorite pizza oven brands.

The "16" in its names refers to the size of the pizza it can cook — 16 inches — but for space-saving purposes, we took the Karu 12 (which, you guessed it, makes pizzas up to 12 inches across) for a test run. As a bonus test, I brought my almost-three-year-old nephew along for the pizza-making ride, too. Here's what we found.

Ooni Karu 12: Key Specs

Fuel: Wood and charcoal, with the option for gas with the optional Ooni Gas Burner
Dimensions: 31.5 x 15.7 x 30.3″
Weight: 26.4 lbs
Pre-heat time: Hits 950°F in 15 minutes
Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven
ooni.com
$399.00

  • Gets hot, and gets hot fast

  • Small fuel tray

What's Good About the Ooni Karu 12

It has a generous learning curve

After watching a couple YouTube videos (in particular, this one from Pro Home Cooks), we were ready to go. Setting up the Ooni Karu 12 was very straightforward. I constructed pizzas (with my nephew overseeing topping selections) while my brother launched and baked. Since the bake time is quick, we could all grab a slice and chat without feeling bored or hungry between pizzas.

The pizzas were small — about 10 inches in diameter — but it was perfectly fine for a small family gathering. Even though it was our first time making pizzas with the Karu 12, and homemade pizza in general, all of our pies came out delicious and had a nice wood-fired flavor.

This oven gets hot in there

The perfect pizza crust texture is just not achievable with your standard kitchen oven. The Ooni Karu 12 is capable of getting to temperatures above 1,000° Fahrenheit to help you achieve an ideal crispy crust with a chewy center. It only took about 30 to 40 minutes to get to our target temperature with a combination of charcoal and wood.

You can also use gas to speed up heating time, using the add-on burner. And so there's no guesswork when it comes to the Karu's actual temperature (also, so you don't need to buy an infrared thermometer), the pizza oven comes equipped with a mounted digital thermometer.

It's great for the on-the-go pizzaiolo

Okay, you won't become a master pizza maker with the Karu, but you'll come pretty damn close. The Karu 12 is light enough to transport from your backyard to the park or wherever else you want to make some pies. (The vent is also removable, in case you were worrying about how that thing would fit into your car.)

The Karu's transportability falls in line with the rest of Ooni's other pizza ovens, so we're glad the brand didn't randomly decide to make this pizza oven the size and weight of a boulder.

ooni karu pizza oven
Tyler Chin

What's Not Ideal About the Ooni Karu 12

You're gonna have to hold the door

The door completely separates from the rest of Ooni Karu 12 so it can be a little clunky if you don’t have a ton of surrounding space (or extra hands) to work with. If you are a little curious like me, you might want to check on how your pizza is progressing mid-bake. The Karu 12’s door does not have a window (the larger Karu 16 does, however) and baking without the door on causes temperatures to drop quickly.

Fuel, refuel and fuel again

While the Karu 12 can support multiple fuel options, the charcoal and wood tray is quite small. Wood that is already pre-cut to fit is a little bit more expensive than other available sizes and a bit harder to source. It's a small qualm, but still something to make note of if you're making pizzas for a large party.

pizza
Tyler Chin

The Ooni Karu 12: The Verdict

The Ooni Karu 12 is perfect for small families, entertaining a few friends, and/or personal pies. It was easy to use and, most importantly, the pizzas came out top notch from the start. It's nice to have the ability to use wood, charcoal or both, and it's nice to simply have the option to add a gas burner.

I never thought I’d want a pizza oven at home, but now, I'm glad I have one. I’m already looking forward to trying my hand at homemade dough and different topping variations. The next step will be to perfect a Neapolitan pie to do right by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletan.

Price: $399

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