Home pizza ovens have gone mainstream over the past few years, thanks largely to Ooni. The design-forward brand's collection of gas, charcoal and wood pellet-fueled ovens have brought restaurant-quality, Neapolitan-style pizza to the masses, and we should know. After all, we've reviewed every single one. But as great as Ooni's backyard pizza ovens are, they've always had one major flaw: you can only use them outdoors.
A great number of people — myself included — live in apartments without access to an outdoor space. So when I want fresh pizza at home, I'm limited to either ordering delivery (not that fresh), cooking a homemade or frozen pizza in the oven at a low temperature or picking up one of the glorified toaster ovens masquerading as countertop pizza ovens on the market. None of these options come close to replicating the type of pizza you get from one of Ooni's backyard ovens, which is what makes Ooni's Volt 12 so exciting. The $999 appliance is Ooni's first-ever electric pizza oven and its only one that can be used indoors. Anxious to make some legit pizza in my kitchen, I've been testing the Ooni Volt 12 Electric Pizza Oven over the past six weeks.
Ooni Volt 12 Electric Pizza Oven: What We Think
Simply put, the Ooni Volt makes far better pizza than any other indoor method. If you're looking to make fresh restaurant-quality pizza in your kitchen with bubbly cheese, a crisp bottom and a leoparded crust, I don't know of any way to get it other than by using this oven. Cooking pizza the proper way requires extremely high temperatures, and since the Ooni Volt maxes out at 850 degrees — nearly twice the limit of my regular oven — I can actually get results that are basically the same as what you'll get with Ooni's outdoor ovens.
But those crazy-high temps are also the biggest drawback to the Ooni Volt. A part of me thinks it's not wise to have something blasting away at 850 degrees on my kitchen counter. The Volt's high temperatures mean you need to exercise a lot of caution when using it, and it also means that the oven sometimes produces insane amounts of smoke — particularly if you have any kind of incident involving wayward toppings or uncooperative dough.
I'm pretty sure I can open a pizzeria now
I've never considered myself to be much of a pizzaiolo. Prior to testing the Ooni Volt, my home pizza-making skills were largely limited to delivery or DiGiorno. But after my first couple of cooks in the Ooni Volt, I started feeling like a pro since I was easily churning out pizzas that were better than any I could get delivered to my apartment. (Whether this says more about my pizza-making skills with the Ooni or the state of pizza places in Hartford, CT I can't say.)
I started out slowly, using pre-made dough from Whole Foods and aiming for my favorite type of pizza, a New York-style pie, which according to the Ooni app — a free and useful tool full of recipes and instructions — takes five minutes at 650 degrees. And it came out great — my first try easily ranked as the best pizza I'd ever had in my apartment. But still, I wanted to do better and really push the Volt to its limits. Ooni's ovens are best known for their ability to make Neapolitan pizzas, which are cooked at nearly 900 degrees for just 90 seconds or so with a 90-degree rotation executed halfway for even cooking. The Volt promises Neapolitan pies, but could it actually accomplish this feat?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. For the best results, I followed Ooni's own Neapolitan dough recipe that they recommend for the Volt (from the app) and the resultant pizza was outstanding. Picturesque leoparded crust, oozing cheese and a crisp and slightly charred bottom. I honestly found it hard to believe that I cooked these pizzas on my countertop, with each spending less than two minutes in the Volt oven.
You still need a decent amount of space
The Ooni Volt is undoubtedly a game-changer for pizza lovers who don't have access to an outdoor space. However ... you're still going to need a pretty big kitchen with a lot of counter space in order to accommodate this oven. The Ooni Volt 12 measures about two feet deep, 21 inches wide and 11 inches tall. Its footprint is rather massive for a countertop appliance — it's bigger than anything else in my kitchen, and far larger than any toaster oven I've ever encountered. I have a large bar in my kitchen, so thankfully I can accommodate it, but if your kitchen is on the smaller side and space is at a premium, you may find that the Ooni Volt is simply too big to fit on your counter. That's not really Ooni's fault — any smaller and you'd sacrifice insulation, functionality and/or the size of the pizzas you can make (already on the small side at <12 inches), but it's definitely worth pointing out since I suspect many potential buyers will be apartment-dwellers with smallish kitchens.
I'm in complete control
What I like best about the Ooni Volt — besides the outstanding pizza it's capable of churning out — is the ease and versatility of its controls. To get the oven up and running, you plug it in and flick on the "on" switch on the side. This puts the oven in standby mode, and you then have to press a touch-sensitive power button on the front to actually turn it on. You're then greeted with a little chime and light show with three dials below the door's glass window. These dials, from left, control your time, temperature and balance.
The timer goes in 30-second increments and is strictly a timer — it won't shut off the oven or anything once it goes off. The temperature setting goes all the way up to 850 degrees and takes about 20 minutes to get there, which you'll need if you plan on cooking Neapolitan-style pies. And then there's the balance dial, which can only be adjusted once you reach your desired temperature. The Ooni Volt has two heating elements, one on the top and one on the bottom, and this dial allows you to adjust how much of your heat is coming from each. In most cases, you'll want the top to put out more juice (for Neapolitan, it's recommended to have the balance dial turned all the way to the top), but it's fun to play around between cooks until you get the right mix of melty cheese and crispy crust that you're looking for. It's one of the Volt's best features and one that helps set it apart from a standard oven, along with the high-temperature capability.
The smoke is no joke
Now we've come to the worst part about the Ooni Volt 12: it is a bit of a smoke machine. During my first cooks, when the oven was squeaky clean, I had zero smoke. But after the inside of the oven started to get some buildup — from wayward toppings that had fallen off and onto the stone, sticky dough that wasn't cooperative with my peel and just regular use — the oven started to smoke ... a lot.
This occurs because the Volt is essentially impossible to clean. All of your cooking takes place on the included pizza stone, which you're not supposed to really clean or get wet. Between bakes, Ooni recommends taking the stone out and brushing off any large debris, then flipping it over so the remaining debris can burn off during your next cook. This makes sense in theory, but at this point, both sides of my stone are decidedly blackened and there doesn't really seem to be anywhere for the debris to burn off, other than in the air of my kitchen. There is also a good amount of build-up and debris inside the oven itself, but Ooni doesn't want you to clean the inside of the oven at all due to the sensitivity of the electronics (it'd be hard to do so anyway, given that there's not a lot of room in there). So what I'm left with is a perpetually dirty oven that can only be cleaned by turning that dirtiness into smoke, which then fills my kitchen and lungs.
If I had an outdoor space, I would bring the Volt outside, crank the heat, and let all the residue burn off into smoke. But I don't have access to an outdoor space — hence why I have the Volt — and I don't want to fill my kitchen with smoke for 20 minutes to get the oven clean. For those with better kitchen ventilation, or who have access to an outdoor space and prefer the versatility, ease and control of the Volt to Ooni's other ovens, this will be less of an issue. But in my mind, the smokiness and inability to really clean the oven are easily the worst things about the Volt.
Ooni Volt 12 Electric Pizza Oven: Alternatives
The Volt really stands alone in the market, as there simply aren't any other indoor pizza ovens that are capable of producing the kind of excellent pizza at the necessary high temperatures. The closest competitor would be Breville's Smart Oven Pizzaiolo, which can hit 750 degrees, is considerably smaller than the Ooni and boasts a number of smart features that allow you to easily cook different styles of pizzas. It also costs the same as the already-expensive $999 Volt, so if you've got the room, you might as well get the Ooni. If you don't need the ability to cook indoors, then any one of Ooni's other pizza ovens would be a great choice. They're all cheaper than the Volt, which is Ooni's priciest product, but our current favorite is the $799 Karu 16, which works with multiple types of fuel and can churn out 16-inch pies.