Over the last few years, Ooni has established itself as the brand to beat among weekend warriors who consider pizza the new brisket — or, really, anyone who's grown tired of DiGiorno and delivery.
At the top of the pecking order, you'll find the Karu 16 ($799), which the brand proudly proclaims to be the "first and only pizza oven to be ‘Recommended for Domestic Use’ by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana." It's also Ooni's most expensive oven, with an MSRP that's $200 more than the next closest oven, the Koda 16 ($599).
What separates the Karu 16 from Ooni's more affordable ovens is its multi-fuel functionality. Out of the box, the oven comes ready to cook with wood or charcoal but a gas adaptor ($100, sold separately) can be hooked up for added speed and convenience. The oven also features a glass, see-through door and mounted digital thermometer that displays the internal oven temperature.
Do all these perks add up to a pizza oven worthy of a $799 price tag? I tested a Karu 16 for more than six months, during which I cooked dozens of pizzas, to find out.
- Fuel: Wood and charcoal, with the option for gas with the Ooni Gas Burner add-on
- Dimensions: 33 x 32 x 19.6 inches
- Weight: 62.6lb
- Preheat Time: 15-20 minutes
What We Like About the Ooni Karu 16
It cooks excellent pizza — consistently
The Ooni Karu 16 measures 32 x 19.6 x 33 inches, with an opening height of 5.71 inches. That means you can easily cook 16-inch pizzas to share or smaller 10- to 12-inch personal pies, with room to maneuver around.
The oven itself weighs more than 62 pounds with its powder-coated steel construction. That makes the Karu 16 difficult to move in and out of storage, and virtually impossible to travel with, but the weight is not without a performance benefit — it retains heat extremely well. While I anticipated a long preheat window, I found that the oven reached 850-950 degrees in 15-20 minutes — right in line with Ooni's smallest oven, the Fyra 12, which I've also tested.
At that temperature, pizzas cook in 60-90 seconds, and the Karu 16 delivers perfectly melted cheese, thoroughly cooked toppings, even leoparding on the bottom and the slightest bit of char around the crust. Unlike other pizza ovens, I noticed very little drop-off in heat or performance from pie to pie. That means consistent results, with very little flame management (or virtually zero if you're using the gas adaptor).
Great for beginners, despite the price tag
There's no getting around it: the price of the Karu 16 is steep. And while beginners might be tempted to look elsewhere, even within Ooni's own catalog, the Karu 16 is a great oven for cooks new to the backyard pizza game.
A lot of that comes down to what Ooni calls ViewFlame technology — a hinged glass door that helps with heat retention and lets you watch your pizzas as they cook (read: make sure they don't burn). The only other Ooni ovens with doors are the Karu 12, which comes with a closed stainless-steel cover, and the Fyra 12, where the door features a small peephole that's not just difficult to see through but requires you to put your face next to a 900-degree oven to see what's happening inside. The gas-powered Koda models have no doors whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the mounted digital thermometer of the Karu 16 tells you the ambient temperature of the oven, which is especially helpful when cooking with wood or charcoal where the heat can frequently fluctuate. Together with the glass door, the integrated thermometer strips a lot of guesswork out of cooking, giving the Karu 16 a shallow learning curve compared to other pizza ovens.
What We Don't Like About the Karu 16
The gas burner costs extra
The Karu 16's main calling card is its versatility — it can cook with fire, charcoal, propane or natural gas. And even if you love that wood-fired flavor, the ability to cook with gas is a welcome perk for lazy weeknights or parties where you need to churn out 10 or more pies and just can't be bothered to build a live fire, not to mention maintain it over the course of two to three hours.
Unfortunately, Ooni's proprietary gas adaptor will set you back another $100, bringing the total package of the already-pricey Karu 16 to $899 (and that doesn't even include the cost of propane.) If you decide down the road that you want to hook up the Ooni to a natural gas line, that's a different adaptor — and another $100.
It's heavy and awkwardly sized
Technically, most backyard pizza ovens are portable in the sense that they're free-standing and can be stashed away when not in use. My experience with the Karu 16 taught me that some pizza ovens are more portable than others.
This is one of the others.
The oven is very big and very heavy, weighing more than 62 pounds (Ooni's other ovens all weigh between 20 and 40 pounds). That makes the Karu 16 great for cooking pizzas but a pain to bring in and out of storage.
Ooni says you can leave it outdoors (and it sells a cover if you choose to do so), though it advises against this in the user manual. Full disclosure: I've stored my Karu 16 outdoors for more than six months and have yet to notice even a cosmetic issue beyond normal wear and tear from frequent usage — so the brand is definitely erring on the side of caution in its disclaimers.
If you prefer to play it safe with your investment, Ooni designed a wheeled table that I'd recommend, anyway, due to the sheer size of the Karu 16. Annoyingly, the distance between the oven's front and back feet is slightly longer than 24 inches, meaning the Karu 16 won't fit on standard 24-inch tabletops unless you place it vertically on a long table. After months of research, I have yet to find a better, more economical alternative to what Ooni sells, unless you're handy enough to build your own.
Alternatives to the Karu 16
If you're looking for the ultimate at-home pizza oven, look no further than the Dome — a scaled-down version of a commercial pizza oven from Ooni's main competitor, Gozney, which also makes the popular Roccbox. The Dome has some very nice features that will appeal to a true aficionado but it's even harder to store than the Karu 16 and costs more than twice as much, to boot. (Read our full review of the Gozney Dome.)
We also really like Ooni's Koda 16 pizza oven. Without a door, it doesn't retain heat as well as the Karu 16, and it's less versatile, but it's a solid, all-around option that excels at its primary purpose: to cook delicious pizza in seconds. It's a more affordable choice with very few compromises in terms of performance, especially if you plan to cook with gas most of the time, anyway. (Read our full review of the Koda 16.)
Ooni Karu 16: The Verdict
The Karu 16 is Ooni's best pizza oven. Full stop.
It's versatile and easy to use — no matter if you're a total beginner or a seasoned chef. Though its size and weight make it difficult to move the Karu 16 in and out of storage, they contribute to the overall performance factor of the oven, which is exceptional.
At $799, the Karu 16 certainly isn't the cheapest pizza oven you can buy. But if you have the means — and the space to store it — it's the one you want.