The Ooni Karu 16 is a multi-fuel pizza oven that promises to deliver restaurant-quality pizza in the comfort of your own backyard. It is a larger version of the top-selling Ooni Karu 12 and boasts a spacious cooking area of 16 inches, making it ideal for families and groups of friends.
In this Ooni Karu 16 review, I put the Karu 16 to the test to see how it compares to the Ooni Pro which I tested back in 2021, and to test its overall ability to do what it’s made for: cooking pizzas.
Ooni Karu 16 overview and first impressions
The Karu 16 is the largest multi-fuel oven we’ve tested to date.
It’s noticeable right away when unboxing the Karu 16 that it’s built to last. The temperature-resistant powder-coated exterior feels more durable than the exposed stainless of the Ooni Pro. The materials in general feel of higher quality.
The handles on the fuel hatch and front door are now a glass-reinforced-nylon composite vs. wood, and they stay cool to the touch.
You used to have to wear heat-resistant gloves to handle the doors mid-cook, whereas now you can open them barehanded. It was borderline comedy.
The shell is now carbon steel vs. stainless and has added insulation making temperature management much improved. The 16.7 x 16.7″ cooking area is large enough for 16” pizzas, and the rounded interior gives you more wiggle room to maneuver a pizza peel in and out.
The gas attachment (sold separately) can’t be beaten for quick and easy pizza nights, but if you want more of an authentic, fire-roasted pie, you want to go with charcoal and wood. A combination of both makes heat management easier to handle.
You do pay for the multi-fuel option. The gas-only Koda 16 is quite a lot cheaper, especially once you factor in the gas attachment required for the Karu.
The new digital thermometer makes tracking Karu’s temperature a breeze. No more winging it or having to get the infrared thermometer out every few minutes. It’s front and center, easy to read, and gives you an accurate view of the ambient oven temperature.
I still grab the infrared thermometer to check the cooking surface temperature before sliding a pizza in, but it’s more of a one-and-done with the Karu than having to check all the time.
Ooni Karu 16 Pizza Oven specifications:
|16.7” x 16.7″
|33” x 32” x 20″
|0.6” (15mm) cordierite pizza stones
|Powder coated carbon steel and stainless steel
|Check Latest Price
What I like:
- Multi-fuel ready – cook with charcoal, wood, or gas (with gas attachment)
- Spacious interior – easily fits 16” pizzas as well as larger pans, cast iron skillets, and other large cookware.
- Mounted digital thermometer – shows internal oven temperature.
- Larger glass door – to keep an eye on your pizza during cooking.
What I don’t like:
- Higher cost – Excluding the electric Volt, this is the most expensive oven in the Ooni lineup.
- Preheating – long lead time for surface stones to heat up using charcoal and wood.
Design & build
The Ooni Karu 16 is made of high-quality stainless steel, which not only looks sleek but also ensures durability and longevity.
Its stylish design features a domed cooking chamber and a chimney vent that aids in heat retention and efficient airflow. The large interior allows more wiggle room with larger peels, so you can get in there and turn your pizzas during cooking.
The high temperature-resistant powder-coated finish not only looks great, but keeps the exterior cool to the touch, and the foldable legs make the oven easy to store and transport.
Though one person can move it, it’s much easier with two people. I much prefer this powder coat finish compared to the all-stainless Ooni ovens. The matte finish stays cleaner longer, not showing as many fingerprints or scuff marks, and it doesn’t feel as thin or flimsy as a stainless exterior wall.
The legs being foldable isn’t that much of a benefit for travel though. When folded, they only save you about 3” in total height. I find I just leave them up all the time when storing and even transporting.
If they nested into the body somehow, then it would be worth it to save that space.
I found the large glass door gives much better visibility than the previous Ooni Pro, and the hinged design makes it easy to open and close.
One of the great additions to this model is the mounted digital thermometer. It’s much more convenient to glance at and gauge your heat than to wonder what the temperature is or go looking for where you last placed your infrared thermometer. Seems simple, but it’s the little things that make the difference.
What does it come with?
The Ooni Karu 16 comes with the following:
- Ooni Karu 16 Oven main body
- ViewFlame™ glass oven door
- Cordierite pizza stones
- Ooni Karu 16 chimney
- Chimney cap
- Burner tray & grate
- Draft defender plate
- Fuel hatch
- Digital thermometer
- Essentials guide
You’ll definitely need a large pizza peel at minimum, as the Ooni Karu 16 doesn’t come with one. A small turning peel is also beneficial, but not a necessity.
Some other nice things to have are: an infrared thermometer to measure cooking surface temperature, heat resistant gloves, and a steel sure brush to clean off any ash from the pizza stone surface. The good news is Ooni offers all those and more on their site.
Ease of use
The Ooni Karu 16 is relatively easy to use, even for beginners. It comes with a wood & charcoal burner tray – the gas burner attachment is sold separately. You can set it up out of the box and get the burn tray loaded up in less than half an hour.
The oven does heat up quickly, with a temperature range of up to 950°F (500°C), but the Ooni claim of being ready to cook in 15 minutes might be a little ambitious. The ambient oven temperature can indeed reach top temperature in 15 minutes, but the stone cooking surface takes longer.
It took me closer to the 30 – 40 minute mark before my stone hit 750°F using a combination of lump charcoal and wood. When you launch the pizza, the stone loses temperature to the dough, and if it cools down too quickly, you’ll have a raw center with an overcooked top.
Better to factor in extra heating time than to have a raw, soggy pizza. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Cooking on the Ooni Karu 16
I tested multiple pizzas on this oven, straight on the stone and in pans, both with a high hydration roman style pizza dough and a lower hydration neapolitan dough.
The high-hydration doughs cook longer at lower temperatures, but the Neapolitan doughs are the ones you want for hot and fast, 60-second pizzas.
With the heat source strongest at the back of the pizza oven, you absolutely need to rotate your pies during cooking. For the Neapolitan dough, I wanted the stone surface to be 750°F to 800°F. You want to act quickly with these lower-hydration doughs, and the Ooni is as much about temperature control as it is about quick cooking.
I start with a full tray of lump charcoal to preheat the Ooni, and play it safe by giving it at least 30 minutes to really get hot inside and on the stone.
About five minutes before launch, I put wood chunks on the hot coals. This ensures there is fire over the top of the pizza allowing the top to caramelize while the bottom cooks through.
Rotating the pizza a quarter turn every 20 seconds or so assures the crust cooks evenly all around, and you don’t get any cold spots on the stone. The edges will burn quickly if facing the back for too long, so it’s imperative to be fully invested in the pizza.
The Ooni’s first run was a hit. It took closer to two minutes to fully cook as I had the door opened to rotate and make sure it wouldn’t burn. Hot and fast pizza – a success!
For the high-hydration doughs, I used a Detroit pan and a Sicilian pan, sometimes known as a grandma pie.
You want the temperature lower for these pizzas – shooting for a stone temperature of 550°F to 600°F.
Fire management for these gets a little more complex, as you don’t want a live flame to overcook the top, so to make this easier I don’t add wood until the last five minutes to get direct live flame.
These pizzas take about 15 – 20 minutes to cook depending on how well you manage your heat, and you want to rotate the pans halfway through cooking to make sure everything is nice and evenly baked.
If you notice the temperature starting to drop, just add more fuel via the hatch in the back. Coals take a while to bring the heat back up and will often overshoot if too much is added. When I need a quick burst to bring my pizza across the finish line, I use one or two thick chunks of wood. The wood brings heat more rapidly when needed in the Karu 16 than lump charcoal – and will die down more quickly as well.
Again, the pizzas turned out beautifully, and this Ooni retains heat much better than the previous Pro model. For lower temperature bakes, try not to overshoot your target temperature by too much as it’s hard to get back down. Much like a smoker, use either less fuel or lower the chimney vent to lower or maintain temperatures.
You will get a feel for what the pizzas look like during the different stages of cooking, and with a few minutes left. Throw some wood chunks on the hot coals to really caramelize the top.
The Ooni performed admirably, as one would expect at this price point. It’s not as forgiving at the top of the temperature range, so there is a bit of a learning curve all around – from launching the dough to managing the fire. Give yourself some grace if this is your first pizza oven experience.
Cleaning and maintenance
Cleaning the Ooni Karu 16 is relatively easy, thanks to its stainless steel construction. The cordierite stone baking board should be brushed clean after use, and if you have a lot of food residue, you can burn it off at high heat similar to grills and self-cleaning ovens. Just brush clean or wipe down after they’ve cooled completely.
The Ooni Karu 16 comes with a 3-year warranty, which covers defects in materials and workmanship. This is a significant benefit, as it gives buyers peace of mind when investing in an expensive outdoor appliance.
Should you buy the Ooni Karu?
The Ooni Karu 16 is my favorite multi-fuel oven. It delivers delicious, restaurant-quality pizza in minutes.
If you like the idea of managing a fire and experimenting with different fuel combinations then I recommend this oven.
If convenience is more important to you, I would go with the Koda 16 which is gas only, and spend the money you save on accessories.