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Pizza has always been one of my favorite foods, but delivery from a big chain or a casual joint just can’t compare to an artisanal slice. My pizza cravings come often enough that regularly paying for a specialty pie motivated me to try out a brand that makes some of the best pizza ovens.Ooni Pizza Ovens got its start in 2012 and the company has gained a cult following ever since. In an effort to make my own restaurant-quality pizzas at home and to see what all the hype was about, I put this popular pizza oven to the test. Read more below about why the Ooni Koda 16 has become one of my most-loved cooking tools that I use on a weekly basis.
Design and setup
Specs:Dimensions: 25 X 23.2 X 14.7 inchesWeight: 39.2 poundsFeatures: L-shaped gas burner, folding legsWhen the Ooni box arrived at my doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to set up. The pizza oven comes in a large box with the three feet folded down. The gas regulator and hose were already attached and the stone baking board was wrapped separately in the box. The setup was very simple and only took 10 minutes. All I had to do was flip the three legs up into a locking position and insert the stone into the oven. The Ooni Koda 16 is gas-powered, so I secured the end of the attached hose to a propane tank and it was all ready to go.While an Ooni oven can’t be used indoors, it can be set up almost anywhere outside. I chose to order a specific table from Ooni because it fits nicely in my back patio space, but the oven can be set up on any wood, metal, or stone surface. Just make sure there’s clearance around it while cooking.
Tools like pizza peels and infrared thermometers are sold separately, but I found them essential. The pizza oven, stone, and hose are sold as one unit, but there are a few other tools needed for making pizza. I also got a pizza-turning peel, a prepping and serving peel, and an infrared thermometer — all three proved to be indispensable.
Letting the oven come to the proper temperature is crucial. The Koda 16 can reach a temperature of 950 degrees Fahrenheit. The oven needs to preheat for about 20 minutes to get to 752 degrees, the optimal pizza cooking temperature noted in the Ooni user guide. Using the infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the stone helps to make sure the oven is hot enough for cooking.Once it reaches that temperature, the oven cooks pizzas in less than a minute. Because the oven is so hot, the yeast in the dough puffs up and creates pockets of air. With a touch of char from the flames, you get the perfect balance of soft-meets-crispy crust. The key to the best bake is to turn the pizza every 20 seconds. This ensures an even cook and that one section of the pizza isn’t getting more char than others.The active flame melts the cheese quickly, making it golden and bubbly, and toppings such as pepperoni or red peppers are singed by the flame for a touch of crispness.
The Koda 16 can fit large and small pizzas, but I always make just one at a time. This is the larger oven of the Koda line, so you can easily cook 16-inch pizzas in it. However, I always choose to go smaller. I prefer to make a number of different pizzas with a variety of toppings, especially if I have guests over for a pizza party. I get the best results when I cook each of the smaller pizzas separately. The cook time is so fast that focusing on turning just one pizza is important.You can make other foods and even desserts in it too. You can use the oven at a lower temperature to make a variety of other dishes. Ooni sells cookware pieces such as cast iron skillets that can be used to cook steaks, chicken, and roast vegetables. I’ve successfully baked a fruit crisp in the oven as a great, quick dessert.
The bottom lineThe Ooni pizza oven is an expensive appliance, and it’s not quite ready to use out of the box. You’ll need to purchase other important tools separately to start making pizza. However, if you’re a pizza lover, it is well worth it. There’s a bit of a learning curve to master the oven, but with how fun it is to use, even the practice pizzas along the way are delicious. And there are so many possibilities for using it to make other food and desserts.