Review: Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven is a one-trick pony but is a winner for ease and portability

Ooni Karu 12 pizza oven split-screen
A pizza oven is perfect for all weather seasons. If you're not being rained on. Photo credit: Supplied

Ask anyone, and if they're honest, they'll tell you the primal thrill of lighting a fire and providing food for the family is a feeling nothing in the world can beat.

Whether it's the caveperson way back when, or the dad determined to barbecue in the 20 minutes of winter sun, there's something inextricably linked between fire and food. But with a washout New Zealand summer and a winter that's been nothing short of frigid, the chance to fire up in the great outdoors has been slim to non-existent. 

When the weather window arrives, however, there are options other than the mucky old barbie when it comes to cooking food in the suburbs. 

One of those options, which would be perfect for the suburban lifestyle - and even apartment living - is the Ooni Pizza Oven, a handily small piece of kit that's thankfully easy to assemble and get cooking.

If you are also a complete DIY incompetent, the idea of building a pizza oven might be enough to have you reaching for the takeaway menus, but the Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven makes life very simple. With foldable legs on the base of the smooth stainless steel exterior, it's simply a case of dropping them down and you're halfway there. 

Meanwhile, the chimney can literally be picked up and "plugged in" to the roof by simply turning it - it's music to anyone DIY-disadvantaged who's worried there will be hours of work before the cooking can begin. There are no other bits to screw in, no need to assemble countless extras with no clue where they fit - this simplicity is one of its best selling points as Ooni simply wants you to get on with the food.

Also, a quick shout-out to the packaging of this oven - with plenty of recyclable cardboard and biodegradable plastic, it's a really impressive touch to see companies are thinking of their footprint.

The only tricky part of the Ooni is whether you install a hose to hook the oven up to a gas cylinder. (That's sold separately at a pricey $200). The unit comes with a draft deflector already attached which basically stops the firebox's natural resources from being scattered around. While the Ooni allows for charcoal or wood to burn and give your pizza a smokier edge, given how changeable Auckland's weather is, gas was the way forward for the review.

While an Allen key can help loosen it, you need to be careful you don't inadvertently scratch the exterior; but with care and patience, this is a five-minute job at most.

This idyllic shot is not me making a pizza - though in my head it was.
This idyllic shot is not me making a pizza - though in my head it was. Photo credit: Supplied

Once all this is done, the oven is ready to go - sure, it may look a little like a robot dog that belches out fire and pizza, but in terms of set up, it's probably one of the easiest pieces of kit ever created.

It's relatively effortless to fire up - simply turn the gas on and slowly turn the button until it clicks. While it didn't work the first three times, on reading the instructions, it became clear there hadn't been enough time to allow the gas to flow through - impatience does not serve you well.

Once it was going, the oven didn't take long to heat to high temperatures, especially if you fiddle with the baffle in the chimney to regulate the air flow and stoke the warmth.

It's here the Ooni extras work well. If you're fortunate enough to have an infrared thermometer, you'll be able to see what temp the oven is at and therefore be a bit more aware before you throw the dough in to cook. Otherwise, it's a bit of guesswork as to whether you're going to scorch your food.

It's strongly advised not to leave the pizza in for any longer than a minute, and if the first attempt is anything to go by, expect a bit (i.e., a lot) of charcoal on that puppy. Loosely though, it's easy to modify: don't place the pizza on the stone close to the jets, turn the actual pizza regularly, and keep the temperature lower. It's not rocket science and maybe that's not a bad thing - this does turn out a pizza within less than 60 seconds and whether it's nuked to oblivion is down largely to you.

A slightly burned pizza
Look, you won't get it right first time, but this isn't a bad start. And it was still eaten. Photo credit: Newshub

Perhaps that's one of the best things about the Ooni Pizza Oven that may appeal to fathers for Father's Day - it's easy to set up, it's easy to use, and it actually takes longer to prep the pizza than it does to cook it.

The only downsides of the Ooni Pizza Oven are very minor ones: it's a one-trick pony. 

Admittedly, that trick is a very impressive one when it all works, but at nearly $600 for the basic oven itself, it would make a pretty pricey present for Father's Day or other occasions. Even with its shiny exterior and ease of set-up, it's one of those things that is a "nice to have" rather than a cost-of-living-crisis essential.

Granted, you can probably use it to cook other dishes, like quesadillas, if you wanted to, and it's fair to say it could sufficiently warm up a pie if you're willing to embrace a bit of burn on top: but overall, it's likely this will only ever be used for pizza.

Come summer, the Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven will come into its own.
Come summer, the Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven will come into its own. Photo credit: Supplied

Secondly, it takes a heck of a time to cool down on its underside after it's been used. It was around two hours after the cooking had been done and the gas turned off that the base was cool enough to be considered ready to pack away - which for those with limited outdoor space, could be an issue. 

But given how portable it is at a reasonable 12kg, the Ooni Pizza Oven may easily find its way onto the back of a ute or two for summer, and it'll definitely make the perfect spring and summer companion for those looking forward to pizza parties.

Newshub was supplied with an Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven for this review.