Homemade pizza always sounds like a great idea… until it doesn’t. Pre-heating the oven and cooking all those pizzas takes a long time, especially when everyone’s making there own individual pies. And good luck trying to have everything ready at the same time!
If that all isn’t enough, it’s even worse when living in a house with no air conditioning. That’s because turning on the oven for long periods of time during the Summer turns the kitchen into a sauna.
Thankfully, I came across the Ooni Koda 12″ Pizza Gas-Powered Oven a few months ago. Or more accurately, my wife made a not-so-subtle suggestion that it would make a good Mother’s Day gift. From ordering to unboxing to using the oven a few times, here’s a run down of this portable, outdoor pizza oven.
The Online Ordering Process
After looking at options online, I opted for the smaller model, powered by gas rather than wood pellets. I placed an order for $349 on a Friday night and received an immediate order confirmation:
The delivery was made to my house by the following Wednesday afternoon, with plenty of time to spare before Mother’s Day that Sunday. No complaints about any of that process.
Unboxing and First Run
Everything came out of the box as expected. I didn’t take a bunch of photos of the box or how every piece was packaged because I’m not that patient. Here’s a video of a woman named Becky in the UK unboxing her oven if you like watching that stuff:
The first time I used my Ooni pizza oven, I made a few predictable mistakes, which I encourage you not to repeat:
- I neglected to buy a proper pizza peel, and was awkwardly balancing my pizzas with a pair of BBQ spatulas putting them in the oven. If you want to turn half your pizzas into calzones, I guess you should do this.
- I didn’t preheat the oven long enough, and I didn’t use an infrared thermometer to check the heat of my pizza stone before starting. I doubt my stone reached the recommended 700 degrees (Fahrenheit) and my dough ended up a bit underdone.
- The gas was turned up too high and I singed the top of my pies pretty badly.
- I set up my Ooni, unprotected from the wind, on my patio table on a blustery day. The pilot light blew out at least twice and I had to re-ignite the oven each time.
- I didn’t put wax paper down under my pizzas, and dealt with a lot more sticking to the stone and overall mess
Despite all those failings, my Mother’s Day pizzas ended up not too terribly. My wife liked them (but was probably lying to be nice), and my young boys didn’t reject them even if they didn’t love them.
Better Prep & Round Two with the Ooni Pizza Oven
I’ve always liked the following quote. My Dad didn’t make it up, but he liked to remind me of it when I was a kid:
“Good judgement comes from experience… And experience comes from bad judgement.”
Armed with my experience and bad judgement from the Mother’s Day test run, I did a bit more prep before Round 2.
I purchased an Ooni 12” Classic Pizza Peel and was given an extra infrared thermometer by my Mother-in-law. My wife also made the simple enhancement of putting the uncooked pizzas on wax paper, then cutting out the paper around the edges of the crust.
Proper Pre-Heating and Prep
My 2nd run with the Ooni Pizza Oven yet again occurred on a windy day. However this time I moved the oven to the corner of the yard under a pergola where our fire table sits. With much better protection from the wind in this corner, I experienced no issues with the flame going out.
To pre-heat the oven and my pizza stone, I turned up the gas almost to the highest level, and set my watch for 15 minutes. Using my fancy (actually not really that fancy) infrared thermometer, I verified the pizza stone was around 740 degrees (Fahrenheit) near its center.
I then turned down the gas to a much lower level than I had on my first test run. The basic goal here was to ensure a really hot stone and better-cooked dough, with a lower flame and air temperature for less burning on top.
With my peel ready and wax paper under the dough, it was time to fire things up.
Cooking and Practicing Patience
The Ooni website and instructional materials make a lot of mentions of “60 second pizza.” They say things like “Cooks stone-baked fresh 12” pizza in just 60 seconds.”
That’s not necessarily untrue. However, I had way more success cooking at a lower temperature for two-and-a-half to three minutes.
Having my phone out with the timer on was helpful. It helped me stay on schedule with rotating my pies every 30 seconds. The back of the oven closer to the flame is obviously hotter than the front of the oven. So rotation is key.
After a few rotations with the pizza peel, the dough usually hardens enough to pull out the wax paper underneath. In my experience, only the small edges of the paper that stuck out beyond the edges of the pizza burned.
The end result was pleasantly surprising. Fluffy warm dough cooked all the way through from center to edge. Hot melted cheese and very lightly singed toppings that were crispy but not burned.
Not Just a Fluke, More Fast & Tasty Pizza
They boys now had their pepperoni and cheese pizzas, and legitimately appeared to be enjoying them. Armed with my peel and newfound confidence, I proceeded to ready my next round.
I neglected to check the stone temperature with my infrared thermometer at this point, which will be an area of improvement for next time. I think perhaps the temperature dropped a little more than I’d wanted, as my next round of pizzas each took close to three-and-a-half minutes to properly cook.
Nonetheless, I was pleased again with the end result, with photographic evidence below:
Even taking a little extra time to pre-heat and cook the pies themselves, from set up of the oven to completion I had all four pizzas finished within about 25 minutes. Measuring success by the number of leftover pieces from everyone else’s pizzas, it was a good night. I didn’t overeat finishing other people’s scraps because there weren’t any.
Final Verdict for the Ooni Pizza Oven
Overall, I’m really happy with this purchase so far. Honestly, it’s not a product i would have normally shelled out $349 for. But I’m glad Mother’s Day was my excuse to buy it.
Financially, I don’t know if we’ll eat enough pizza to offset the cost over time, but it does save some money. If you use something like Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Pizza Dough ($1.50 at my local store), you’re in good shape. Each dough ball made two of small pizzas pictured above for the 12″ Ooni oven.
Even after the cost of your pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and other toppings, you’ll still save a healthy amount versus takeout or delivery each time you use your Ooni. I’m guessing if I end up using it 20+ times, it will probably pay for itself.
Despite my very limited culinary skills, by my 2nd time using the Ooni, I actually did a pretty serviceable job cooking the pizzas. Clean up is also very easy. When using wax paper especially, there’s almost no mess left on the pizza stone after each bake.