10-Seconds on the Ooni Karu 12
An exceptionally great performing pizza oven that makes restaurant quality pizza.
If you’ve been eyeing up an Ooni for a while now, let me tell you straight up, you’re onto something GOOD!
Since the first Ooni Koda we tried, we’ve been head over heels in love with the brand… Well, really just in love with the ridiculously amazing pizza you can make on one of these (like seriously, I’m never ordering pizza ever again!).
So, with the lure of 100% wood-fired pizza, the ability to throw charcoal in there too, or, add the propane gas adapter for a quick cook-up, we had to try the Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven.
And, after the extensive ‘testing’ (ahem, pizza eating…) that we’ve done, here is our Ooni Karu 12 review.
We share our experience of what cooking on this versatile pizza oven is really like. What’s it like to make your own dough? How hard is it to actually cook the pizza? And, is 12 inch big enough?
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Table of Contents
The Quick Version of the Ooni Karu 12 Review
If you’ve read any of our other Ooni reviews, you’ll already know we are die-hard fans!
And, the Multi-Fuel Ooni Karu 12 is no exception!
This pizza oven is so well made (especially when you consider it’s very reasonable cost). It makes incredible pizzas. And, it’s not hard to use.
We love the flexibility that this multi-fuel version gives you.
The Ooni Karu 12 is ideal for people who want that real and true, authentically wood-fired pizza. But, it also lets you cook other things like steak, fish, vegetables and desserts a little easier than the other models because you can use charcoal to get a lower temperature.
Grab yourself the gas burner add-on if you want the convenience of propane as well.
But, whichever fuel you use, the Ooni Karu will be ready to cook in about 15 minutes. Your pizza will take 60 seconds to cook to perfection!
The crusts are crispy, toppings well-cooked and cheese gooily melted.
The main complaint we have about this oven is that, unlike the larger glass-doored version and the updated Karu 12G, you can’t see through the door to watch how you’re pizza’s going. Instead, you’ll be counting the seconds before it’s time to open and turn.
Use it as your Friday night regular, pizza party super-star, or take it camping too.
The 12″ size is an affordable and easy to handle size that’s perfect for individuals or families. But, you can always up-size to the Karu 16 for larger appetites or feeding a crowd (read our full review here).
Either way, the Ooni Karu makes really really good pizza.
You’ll never need takeout again!
A Bit About the Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven
Because, the Karu 12 doesn’t just run off of real wood.
You can also use charcoal in it to help it heat up and more gently cook other foods. Or, grab the Ooni Gas Burner attachment to hook up your propane tank for those times when you can’t be bothered or don’t have wood laying around.
Dreamt up by husband and wife team, Kristian Tapaninaho and Darina Garland have created an affordable backyard pizza oven that’s very high quality, easy to use, adaptable, portable, and, most importantly, makes incredible pizzas.
But, it’s not just us who love them…
Ooni have won numerous awards while growing into a worldwide company with a very loyal customer base.
The larger version of this oven, the Ooni Karu 16 even took the title of the first and only pizza oven recommended for residential use by the international authority on true Neapolitan pizza, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
More recently, Ooni have added an upgraded version of this 12 inch oven to the mix…
Called the Ooni Karu 12G, the 12G bridges the gap between the cheap Karu 12 and the kitted out Karu 16. With the Karu 12G you get a full glass door and built in temperature gauge while maintaining the oven’s portability and affordability.
Features of the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
- Brushed 430 grade stainless steel shell
- Ceramic fiber-insulated body
- 0.6″ (15mm) cordierite stone baking board
- Custom-designed fuel tray
Ease of Use
- Takes 15 minutes to heat to 950°F
- Vent in chimney to adjust the temperature
- Collapsible legs for more compact storage and easy transportation
- Gas compatible with separate Ooni Gas Burner attachment
- 60 day great pizza guarantee
Unboxing and Setting Up the Ooni Karu 12
The Ooni Karu 12 comes beautifully and very carefully packaged.
Setting it up takes just a few minutes.
Simply lift everything out of the box, fold the legs out, insert the chimney and firebox, carefully place the pizza stone inside and sit your doors on.
Before you cook, Ooni recommend seasoning it by running it on high heat for 30 minutes. You then let it cool, wipe down the interior and you’re good to go.
Construction and Build-Quality
The Karu 12 is made from brushed 430 grade stainless steel. The handles are glass reinforced nylon. And, it’s fully insulated (the doors too) with ceramic fiber.
So, the quality of the materials is right up there.
It’s strong, it looks super sleek, and, the insulation minimizes heat loss so getting to and maintaining such a high temperature is no problem. And, you’re not chopping through fuel unnecessarily.
The pizza stone is made from 0.6″ (15mm) cordiertie.
It’s top of the line for a pizza stone that’s ultra-durable and heats up well to cook evenly from the bottom up.
We will point out that the Karu 12 has a solid, insulated stainless steel door.
This acts to keep the heat in while the Karu 12 warms up. But, after you’ve put your pizza in, you should also pop the door back on to maintain the temperature and create a more even cook.
It’s the only pizza oven in the Ooni range that has a solid door that you can’t see through at all (the Fyra 12 has a small peep hole in it’s stainless steel door). So, you’ll be counting the seconds until your pizza needs turning, opening the door, turning and replacing.
It’ll probably take doing a couple of pizzas to get used to how long you should leave it in there before it burns.
If you want to be able to see inside your oven easily, check out the Ooni Karu 12G.
Fuel Options with the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel
Out of the box, the Ooni Karu 12 can be used with kindling sized wood logs or charcoal.
But, keep in mind that, as per the Karu 12 Essentials Guide you’ll get with your oven, using charcoal only is really only recommended for baking bread, meat and low and slow cooking. It can also be helpful for a lower temperature fuel to cook deeper dish pizzas that need more time in the oven.
But, if you’re getting the Karu 12, you will need untreated kindling-sized wood. Don’t plan to use charcoal alone.
You do also have the choice of running your Ooni Karu 12 off of propane gas.
They sell the Gas Burner for Karu 12 separately. This then inserts into the back of your pizza oven so that you can connect up a regularly sized propane bottle.
We do love the flexibility that the Multi-fuel Karu 12 gives you.
One thing to note about using the propane gas tank adapter with the Ooni Karu 12 is that you do need to change the whole insert that slides into the back of the oven.
This means it’s not as easy as going to cook and deciding if you’re doing wood or gas.
Instead you’ll need to grab a screwdriver, undo the hardwood/charcoal insert, take the firebox out and slide in the gas insert.
Ooni have made it as easy as possible and it really doesn’t take long. But, there is a little setup that you should be aware of.
Can You Use Wood Chips in Ooni Karu?
Ooni recommend using kiln-dried hardwood that’s approximately 6 inches long in the Ooni Karu 12.
You could throw some wood chips in for flavor if you’re cooking with charcoal.
But, for pizza, the larger pieces will burn better for longer while minimizing how often you’ll need to add wood.
NEVER use treated or painted wood in your Ooni!
What Wood is Best For the Ooni Karu?
Ooni recommend using beech or oak hardwoods in the Karu.
We use locally available dried hardwood with a low resin content and have been able to get the same high temperatures with low ash production.
Avoid using pine or spruce because it’s got a high resin content which might add an unwanted flavor to your food.
If you want to buy wood for your Ooni, we rate the Miniture Pizza Cut from Cutting Edge Firewood.
It’s unbeatable quality, processed through a special drying system after which it’s hand picked and cut to exactly the right size to fit the Ooni Karu 12 and Karu 16.
The Cutting Edge Firewood Miniture Pizza Cut isn’t the cheapest out there. But, it’s so convenient and such a good product, we feel it’s worth the price. The large box even comes with firestarters and wood matches as well.
If you’re after a cheaper wood to burn in your Ooni, grab some Carolina Cookwood Pizza Oven 6 Inch Mini Splits on Amazon. It’s naturally cured white oak and can be used straight out of the box.
Ooni also sell their own Premium Hardwood 5″ Oak Logs.
How Much Wood Does the Karu 12 Use?
The amount of wood you’ll use with the Ooni Karu 12 really depends on a few factors, like the type of wood, how hot you want the oven to get, and how long you’re planning to cook.
To start off you’ll load 5-6 pieces of hardwood into the Karu. Then, just keep feeding it as necessary.
We probably go through about 20-30 pieces to cook 6 pizzas depending on the weather and how on to it we are with having the next pizza ready to go.
Is The Karu Multi-Fuel The Best Ooni For Me?
Unless you’re buying the right sized kindling, you’ll have to split/cut small pieces down. Then, you’ll have to keep feeding the wood into the fire frequently throughout your cook.
But, you can get the propane gas insert as well which gives you the fast and easy option as well. I mean, that’s what the Ooni Karu is all about, multi-fuel options.
If you don’t mind the extra time and attention it’ll take, the Karu is great for anyone who:
- Wants more versatility with a greater temperature range, using charcoal for lower heat and wood for higher
- Has access to free hardwood – It’s going to be the cheapest running cost option if you do
- Lives somewhere that gets quite windy – The gas-powered Koda will blow out but the real fire in the Karu can handle a bit of weather
- Likes to do it the proper way – The Karu gives you real wood fired pizza. Yes, the pellet fire of the Fyra is 100% hardwood. But, the Ooni Karu 12 is without a doubt, real wood-fired pizza
And, remember you do have the option of the upgraded Ooni Karu 12G with it’s glass door and built-in thermometer. It’s only slightly more expensive than the Karu 12 multifuel pizza oven.
You can cook pizzas up to 12 inches wide in the Ooni Karu 12.
But, we’ve found 12 inches to be a decent size. The dough’s easy enough to stretch, they fit on a regularly sized cutting board, and, they’re ideal as either individual pizzas or for sharing.
One batch of the Ooni Quick Dough makes 5 or 6 12 x inch pizzas. Make them all the same or mix up your toppings.
We usually feed up to 4 adults and 3 children (with big appetites) on 6 12 inch pizzas.
Is OONI Karu 12 Too Small?
I would say, for most people, the Ooni Karu 12 isn’t too small.
It’s compact enough to store away easily, portable enough to pop in the car, but, big enough to make a decently sized pizza.
Plus, after using both the 12 inch and 16 inch versions, just be aware than 1 batch of dough makes exactly the same amount of dough.
So, if you’re making one batch of dough, it’ll turn out 5 or 6 x 12 inch pizzas, or 4 x 16 inch pizzas. It’s the same amount of food, except that you’ll spend a little less time making and cooking 4 pizzas vs 5 or 6.
Whether you go for the Karu 12 or the Karu 16, you’ll need to make more than one batch of dough to make more pizza. The larger size will just save you a little bit of time.
Cooking on the Ooni Karu 12
If you’re on the fence about getting an Ooni because you think or you’ve heard it’s not that easy to make your own pizzas, DO NOT BE PUT OFF!
We had no experience making pizza dough, stretching it or cooking more than a frozen pizza in the oven before getting our first Ooni (the gas-powered Koda 12, read obout our experience here). And, we’re here to tell you, you can make awesome pizza on this oven!
Yes, it’ll take a bit of practice.
But, it’s really not that hard and once you’ve got the swing of it, your friends and family will always want the party at yours (or to bring your oven to theirs because you can totally do that too).
To light the Karu 12, you’re going to pop 3-6 pieces of dried hardwood with a natural firestarter into the firebox (you can use an electric starter too, here’s our favorites).
Light it, wait until it gets going a little, pop the door on and let the oven heat up. This should take about 15 minutes.
You’ll need to add more wood piece by piece, pretty frequently throughout your cook to keep the fire running optimally.
To check the Karu’s hot enough to cook with, you can get the Ooni Infrared Thermometer. We’ve only ever relied on the time and how the flame’s looking. But, it would make it a little easier, especially with the greater temperature variance you can get on the Ooni Karu 12 vs the other fuel types.
Remember, the upgraded version of this oven, the Ooni Karu 12G has a built-in temperature gauge if you want that extra feedback without having to use an infrared thermometer.
The accessory you will need though is a 12 inch pizza peel.
Once you’ve made your dough, topped it and the pizza oven has heated up well, you’ll use the peel to launch your pizza in.
Pop the door straight back on, wait about 15 seconds, open it back up and use a turning peel to rotate the pizza to get an even cook.
Because the fire sits at the back of the Ooni oven, you do need to rotate the pizza mid-cook. There’s no way around this.
We usually do about 3 turns per pizza, leaving it for about 15-20 seconds before turning.
So, all up, it really does take about 60 seconds to cook each pizza.
So, What's Ooni Karu 12 Multifuel Pizza Actually Like?
I love pizza but don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty tough on what I think is decent pizza or not. And, pizza from the Ooni Karu? I’ll take that any day thank you very much.
But, overall, a Neopolitan pizza off the Karu is crispy but light, the toppings are well-cooked and the cheese is nicely melted with a bit of crispiness depending on how you cook it.
In terms of wood-fired flavor, there isn’t a strong smoky taste after cooking with hardwood in the Karu. The pizza is really only in there for about 60 seconds which isn’t really long enough to impart a real woody flavor.
But, no matter what I’ve tried in the past, there’s no way I can make pizza in a regular oven like I can in an Ooni.
Even average store-bought bases taste a whole heap better cooked on the Karu.
Do I Need to Make My Own Dough?
No, you don’t need to make your own dough on the Ooni Karu Multi-Fuel.
Store bought bases are fine do turn out fine in an Ooni. And, it’ll taste better than it would if you cooked them in the oven.
But, if you want that next-level amazing pizza, at least buy dough and stretch it out yourself!
It’ll take you a few goes to get the hang of stretching the dough out. You will thank yourself for it later!
95% of the time, we use Ooni’s Quick Dough recipe.
It hasn’t let us down to this day and only takes about an hour to make. You can even do last minute pizzas for dinner using this recipe.
Browse Ooni’s dough recipes here. And, make sure you check out Ooni’s video below to learn how to stretch it out.
They’ve made it super simple – Finger press, the DJ deck, steering wheel and parachute. Read about the 4 easy dough stretching steps.
What Can You Cook in the Ooni Karu 12?
You can grill or bake pretty much anything in the Ooni Karu 12 including pizzas of course.
But, because you can achieve a wider temperature range by using the chimney baffle and modifying your fuel (charcoal for lower temperatures and wood for higher heats), you can also cook steak, salmon, roasted vegetables and just about anything you’d grill or bake in your Ooni Karu.
When you’re cooking something other than pizza (or baking another type of bread), you’ll need to put it in a cast iron pan instead of placing the food directly on the pizza stone. This will protect the stone and minimize your cleaning.
Check out these Ooni brownies…
How Do You Keep the Ooni Karu Hot?
Open the firebox door every 5 minutes or so to check how the fire is going. Add more wood once the wood has burnt to embers but before the flame disappears.
This will help your oven will stay at an ideal temperature for cooking.
Doing so, we’ve never had problems with the fire going out and having to relight it mid-cook.
The Ooni Karu claims to be a portable pizza oven. But, how portable can a pizza oven with a chimney really be?
We’ve taken our Ooni on numerous outtings and yes, it really is portable. And, pretty easy to move.
Weighing about 26 pounds, it’s fairly lightweight.
The chimney on the Ooni Karu twists and pulls up to take it off.
Then, fold down the legs, leave the stone inside and put the Karu in your car, truck of RV.
You can also get a carry cover for the Ooni Karu 12 to keep your oven protected and make it even easier to carry.
Just note that when you’re using the Ooni Karu 12 carry cover, you do leave the chimney on. So, you need plenty of height in the space you’re planning on packing it.
I guess you could whip the chimney off and just leave the chimney cover bit flapping around if you needed to.
Optional Extras Available for the Ooni Karu 12
There’s a huge range of accessories you can get for the Ooni Karu.
If you’re an accessory person, go for it!
Ooni makes great quality add-ons and having things like the modular table, infrared thermometer, oven brush and topping station will just make the whole pizza experience that much easier and more fun.
But, if you’re want to buy an Ooni and you’re put off thinking you’ve got to buy it all, you don’t!
Other popular accessories include:
- Infrared thermometer – make sure you’re up to temperature but not overheating the stone
- Ooni Karu 12 carry cover – protect your oven while you travel
- Pizza oven brush – makes cleaning that much easier
- Modular table – Ooni’s table that’s the right size for the Karu Multi-Fuel and has hooks for hanging your peels
- Cutting wheel – save time when it’s time to eat
The video above gives you a full run down of the optional extras you can get for the Ooni Karu 12.
Does the Ooni Karu Come With the Gas Burner?
The Ooni Karu does not come with the gas burner.
It is sold as an add-on. You can grab one here.
You get a 1 year warranty with the Ooni Karu 12. But, if you register online, the warranty is extended to an impressive 5 years.
The second time we used the Ooni Fyra (not the Karu we’re talking about in this review), the spring in the chimney baffle broke. Ooni sent us a new one quickly with no issues.
We haven’t had any further issues and am not sure what caused it to break in the first place.
I don’t believe it’s any indicator of poor quality. Just one of those things that can happen. But, it was dealt with very well and there’s been no issues since.
Cleaning the Ooni Karu 12
The Ooni Karu 12 doesn’t produce a lot of ash. But, you’ll need to empty the firebox after each cook to make sure it stays clear.
Always wait until the ash is completely cool before emptying.
As for the stone, you don’t need to scrub it.
If there’s any debrit stuck to it, simply run the oven empty at high heat to burn the residue. Then, scrape or brush with the Ooni Pizza Oven Brush.
The same goes for the inside of the Karu. Run it at high heat. Then, wipe down with a cloth once completely cooled.
We also do wipe out the inside of the Ooni Karu’s chimney every now and then. It’s just the same as cleaning your fireplace chimney and is best practice to prevent soot building up.
Pros and Cons of the Ooni Karu 12
What We Like About the Ooni Karu 12
- Makes INCREDIBLE pizza
- It’s pretty easy to use
- Great price for really good quality
- The most flexible of the Ooni range in terms of temperature range and what you can cook
- Small and light enough to actually be portable
- Looks great
- Option to add gas burner for the times you want a faster setup
What We Don't Like About the Ooni Karu 12
- You can’t see through the door so it takes a bit more practice to not burn your crust
- It’s probably the dirtiest of the Ooni range because the real wood fire does create soot and more ash than the pellets
- The add-on accessories can make the total cost quite high. But, a regular and turning peel is all you do need
Our Verdict on the Ooni Karu 12 Review
The Ooni Karu 12 is the real deal when it comes to easy and oh-so-good real wood-fired pizza at home.
This pizza oven looks just as good as it works and there really isn’t any need for one of those huge, try to make a feature of it built-in pizza ovens in your backyard.
It’s simplicity mixed with great quality, delivered at a very reasonable price.
Ideal for the purist who wants to bake pizzas with real hardwood. Or, the experimenter who likes options, on the Karu 12 you can low and slow with charcoal, wood fire pizzas with high heat, or, pop the add-on gas burner for a fast Friday night meal.
No electricity, no fuss, just good pizza.
We really believe that every backyard should have an Ooni. The only question is which Ooni is right for you?
What Other Pizza Ovens Should I Consider?
When it comes to pizza ovens, Ooni really is the gold standard.
They’re amazingly great quality, easy to move around and very simple to use too.
And, although they’re not the cheapest pizza oven on the market, the value that Ooni pack into their price is unbeatable.
So, if you’re thinking that the Ooni Karu 12 isn’t quite right for you, we’re going to suggest another Ooni.
Is it that the Karu 12 isn’t big enough? Check out the upsized, Ooni Karu 16. We’ve reviewed it here.
Like the glass door and built-in thermometer that the Karu 16 has but don’t want the large size?
Check out the Karu 12G. It’s slightly more expensive than the Karu 12. But, has the extra features of the bigger model in the portable 12 inch size.
Is the real wood burning a bit more hands on than you’d like?
The Ooni Fyra 12 gives you that same wood-fired pizza. But, you can simply buy a bag of smoker pellets instead of sourcing the right sized wood.
Or, if it’s simply that you don’t think you’ll use the wood fired part much and want the convenience of gas, Ooni do a propane gas only Koda 12 that’ll save you a bit of money as well.
Specs for the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
Barbecue type: Charcoal/hardwood pizza oven
Barbecue material: Brushed 430 stainless steel with ceramic fiber-insulation
Stone material: 0.6″ (15mm) cordierite
Cooking capacity: 1 x 12″ pizza
Heat Range: Up to 950°F
Fuel type: Wood pellets
Price guide: $$
Model: Karu 12
Assembled size (in): 31.5 D x 15.7 W x 30.3 H
Weight: 26.4 lbs
Warranty: 1 year that is extended to 5 with registration
FAQs About the Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel
You can use charcoal (lump is preferred) for lower and slower cooking or small 15cm long pieces of hardwood in the Ooni Karu out of the box. Grab a gas burner attachment if you want the convenience of being able to hook up a propane bottle as well.
It takes about 15 minutes for the Ooni Karu to heat up to it’s cooking temperature of 932˚F (500˚C).
No joke, it takes about 60 seconds to cook a pizza on the Ooni Karu. The temperature is that hot.
The Ooni 12 is a great choice for individuals, most families, and small gatherings.
A 12-inch pizza is comparable in size to what you’d find in many pizzerias. They can be a generous personal-sized pizza or sliced for sharing.
If you’ve got a bigger crowd, using a 16 inch Ooni like the Karu 16 lets you turn out more pizza in the same amount of time.
The Ooni Karu 12G is the updated version of Ooni’s Karu 12.
The 12G has the Borosilicate glass door with ClearView™ technology so you can keep an eye on your pizza while you’re cooking.
It’s also got a built-in temperature gauge so that you can see how hot your oven is running without having to use a separate infrared thermometer.
Because of a change in the setup, the Karu 12G also uses 36% less propane when you’re using it with the optional gas burner.
These features mean that the Karu 12G is also more expensive than the Karu 12. But, remember, both cook great pizza.
ABSOLUTELY YES! The Ooni Karu 12 is worth it.
This wood-fired pizza oven makes incredible pizza. It’s easy, fast, looks great in the backyard and is actually portable. You’ll save a heap of money on takeout pizza. And, your pizza will taste better so that’s a double win!
The Ooni Karu 12 is built out of durable enough materials to last if you leave it outdoors all year long.
Ooni do recommend using the carry cover to protect it from the elements. And, store it indoors for extended periods of time.
Using wood in your Ooni will give you that authentically wood-fired flavor. Gas gives you the convenience of instant ignition. But, with the gas burner add-on, you get both on the Ooni Karu.
The Ooni Karu 12 is designed for outdoor use only.
Don’t let a little bit of rain stop you! Ooni pizza ovens are safe to use in rainy or snowy weather (they’ve been tested as low as -8°F).
The temperature will be a little affected by the weather. But, they’re insulated so getting to and maintaining that high heat is possible even when the weather isn’t crash hot.
Once you’ve cooked your last pizza, just leave your Karu to burn through any remaining wood or charcoal.
About 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the ambient temperature once the remaining fuel has burned through.
Kate Brown, the founder and voice behind Burning Brisket, is not your typical pitmaster or restaurateur. Her expertise in barbecue grew from a humble desire to cook exceptional meals for her family. From overcoming burnt brisket mishaps to establishing her boutique cattle ranch, Kate shares her passion to help 'ordinary' individuals cook extraordinary barbecue, believing that simplicity often yields the best flavors. Kate is commited to making great barbecue accessible to all with the right resources and some tasty practice.