There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
The Tester: Brandon Carte — a pizza lover who has always dreamed of owning a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven
The Brief: The Ooni Koda is a compact, propane-powered oven that cooks delicious Neapolitan-style pizzas in just seconds. It’s easy to use, works wonderfully, and might even be the best product I’ve tested in the 6 years that I’ve been writing reviews.
Like any sane person, when asked, “If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” I always reply with the only correct answer: “Pizza.”
Even though I definitely shouldn’t, I’m fairly certain that I could eat pizza every day. Believe it or not, the USDA says about 13% of Americans do.
There’s a good chance I could become part of that statistic. I’ve fired roughly two dozen pizzas with the Ooni Koda, a revolutionary (and I don’t take that word lightly) outdoor cooking appliance that was designed to help folks create restaurant-quality pizzas at home without the fuss of maintaining of a wood-fired pizza oven.
For those who were unaware, outdoor pizza ovens are not cheap. Home Advisor says they’ll run you between $1,500 to $4,500. The Ooni Koda starts at a much more reasonable $329. The base model cooks pizzas up to 13 inches, while the $499 Ooni Koda 16 fires up 16-inch pies.
I tested the latter, and after being cooped up at home for months, the Ooni oven has truly been the highlight of my quarantine.
Before the Ooni Koda entered my life, I’d crank my oven as high as it could go to heat a pizza stone. It was a time-consuming process that would result in my home getting too hot, but I’d sacrifice practically anything in the name of pizza. The truth is, it's impossible to cook Neapolitan pizza at home since consumer-grade appliances don't get hot enough.
The Ooni Koda 16, on the other hand, reaches temperatures over 900 degrees Fahrenheit in about 20 minutes — nearly twice the highest temperature as the slow-to-preheat oven you have in your kitchen. Honestly, if you have the dough on hand, you can build and bake a top-tier pizza in less time than it takes to get one delivered.
With its igloo shape, three folding legs, and carbon-steel exterior, the Ooni Koda looks a little like a UFO. It’s small and light enough to put in the trunk of your car and take to a friend’s house — Ooni even sells a nifty carrying bag.
When I first unboxed the oven, I was worried about using it atop my wooden patio table and was later surprised to discover — after hovering my hand underneath it — that it didn’t give off much heat at all.
After you ignite the flame, you can control its intensity. Although I can’t speak to the smaller Koda, the Koda 16 had a roomy interior that gave me plenty of space for continuously turning my pie. Its U-shaped opening allowed me to see how the crust was rising and ensure that it didn’t get burned. Spoiler alert: Mine did burn the first couple of times!
Launching the pies, rotating them in the oven, and removing them with a peel takes some practice, and I highly recommend you use lots of cornmeal on your peel to prevent sticking. Although making pies with an oven this hot does seem a tad intimidating, my family and friends who had never cooked wood-fired pizza before got the hang of it rather quickly with the Ooni. Since the oven is so hot, it only takes 60 to 90 seconds to bake your pizza. Preparing all the ingredients, making the dough (I can’t recommend Ooni’s recipe enough), and building the pies has been so much fun.
The Ooni Koda is more than an appliance that helps you dish out delicious pizzas, though. It gives you the chance to develop a new skill, and even better, it brings you closer to your family and friends, which is something that I can appreciate even more than my love of pizza — especially in a time when I haven’t been able to see them as often as I would like to.
Closing Argument: The Ooni Koda 16 pizza oven will help you concoct the perfect pizza at home that will rival your favorite restaurants’. It heats up quickly, can be taken anywhere, and delivers that irresistible crisp and charred crust that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve without dropping thousands of dollars.
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