The Secret to an Incredible Pizza? This Ultra-Portable Ooni Koda 16 Oven
- Value: 20/20
- Functionality: 20/20
- Quality/Ease of Use: 20/20
- Aesthetics: 20/20
- Versatility: 15/20
Let’s just get this part out of the way: This thing rules.
During the pandemic, some people really got into baking breads, and I became obsessed with baking pizzas. I would make so much pizza that my wife would say once a month, “I love you, but I really can’t have pizza again.”
Well, now that COVID regulations are being lifted, and your loved ones are vaccinated, now is the time to share your pizza obsession with them, and the Ooni Koda 16 is a fantastic way to do it.
The Ooni Koda 16 is a compact (as in, 25 inches wide) outdoor propane-powered pizza oven that can reach and maintain temperatures of over 950 degrees Fahrenheit. What sets the Ooni Koda 16 apart from the competition is not only its size but how it heats up: Most consumer pizza ovens have a single heat source in the back of the oven. The Ooni Koda 16 has a heating element that wraps around the back and left side of the oven, helping food cook more evenly.
During my first test, I made 12-inch, Neapolitan-style pizzas for family and friends. This style of pizza requires the oven to be fired to 900-plus degrees—something my home oven can’t touch (most top out around 550). After heating up the Ooni Koda 16, I was able to get some parts of it to surpass 950°F, which was incredible, especially for a consumer-grade product. What was really impressive, though, is that it was able to maintain a temperature of over 900 degrees throughout an entire hour of cooking. Not only does this oven deliver on hot temps, but it is really good at staying hot!
But all of that means nothing if the pizza winds up charred beyond belief—or worse, gummy and soft. I believed in my recipe, but I was curious how it’d fare in the Ooni. As my sister-in-law took her first bite of the pizza, she paused and said “this takes me back to Italy...”
Now, you have to be naïve to think that the oven alone can produce that kind of feeling, and as we all should know that a pizza is only as good as the sum of its parts. But for a consumer-level product to produce the same kind of pizza experience as a Pompeii wood-fired oven is something out of a science fiction book.
The Neapolitan-style pizza was not only a hit among the guests, but the taste and texture of the pizzas made that day transported my sister-in-law back to the land of her ancestors. But what about other kinds of pizza? Now this is where I faced some trial and error.
Prepare to Burn Some Pies As You Learn The Koda’s Ins and Outs
The Ooni Koda 16 has two temperature modes which are, essentially, hot and hotter. Unlike home ovens that allow you to set a specific temperature, this oven is built to climb temperature. This can make it difficult when trying to make a New York-style pie. And yes, I wrote pie, because “that's what New Yorkers call pizza!”
NY-style pizza is baked in ovens between 550 and 700ish degrees. Unlike Neapolitan pizzas, New York-style pizzas take around 5 to 8 mins to bake. This leaves you with a pizza that is firmer, crunchy and because of the long cook, the cheese has a wonderful sheen of white and orange.
Since there’s a bit of a learning curve to figuring out the temperature of the Ooni Koda 16, my first NY-style pies were, well, a little burnt. Eventually, I learned to turn the oven off during the bake. The residual heat would cook the pizza fully at a low temperature, and toward the end I would flip the oven back on to melt the cheese and add some nice color on top of the pie.
Another learning experience with this oven is the floor temperature. Naturally, the hottest parts of the oven are closest to the heat sources. While testing, I noticed that the temperature closest to the heating element would be 100 degrees hotter than the floor on the other side of the oven. You really have to keep an eye on your pizza to make sure it’s not burnt on one side.
This oven excels at cooking things hot and fast, and because of that I did not try cooking a deep-dish pizza or even a Detroit-style pizza But why limit this machine to pizza? My third test was a NY Strip.
I placed an oven-safe cast iron skillet in the oven and waited for it to heat up to 700ish degrees. Once my pan was nice and hot, I did a quick sear on the steaks and cooked them to a nice rare (I like my pizzas baked well, and my meat still bleeding). The Ooni gave these NY Strips a sear I used to only find in steakhouses.
If You Buy It, A Few Accessories Are Essential
Ooni has a lot of accessories, but when it comes to a must-have, you should really purchase the Ooni Koda 16 Cover. This cover protects your Ooni from the elements of your porch, so you won't have to worry about water getting stuck in the oven when it rains, or even think about critters getting in there.
Another must-have accessory is an infrared thermometer. That way you know if your oven is hot enough to start baking your pizzas or putting your steaks on the skillet. The Ooni Infrared Thermometer is a great option. I found it to be much more responsive than my old cheapo infrared thermometer. If you don’t want to take my word for it and use a different thermometer, just make sure you are buying a thermometer that can measure temperatures of over 900 degrees.
Beyond that, it’s nice to have a pizza peel, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The Ooni 14″ Perforated Pizza Peel is a dream to use. What is great about this peel, in particular, is that it’s balanced, thin and lightweight. This gives you the freedom to make your pizzas on a work surface instead of a peel. The slots also make it easier to launch the pizza into the oven and simultaneously allow excess flour from the bottom of your pizza to fall off the peel. Although the price tag seems steep, it is right in line with similar pizza peels, and the build quality is great.
Now, just to break things down a bit further, here’s the rationale behind my score:
- Even though you have to purchase the Koda cover separately, the oven is still a huge value, based on how compact it is and how hot it can get at that price point.
- This oven allows you to cook anything hot and fast.
Quality/Ease of Use: 20/20
- The Ooni Koda 16 is sturdy and well made, it gets hot and stays hot, and because it’s gas-powered, you do not have to worry about starting and maintaining a fire.
- This is the only ding against the oven. The Ooni Koda 16 was created to bake pizzas as easily as possible, which is why its versatility is limited. Other compact outdoor pizza ovens have several fuel sources (wood, coal, gas), where this oven only uses propane. You sacrifice versatility to have that unique heating element, which is great for its functionality but it really hurts the versatility of the oven.
- Because this oven excels at cooking dishes hot and fast, it is really tough to control its temperature. I wish there were a throttle that allowed the user to easily dial in the heat.
- This oven is compact and looks great on my porch. It has modern colors that contrast nicely and has a sleek exterior.
The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what’s worth the spend—and what’s total hype. Learn more about our process here.