With homecooks getting more and more adventurous in the kitchen, it only follows suit that an outdoor pizza oven should be on a lot of people’s wishlists. As someone who became pretty obsessed with baking during the lockdowns, the evolution of my love for homemade dough and the desire to create authentic pizza was only natural.

While it’s true that Toronto’s best pizza can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best in the world, the appeal of making a delicious charred pie any day of the week is undeniable. So, I tried out the Ooni Karu 12G pizza oven, a sleek and portable hybrid-fuel model that can reach temperatures of 900 F up to 30 per cent faster than previous ovens.

Does the Ooni really live up to the hype? And is the viral outdoor pizza oven that much more effective than cooking pizza in the oven? After a (literal) baptism of fire, I played around with my technique and came to a conclusion. Here’s the good, the bad and the overall verdict on the Ooni Karu 12G pizza oven.

Ooni Karu 12G pizza oven: The pros

Ooni was founded by husband and wife Kristian Tapaninaho and Darina Garland, a Finnish pizza-loving pair who had grown tired of sub-standard pizza made in regular ovens. From Kickstarter project to award-winning retailer, the pizza oven brand has grown. One of its newest releases, Ooni Karu 12G, touts itself as being the “world’s most portable pizza oven” and allows you to cook pizza fast, either using wood or charcoal for a traditional feel, or gas.

Our package comes with the Gas Burner for Ooni Karu 12 ($135), but it’s imperative that you purchase this add-on if, like me, you’re planning to use gas to cook your margheritas. Since I don’t have a gas line that stretches to my patio, I'm able to hook up the propane tank that I use for my BBQ to the Ooni pizza oven. Given its high temperature and the length of time the oven was on (I usually cook three pizzas per session, since they aren’t huge), I was impressed by the Ooni’s fuel efficiency. My propane tank lasted for the entire summer — and I ate a lot of pizza!

Another plus is how hot the oven gets in such a short time. If you want it ripping hot (and you should), it’ll take around 20 minutes. In the meantime you can prep your pizza, make drinks for guests and get yourself situated. It’s also very portable. With collapsable legs, it’s easy to fold down and store in the bag provided when its not in use, though it is heavy.

Taking a pizza out of the Ooni Karu 12G pizza oven at the beach

Ooni Karu 12G pizza oven: The cons

The double-edged sword of this oven getting hot is that, um, it gets hot. Really hot. By the time the oven had got to temp, I’d no sooner placed the pizza in the oven than it was time to start thinking about rotating. And, after one spin, it was pretty much time to pull ‘er out of the oven. In other words, do not get distracted — an Ooni chef must be lazer-focused until the 'za is on the table.

You’ll also need to use a good oven mitt (check for holes) to touch any part of the Ooni pizza oven while it’s in action. Pizza party guests were burned (but, actually) by their own curiosity when touching bare hands to the glass of the oven door handle.

You’ll need to buy some sort of instrument to safely insert and remove the pizza from the oven, like Ooni’s Perforated Pizza Peel 12” ($80). However, it should not be used spin the pizza around in the oven — you can Macgyer it with a spatula or upgrade to a turning pizza peeler from somewhere like Tap Phong.

Not exactly a negative, but worth mentioning: Buying an Ooni pizza oven is not the answer to all of your pizza issues. If you make a bad dough, your pizza oven cannot save you — it will simply cook the bad dough very quickly. As a result, do not be surprised if your Ooni pizza oven purchase necessitates a nerdy exploration into the world of slow-fermented dough. I still haven’t quite reached that perfect, fluffy-but-slightly-charred-and-defined-crust with a perfectly cooked centre just yet. However, I have come closer to my doughy dreams since trying the Ooni.

Ooni Karu 12G pizza oven: The verdict

The Ooni Karu 12G isn’t cheap — and after the add-ons and implements needed to perfect your pizza-making, you’re looking at upwards of $700. However, the Ooni pizza oven is a well-built piece of equipment and not one I’m ever intending to replace, despite it’s frequent usage.

While it certainly didn’t magically improve my pizza overnight, having an Ooni pizza oven expands your potential for great pizza. You’ll nerd out, buff up on techniques and end up watching hours of pizza recipe content on YouTube, but if you love pizza, it’s all for the greater good. With frigid temperatures, it’s less inviting than those summer pizza parties, but an Ooni-made pizza is certainly worth busting out the toque for.

Ooni Karu 12G Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven, $579, ca.ooni.com