How to Use an Ooni Pizza Oven (Wood Burning Tips)Jump to Recipe
My husband and I have been making pizza for a few years and we were so excited to start using an Ooni pizza oven. It has taken quite a few tries to get used to making pizza with a wood burning oven, but it’s so worth it! We’ve had some successes and some failures, so we wanted to share a few of our learnings so you can get an amazing pizza every time.
Cooking with an Ooni is great because it gets to a high heat and it heats up quickly. They are small enough to work in almost any outdoor space. You can really get restaurant-quality pizzas at home.
There are many different varieties of pizza ovens now but after doing some research we fond that Ooni was making some of the best pizza ovens at the most price points.
Types of Ooni Pizza Ovens
There are multiple styles of Ooni Pizza ovens today. We have the Ooni Karu which is a multi-fuel oven. It is the cheapest model, but it works great for us. This model lets us use wood burning or gas powered heating. We typically use wood burning so most of this post will discuss the best ways to use your Ooni oven for wood burning.
Most of the come in a 12 or 16 style. This just references the pizza size you can make. The Karu 12 fits up to a 12-inch pizza and the Karu 16 fits up to 16-inch pizzas.
When looking into getting an Ooni these are the main heat source options. Here is each model of Ooni pizza oven:
- Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven: These ovens let you use all of the fuel options such as wood, charcoal, or propane. The smaller ones are the Karu 12 and Karu 12G. The larger one is the Karu 16.
- Gas Powered: Ooni has 2 all gas powdered ovens. They are the Koda 12 and Koda 16.
- Wood Pellet: If you only want to do wood burning this one is a good choice - Ooni Fyra 12.
- Electric: They recently came out with an electric pizza oven, Volt. This is the most expensive of their range. If you are looking for something with indoor use than this is the right one of you. It is the only one that can be used indoor and outdoor.
Making Pizza for the First Time
Remember, there is a learning curve to making pizzas in an outdoor pizza oven. Your first pizza might not be perfect but it gets easier. The temperature can fluctuate quite a bit so be patient. I always say, make extra pizza dough just in case. If you burn one or one falls while you are making them, it feels good to have extra.
With a little practice you will be an Ooni pro before you know it!
What You Will Need
To make your pizza making experience easier, there are the few things you will need. This post will go over how to make the pizza with wood. If you are using gas powered just ignore the wood burning sections.
Here is what you need to make the perfect pizza with your Ooni.
- Laser Thermometer
- Metal Tongs
- Wood for Heat and Wood for Flavor
- Pizza Peel
The most difficult part of using the Ooni is timing, and while a pizza will cook in 4-5 minutes at 650-750°F, I've found it takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes for me to get the oven to the right temperature. The laser infrared thermometer is the best way to understand the cooking temperature. Also, it's a cool science laser! They're pretty cheap on Amazon ($10-$30). I wanted one with a rechargeable battery and I found this one with AAA batteries to fit the bill.
You just point the laser at the pizza stone to read the temperature. Getting the pizza stone nice and hot will give you an extra crispy crust.
I have a whole post on the right cooking temperature for pizza and a few other digital thermometer recommendations here: Best Pizza Oven Temperature and Thermometer for Perfect Homemade Pizza
Don't use silicone tongs - not a lesson you want to learn. Tongs make it easier to retrieve the pizza than a peel. Using the peel is a swift, fast motion and we're cooking a pizza in a metal shoebox with a fire inside. It doesn't make it any more "traditional" to retrieve it with a peel - just use tongs.
Here are some metal tongs similar to the ones I use: Stainless Steel Utility Tongs
I live in a city and the wood I find on the ground isn't what I want to be burning near my food.
I make things out of wood and often have cutoffs from squaring up 2x4 construction lumber (always untreated for burning). I use this since I have it on hand, but there's lots of sources of wood so find what works for you. I cut it up into small sticks, chunks, or scraps (ideally the size of a Sharpie, sometimes about the size of an Airhead. Ideally thin on one axis). I aim for 3-4" ideal length sticks.
When you are ready to start making the pizzas I switch to a different wood source. When we started, I bought a variety of hickory wood sources: pellets, chips, chunks. The chunks were the best by far but you can also use wood pellets. We've enjoyed hickory so far and would like to try apple or cherry wood next.
You can use the wood chucks or pellets the whole time, they are just a little more expensive so it’s nice to use cheeper wood to get it nice and hot.
There's a new brown paper "bubble wrap" packaging material that I like. I save it when it comes in a package. The white paper version burns quicker and is smokier so I prefer the brown paper. You can also use newspaper or whatever works for you.
Paper is useful because it raises the heat quickly, but goes out quickly. It's useful for starting sticks in the beginning and boosting the oven temperature, but doesn't go far to heating the stone so use sparingly. This will cause the most smoke (unpleasant in most situations) and add unpleasant flavor if burning while food is cooking.
The easiest way to get the pizza in and out of the Ooni is by using a pizza peel. Make sure to get one that is small enjoy to get into the Ooni. I suggest just buying one from them. That way you know the correct size when making the pizza. We have the perforated pizza peel that Ooni makes.
Where to Use Your Ooni
All except the electric version are made for outdoor use. Since these pizza ovens get to very high temperatures you want them to be far away from any structure.
Heating the Oven
Before adding in the pizzas you want to get your Ooni oven hot.
- Make sure the chimney is installed, the cap is off, and the vent is open.
- Keep the door on at all times, always. Especially when the pizza is cooking. Open only when checking the temperature and launching the pizza.
- Start with a ball of paper and a bunch of sticks, but leave some breathing room.
Every 5 Minutes
- Check the temperature with your thermometer. Expect about a 150° increase since last check, but the heating times will vary. If you are seeing a smaller increase, add more wood than you did last time.
- Once the fire is going, I stuff it full of sticks, sometimes using the back cover to push them down.
The key is being on top of refilling the fire. The capacity for wood is small, and if you don't put any in for too long, the temperature will have gone down since the last check.
I’ve gotten the Ooni above 900°, but I aim for between 650-800°, since I’ve found that it’s most manageable and easy to keep consistent. This can take a while - usually 30 minutes on average, 20 minutes if everything goes right (which as your learning is rare). Make sure to wait to start stretching and topping your pizzas until the oven is to temperature.
Add in the Good Wood
Once you're at a happy cooking temperature I switch to the smoking wood we have. The optimal temperature for me is at least 650°F. Since these are thicker they'll take a bit longer to start up. I'll let them take 5-10 minutes to get glowing hot.
I'll do one final temperature check - usually I'll be in the 650-750° range here. If you're not happy with the temperature, start this step over again.
I don't like adding wood right before or while a pizza is cooking, otherwise it gets a little too smoky, and the fire is a little more wild and heat less evenly.
Once you get to this temperature, you'll be able to cook your pizza (6-8 minutes) before the oven cools. This is when we'll start stretching and topping the pizzas.
Making the Pizza
- Launch the Pizza. Close the door.
- When you first launch the pizza, let it sit for 2 minutes with the door closed.
- Afterwards, rotate the pizza every 90 seconds and close the door.
- Char is part of the charm, so don't be overly shy!
The cooking time will vary pizza to pizza. For the best results just keep your eye on it. You can always add it back in if you think it's underdone.
If you have more pizzas, check the temperature. I can sometimes get 2 pizzas out of one fill, but I usually refill after each pizza. This gives some time to prep for the next pizza. When you're ready, repeat this step.
What Kind of Pizza to Make
The best kind of pizza you can make in the Ooni is a Neapolitan-style pizza. These pizzas are thin and chewy. The hot temperature cooks them fast so the outside gets a good char while the inside stays soft. I typically use our Pizza Dough recipe for this. If you want to learn more about Neapolitan pizza check out this post all about the difference between Neapolitan pizza and Sicilian Pizza.
A few of my favorite pizza recipes are:
How to Store the Ooni Pizza Oven
After using, make sure to let the Ooni cool all the way before moving. Store it in a covered area such as a garage. You don’t want to leave it out as rain or other debris could easily fall into the top. Try to wipe down any crumbs before storing, this will make it easier for next time. You don’t want any bits of cheese or crust stuck in the Ooni that will start to burn.
- Make sure to heavily cornmeal the peel you are launching from. This helps it from sticking to the peel.
- Pizzas will come out one by one, not all at once. You can choose to cut them up and eat them as you go. You can also wait (if you wanna be extra you can keep them in a preheated oven) and eat after you've made them all. Either way they're fantastic.
- Remember that the back of the oven is the hottest. When you are making the pizza you will want to turn it half way. Otherwise the back with get burnt and the front will still be too soft.
- Make extra! This isn't an everyday activity. If you do 3 or more pizzas in a row, you'll get into a rhythm and understanding that doesn't happen if you make 1 or 2 every few weeks. Give yourself room to be able to throw one away if it doesn't work. It removes the sting when you have to, because it happens.
- Don't over load your pizza. These are fairly small pizzas that cook quickly. Try your pizzas with just a little bit of toppings to start. This is easier to move with the pizza peel and it just cooks better. I love to do a margarita with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, and add some fresh basil after.
I hope you enjoy your pizza night with these amazing pizzas!