Ooni Koda 16 Is the Perfect Oven for Quick and Easy Backyard Pizza Parties
We’ve been covering Ooni pizza ovens since 2016 when they were still Uuni, and we’ve seen a lot of growth over the past four-plus years. The Ooni Koda 16 is my favorite oven so far, displaying the lessons that Ooni has learned in designing dedicated, portable pizza ovens.
Ooni’s Koda 16 is a gas-powered outdoor pizza oven capable of reaching temperatures up to 932°F, which is the temperature you need to cook a Neapolitan-style pizza in about 60-90 seconds. The Koda 16 comes with a 0.6″ thick cordierite stone baking surface that absorbs heat well and pumps it into the dough as soon as the pizza is launched into the oven. The exterior of the oven is powder-coated steel, and the body is ceramic fiber insulated to keep that precious heat inside.
The Koda 16 is so named because it can fit pizzas up to 16″ in diameter, unlike the original Ooni Koda, which fit pizzas up to 12″. While the original Koda could fit Neapolitan-style pizzas, you couldn’t really do an authentic New York-style pizza in it. I was most excited about the Koda 16 because I’m a fan of New York-style pizza, having been born and raised in the NYC suburbs of New Jersey.
The flame inside the Koda 16 is lit from an L-shaped burner that spans the rear and left side of the oven. It creates a mesmerizing waterfall effect that both myself and my kids loved watching. While this creates a ton of heat, it’s not necessarily even heat. I found the temperature at the back left to be a lot hotter than the temperature at the front right. With Ooni’s ovens, you’ll need to turn your pizza constantly to cook it evenly. There is a helpful metal guard in front of the burners that protects your pizza from accidentally being pushed directly into the flames. I still have nightmares of the time I pushed my pizza straight into the fire of the Ooni 2s, and I ended up with pizzas that were burnt to a crisp.
The Koda 16 is powered by propane by default, but a natural gas conversion kit will be available in the future. The heat is controlled using a simple dial with built-in ignition for easy operation. Turn it down for low, up for high, and anywhere in between. Just watch out, because this oven is super hot, even right at ignition. I may have singed a few eyebrow hairs when getting too close to this oven at startup.
Speaking of control, this was one of my complaints about the Koda 16. While it cooks well at very high heat, 900°F+, I had trouble getting the oven to stay below 700°F. New York Style pizza generally uses olive oil and sugar in the dough, both of which will cause the dough to burn quickly at high temperatures. This is why NY style pizza is usually baked at around 550°F.
I had some NY-style dough ready, so I preheated the oven on low for about 20 minutes. I then measured the temperature of the stone over 700°F, and while it may have made sense to turn off the flame and wait it out, I had hungry mouths to feed, so I went ahead and fired the pizzas anyway. While they still tasted good, the rim of the crust charred too quickly, so the bottom of the pizza wasn’t quite cooked to my satisfaction when I had to take the pizzas off. There’s likely a learning curve here. It would be great if Ooni could figure out a way to allow the user to reduce the flame enough to be able to heat the oven to NY-style pizza temperatures, considering a 16″ oven would be perfect for a small NY-style pie.
The best cooking method I found for non-NY-style pizza dough was to preheat the oven on high to let the stone absorb a ton of heat. Then after launching the pizza, I would reduce the flame to low and cook my pizza as I would typically, turning the pizza every 20 seconds or so to ensure it cooked evenly. Then, once I take the pizza out, I’d kick the flame back up to high and let it preheat again while I’m getting the next pizza ready.
The convenience factor of this oven is fantastic. The fact that there’s no door or chimney vent to fumble around with makes it easy to quickly heat, cook, and eat. While you do lose some heat through the open maw of the oven, it makes your life a whole lot easier. The open mouth of the oven allows you to launch, turn, and pull out your pizzas very easily compared to past ovens, which had a door or smaller opening like the pizza door in the Ooni Pro. Having no chimney also helps with the storage of the oven when it’s not in use.
Ooni was also kind enough to send me their Dual Platform Digital Scale to test while making my pizza dough. The large platform can measure weights up to 22 pounds (10,000g) and will display weights in 0.1oz (1g) increments. The small platform can measure weights up to 0.4 pounds (200g) and will display weights in 0.02oz (0.1g) increments. The large platform is perfect for large items such as flour, water, sourdough starter, etc., while the smaller platform is perfect for smaller items like commercial instant yeast and salt. As a semi-perfectionist baker, the smaller measurement increments of the smaller platform helped me be more confident I was following the recipe precisely.
The Dual Platform Digital Scale is a bit on the heavy side for how thin it is, at 2 pounds, but I love how slim it is. The shape helps me tuck it in a kitchen drawer without much hassle. The display is clear and easy to read, and operation couldn’t be simpler, though I found that the display times out a little faster than I’d prefer. I got screwed once or twice when making a large batch of dough, and the screen timed out while using the tare function. This caused me to lose the previous measurements, and I had to start over. It’s not the end of the world, but it is something to be aware of. The Ooni Dual Platform Digital Scale retails for $49.99 at Ooni.com.
After learning the ins and outs of the Koda 16, I made some fantastic pizza that the family loved. The Ooni Koda 16 is a great pizza oven for those who are looking to up their pizza game in a big way. Home ovens just can’t hit temperatures over 900°F like the Ooni ovens can, and that makes all the difference for Neapolitan-style pizzas. While I would prefer a higher level of control of the temperature, the Ooni Koda 16 is an excellent oven for backyard pizzaiolos. Just make sure you remember to rotate your pies!
The Ooni Koda 16 sells for $499, and it is available directly from the manufacturer.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Excellent build quality; Quick preheat time; Large opening and cooking surface; L-shaped burner; Simplified design.
What Needs Improvement: Need to figure out a way to create a more even heat throughout.