2021 was the year of the outdoor pizza oven. Scrolling through my social media feeds I found so many of my friends and acquaintances decided to become amateur pizzaioli (that’s Italian for pizza chefs) during the warmer months of the pandemic. In fact, a local Italian friend of mine bought the Ooni Karu 12, which supports multiple fuel sources, and had made a habit of hosting weekly pizza nights. In case you hadn’t already heard, Ooni quickly rose to the top of the outdoor pizza oven category for offering high-quality, relatively-low cost, portable pizza ovens for amateur home cooks. You’ll find countless videos and articles praising the brand for making a quality product. And I was seriously impressed with my friend’s Ooni Karu 12, which cranked out unbelievable Neapolitan pizzas. So, I decided to test it out for myself and review the Ooni Fyra 12, Ooni’s entry-level, least expensive pizza oven. [Editor’s Note: Ooni provided a Fyra 12 oven free of charge for us to review.]
Meet the Ooni Fyra 12
Let’s get this out of the way up top: If you like making pizzas at home or want to give it a try, get an Ooni outdoor pizza oven. They’re incredibly well-made, portable ovens that produce excellent pizzas with just a little bit of practice. But, if you’re not sold yet, allow me to introduce you to the Ooni Fyra 12, the starter outdoor pizza oven.
The Ooni Fyra 12, like all of Ooni’s ovens, is only suited for outdoor use, can get up to temperatures of 950° F, and looks charmingly sleek. The Fyra 12 sports a powder-coated carbon steel exterior, includes a 13″x12″ 0.4″ cordierite pizza stone, and weighs 22lbs. As the starter option, the Ooni Fyra 12 only supports wood pellets as a fuel source. Whereas some of the more advanced options combine multiple options and/or can support a propane hookup.
While the Ooni Fyra 12 includes all the requisite components of the oven itself, you’ll need to buy (in addition to the materials to make pizza) your own wood pellets and pizza peel, aka the big pizza spatula to actually place the uncooked pizza in the burning hot oven. Ooni sells its own wood pellets in 20 lb bags but you can also likely find them at your local hardware store or on Amazon. Additionally, I’d highly recommend getting an infrared thermometer. You don’t need one to cook pizzas in an Ooni but they come in handy (more on that later). Again, Ooni sells its own thermometer but you can get your own wherever – don’t fret about super precise ones, once you get above 750° F, it won’t matter much. (I bought this cheapo one and it works just fine.)
Using the Ooni Fyra 12
While Ooni’s products are relatively accessible and easy to use, there is a bit of a learning curve at first. I was greatly helped by the fact that I had used one before with my friend. But, each specific model has its own quirks too, so I had to familiarize myself with the Ooni Fyra 12 in particular.
First of all, only use the Ooni Fyra 12 pizza oven outside. I wouldn’t even recommend using it on an outdoor porch under a roof. Some models may work fine in a shaded area but I’ve only used the Ooni Fyra 12 in the great expanse of my small backyard. Place the Ooni Fyra 12 on a sturdy table and affix the proper chimney stack and fuel hopper. Despite the high internal temperature, the Ooni pizza ovens stay relatively cool on the outside so don’t worry too much about the table underneath the oven. That being said, if you want to put down some sort of cover beneath the Ooni Fyra 12, I’ve been using some excess cardboard, for any soot stains or stray pellets, I found that to be useful.
To get the Ooni Fyra 12 going simply fill the fuel tray with pellets, light a fire starter in the pellets, and wait for some of the pellets to catch. Insert the tray into the oven and slowly pour in some pellets in the fuel hopper. Make sure the oven is getting air circulation by keeping the chimney open. (You won’t really need it closed at all during the pizza-making process.) You can watch the flames grow in a neat little opening on the Ooni Fyra 12 oven door. Ooni says the oven will get to temperature in about 15 minutes. I tested mine on a cold January evening in my backyard so it took about 20 minutes or so for me to get the oven to 750° F (the minimum to start cooking your pizza). Once it’s at temperature, start making pizza!
Cooking Pizza in the Ooni Fyra 12
Here is where some practice is important. The Ooni Fyra 12 comes with a handy guide with pizza recipes and instructions on properly cooking your pies. Once your oven is at temperature, pizzas can cook in about 60 seconds. If you leave it in for even two or three minutes, you could find a nice charred pizza burnt to a crisp in your Ooni oven. So, while you’re cooking, keep an eye on your pizza. You’ll want to rotate it too so, in my experience, pulling it out with your pizza peel after 20 to 30 seconds, gently rotating it, and putting it back in yielded excellent results.
Additionally, your Ooni Fyra 12 will eat through pellets pretty quickly. So, to keep a consistent temperature, check on your fuel source regularly.
As you’re cooking, you’ll settle into a nice rhythm:
- Check your temperature
- Put in your pizza
- Add pellets
- Rotate your pizza
- Prep more pellets to add
- Take out pizza
Honestly, it becomes a little meditative and genuinely pretty easy to make really solid pizza this way.
A few pieces of advice, though.
Troubleshooting the Ooni Fyra 12
Make Pizza with a Big Group
Like I said, I tested the Ooni Fyra 12 in the middle of winter which meant I went back and forth between my kitchen and backyard while my fiancée and friends prepped pizzas. I’ve found that the best Ooni experience is held fully outdoors as a large group activity. While you can absolutely make great pizza for yourself, it’s not really a great solo or even duo experience.
Invite a bunch of friends over, fill a cooler with drinks, and make the night an interactive pizza-making party. When I was testing it out, we decided to make three pizzas really quickly, sit down and eat them, and make three more before calling it a night. In the time it took for us to eat, the temperature in the oven dropped drastically. So I had to get the Ooni Fyra 12 back up to temperature before starting again. It didn’t ruin the night by any means. But it was frustrating, particularly in the cold. As such, I’d recommend planning to cook all of your pizzas in one go, breaking to eat a slice and chat with friends every few minutes. This is another reason while having a big group can help – you’ll have dedicated pizza chefs whipping up delicious pies while you cook them in the Ooni.
Pellets Are a Pain
Maybe you don’t mind working with wood pellets when you cook, but I find them to be a bit of a hassle.
My first big mistake with the Ooni Fyra 12 was not letting the pellets fully light before inserting the fuel tray. I struggled for a long time to get the oven up to temperature. On my second go, I lit the fire starter with the pellets and waited a good while for them to catch. Then, I placed the fuel tray back in. I gradually filled the fuel hopper and watched as the flames grew in the Ooni Fyra 12. Success.
Additionally, you’ll likely lose quite a few pellets while you scoop and fill. Considering you’ll be consistently filling your Ooni Fyra 12, this will result in a lot of loose pellets on the ground. Depending on how often you cook pizza, you might go through your pellets relatively quickly, too, which is an added expense. I also noticed some weird residue around the fuel tray and fuel hopper from the wood pellets so be careful when refilling.
The Final Verdict
I gave it away pretty early on but I love the Ooni pizza ovens. They are extremely portable and efficient pizza makers. Great for outdoor group gatherings and interactive experiences, you’ll likely get a lot of use out of an Ooni oven if you enjoy being creative in the kitchen and hosting lots of friends. So, let’s recap the specifics.
Ooni Fyra 12: The Pros
Cooking pizzas in the Ooni Fyra 12 is a relatively easy, user-friendly experience, once you have a little practice. The wood pellets are easy to light (with a little patience) and the oven will produce excellent pizza quickly once it gets to the proper temperature. At just $350, this is by far the best bang-for-your-buck in the outdoor pizza oven category. If you enjoy interactive cooking experiences with larger groups, the Ooni Fyra 12 is for you.
- Fun and relatively easy to use (with a little practice)
- Pizza ready in 30-60 seconds
- Relatively inexpensive compared to similar outdoor pizza ovens
- Great for a large group of friends
Ooni Fyra 12: The Drawbacks
Practice makes perfect, so you’ll need to spend some time with Ooni products before you master them. Also, there’s still quite a bit to buy after spending $350 on the Ooni Fyra 12 including an infrared thermometer, pizza peel, and steady supply of wood pellets. For just $50 more you can buy the Karu 12 which supports wood and charcoal as well as propane with an optional adaptor. Having tried out the wood-fired Karu 12, I think that the oven requires less hands-on time to keep your temperature hot and consistent. Additionally, $350 is a lot to spend on a product that can really only be fully enjoyed with a larger group. You’ll need ample outdoor space and, while the Ooni Fyra 12 can be stored outdoors in mild weather, heavy rain or snow will damage it. I have mine stored in a large shed but if you don’t have the space, the Ooni Fyra 12 would be a hassle to store.
- Slight learning curve to master
- Need to buy accessories
- Only supports wood pellets
- Not great for just one or two people
- Need outdoor space for cooking and indoor space for storage
Ooni Fyra 12: The Bottom Line
Ooni makes fantastic outdoor pizza ovens. If you’re interested in this trendy hobby and have the time to whip up some pies, get yourself an Ooni oven. The Ooni Fyra 12 is a satisfying, solid entry-level option. Given a little practice, you’ll be making excellent pizza in no time at all. But, I would recommend possibly jumping up to the Ooni Karu 12. If you feel comfortable using wood as a fire source, it’s a touch easier to maintain a consistent temperature. Either way, jump on the pizza-making bandwagon and enjoy some homemade pies.