Outdoor pizza ovens are having a moment. The compact, portable models have become popular for both novice and pro cooks alike, allowing them to host casual pizza parties or cater events as part of a restaurant business. While the wood- and gas-burning ovens can be fun to use for all skill levels, they have to remain outdoors, and using wood or charcoal requires more attention.
After making some of the best outdoor pizza ovens, Ooni introduced its first electric model designed for indoor use in March. The Volt 12 ($999) encompasses everything from the company’s existing product line, from high-heat cooking to consistent results, and adds ease of use and baking versatility to the mix. This beast is big and expensive, but it also makes some damn good pizza.
The Volt 12 looks like what I’d expect an electric pizza oven from Ooni to look like. It bears the most resemblance to the Karu 16, one of the largest models the company offers. The gray and black color scheme is on every current Ooni model, except for the all-silver multi-fuel Karu 12. Rather than a rectangle, the Volt 12 has angled corners, making it more of a flat octagon than a boring box. Ooni says the exterior is powder-coated and weather resistant so you can take it outdoors – not that you would want it to get too wet. Since this model is more of a countertop appliance than its open-flame predecessors, the Volt 12 has short, stubby legs rather than the longer, folding ones on the wood- and gas- burning units.
Only three Ooni models have glass doors that allow you to watch the entire cooking process. As an electric, indoor oven, the Volt 12 is one of those. Unlike the Karu 16 and Karu 12G, this panel is gloss black instead of metal. The door has a robust black handle that remains cool to the touch, even at 850 degrees, and a row of three control dials sit beneath the glass window. The only other button is an on/off switch on the left side of the front. This turns off the power completely. When this is switched on, the oven sits in standby mode until you hit the power button on the front that actually gets the Volt 12 ready to use.
On the left is the time dial with the power button above it. The center control is for temperature, which ranges from 350 to 850 degrees Fahrenheit. Lastly, the far right dial is for “balance,” allowing you to shift how much power is given to the top and bottom heating elements. In other words, you can put more emphasis on the stone for a crisper crust or more on the top for a bit more browning/char. The balance control also activates a boost feature that can be used to get the stone to return to target temp quickly between pizzas (it takes about 45 seconds). All three controls are flanked by white lights for precise level indications. During pre-heating, for example, the temperature dial starts at 350 and slowly moves around to your target, blinking along the way at the current status.
The bottom heating element sits underneath the stone – a 13-inch square cooking surface that can accommodate a variety of pans in addition to 12-inch pizza. There’s also an interior light that stays on the whole time, making it very easy to see how things are progressing without having to open the door.
Setup and use
Before the first use, you’ll need to season Volt 12. This requires you to run the oven at full blast (850) for 20 minutes and then allow it to cool before preheating to launch your first pizza. The cooldown takes quite a bit longer than the preheating or 20-minute burnoff, so you’ll want to do thing well before you need to actually cook. The cool down time on the Volt 12 takes a while. While the exterior will be back to room temp sooner, it takes a while for the inside to do the same since the Volt 12 is so well-insulated. This means you’ll have to wait at least an hour to safely store it or put the cover on.
Ooni says the 1,600-watt Volt 12 can hit 850 degrees in 20 minutes where it can cook a pizza in 90 seconds. This makes it slightly slower to achieve max temperature than its wood- or gas-burning counterparts. The Karu 16, for example, can reach 950 degrees Fahrenheit in 15 minutes. Still, 20 minutes is remarkably quick, and in my experience, the Volt 12 actually hit 850 faster than that.
The key advantage the Volt 12 has over its wood-burning siblings is convenience. Those models make great pizza with the subtle flavor of wood fire, but the flames require supervision whereas the Volt 12 is very much set it and forget it. You don’t have to worry about maintaining the fire in between stretching dough, topping pizzas and launching them into the oven. The Volt 12 also sets the balance dial based on your cooking temperature, but you can adjust it if you need to. Most outdoor Ooni ovens have an optional gas burner (propane and natural gas models), which would also remedy some of the headaches with temperature regulation.
Making the pizza
All of this sounds great on paper, but it would be for naught if the thing didn’t make good pizza. Thankfully, Ooni has translated its formula for excellent outdoor cooking to its electric oven. The Volt 12 produces comparable results to any of the company’s other models, right down to the char and leoparding on Neapolitan pies. Since the temperature dial gives you more precise control, it’s easier to achieve the desired cook on everything from New York style to thin-and-crispy. With the extra space inside, you can also make Detroit pan pizza, as well as roast and bake other items with ease. The Volt 12 did well with any type of crust I threw at it, churning out tasty pies consistently in just a few minutes.
Running wide open at 850 degrees, the Volt 12 makes excellent Neapolitan-style pizza. You’ll need to make sure you have a proper dough recipe (Scott Deley’s The Ooni Pizza Project is a great guide), but assuming you’re starting with a good base, the oven will do its thing well. I found that the Volt 12 is a little more forgiving with rotating the pies than the open-flame outdoor models, so you don’t need to babysit it quite as much. These pizzas were light and airy with a slight crispness to the bottom and the requisite leoparding. New York-style pizzas baked at 650 were also great, with crisp edges and bottom, with a pleasant chewiness to the crust.
There are some downsides to the Volt 12, the big one being the price. It’s $999, and I’ll be the first to tell you that excellent pizza is achievable with your main oven and a baking stone or steel that costs a fraction as much. The second thing is it’s huge. The Volt 12 takes up the entire depth of the counter and is 20 inches wide. It also weighs just under 40 pounds. That’s not too heavy, relatively speaking, and the Volt 12 can easily be chucked in the backseat for a nearby party. Ooni did design it with built-in handles on the sides though, which makes the task of moving it slightly easier.
In the US, Ooni’s main competition for the Volt 12 is the Breville Pizzaiolo. This oven has been on the market for a few years at this point, with a design that looks more like one of the company’s toaster ovens. It’s an all-stainless steel aesthetic, with a glass door for viewing and easy-to-use controls up front. Out of the box, the Pizzaiolo runs on a variety of presets for different styles, but Breville also equipped it with a manual mode to give you full control over the top and bottom heating elements.
The three strikes against this alternative are cost, a confining cooking surface and the lack of interior lighting. The Pizzaiolo is $999.95, so unless you find one on sale, you won’t save any money over the Volt 12. The stone on the Pizzaiolo is circular instead of square, so you’ll only be able to use 12-inch round pans in addition to your pizza. And lastly, there’s no light inside, so it can be a challenge to keep tabs on the cooking process. You’ll almost certainly have to open the door at some point for a closer inspection.
With the Volt 12, Ooni enters new territory by bringing its formula for stone-baked pizza indoors. While the results are consistently great across a range of styles, this is the company’s most expensive product to date, and I can see that being prohibitive for some – no matter how good the pizza is. A Karu 16 with the additional purchase of a gas burner is $920 or $950 (propane vs. natural gas), which would give you the convenience of a control dial with option of cooking with wood. Still not cheap, but that oven is big enough to do more than just pizza, so it’s also quite versatile. What it really comes down to is where you’ll be cooking most often – inside or out – or if you’re just fine upgrading your pizza game with accessories for your kitchen oven. And there’s absolutely no shame in doing that.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ooni-volt-12-review-180019262.html?src=rss
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