In the past year or two, pizza ovens have eclipsed air fryers as the must-buy kitchen appliance.
Where you might use an air fryer every day, a pizza oven is more specific and occasion based. You might break it out when you have mates over for a pizza party, or at the most use it once a week for pizza night with family or housemates. Take an air fryer, as a comparison – you’ll probably use it every night.
Given a pizza oven is typically much more expensive than an air fryer, you also have cost-per-use to think about. The CPU for a pizza oven is much higher than for an air fryer.
So the question is, which ones are worth it? There are pizza ovens out there that are not.
Ooni has built a reputation for being one of the more reliable brands out there, only offering ovens that have gone on to attract rave reviews across the board.
The Ooni Volt is no exception. Released earlier this year, reception has been outstanding to the point where it’s now one of the most referenced products of the year.
After using the Ooni Volt for a few weeks, that’s no surprise. In fact, I’d say it’s my favourite pizza oven to date simply because it’s much more versatile than one that relies on a heat source like gas to work. It just takes more trial-and-error to get the right results, but when you become a pro at using it, there is very little noticeable difference between a pizza that comes out the Ooni Volt and a pizza that comes out of the Ooni Koda 12 – which I also have.
Gas-powered pizza ovens are for outside use. Electric pizza ovens are for use both outside and inside. That’s the main difference here, bringing the cost-per-use down considerably. You’ll use the Volt more. Though only if you can fit it in your kitchen permanently.
The Ooni Volt is big. It’s so big, in fact, that I can’t actually keep it in the kitchen and need to pack it down constantly only to bring it out again when the mood strikes. That’s a big downside for the Volt when compared to something more portable like the Ooni Koda 12 or Gozney Roccbox. Those are portable, this is absolutely not.
But if you have a big enough kitchen that you don’t need to worry about counter space, then size should be of no concern.
Set-up is as easy as plug-and-play. Given this oven uses electricity, you simply just insert the included pizza stone and plug this into a socket.
Heating is an artform with the Ooni Volt so you need to get used to dialing in the right temperature for both the top and bottom burner. Yes, this is a dual burner pizza oven, which ups the value considerably.
The insulation is why this 12-inch pizza oven is bigger than its peers. This isn’t a glorified toaster oven or an air fryer; this is a serious pizza oven with a thick wall of insulation to help with safety. Even when it’s hot, the outside is cooler and safer to touch.
The most important part about the design is the three knobs that was easy to use and come with notable (importantly, not annoying) chimes when things like preheating is done or a pizza is ready.
You can use the kobs to control the time, the temperature and, importantly, burner sensitivity. That last knob is what helps the Volt stand apart from the rest. You can actually choose to send more heat to the bottom or top burner, or have them balanced.
I’ve found the best results come from when there’s a balance between the two, but it depends on what style of pizza you want. A New York style pie, for example, should be crispier on the top and so more heat should be sent the top burner. The toppings should be dense and the dough shouldn’t be thin either, otherwise you might get bubbles in the centre.
I learnt all this the hard way, which is why it pays to actually experiment with the Ooni Volt. You can’t experiment as much with other pizza ovens, so this is a big tick of approval for this electric pizza oven.
Pre-heating to max temperature, which is 450°C, takes around 20-minutes. It’s genuinely impressive just how fast this bad boy can heat up.
The glass door is thick but very clear so you can watch the crust rise and keep an eye out the pizza at all times. If you’ve got the heat just right, you might not even have to turn the pizza at all but I advise turning at least once to achieve best results.
And what are best results? Again, that depends on what style of pizza you’re going for, but generally I find a really dark, well-cooked undercarriage and a crispy, sunken top usually tastes the best. You want those sides to be puffy and charred as well.
Charring is easier and more consistent with gas, I’ve found. But electric really isn’t that far behind.
When it comes down to it, the results really aren’t that different. And that’s a testament to how much work has gone into the very specific design of the Volt.
An electric pizza oven would be harder to get right, so it’s no surprise Ooni took this long refining a new market for DIY pizza lovers. And there’s little doubt we’ll be seeing other brands with their own electric pizza oven in the coming years.
Although not as consistent and quick as a gas-powered pizza oven, the Volt makes up for its steeper learning curve with a considerable boost in convenience.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: High functioning design and very safe to use; heats up fast; easy to experiment with different styles; can be used both indoors and outdoors
Lowlights: Requires a steeper learning curve than gas-powered ovens
Review unit supplied by Ooni.