Ooni 3 Pellet Burner Review

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Ooni 3 pizza oven
Ooni 3

Ooni 3 is a small, lightweight, portable pizza oven. The manufacturer claims that Ppni 3 is capable of a 13” pie, but I think 10” is the ideal size. Ooni 3 comes standard with a wood pellet burner, which we found lacking and is Not Recommended for reasons described below. I strongly prefer the Ooni 3 with their optional gas burner. Click here to read our review of Ooni 3 with Gas Burner and learn why it earns our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold Medal.

The company's second model, Ooni Pro, is larger and said to be capable of 16” pies, but 12 to 14” will work better. Out of the box, this model can burn wood or charcoal and there is also an optional gas burner or pellet burner available. Although I have not cooked on this particular model, I have seen the pellet burner version in use, and given my experience with the gas burner on the Ooni 3, I feel certain that the best option for the Ooni Pro is also the gas burner.

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Myth-Busting Wood-Fired Pizza

Let’s get one misconception out of the way. There is nothing superior about wood as a fuel for a pizza oven. When wood is burning hot and fast in such an oven, there is not much smoke and most of it goes up the chimney. During the very short cook time, the wood smoke makes very little impact on the flavor of the pie. In fact, burning wood is risky. If the fuel to air ratio isn’t dialed in properly, you can produce soot, which can fall onto the pie and ruin the taste. This was a problem with the Ooni 3 pellet burner I tested. The most important function of a pizza oven and its fuel is consistent high heat. That is what puffs up the dough quickly (known as oven spring), creating the classic chewy yet crispy texture with leopard spots on the bottom and top edges.

How the Ooni Works

Both the Ooni 3 and the Pro are constructed of high quality 430 stainless steel with durable cordierite pizza stones that can be washed. The pies go in the front and the burner is in the rear, so the oven works best on a table that allows easy access at both the front and back. To read the temperature of the pizza stone, I recommend an infrared thermometer gun. Shoot it onto the stone and it gives you an instant reading. An IR gun is not only fun (shoot it onto your skin and check your body temperature!), it's really something that any serious pizza maker should have.

I also recommend the Ooni 3 cover/carry bag. Although the bag color fades rapidly and forces you to store the oven handle inside where it can get sooty, the cover/carry bag keeps water out of the oven, an important job. The unit comes with a metal pizza peel, but I prefer to build my pies on a wooden peel that I bought separately because the dough doesn’t stick to it as easily. With wood, a flick of the wrist gets the pie into the maw of the oven quickly and easily.

Both units can bake bread and cook other foods like steaks. But these ovens get very hot, so they would not be my first choice for other foods. Most foods are best when cooked at lower temps, although skinny burgers and steaks sear well.

The manual consists mostly of illustrations so it can be delivered to several different countries without translation like those damn IKEA manuals. I like pictures; however, they were unclear on some issues regarding the pellet hopper. The manual needs to be improved. The best way to learn how to use the Ooni 3 with pellets is to watch YouTube videos. But even the videos are lacking detail. Assembling the unit isn't too hard, but you need to pay attention to detail.

As we know, all cookers have hot spots. On the Ooni 3, the rear tends to run hot, and you need to rotate your pie for even cooking. That's not a big deal, and can be part of the fun of making pizza, but the unit is so narrow that it can be a bit tricky to rotate the pie with the supplied pizza peel. The peel is barely smaller than the mouth of the oven. I solved the problem by reaching in with the peel, pulling the pie out, rotating it with a fork, and putting the pie back in. If you wish you, can buy a special turning peel which is smaller than a normal peel. Pros use this kind of peel and it makes it MUCH easier to rotate the pie without removing it.

As mentioned, 10" pies works best, and they're so small that I tend to make more than one. To do so, I fire up my gas grill in a 2-zone low temp setup and put the finished pies on the indirect side to keep them warm while baking new pies.

Ooni 3 with Pellet Burner

We do not recommend Ooni 3 with the pellet burner.

The keys to making great Neapolitan style pizza are a hot oven and cooking surface, pizza dough that is ideally suited to that oven, great toppings, and perfect timing. Don't underestimate the timing. You need to time the assembly of the pie so the dough does not stick to the peel. You also need to insert the pie when the oven is at its optimal temp and then watch the pie and rotate it as needed for even cooking. Then you build the next pie and repeat. In the Ooni 3 with pellets, igniting and controlling the pellets gets tricky and interferes with perfect pizza timing.

To fire up this unit, you must insert a small grate in a pellet tray. I had a dickens of a time learning how to insert the grate and finding out whether the pellets go on top of the grate or below it. Many videos later, I learned how to insert the grate and that the pellets go on top. You then insert the pellet tray into the rear of the unit. Ideally, you will have a propane torch to ignite it.

Once you are burning, you need to add pellets to a hopper and keep it topped off. Problem is you have no temp control on the pellet burner. Once the smallish 10" pizza is done, if you take it inside, slice it, pour a glass of wine, enjoy your meal, and some conversation, then build your second pie (and you should build your pie at the last minute because the longer that wet dough sits on the pizza peel, the more likely it is to stick to the peel), by the time you get back out to the Ooni 3, the pellet hopper is empty and the tray is burned down and you pretty much need to start over.

Once you get the oven up to temp and get the pie in, things do move quickly. The dough bubbles within 30 seconds, and within a minute you are rotating the pie so the back edges don't burn. Within 2 to 4 minutes, you can get some excellent golden to slightly charred crust on top, leopard spotting underneath, and melted cheese. But don't load your pie with a lot of toppings or else the dough will not cook through, a problem I encountered (and no fault of the oven, really).

However, the Ooni 3 did not overcome the classic pizza problem to achieve what I call "simultaneous pizzagasm," wherein the toppings and the crust are done simultaneously. The ideal scenario depends on a LOT of variables, including getting the pizza stone to the right temp, getting enough heat over the top of the pizza, and not overloading the pizza with toppings, especially thick or raw toppings like uncured sausage that need a little extra time to cook to safe temps. To do this with the pellet burner, you need the pellets burning optimally and that ain't easy after the first pie, especially because you cannot control the temp (but you can control temp with the gas burner).

There is another issue: Wood pellets make a lot of billowing white smoke and the pie can get develop a bitter, sooty taste from the white smoke. I also had issues with Roman style dough in this unit. Roman dough has a good amount of oil in it, which makes the pizza crust richer and crunchier. A simple Neapolitan dough with little or no oil performs well, but Roman dough tends to burn on the bottom. I had to open the door and cool down the stone a bit first. And that cooled down the whole oven, which interfered with our "simultaneous pizzagasm." Don't even ask about thick pizza doughs in this oven: they just don't cook through.

I did finally succeed in making some lovely pies with the Ooni 3 pellet smoker, but I also made several pizzas with undercooked dough and burnt edges, unsafe sausage, and a bitter smoke flavor.

The Bottom Line

Long story short, the Ooni 3 with the gas burner and temperature control is the better choice, and with a little practice, you can make great commercial quality pizzas in a hurry. The standard Ooni 3 is $299 and the gas burner option adds $85. Our posted MSRP below is $299 for the standard pellet burning version.

We thank Ooni for providing a pellet burner for this review. We bought the gas burner.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$299
Primary Function: 
Pizza Oven
Fuel: 
Propane Gas
Wood Pellets
Primary Capacity: 
170 square inches
Made in the USA: 
No
Review Method:

Cooked On It

We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.

Ooni (formerly Uuni)

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Ooni is a European company started in 2012 under the name Uuni with the premise of, "making the world’s first portable wood-fired pizza oven." They kicked it off with 142 Kickstarter supporters and have since grown to a global enterprise. Ooni currently offers two models and some pizza making accessories. In 2018 they changed the name from Uuni to Ooni, feeling the new spelling is easier to remember and pronounce correctly.

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*Based on 4" raw burger with 1/2" space on all sides

“The most respected and comprehensive reviewers of grills and smokers in the world”

- Larry Olmsted,
Senior Contributor (Forbes)


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