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The first few times I fired up my Ooni I often found that the pizzas were a bit mediocre. It didn’t take me long to realize that the problem was the oven not getting hot enough.
To make great pizzas you need to have the Ooni super hot, especially if you are going for the Neapolitan style of puffy, leopard-spotted crusts.
Here are some ways to get your Ooni hot enough and check you are cooking at the right temperature, whether that be with gas or wood.
1. You Aren’t Measuring The Temperature
If you are just going on “gut feeling” when your oven is ready to cook then it’s really hard to tell. I did this for the first few times and the pizza would sometimes take 1 minute and sometimes 2-3 minutes.
A drop of 200F (100C) or so will make a huge difference to the time but there is no way to know just by looking. The temperature can vary widely and drops quickly when you aren’t giving the oven the attention it needs.
Unless you have an Ooni with a built-in thermometer, the only reliable way to check the temperature is by using an infrared laser thermometer – the one you point at the surface and get a reading instantly.
These are fairly cheap ($10-20) and give you an accurate reading of the pizza oven stone. You can buy one on Amazon.
If you are using one already then make sure to point it at the center of the pizza stone. At the back near the fire is much hotter and close to the front is cooler – the center is a good average. Also, don’t stand too far away when you use it.
2. Bad Airflow With Wrong Doors Open Or Closed
When using solid fuel, the door at the front needs to be closed when preheating and cooking to get the highest temperature. You shouldn’t use a door when using gas.
The door firstly prevents cold air from blowing in but also makes the oven draw air properly from the back and up out through the chimney. This basically fans the flames at the back and sucks the hot air through the oven – also known as convection.
Remember to close the small back door which gives access to the fuel compartment. This again will help prevent excess cool air from coming in and make the oven draw air through as intended.
The chimney also plays a crucial part in the draw of the air. Keeping it open draws more air and gets the oven hotter. Of course, double-check check you have the chimney cap removed from the top too!
3. Not Fueling It Constantly (For Wood Ovens)
To get the very hottest temperatures I’ve found that you must stay very diligent with the fuel.
The temperature can rise and fall at surprisingly fast rates when the oven gets to the top temperatures. You can go from around 800F (430C) to 650F (350C) in about 15 minutes if you neglect the fire.
And that temperature difference will make your pizza take about 2-3x longer to cook and make it taste quite different.
So to counter this, you need to ensure you build a good base fire and keep adding wood or charcoal every 10-15 minutes. Add a small piece of extra wood just before you start cooking. This gives it one last boost before you throw in the pizza.
Other good practices with fuel are:
- Use very dry wood as damp wood doesn’t burn as hot
- Don’t have the fuel container too full as it suffocates the fire
- Ensure the pieces aren’t too big as large logs burn slower and less hot
- Opt for charcoal over briquettes – I’ve found briquettes are too dense and burn slower than charcoal, which burns hot and fast.
4. Gas Not Flowing Properly (For Gas Ovens)
If you are using gas as your fuel source then you will need to make sure that the gas is supplying the oven sufficiently.
Double-check the connection or try reconnecting the tank if you think it isn’t right. Make sure the oven and the tank are level and with no obstructions anywhere so that the gas can flow freely.
The type of tank and regulator (the bit at the end of the hose that controls the flow of gas) are important for the correct gas supply. Typical propane tanks up to 30 lbs (13kg) are recommended. You can use smaller camping gas tanks only with the smaller models (e.g. Ooni Koda 12 and Ooni Karu 12).
Different countries have different pressured regulators as the fittings are different – so double-check the manual or the Ooni website.
5. Not Heated For Long Enough
I have found that the official guidance of heating up the Ooni for 15-20 minutes is often not long enough to get above 750F (400C). It looks good on their marketing – “fresh pizzas within 20 minutes!” – but most times it takes longer for me.
If you’ve got your infrared thermometer then it’s easy to track the temperature rising and when it gets to the temperature you are looking for. If you don’t, then I would recommend firing it for 30 minutes with constant fuel to be sure it is hot enough.
6. Too Windy
I have found that on windy days, the oven just can’t get as hot as you would like. The wind probably brings down the air temperature in the first place and then blows the hot air too quickly out of the oven.
If you are using a gas oven then too much wind will also limit the strength of the flame as it’s blown about. Calm days will get the most efficient flame.
Using either wood or gas, you can still get it pretty hot of course, but it’s harder to get to the maximum temperatures for these reasons.
The cure? Try placing the oven somewhere out of the wind if it’s possible and safe to do so. You can’t put the ovens indoors though due to carbon monoxide being released.
7. Cold Or Damp Oven
If the oven is left somewhere cold or damp (like a shed) then it takes longer to heat up. Especially true if it hasn’t been fired up in a while. With the oven cold at its core, it needs a little longer to get hot.
The Ooni models now have decent insulation on them. But this extra mass means it also needs longer to heat up – you can’t just have a blazing hot pizza stone inside.
It can still get to maximum temperature, so the advice is the same; just keep measuring the temperature and stoking the fire until it gets to where you want it. Don’t cook too early and end up with a mediocre pizza.
The Best Ooni Temperatures For Different Pizza Types
It’s worth noting that the Ooni is capable of cooking different types of pizza styles, other than the traditional Neapolitan style, by using different temperatures. For instance, New York style pizza is cooked at a lower temperature.
New York Style – thin, crispy, chewier crust from cooking longer at a lower temperature of around 600F (315C). Stretch or roll the dough thin to get this style.
Neapolitan Style – Hand-stretched with a large puffy crust, cooked fast so that the crust remains very soft before it dries out. You have to cook it at 750-900F (400-500C) for this type of pizza, hence the Ooni.
If your oven isn’t getting hot enough then it will make more of a New York style pizza. You won’t get that big, puffy, leopard-spotted crust, instead, it’s crispier and chewier from cooking it longer and drying it out.
If you are finding that your dough just isn’t cooking through evenly, then try getting your dough nice and thin all over. Rest the dough ball for longer so it relaxes and becomes easy to stretch – check out my pizza dough recipe for more tips.
Getting your Ooni oven hot enough is important if you want to get those beautiful pizzas like the ones in Naples, Italy.
Get yourself a thermometer to check the temperatures and try to get the stone over 750F (400C). With your oven set up with the right doors closed, the chimney open and the fuel source firing well you should get there easily.
You just might need to wait a little longer if it’s cold, windy or you are a bit out of practice.