Of all the cooking gadgets I've bought, my Ooni Fyra outdoor pizza oven is by far the most popular: it's one of the best pizza ovens you can get. My kids absolutely love it and my friends rave about it. Some say it's ruined local bars' pizzas for them permanently – and that's something I can't take any credit for. All I did was buy the ingredients and heat up the oven.
Oonis are brilliant things, but sometimes not everything is obvious until you've actually cooked in one. So here are five things I wish I'd known before buying my Ooni Fyra pizza oven.
1. Ooni pizzas are so much better than BBQ ones
I've cooked pizzas on my Weber BBQ over a pizza stone, and they were pretty good. But the pizzas you make in an Ooni or similar pizza oven are a whole different level. That's because the flames soar over the top of the pie, whereas in a BBQ all the heat comes from below. The effect that has on time and toppings is dramatic: an Ooni pizza's good to go in around 90 seconds, and the reheat time is less than it is with a BBQ too: about five minutes between pizzas. And you don't have to wait forever for your pizza stone to heat up as you do with a BBQ.
2. Ooni pizza ovens are incredibly clean
As a long time charcoal griller I'm used to lots of ash after a barbecue, so the first time I opened up my Ooni to clean it I thought I must have done something wrong. Where was all the ash? It turns out that the heat pellets produce tiny quantities of ash: after cooking pizzas for me and the family there was only a tiny dusting of ash in the removable tray. If I'd know than I'd have bought an Ooni years ago.
3. There's a knack to getting the heat right
There's more to cooking in your Ooni than just chucking heat beads into the hopper. Too few and you'll run out of fuel; too many and you'll choke off the air. I haven't quite got the hang of this yet but I've got a pretty good success rate; the trick is to check frequently. Unlike BBQs you don't need to worry about losing heat when you check the state of your fuel.
4. You've got to position your Ooni carefully
Whenever I open the front door, there's a backdraft that makes flames shoot out the back of my Ooni. I didn't realise that – I'm not a big one for reading manuals or manufacturers' how-to guides – and I'm very glad neither of my kids was sitting too close when it happened for the first time. Now I'm aware of it I make sure the Ooni isn't near anyone who it might set on fire.
5. The front door can turn you into a steak
It's faded now, but for the last three weeks I've had a furious burn on one of my hands after an accidental encounter with my Ooni's front door. The Ooni's heat doesn't transfer through its legs to your table, but that front door gets exceptionally hot – hot enough to char my skin and make it look like a nicely cooked ribeye steak.