Wood-fired pizza from a restaurant is awesome, sure, but what about owning a wood pellet pizza oven yourself? With a versatile, modern oven like the Uuni 3, you can cook delicious homemade pizzas in a matter of minutes.
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More importantly, since you’ve got total control over what goes in your pizza, you can choose to make things just the way you like them. This might involve special dough that fits perfectly into your unique diet, your favorite set of toppings, or even an exotic twist that’s difficult for the pizza place to get right.
No matter what kind of wood-fired pizza you like, the Uuni 3 pizza oven gives you the ability to make that pizza in your backyard or patio.
But is the Uuni 3 worth it?
In this detailed review, we’ll go over the basic features of the oven, what it’s like to operate, and how it holds up over time. These details will make it easy for you to examine the oven and determine whether or not it’s the right fit for your household.
Overall, we think the Uuni 3 is a great pizza oven, but there are a handful of downsides that you should definitely be aware of before you buy a pizza oven for yourself. This little bit of knowledge might be the difference between letting your Uuni sit forgotten in the garage or getting years of perfect pizzas out of this wood pellet pizza oven.
Uuni 3 Pizza Oven – Why You’ll Never Look Back
This Uuni 3 Pizza Oven is a simple contraption. It combines a sturdy firebox, a small hopper, an efficient chimney, and a moderately insulated cooking compartment in a tight, compact package. It’s less than 30 pounds, even with the included stone baking platform and durable stainless steel construction.
The Uuni 3 is the latest in a series of ever evolving ovens. There have been numerous improvements from the first Uuni to this model today, and it shows. While this isn’t the simplest cooking device you’ll ever use, the Uuni 3 is fairly simple in assembly, operation, and cleanup.
As you might imagine, the Uuni 3 wood pellet pizza oven runs on wood pellets. In order to generate heat, the pizza oven harnesses the thermal energy of a chimney of burning wood pellets. You’ll need to buy special wood pellets for Uuni ovens, although any food-grade hardwood pellets will do.
It’s not too difficult to find wood pellets at well under $2 a pound, and a few pounds will give this small pizza oven plenty of cooking time. Make sure you buy some pellets with your oven to save on shipping, since Uuni doesn’t put any in the box.
Cooking on the Uuni isn’t too hard.
You light the pellets, load the hopper, and wait till the stone in the inside of your oven gets nice and hot. Once everything is properly warmed up, you throw your pizza in for an incredibly short time, rotating it frequently.
Depending on exactly how hot you get your Uuni 3 and how thick your pizza is, you’re looking at cook times of 2 minutes or less. When your pizza starts to get crispy and browned, you pull it from the oven.
The Uuni’s hopper isn’t very large, which means you can’t run it on full-blast for more than about five minutes at a time. It takes about two minutes to cook a single pizza. This means that cooking more than two pizzas at once will require a refill of pellets partway through.
This process is easy enough, but it’s worth noting that you will have to top off your hopper a few times if you plan to entertain a party of adults.
I’m a big fan of pizza, but one of the features that really sold me on the Uuni 3 is how well it handles other foods. Searing steaks in the Uuni is perfect, since the inside of the oven gets really, really hot. You can also cook a variety of other commonly grilled foods or even sear fish inside this wood-fired oven.
In general, the Uuni does a pretty good job. It’s a bit small and a bit under-engineered, perhaps, but it’s an astounding pizza cooker. The rear runs hot, but this isn’t too much of a problem to overcome as long as you pick up a decent pizza peel. Otherwise, you’ll be fantastically satisfied with the amount of heat that this thing puts out.
Admittedly, you might struggle to tap into this heat at first. This is a common sort of problem for all kinds of wood and charcoal ovens, grills, and the like, however. It’s definitely not unique to the Uuni 3. Any sort of cooking that involves an actual fire has a bit of a learning curve to it.
Luckily, in today’s world, you can find helpful videos on the internet that can jump-start the learning process. You might ruin your first pizza, but you’ll get the hang of things by pizza number two or three.
One trick that you might not find on the internet: the Uuni 3 works best when you have a helper. The hopper on this little oven isn’t ginormous, so you may find that the fire burns down completely while you’re assembling a second pie.
To mitigate this, make plenty of dough and persuade your helper to prepare your second (and third and fourth) pizzas while the first one cooks. This should allow you to produce several perfectly leopard-spotted pizzas in a matter of minutes.
While lighting the Uuni 3 might be hard the first time, once you’ve gotten the hang of using the included lighting hole, you’ll have no problems. Again, there’s a learning curve involved, but most users find that it’s pretty easy to stick a lighter (or match) in the hole and get things going.
If you’re not the best with fire, fear not – you can always use another method to get your pellets going or even eschew the use of pellets entirely and use Uuni’s own gas burner designed specifically for this very pizza oven.
Simple machines like the Uuni 3 can be modified very, very easily.
While some users advocate upgrading some of the more basic parts on the Uuni 3, I think that the best improvement you can make is to hook up a gas burner instead of the pellet firebox.
Pellets are great – they can give you a bit of a smoky flavor, they’re cheap, and they’re fun to use – but they don’t let you precisely control the temperature inside of your pizza oven, especially with the basic setup inside the Uuni 3.
Uuni’s official gas accessory, however, can produce a perfectly even stream of heat for hours. This lets you control exactly how hot the inside of your pizza oven is.
With the right combination of dough, heat, and time, you can achieve a transcendent pizza with a perfectly browned crust, golden cheese, and slightly charred toppings. This perfect marriage of factors becomes a lot more realistic when you can control the heat of your oven with a knob.
There’s one other issue I have with the pellets involved in this wood pellet oven, and that’s smoke. See, barbecue experts will tell you that smoke doesn’t stick to food at high temperatures.
Instead, you get the most smoky flavor when the smoke can condense into a liquid and drip back onto the meat you’re cooking. This means that temperatures below 300 F are absolutely essential to getting deep, rich smoky flavors in food.
The Uuni 3 does not do temperatures below 300 F. In fact, it’s not uncommon to get readings of 700 F or more from your infrared thermometer during normal use. This means that you don’t get a lot of the good, flavorful smoke dripping onto your pizza.
Instead, you get a sooty white smoke that can make your pizza taste a bit bitter. It’s not going to ruin a pie by any means, but it will have a subtle effect on some of the pizzas you cook in the Uuni 3.
Again, this issue is totally solved by using the gas burner instead of the pellet box. Without wood pellets, you don’t get any ash at all. While you lose out on the little bit of smoky flavor you would have gotten with the pellets, you’re not missing out on much.
Speaking of modifications, I mentioned earlier that you’ll want a good quality pizza peel to get the most out of your Uuni. The unit comes with a pizza peel in the box, but you’ll want to get a slightly nicer one that’s a bit bigger in order to flip your pizzas around more effectively. Some people advocate having two peels: one for loading the pizza, one for turning it.
I’m not convinced that’s entirely necessary, but it can be nice (especially when you’ve got a helper setting up new pizzas for you to load every couple minutes).
One final thing to consider is storage.
Uuni (or Ooni, depending on who you ask) sells a storage bag for this pizza oven. Since you have to disassemble it to put it in the bag, I personally think that this is a bit overkill. I can simply place the unit in the garage and throw a sheet over it without having a special bag.
That said, it is important to keep the unit dry and sealed off from intrusions, so if you plan on leaving it outdoors the bag becomes a must-have.
Overall, the Uuni 3 is astounding at its primary job – making pizzas. It’ll take you a bit of time to get used to the raw power and unique operation of this wood-pellet powered pizza oven. If you’d like to skip part of that learning curve, consider buying the gas attachment and cooking with gas instead.
The gas burner provides consistent, even temperatures with no need for constant refilling, giving you slightly better pizzas in terms of done-ness. On the other hand, you lose the “cool factor” from cooking with traditional hardwood pellets, and you’ll get a bit less of a smoky flavor.
I strongly recommend picking up the gas burner so that you can try both methods of using the Uuni 3 and see which one works best for you!
With an Uuni 3 in your backyard, you can make traditional wood-fired pizzas in minutes. It’s a durable unit made from stainless steel that will last you for many seasons. While it’s not the cheapest thing in the world, I think the excellent pizzas, steaks, and lean burgers it produces are more than worth the cost.
How Do Pizza Ovens Work?
In principle, pizza ovens are incredibly simple. A wood-fired pizza oven operates by distributing the heat from burning wood throughout an insulated inner chamber. Inside the chamber, there’s usually some sort of object that retains heat, like a pizza stone or a hearth. This ensures that the oven maintains a high, even temperature, even if the fire fluctuates a little bit.
In practice, there are some interesting engineering problems that pizza ovens have to solve. For one, the fire in a pizza oven is usually not directly under the pizza (I think we’d call that sort of an arrangement a pizza grill).
Since heat likes to travel upwards, not sideways, it means that the folks who make pizza ovens have to somehow coax the heat from the fire out over the main cooking area.
This problem is usually solved in one of two ways. The first major method of controlling the flow of heat involves carefully managing the flow of air out of the fire. By drawing air across the fire, out over the entire heating chamber, and then out a well-placed chimney, pizza oven manufacturers can ensure that the part of the oven that’s farthest from the firebox still gets hot.
The second method is employed by the makers of the Uuni 3: you turn the pizza around. It’s pretty darn hard to set up a small, inexpensive portable pizza oven with a side-mounted firebox in such a way that the heat from the fire is evenly distributed.
Uuni makes some amount of an effort here, but they don’t try to solve the problem entirely. Instead, they simply suggest that you rotate your pizza a few times while it’s cooking. This ensures that your pizza will cook evenly, even if one part of the oven is much hotter than the rest.
Pizza ovens often get really, really hot. Even in small ovens like the Uuni 3, whole pizzas can be totally cooked and ready for consumption in mere minutes. Precise temperature control is difficult with wood burning ovens, especially in smaller models.
This means that ovens like the Uuni 3 are best suited for short, high temperature cooking: searing steaks, firing pizzas, and quickly cooking burgers. If you need low and slow heat or a specific temperature, you’ll want to use a different tool.
In order to help compensate for the lack of precise temperature control, pizza ovens are usually operated in two stages. First, the firebox is filled with lots of fuel and allowed to run really, really hot.
This gets the inside of the oven nice and toasty.
When the oven is super-hot, the operator allows the fire to dwindle and lets the inside of the oven cool off to a more reasonable temperature for cooking. After an appropriate period of cooling, the pizza (or other food) is inserted into the oven. The fire provides just enough heat to keep things hot while the pizza cooks.
Generally speaking, a pizza oven can cook a pizza in a few minutes (usually less than 5). It can quickly sear steaks in similar amounts of time. As it cools off, you can use it almost like a conventional oven to cook all sorts of other foods, including bread, cake, and other baked goods. In most cases, you should use other cooking tools for anything that requires prolonged precise heat.
The Uuni 3 Pizza Oven – Perfect Pizza from an Imperfect Pizza Oven
While the Uuni 3 Wood Pellet Pizza Oven isn’t perfect, it’s darn good at making pizzas. It’s an excellent machine that you can use for classic Italian-style wood fired pizzas, steaks, burgers, fish, and more. The high levels of heat generated from the diminutive firebox allow you to cook a pizza in as little as three minutes.
While it’s great as-is, a handful of modifications can make it even better. I strongly recommend picking up Uuni (or Ooni)’s gas burner for use with this pizza oven, as you can quickly swap it out when you don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of wood pellets or when you’d like more precise control over the temperature of your oven.
Nobody knows your taste in food better than you. Having your own pizza oven allows you to make the pizza you like the way you like it whenever you want. The Uuni 3 is fairly priced, rather durable, and fantastic at its primary job of making pizzas. It’s a purchase you’ll be proud of for years to come.