By Noelle Carter for the LA Times.
It looks like a small steel tank atop four squat legs, with a tall chimney stack at one end. And it could be your new favorite pizza oven. Meet the Uuni portable wood-fired oven, the brainchild of Kristian Tapaninaho, founder of Uuni HQ in the United Kingdom, which produces the ovens. “Uuni” is the Finnish word for pizza, and the oven has been on the market for just over three years.
“Homemade pizza has been a real passion of mine,” says Tapaninaho, who is originally from Pyhäsalmi, Finland. He started getting into pizza-making around 2010, and before long, his passion had turned into an obsession. “I kept improving and improving, but I hit a wall with the domestic oven we had,” he said.
“I kept thinking, ‘There are better ways to do this. What’s a better solution?’”
For many fans, a great pizza is hard to produce at home. Standard ovens simply don’t reach the requisite temperature to quickly bake a pie to perfection. Short of installing an elaborate oven, enjoying a great pie in the comfort of your living room means settling for delivery.
He started doing some research and realized there was nothing on the market for a smaller, more inexpensive oven. Tapaninaho has no formal background in product development or inventing — he studied photography in school — but credits his creativity to a childhood reading about science and engineering. “I built a lot of things growing up.” That, and his mother was an avid baker, and ran her own bakery for a while. “I grew up around baking.”
In 2012, Tapaninaho started tinkering, working and building an original concept. He had no idea about what shape it might take or how it would look. “I wanted an oven that was small, compact, lightweight and got really hot really fast,” he says.
About a year later, Tapaninaho began prototyping the oven. He then launched a Kickstarter campaign. In July 2013, Tapaninaho shipped his first commercial Uuni oven.
“It’s a nice alternative to the other larger and more expensive ovens on the market,” says Tapaninaho. The $299 oven is relatively compact, at almost 19 inches long, 14 inches wide and five inches tall, not including the legs or chimney, which is a little over two feet tall, and a shorter hopper for loading wood pellets. The portable oven weighs just under 25 pounds and is constructed mostly of brushed stainless steel with a stone baking board large enough to bake a 13-inch pizza. Heated by compressed oak wood pellets sold by the company (you can also use premium heating or barbecue pellets available online or at specialty stores), the oven is capable of reaching 900 degrees in about 10 minutes.
The oven takes a little practice to figure out the workings and relative heat (it has no thermometer). But it can be fun for outdoor parties where everyone prepares an individual pizza. When tested, pizzas were fully baked in 1 to 2 minutes, depending on their size and toppings.
Tapaninaho now ships the ovens to more than 60 countries around the world, including the U.S. “We started out slow, but it’s really taken off in the last 12 to 15 months,” he says.
One to two minutes for a great pie? Sure beats delivery.
Uuni 2S portable wood-fired oven with stone baking board. $299.