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Pizza - The Best Methods And Techniques to Make it At Home

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Found these through a recommendation from someone. Pretty interesting, though I wish they were not $2150. I really need to look at building one.

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Found these through a recommendation from someone. Pretty interesting, though I wish they were not $2150. I really need to look at building one.

A 16 inch opening doesn't give you a lot of room to maneuver.

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A lot of people have probably already heard about Heston Blumenthal's technique for the "perfect pizza" at home: heat a cast iron skillet on high heat for several minutes on the burner, flip it upside down, stick it in the oven under the broiler, and cook the pizza on that.

I have a few problems with the technique:

  1. Even large cast iron skillets aren't quite big enough for more than a personal-sized pie.
  2. You can only do one (small) pizza at a time.
  3. To get the pan back up to temperature between pies, you're basically sticking a surface covered in flour, dough bits, and other detritus directly on the cook-top.
  4. If your pan is seasoned, this isn't great for it.

So I tried to rework this to feed more people more efficiently:

  1. Crank the oven. Use two pizza stones. Forget the skillet.
  2. Once the oven is up to temp, turn on the boiler and try and squeeze a few more joules into the top stone.
  3. Switch back to bake.
  4. Put your first pie on the bottom stone, prep your second.
  5. Move the first pie to the top stone, put your second on the bottom stone.
  6. After a minute or two, switch over to the broiler.
  7. Switch back to bake, remove the top pie.
  8. Move the bottom pie to the top.
  9. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So basically, you're constantly rotating par-cooked pies from the bottom stone to the stone that's under the broiler, and using the power of the broiler to finish.

These were the best pies I've ever made. Beautiful crust from top to bottom, and the broiler really gives the pies a brick-oven taste and texture. There were a few nicely charred black spots that went really well with the sweet, fruity EVOO I finished them with.

This is my new go-to!

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[*]Crank the oven. Use two pizza stones. Forget the skillet.

[*]Once the oven is up to temp, turn on the boiler and try and squeeze a few more joules into the top stone.

[*]Switch back to bake.

[*]Put your first pie on the bottom stone, prep your second.

It's funny you should post this, I made pizza for the family last night (olive oil, caramelized leeks, goat cheese, and arugula for what it's worth) using a similar method to what you recommend, and it turned out ok, but what I struggle with the most is your fourth step. At this point, I've got a very hot pizza stone in the oven, and a flimsy pizza weighted with toppings sitting on a cutting board on the counter, and I've never figured out a good way to transfer this to the stone. I usually wind up folding it in half like a calzone, using a couple of big spatulas to transfer to the edge of the pizza stone, and then trying to unfold it...this is only sometimes successful...the dough sticks to itself and sometimes won't come apart, and it's always a bit of a mess. Any advice? There's probably some simple way people do this that I just haven't thought of yet.

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It's funny you should post this, I made pizza for the family last night (olive oil, caramelized leeks, goat cheese, and arugula for what it's worth) using a similar method to what you recommend, and it turned out ok, but what I struggle with the most is your fourth step. At this point, I've got a very hot pizza stone in the oven, and a flimsy pizza weighted with toppings sitting on a cutting board on the counter, and I've never figured out a good way to transfer this to the stone. I usually wind up folding it in half like a calzone, using a couple of big spatulas to transfer to the edge of the pizza stone, and then trying to unfold it...this is only sometimes successful...the dough sticks to itself and sometimes won't come apart, and it's always a bit of a mess. Any advice? There's probably some simple way people do this that I just haven't thought of yet.

How about a good-quality pizza peel? Would that do the trick?

I use semolina flour (burns less quickly) on my pizza peel, assemble the pie on that, and slide it into the oven. The same peel works great for removing it from the oven.

(but i might be misunderstanding the problem)

(caffeine is slow on the uptake this morning)

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At this point, I've got a very hot pizza stone in the oven, and a flimsy pizza weighted with toppings sitting on a cutting board on the counter, and I've never figured out a good way to transfer this to the stone.
A couple of tips:

  • As KMango says, try using semolina flour. Cornmeal works, too. And be liberal with it.
  • Assemble your pizza ON your pizza peel (you have a pizza peel, right???). As you work with it, though, the semolina you used as "lubricant" starts to moisten from the dough. So every step you want to slide the peel around to make sure the dough doesn't stick (shimmy it back and forth). Lay the dough down, shimmy. Apply sauce, shimmy. Apply cheese, shimmy. Top, shimmy.
  • Shimmy constantly as you move it to the oven and it should slide right off.
  • You say your pizza is "weighted down" with toppings. I used to have a huge problem, every single time, of overtopping the pizza. Use a light hand. There should be more empty space on your pie than topped space. You'll find that doing so makes things much easier, and you end up with a much better pizza.

Now, if you're prepping your second pizza on the peel, you obviously can't use the peel to move the first pie up and out of the way! Due to some overzealous gift-giving, I actually have TWO peels, so that makes things easier for me. If you can work quickly, you can also move the first pie up with your single peel, do the second pizza, and then by the time you're done you should be ready to broil the first.

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  • As KMango says, try using semolina flour. Cornmeal works, too. And be liberal with it.

Keeping the semolina in a big, reclosable (to keep it from absorbing moisture between uses) salt shaker also makes it easy to scatter an even distribution.

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Ages ago Mktye suggested parchment paper to me and it works like a dream. I prep the pizza directly on the parchment, slide the parchment onto a cookie sheet for transfer to the stone, and bake the pizza on the parchment. This way you can prep a bunch of pizzas at the same time too and are only limited by counter space.

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Ages ago Mktye suggested parchment paper to me and it works like a dream. I prep the pizza directly on the parchment, slide the parchment onto a cookie sheet for transfer to the stone, and bake the pizza on the parchment. This way you can prep a bunch of pizzas at the same time too and are only limited by counter space.

This technique works great with baking bread as well.

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Ages ago Mktye suggested parchment paper to me and it works like a dream. I prep the pizza directly on the parchment, slide the parchment onto a cookie sheet for transfer to the stone, and bake the pizza on the parchment. This way you can prep a bunch of pizzas at the same time too and are only limited by counter space.

I use this for pizza and bread all the time and it works like a champ. It also helps to reduce the flour, semolina, and corn meal debris that seems to get all over the place. Well for me anyway. :(

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So, anybody tried this--pizza in a cast-iron skillet? I've been reasonably happy using a baking stone, but this looks intriguing.

Link's busted, but I'm guessing this is the Bittman technique?

I honestly haven't tried it. My beef with it is that you can't make a very big pizza that way. I guess the question is, how big of a difference is there between a 550 degree pizza stone and a 550 degree iron skillet in terms of the final product?

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Link's busted, but I'm guessing this is the Bittman technique?

I honestly haven't tried it. My beef with it is that you can't make a very big pizza that way. I guess the question is, how big of a difference is there between a 550 degree pizza stone and a 550 degree iron skillet in terms of the final product?

Hmmm. Link is still working for me. I've never seen Bittman do pizza in a cast-iron skillet. I guess the question would be what, if any, effect the sloped sides of a skillet might have as opposed to a flat pizza stone.

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Link's busted, but I'm guessing this is the Bittman technique?

I honestly haven't tried it. My beef with it is that you can't make a very big pizza that way. I guess the question is, how big of a difference is there between a 550 degree pizza stone and a 550 degree iron skillet in terms of the final product?

Link works for me too. Not a Bittman article, but they heat the skillet on a burner so the surface will be much hotter than 550F.

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Cafe Pettito on Connecticut between R & S (its now Alero) used to serve "fried" pizza. It was OK. I wonder how this technique compares.

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Holy crap, I remember that place from college! Nothing quite like a FRIED greasy pizza when you're already drunk.

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Recently I used a similar technique with good results -- fry the dough in a cast iron skillet, then remove from skillet, top, and finish in the oven (not broiler). Alex Guarnaschelli's skillet fried pizza with roasted mushrooms and charred broccoli rabe pesto The pizzas (two 12") charred nicely in the skillet.

The technique in the article does not looked liked a fried pizza, just a vehicle to bring a ton of heat to the dough quickly. That said, frying the dough might have its merits.

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Wifey was out of town, and I was bored. No, that's not the prelude to my letter to Penthouse (this time)... it explains why I found myself with the time to do this:

post-1225-127032571708_thumb.jpg

Yes, that's right! Using only the power of my imagination I'm going to try and use my Weber Kettle to make a brick oven pizza. This could go one of several ways (ordered from most to least favorable outcome):

  1. I make incredible pizza.
  2. The thing doesn't get hot enough, and makes okay pizza.
  3. One of the Weber legs buckles under the weight and the entire kettle crashes through my brand new sliding glass door. My house catches fire. The blaze incinerates everything except me, my wife, and her varsity softball bat.
  4. I make shitty pizza.

Wish me luck!

More pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2315663&id=5317785

Idle hands truly are the devil's playthings.

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Wish me luck!

So basically this turned into a $20 class on how not to make brick oven pizza. Pretty much everything important shattered in the heat, including the pizza stone and the all-important terra cotta roof (without which there wouldn't be enough radiant heat coming down on the top of the pizza).

26761_719913385694_5317785_41005308_2997961_n.jpg

26761_719913390684_5317785_41005309_1018278_n.jpg

Luckily I had a backup pizza stone and my regular ol' oven preheated as a backup, so dinner was still on.

Back to the old drawing board.

I just wish I knew more about masonry: http://sites.google.com/site/pizzahacker/

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So basically this turned into a $20 class on how not to make brick oven pizza. Pretty much everything important shattered in the heat, including the pizza stone and the all-important terra cotta roof (without which there wouldn't be enough radiant heat coming down on the top of the pizza).

26761_719913385694_5317785_41005308_2997961_n.jpg

26761_719913390684_5317785_41005309_1018278_n.jpg

Luckily I had a backup pizza stone and my regular ol' oven preheated as a backup, so dinner was still on.

Back to the old drawing board.

I just wish I knew more about masonry: http://sites.google.com/site/pizzahacker/

Fire brick. Think fireplaces.

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Fire brick. Think fireplaces.

Any idea where I might procure some?

The stupid bricks that made up the walls were actually the only pieces that DIDN'T break.

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