Pizza experiment finished

by Jon Sullivan - 2020-01-08 - Food

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I've made some posts about trying to make my perfect pizza in my tiny apartment with a sketchy oven. Approximately 40 pizzas later, I have it nailed.

The initial interest came from a sudden realization that I hadn't made a pizza in years. Which 15 years ago would have been quite odd, as I made pizzas from scratch all the time. And when I tried cooking one a few weeks ago it turned out pretty marginal. Which is unacceptable.

I know how to make dough and get it in the oven fine. The problem was it just wasn't cooking well at all. Even with a pizza stone the bottom wasn't cooking enough. And anything other than super thin crust wasn't getting any bounce at all. The obvious problem was my apartment situation. I love where I live, but the oven is average at best. Half of something will be burned and half will be raw, and the actual temp it gets to is somewhat random. It also makes a noise that implies it might blow up if you try to get it to 550.

I have a convection over which I love, and use that rather than the main oven for everything. So the real experiment was to get that hot enough to cook a proper pizza. And that was a total fail. Even cooking on a pizza stone that had been heated for a long time, it just wasn't hot enough. And getting a bigger stone, or one of the fancy pizza steel plates ran into size issues.

So screw that..... How can I make my random temp oven work for a proper pizza?

Just using it as intended wasn't going to work, since just turning it to 550 degrees, heating a pizza stone, and putting in a pizza led to very random results. And I'm not kidding when I say it made a sound that is pretty frightening for a gas oven.

Sadly, I doubt this "solution" will be useful for anyone else, but who knows. So.... Here's how I bake a pizza these days :

  1. Heat up my spiffy new 3/8" thick pizza steel for 20 minutes. Not longer or it gets way too hot. This thing is such overkill for my needs that I feel silly. It is a beast. It's so heavy the rack in the oven buckles a bit. But if the problem is ever, "the bottom of my pizza doesn't cook enough", that will cease to exist. It gets crazy hot.
  2. Since the baking heat is random, heat up the pizza steel with the boiler, which actually works right. In short, I don't even worry about the oven temp. But it ends up being around 500 degrees, which is good.
  3. Slide the pizza onto the steel and watch it closely. It can burn the bottom to charcoal. 3 minutes is too short, 6 minutes is too long. When it's close to done, slide a pizza screen/pan under it. That lets it still cook, but not burn.
  4. For the top, after you slide in the pizza, switch the broiler to low. Spin the pizza several times to account for hot spots. So I'm watching the bottom, watching the top, spinning it now and then.
  5. Take it out when the top looks good and let it cool on a wire rack. A 12 inch thick-ish crust pizza cooks in about 10 minutes. Although I could probably do it in 5 minutes if I wanted to be more brave with the broiler on high.

This is the pizza steel I got :

Do I recommend it? Only if you know a pizza stone won't be enough. Only if you want to have a huge 30 pound steel plate you'll hardly ever use, but doesn't fit anywhere convenient. Only if you don't mind adding a lot of stress to your pizza baking process. Only if, like me, an 8/10 pizza from scratch is somehow unacceptable.

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