Author Topic: Charred crust  (Read 3024 times)

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Offline Steve

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Charred crust
« on: December 01, 2004, 08:43:30 AM »
My wife has been making NY style pizzas for the family since I've been busy at work. She's been using my tried-and-true NY style recipe yet her pizzas do not have that classic NY taste. She's been using the same flours, same cheeses, same sauces, yet her pizza is somewhat bland.

The only difference between her pizza and mine is that she's not as strict about the oven temperature as I am. She sometimes uses the stone but mostly she likes using the screen. She pre-heats the oven but only for 30 minutes or so. Her pizza crust has a nice color, but it's nothing like mine.

I like to preheat the oven for an hour. And I get that oven as hot as possible by opening the oven door and letting out a little heat so that the heating elements will kick back on. By using this technique I can coax my oven to 550 F. with the stone itself approaching 600 F. Then, when I get the pizza in the oven, I crank on the broiler which cooks the top of the pizza.

Using my technique, my NY style pizza crust goes beyond the "golden brown" stage and into the "almost burnt" or "charred" stage. And my pizza tastes so much better than hers (and even she agrees!)  :)
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Online Pete-zza

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2004, 08:53:35 AM »
Steve,

When you bake your pizza do you put the stone on an upper oven rack so that the pizza is close to the broiler heating element or do you move the pizza from a stone on a lower oven rack to an upper rack close to the broiler?  Also, have you been able to achieve similar results using a pizza screen? I assume that when using a screen you wouldn't need one hour of preheating.  

Peter

Offline Steve

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2004, 11:28:33 AM »
I don't use the screen, my wife does. And I think that's what's making the difference. Let me explain.

If the heating element is on in the oven, the stone (or tiles in my case) is absorbing the radiated heat and "storing" it. Each time I open the oven door and let the bubble of hot air out, the thermostat senses the cool air and turns on the heating element to bring the oven back up to temperature. But it's the air temperature that the thermostat is reading, so while the bubble of hot air is released, the stone retains its heat and starts to get even hotter when the heating element turns back on. So by the time I'm ready to cook pizza my stone is approaching 600 F. The broiler is cooking the top of the pizza using direct radiation, so the top cooks fast like in a commercial oven.

A pizza screen will not absorb and retain the heat inside the oven. So, when the thermostat clicks off at 500 F, that's all you get... 500 F. And when you open the oven door you let out the heat and the oven temp has to bounce back. Plus you're putting in a cold pizza on a cold screen.

So, using my method, the cold pizza is placed on a super-hot stone and starts cooking immediately. And the broiler causes the oven temperature above the stone  (where the pizza is) to rebound VERY quickly.

I put my stone two notches from the top (i.e. not the very top position, one position down from the top position).
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Online Pete-zza

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2004, 12:26:15 PM »
Steve,

I sometimes use both a screen and a pizza stone to make pizzas.  I usually do this when I want to make a pizza--such as a 16-inch pizza--that is bigger than my stone.  I preheat the stone at the oven's highest possible temperature (around 550 degrees F) for about an hour, bake the pizza on the screen for several minutes (most of the baking time), and then transfer the pizza onto the stone for the last minute or two to get better bottom crust browning.  The pizza is stiff at this point so it doesn't matter that it overlaps the stone at the edges.  If I turned on the broiler for the last minute or two (assuming that my stone is at the second level from the top) would I get the type of browning/charring you mention?  

And what would happen if your wife moved a pizza on a screen from a lower rack position where it has been baking to a higher position and turned on the broiler?  I realize that your approach takes fullest advantage of the principles of oven physics in a home setting, but the alternatives I mention might be suitable compromises.

A couple of final questions.  Are there circumstances where you prefer to use a screen over a stone or tiles?  And, have you concluded one way or the other that using some combination of two stones (or sets of tiles), with or without side portions, produces a better end product than the approach you described earlier today in your posting?  

I think it would also be helpful to see a photo sometime of an example of the "charred" pizza you describe.  I was in NYC for a few days over the Thanksgiving holiday and while I didn't have enough time to do a lot of pizza sampling, I did look at the pizzas made at several local pizzerias--mainly NY style--and was surprised how light the crusts at the rims were, even after reheating to sell by the slice.  I assume from this that charring is not a standard characteristic of a NY style pizza.

Peter




Offline DKM

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2004, 01:31:37 PM »
I don't use the screen, my wife does. And I think that's what's making the difference. Let me explain.

If the heating element is on in the oven, the stone (or tiles in my case) is absorbing the radiated heat and "storing" it. Each time I open the oven door and let the bubble of hot air out, the thermostat senses the cool air and turns on the heating element to bring the oven back up to temperature. But it's the air temperature that the thermostat is reading, so while the bubble of hot air is released, the stone retains its heat and starts to get even hotter when the heating element turns back on. So by the time I'm ready to cook pizza my stone is approaching 600 F. The broiler is cooking the top of the pizza using direct radiation, so the top cooks fast like in a commercial oven.

A pizza screen will not absorb and retain the heat inside the oven. So, when the thermostat clicks off at 500 F, that's all you get... 500 F. And when you open the oven door you let out the heat and the oven temp has to bounce back. Plus you're putting in a cold pizza on a cold screen.

So, using my method, the cold pizza is placed on a super-hot stone and starts cooking immediately. And the broiler causes the oven temperature above the stone  (where the pizza is) to rebound VERY quickly.

I put my stone two notches from the top (i.e. not the very top position, one position down from the top position).

This sounds like something I would like to try.  I have alwasy had the stones on the lower level, not the upper.  Sound like a good idea.

DKM
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Offline Steve

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2004, 01:57:24 PM »
"Charred" crust:
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Offline DKM

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2004, 03:45:53 PM »
Oh, Ah, Oo  :)
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Offline canadave

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2004, 01:33:48 AM »
Quote
I was in NYC for a few days over the Thanksgiving holiday and while I didn't have enough time to do a lot of pizza sampling, I did look at the pizzas made at several local pizzerias--mainly NY style--and was surprised how light the crusts at the rims were, even after reheating to sell by the slice.  I assume from this that charring is not a standard characteristic of a NY style pizza.


Nope, that's correct Pete..."street" NYC pizza is not charred.  However, the "elite" pizzerias (Lombardi's, John's, Grimaldi's, etc) do char their pizzas with the coal/wood/brick oven.  When I try to make a NY pizza at home here, I try to make a "street" pizza though.

Dave

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2004, 07:27:14 AM »
Dave,

Peter Reinhart, in his cookbook American Pie, refers to the pizzas produced by places like Lombardi's, Totonno's, John's, Grimaldi's, DiFara's, Sally's and Pepe's as being "first generation Neo-Neapolitan" pizzas.  Many of these use coal-fired ovens which are known for producing a lot of charring of the crust through carbonization. Reinhart puts the New York style of pizza, which he says is the foundation of the pizza-by-the slice business, in the "second generation Neo-Neapolitan" category.  (The "third generation Neo-Neapolitan" category includes mainly the West Coast pizzas such as produced by Wofgang Puck, The California Pizza Kitchen, etc.)  The pizzas I saw on the streets of NY were clearly within the second generation Neo-Neapolitan category.  

The other thing I noticed about the NY "street" pizzas, which you educated me on some time ago, is that the rims of such pizzas are rather small.  I happen to prefer a nice, large, chewy rim--it's one of my favorite parts of a slice of pizza--but apparently a large rim is not a standard characteristic of a NY street style pizza.

Peter

Offline canadave

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Re:Charred crust
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2004, 12:51:13 PM »
Correct on all counts, Pete.  I have to say I'm not sure what a third-generation pizza (California Pizza Kitchen) is like, since I've never seen one.  But NY street pizza is definitely 2nd-generation Neopolitan, as Reinhart calls it.

It's too bad you didn't get more of a chance to sample some of the pizza during your NY stay.  If you get a chance some other time, I highly recommend Ben's Pizza in Greenwich Village on 3rd Street and Macdougal; also, opening in a week or two just a few blocks south (on Macdougal and Houston St) is an outlet of DiFara's called "Demarco's" (see my post in the "restaurant reviews" section here)--that place should be really good.

And for amazement's sake, if you go into the bowels of Penn Station, there's a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria that has pizza that's not particularly delicious (not bad either), but the slices are gigantic--biggest I've ever seen, and *cheap*.  It's about 100 feet (maybe 6 stores down) from the northbound A-train exit on the lower level--I can't remember the name of it.  I know that doesn't help much, but if you ever go back and really want to try that place out, I could find more details and give you better directions.

Dave