Author Topic: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.  (Read 14935 times)

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scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #50 on: February 23, 2011, 12:50:51 PM »
Ah, so you'd make a brick cover for the probe. That might work.

I was also picturing slicing off the top of the brick and carving it out to make a box for the probe.


Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #51 on: February 23, 2011, 03:47:34 PM »
My thinking on the soft firebrick is to cut down the height if needed, very easy, then measure up from the top of the steel to the center of the probe and carve out a hole in the brick that the soft brick sits over the probe and is supported by the shelf. I don't know how long the probe is but it would be best if the hole didn't go all the way through the brick. Oh well, just a thought to get a longer heat time.
Don

this sounds like a great idea.  I bet it could work better than the frozen foil sleeves. 

Offline b-ry

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #52 on: February 23, 2011, 04:26:08 PM »
Yes, I agree.  I actually shot off an email to him, pointing out potential legal ramifications and the need for some sort of disclaimer.  So far, no response.  I don't think this method will burn houses down, but, much like a lot of ovens crap out during cleaning cycles, this method could be a little hard on the oven.  If, for some reason, a freak accident occurred and a house did catch on fire while using this method, I wouldn't want to be the author.

Oh, and please give us details about your oven trick.  I completely understand your caution (I'm the same way), but for those that wish to take that direction, it's nice to have a few options, especially options with sensible temperature bumps, as opposed to the Varasano lock cutting cleaning cycle insanity.

Are you sure this is an oven trick?

I am not sure what the actually book text says, but the text of the WSJ article says the reason this works is because the steel is more conductive than brick stone.  I also don't think this is the exact book text, since I have heard various accounts and some have mentioned the book even says 3/4 inch steel.  

PROBLEM #3: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.

SOLUTION: Make an oven out of a steel sheet.

Get a ¼-inch-thick sheet of steel from a metal fabricator (Google a local one), have it cut to the size of your oven shelf and insert it in the rack closest to the broiler. Preheat the oven at its highest temperature for ½ hour, then turn on the broiler and slide your pizza onto the metal plate. It should emerge perfectly cooked in 1.5 to 2 minutes.

WHAT'S GOING ON: Pizza in a brick oven cooks at about 800 degrees—way hotter than the highest setting of most home ovens. The metal sheet is more conductive than a brick oven's stone, so it can cook just as fast at a lower temperature.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 04:46:20 PM by b-ry »

scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #53 on: February 23, 2011, 05:04:56 PM »
Are you sure this is an oven trick?

I am not sure what the actually book text says, but the text of the WSJ article says the reason this works is because the steel is more conductive than brick stone.  I also don't think this is the exact book text, since I have heard various accounts and some have mentioned the book even says 3/4 inch steel.  

From testing steel plate ourselves, we know, for certain, two facts.

1. 1/4" steel plate cut to allow air flow in a 550 degree oven will NOT produce a 2 minute pizza.

2. 3/4" steel plate might produce a 2 minute pizza at 550, but a 3/4" steel plate cut to the size of an oven shelf would weigh upwards of 90 pounds.

Neither of these scenarios is feasible.  The dimensions of an oven shelf are usually large enough to block air flow.  When air flow is blocked, you have thermostat manipulation, aka oven tricks.  As printed (1/4") that's the only possible way this method could work.  1/4" steel plate has to be at least 650 deg.  in order to bake a 2 minute pizza.

Sure, it's possible that the newspaper might have made a mistake, but, for a promotional piece that I'm almost certain the author signed off on, I think the chances are very slim.  Also, Nathan, being the geek that he is, has a pretty massive online presence.  If this article did misquote the book, he'd mention this fact- somewhere, and we'd definitely hear about it.

Offline thezaman

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #54 on: February 23, 2011, 05:10:10 PM »
in my oven it didn't work. i still need to get a tighter fit on the shelf, also my broiler is a little finicky. the other option is that what can be cooked with this setup might be acceptable to someone who never had a really good wood fired pizza. my wife ate a slice the next day and she asked how i fired the oven in the snow.

Offline b-ry

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #55 on: February 23, 2011, 05:16:49 PM »
From testing steel plate ourselves, we know, for certain, two facts.

1. 1/4" steel plate cut to allow air flow in a 550 degree oven will NOT produce a 2 minute pizza.

2. 3/4" steel plate might produce a 2 minute pizza at 550, but a 3/4" steel plate cut to the size of an oven shelf would weigh upwards of 90 pounds.

Neither of these scenarios is feasible.  The dimensions of an oven shelf are usually large enough to block air flow.  When air flow is blocked, you have thermostat manipulation, aka oven tricks.  As printed (1/4") that's the only possible way this method could work.  1/4" steel plate has to be at least 650 deg.  in order to bake a 2 minute pizza.

Sure, it's possible that the newspaper might have made a mistake, but, for a promotional piece that I'm almost certain the author signed off on, I think the chances are very slim.  Also, Nathan, being the geek that he is, has a pretty massive online presence.  If this article did misquote the book, he'd mention this fact- somewhere, and we'd definitely hear about it.

That all makes sense , but we might have to consider (minus the potential typo) other variables and expectations.  There could be many interpretations for what a pizza cooked in 1.5 to 2 minutes actually is.  If he is this vague in his book, then his only requirement is "cooked pizza".  It may or may not measure up to the standards of pizza aficionados like ourselves on this site. 

Also, if the book truly does state 3/4 inch thick, his reasoning for the steel to be the size of your oven shelf might be that 50-90 lbs of steel would put considerable stress on your oven rack.

Offline StrayBullet

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #56 on: February 23, 2011, 05:30:09 PM »
This has inspired me to apply some of this to my stone and see what happens.  I was so piqued that I rushed home to stir up a single 300g Steve's Emergency dough and see what temps I could achieve by positioning the stone all the way to the left and covering the exposed grates on the right with tin foil, essentially restricting airflow to the upper area where the thermostat resides.

Normally when the "pre-heat" buzzer goes off and lights up my stone usually reads around the 450orange, hence my long pre-heats and broiler blasts before loading the pie.

I placed the stone, onto the right-wrapped oven-rack and placed in the bottom position then turned on the oven to 550o.  The bottom element was red hot for exactly 40 minutes, it never went off!  The stone temps ranged from 550-620  :o  Right now, the range is 640-580 and still on the bottom rack.

Before the dough is ready, I'll move to the upper most position and blast with the broiler a few times then make the pie, engage the boiler and toss her in....we'll see what happens :D

Mark

Offline communist

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #57 on: February 23, 2011, 06:24:28 PM »
Scott, some details on my oven trick.  Magi-cake strips are a type of aluminized insulated fabric strips that wrap around cake pans. They cost around 10 bucks. When you bake a cake, the edges are exposed to more heat than the center, and cook faster.  This results in edges that are drier and shrunked.  To prevent this, soak strips in water, wrap around cake pan, bake cake in pan with strips wrapped around outside.  When cake done, pull from oven.  Strips are just about dried out, and have prevented edges from too much heat.  Cake is not domed, and edges are not too brown or burnt.  For pizza baking, cut an 8 inh length of strip.  Fold it in half and stitch together.  Soak in water.  When thermostat kicks oven off, slide sleeve onto probe.  Thermostat will cool, and oven will kick on.  I work with two sleeves, and rotate every 10 minutes to prevent drying out and burning of fabric.  I can easily get my oven to 650 after around twenty minutes.  Even though is it easy, I just don't feel comfortable doing this, and cannot recommend it.  Steel has solved my dilemma.  Thanks Scott!  Mark

scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #58 on: February 23, 2011, 06:51:51 PM »
Mark (StrayBullet), 40 minutes, and the burner never went off?  With foil? That's kind of exciting and also kind of scary  ;D

The stone temp readings you were taking- Top of the stone? Bottom?

Do me a favor, and, next time, pre-heat the stone in the upper rack/final position.  If the foil prevents heat from getting to the thermostat when placed on a lower shelf, it should do it in the upper position as well.

If the foil is a successful oven trick, this could, if done carefully, revolutionize home pizzamaking because one could block air flow with foil using just about any stone.


scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #59 on: February 23, 2011, 07:00:34 PM »
You're welcome, Mark (Communist).  Thank you for being the first one to have the initiative to give thick steel plate a try.

And thanks for the magi-cake strips directions and photos.

Offline Tampa

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #60 on: February 24, 2011, 08:42:09 AM »
Communist - I love the original thinking of your insulator design.  Good for you and thanks for sharing.
Dave

Offline StrayBullet

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #61 on: February 24, 2011, 09:46:24 AM »
Dave,

I agree about Mark's cake wrap trick, neat stuff!....my office is near a bakery off S Dale Mabry and might have time to stop in and see if they have this stuff unless you have another line?

Mark (StrayBullet), 40 minutes, and the burner never went off?  With foil? That's kind of exciting and also kind of scary  ;D

I barely left the kitchen at all, TRUST me :D  I was really impressed with the temperature results considering the soak time of 40m!  I also think it helped to get a perpendicular shot with the IR gun vice an angular shot where some fluctuations could come into play.

The stone temp readings you were taking- Top of the stone? Bottom?

These were top of the stone, I don't think I could have gotten a good reading on the bottom of the stone due to clearance issues.

Do me a favor, and, next time, pre-heat the stone in the upper rack/final position.  If the foil prevents heat from getting to the thermostat when placed on a lower shelf, it should do it in the upper position as well.

If the foil is a successful oven trick, this could, if done carefully, revolutionize home pizzamaking because one could block air flow with foil using just about any stone.

Will do, might even be able to do so today just so I know when I do my next bake this weekend.  I also want to center the stone on the oven rack and wrap foil on both edges.  This will center the stone and eventually the baking pizza under the broiler element which should be better for even cooking.

With it off-center as it was last night the bake wasn't spectacular but encouraging.  Total bake time was under 4 minutes with the first 90 seconds or so with the broiler element engaged.  With my cheese trick, it didn't burn at all, got the char I like with a great texture.

With the stone repositioned and making my normal dough with starter (in my opinion superior flavor) I should be able to fire off a near 3m pie that will blow away my previous attempts!

Mark

scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #62 on: February 24, 2011, 10:51:06 AM »
Sounds good, Mark. 

Top and bottom stone temp readings would be great, and, if you really want to go the extra mile  ;)  could you take readings of

Oven ceiling
Oven wall above the foil
Oven wall below the foil

As I've mentioned earlier, in order for the bottom element to stay on for 40 minutes, the top compartment has to be quite a bit cooler than the bottom compartment. How much cooler is what I'm interested in finding out.

I'm also really interested in how second and third pies fare.  With thin steel plate, you can, to an extent, open the door after the first pie, let the oven cool and then re-start the process (maybe).  With soapstone, though... opening the door isn't going to have much impact.  Over time, the top compartment is going to heat up. Once that happens, it's bye bye top/bottom temp disparity, welcome lower stone temps.

Theoretically speaking, as far as multiple pizza bakes go, in this scenario, this might be one of the rare times where thermal mass might actually be a disadvantage.

Offline thezaman

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #63 on: February 24, 2011, 11:46:05 PM »
this is my last attempt at the steel shelf method. i had my steel shelf cut down 1/4 inch the door of the oven closed with no interference. made dough, cheese, and sauce at work today. this evening fired up the oven,same temperature of 569 deg. sprayed the probe got it to 650 deg put on the broiler cooked my first pizza three minutes. my broiler will not come on unless the door is open pizzas are then lifted to brown the top. the first pizza was similar to coal pizza a little dry and crisp. not bad, certainly not pizza napoletana. i think my oven being 25 years old isn't up to the task . the next pizza done the same way was softer and wetter . i froze the mozzarella which gave me more broiling time. i feel this method would make a great ny elite pizza you could cook it a little longer and american flour would take the longer bake times  better than caputo.

Offline b-ry

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #64 on: February 25, 2011, 08:01:49 AM »
Nathan Myhrvold responded to a discussion about the WSJ article and the book text with regards to using a steel plate if you don't want to invest in a brick oven.  In it, he clears up a lot of things.  He explains why a steel plate works better than a ceramic stone and he does say the book mentions 3/4 inch and the thicker the better.  I think it also debunks the idea that he is up to oven tricks.  I will not paraphrase too much and let you guys read the post.

I am a new member, so I am not able to link directly to the post, but if you go to egullet(.org) and go to post p1791936. You can get there by using the main site address plus a '/' and then 'p1791936'.  You can also get there by looking for the post by NathanM on 2/24 in the forum EG Forums --> Kitchen --> Cooking --> Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" and its post #142

I am not sure of the policy here of linking to other forums, so I apologize in advance if I have broken any rules.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 08:03:31 AM by b-ry »

Offline dellavecchia

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #65 on: February 25, 2011, 08:32:31 AM »
Nathan Myhrvold responded to a discussion about the WSJ article and the book text with regards to using a steel plate if you don't want to invest in a brick oven.  In it, he clears up a lot of things.  He explains why a steel plate works better than a ceramic stone and he does say the book mentions 3/4 inch and the thicker the better.  I think it also debunks the idea that he is up to oven tricks.  I will not paraphrase too much and let you guys read the post.

I am a new member, so I am not able to link directly to the post, but if you go to egullet(.org) and go to post p1791936. You can get there by using the main site address plus a '/' and then 'p1791936'.  You can also get there by looking for the post by NathanM on 2/24 in the forum EG Forums --> Kitchen --> Cooking --> Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" and its post #142

I am not sure of the policy here of linking to other forums, so I apologize in advance if I have broken any rules.

Very interesting read, thanks for posting this. The idea of using aluminum is very appealing to me due to the weight factor, but I priced out a piece at metalsdepot.com, and just a 12x12 is $87 without shipping.

John

Offline b-ry

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #66 on: February 25, 2011, 08:45:32 AM »
Very interesting read, thanks for posting this. The idea of using aluminum is very appealing to me due to the weight factor, but I priced out a piece at metalsdepot.com, and just a 12x12 is $87 without shipping.

John

I think, like Nathan says, you can get cheaper prices from a local steel or aluminum fabricator, even cheaper if they specialize in scrap metal because it will be market rate if they have to order it.  

I found a local steel fabricator that quoted $290 for a 1/4"(correction - originally said 3/4") thick, 18" x 23.75" piece of T316 stainless steel.  That is pretty much market rate.  Since I know the fabricator had to custom order the material from one of their vendors.  I expect mild steel and aluminum to be much cheaper.  I am also going to find a place that specializes in scrap metal.  Hopefully I can find something close to what Nathan is finding price wise.  Also, finding a place locally will save shipping.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 10:15:21 AM by b-ry »


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scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #68 on: February 25, 2011, 10:01:08 AM »
For anyone interested, my reply is at #147.

Cliff notes:
1/4" steel plate can't produce a Neapolitan pizza @ 550 (he says it can)
3/4" steel plate probably can produce a 2 minute pie, but the weight could cause oven shelves to fail
If he thinks aluminum (at any thickness), can produce Neapolitan pizza, he's on crack.

John, aluminum is too conductive to be able to store heat. Pre-heating it is useless, as the moment you open the oven door, the temp will plummet. Stored heat is critical. A stone that can't be pre-heated will not bake pizza quickly.  As soon as you have to rely on the heat from the lower element/burner, you're talking 10 minute+ bakes.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 10:05:20 AM by scott123 »

Offline b-ry

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #69 on: February 25, 2011, 10:31:19 AM »
3/4" steel plate probably can produce a 2 minute pie, but the weight could cause oven shelves to fail

Do you think there will be a problem with oven stress if it is used as the rack instead of on the oven rack?  

So if we have eliminated aluminum and stainless steel (for expense reasons considering it would be a roughly $900 experiment for 3/4 inch the size of my 23 x 18 oven), we are left with mild steel as the last alternative, which as he states, is a little more difficult to maintain (much like a wok or cast iron).  So we are left trying to move, clean and maintain a 90 lb piece of steel to cook a 2 minute pizza.  I may just stick with my pizza stone.

On a side note, if you are interested in true NY style pizza and want the 16-18" pie, then getting a thinner piece (1/4") cut to the size of your oven, might not be a bad idea.

Offline dellavecchia

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #70 on: February 25, 2011, 10:36:18 AM »
For anyone interested, my reply is at #147.

Cliff notes:
1/4" steel plate can't produce a Neapolitan pizza @ 550 (he says it can)
3/4" steel plate probably can produce a 2 minute pie, but the weight could cause oven shelves to fail
If he thinks aluminum (at any thickness), can produce Neapolitan pizza, he's on crack.

John, aluminum is too conductive to be able to store heat. Pre-heating it is useless, as the moment you open the oven door, the temp will plummet. Stored heat is critical. A stone that can't be pre-heated will not bake pizza quickly.  As soon as you have to rely on the heat from the lower element/burner, you're talking 10 minute+ bakes.

Thanks Scott - you saved me some money.

John

scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #71 on: February 25, 2011, 11:52:49 AM »
Sure thing, John.

B-ry, I'm pretty certain, because the weight will be even distributed across the lip, the shelf supports will have no problem with 3/4" plate cut to the entire dimension, but a 18" x 23.75" piece, besides being a bit pricey, will weigh 90 lbs.  My soapstone is 35 pains and that was a major pain to have to haul around (and I'm a pretty strong guy).  90 lbs.- my back hurts just thinking about it. ;D

As I've said elsewhere, for Neapolitan bake times, I'm recommending 3/4" steel plate cut to a sensible size (square, almost touching the door, ideally 18" x 18") and, instead of sitting on a shelf, supported by flat steel bars.

On a side note, if you are interested in true NY style pizza and want the 16-18" pie, then getting a thinner piece (1/4") cut to the size of your oven, might not be a bad idea.

Mark (Communist) proved that 1/2" plate can do 4 minute NY style pies at as low as 530 in the steel plate thread, but, until someone tries it (at 550), I don't have a lot of faith in 1/4".  
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 11:58:50 AM by scott123 »

Offline dellavecchia

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #72 on: February 25, 2011, 12:18:14 PM »

As I've said elsewhere, for Neapolitan bake times, I'm recommending 3/4" steel plate cut to a sensible size (square, almost touching the door, ideally 18" x 18") and, instead of sitting on a shelf, supported by flat steel bars.


Scott what about the steel plate directly on the oven floor? My gas heat source comes from the bottom.

John

scott123

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #73 on: February 25, 2011, 01:52:13 PM »
John, do you have a broiler in the main oven compartment? If you don't, your quest gets a lot harder. If you are working with a single heat source, do a search for Papajon- his is the most recent successful implementation of the oven within an oven concept.

Btw, I just did a few tests with cast aluminum in my oven.  I was *gulp* wrong  :) Aluminum retains heat for longer than I thought it would in a hot oven.  So, 3/4" aluminum could be viable as a baking stone, but... it's still about 3 times the price of steel and for a typical size stone, you only save about 10 lbs. in weight (3/4" aluminum has a comparable heat capacity to 1/2" steel).


Offline dellavecchia

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Re: You love Neopolitan-style pizza, but don't want to invest in a brick oven.
« Reply #74 on: February 25, 2011, 02:18:19 PM »
John, do you have a broiler in the main oven compartment?


Scott - Yes I do have a broiler. But the main source turns off when it is in use.

John