I am curious as to weather you are using the broiler element (top of the oven) or the standard heating element at the bottom? Since I am resigned to using a home-oven, I am trying to find new and exciting ways to get the heat higher. I recently bought a slab of 1.25" soapstone, and while the heat retention is tremendous, I am finding it cooks the bottom of the pizza very rapidly, but I am missing the proper charring of the top of the pizza. I've been utilizing a split-method, where I cook 60 seconds on the bottom, then move the pizza to another stone directly under the broiler. It provides the desired effect, but if I could simplify the process I would be ecstatic. I appreciate your feedback!
Dear Salvatore, safe manipulation of conventional/convection gas/electric oven is not an easy feat. It can be quite tricky! It is also a very elaborate and sometimes convoluted subject, which can easily take pages to write about. So, I will be brief. First, as you know, a conventional or convection oven was never
meant and designed to function as a Neapolitan or wood-fueled oven; hence, there will always be, does not matter what, limitations
as to how your home oven can be bent to your Neapolitan pizza inspirations. Some of the principal limitations (which are "limitations" only in contrast to a Neapolitan or wood-fueled oven) are:
1. Inadequate heat generation (about 550° to 650° F);
2. Lack of or poor "flame-radiation heat";
3. Relatively poor hot air ("convection") circulation;
4. Either insignificant or overwhelming direct contact-heat ("conduction"), depending on the extant circumstances;
5. Heat leakage (see #10 below) and heat loss (oven door!);
6. Lack of or poor "thermal battery";
7. Uneven distribution of heat;
8. Lack of proper oven floor (a pizza stone is an isolated and suspended island
, not a solid ground!);
9. The thermal inequity between the pizza stone and the oven ceiling;
10. Poor interior wall and ceiling insulation;
11. Unlike wood-fired oven, the primary
source of heat is either below the pizza stone, above it, or both; and
12. Relative ineffectiveness of the material used in building home ovens, and
Of course, it is understandable why such limitations, by necessity
, exist, for a home oven is supposed to be a home oven! So, given the above limitations, you need to exploit (to make the best of) what you got, which means you need to design one model after another and safely conduct one experiment after another until you find the middle-ground, which will always, in my opinion, be a compromise. And, of course, safety
should be always the "number one" priority.
Although I am not familiar with the type of home oven you have, I make the following suggestions, which should be done only and only if they can be carried out safely
. You need to contact your oven manufacturer, your local gas & electricity company, and competent export to determine if they are safe.
1. Make sure there is enough space (airy
) inside your oven. The oven needs to breathe since it principally operates on the principles of convection.
2. If safe and possible, line the oven walls and ceiling with double-folded aluminum foil, which acts as an insulation. In addition, it will reflect and concentrate heat radiation more toward the middle of the oven. Some oven manufacturers, for safety reasons, advise against this. You need to check your oven manual and/or contact its manufacturer. Do not
cover or block any of the air holes and exhaust holes inside and outside of the oven. Doing so can choke the oven and potentially create hazardous situations.
3. Find the optimal bake time-frame
of your oven and bake your pizzas within that time interval. For instance, my home oven, under its present conditions and with certain exceptions, can optimally bake my pizzas after running about 1 hour. After running 30 more minutes on top of the 1 hour, my oven would brutalize my pizzas. So, I have a 30-minute window within which I can operate and bake my pizzas. And, that is what I call the "optimal bake time-frame". An oven arrangement I had a year ago, reached the optimal point after 2 hours of continuously running, after which I could bake only two pizzas. Then, I had to wait about 20 minutes for the heat to build back up again to make another two pizzas.
4. In relation to number "3" above, a thin pizza stone is favorable and preferable under certain conditions. The same also applies to a thick pizza stone. Under certain circumstances, a think pizza stone can heat up quickly while keeping itself cool enough not to burn the crust. Under unfavorable conditions, a thick pizza stone can get overheated and act as a thermal battery, burning your crusts. The factors of (1) "time" for the sake of priming your oven and (2) "distance" of the pizza stone from the source of heat must be carefully calculated.
5. In relation to number "3" and "4" above, find the optimal distance
between the pizza stone and the oven ceiling. If the distance is too near, the cornicione may come out crispy or burn. On the other hand, if the distance is too far, the cornicione and the face of the pizza may bake after the crust is already burned. Again, as you can see, you need to control the factors of "time" (for priming the oven and for baking your pizzas) and "distance" of the pizza stone from the primary source of heat and the ceiling. To that end, it would tremendously help to use an infrared thermometer.
6. At last, always have a fully operational "fire extinguisher" nearby, and do not implement anything that you have any doubts about its results. Moreover, make sure your kitchen is equipped with a fully operational gas and smoke detector.
Basically, what I have done with my conventional gas oven (which is an ordinary conventional oven with no cleaning cycle, no convection, no broil element, and only bake element), is that I took each of the 12 factors above and tried to safely overcome them, if possible at all. Last night, I finished a new design which worked better than any other designs I have implemented so far. (See the pictures below.) Very simple
Please, notice the the bent steel plate below the pizza stone and above the bake element. It functions to divert the heat away from the stones (keeping them not excessively hot) and toward the dome. This mechanism keeps the dome hotter than the floor, giving me a longer "bake time-frame". Good day!