Author Topic: Pizza burning pizza stone  (Read 3152 times)

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Offline shoover

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Pizza burning pizza stone
« on: July 09, 2005, 11:31:04 PM »
After stumbling upon Pete's Tom Lehman saga on this site a few months ago, my wife and I started our perfect pizza quest. We have a Pampered Chef stone, and we pretty much follow Pete's steps. We were slowly getting better at making the pizza, and felt like the perfect pizza was just a few weeks away.

Now all of a sudden on our past two attempts we've pulled up pizzas with gorgeous tops  :) but the crust is burnt blacker than night  >:( This leaves us very frustrated and very confused, not to mention we look ridiculous scraping off the tops and eating the good part of the rim like a piece of chicken.

Any ideas on what would cause this? We had never had burning problems leading up to this. Occasionally some cheese would fall onto the stone and burn that area of the crust. Is it possible that burnt cheese or flour is getting into the pores of the stone and coming back up when we bake the next pizza?

Or perhaps it's because we lowered the stone from the center rack to the next one below that to experiment with the advice of a certain pizza book? Actually, that sounds plausible, because we'd have to leave it in longer to bake the toppings like we're used to; meanwhile, the crust is frying itself sick.


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2005, 12:51:12 AM »
shoover,

Welcome to the forum.

If I had to guess, I would say that the problem is the use of the Pampered Chef stone on the lowest oven rack position.

I am not personally familiar with the Pampered Chef stone, but I see them offered all the time at eBay, and at prices that are a fraction of the prices of other pizza stones intended for serious home pizza makers. From the photos of the Pampered Chef stones I have seen, they look to be quite thin, maybe as thin as a quarter-inch or half-inch. The largest size (diameter) Pampered Chef stone I have seen is 15 inches. If I am correct on this, the mass of such a stone will be quite small compared with most other pizza stones and placing such a stone in close proximity to the oven's lower heating element will cause it to heat up very quickly and achieve a temperature that is considerably higher than the ambient air above the stone that bakes the top of the pizza. Under these conditions, it is easy for the bottom of the crust to burn and turn black. The problem will be even more severe if your stone is less than 15 inches in diameter, because of its even lower mass. If the problem arose after you moved the stone to the lowest oven rack position, that would seem to suggest that the problem is with the stone and its positioning in the oven.

I suggest that you try using the middle oven rack position for your stone to see if the problem goes away. If the problem reoccurs, then you might move the stone another level up in your oven and see if that helps. Another possible solution is to use the middle oven rack position and lower the oven temperature to say, 450-475 degrees F. This will mean a longer bake time, but the pizza crust should bake properly both top and bottom and produce a crust that is crispy and with good texture, flavor and color. Tom Lehmann himself often recommends using lower bake temperatures and longer bake times.

If it turns out that your pizza stone is hampering instead of pampering your pizza making skills, you might want to consider a more substantial pizza stone or even a set of tiles. The tiles are thin, but there are usually several of them and, collectively, they provide sufficient mass and surface area to do an effective job, even at the lowest oven rack position.

The only other thing that I can think of as a possible cause of the problem you experienced is if you used sugar in your Lehmann dough recipe. Tom Lehmann usually does not recommend sugar in the dough if the pizza is to be baked on a hearth type surface at high temperatures because the sugar caramelizes too quickly and the bottom crust can brown, and even burn, before the rest of the pizza is finished baking. If you used sugar in the Lehmann recipe you selected, then I would recommend that you try deleting it next time to see if it is the cause or a contributing factor to the problem you have recently been experiencing.

I'm confident that you will in due course be able to overcome your present problem and be able to make some good pizzas, whether the Lehmann NY style or otherwise.

Peter


Offline shoover

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2005, 03:24:07 PM »
Thanks for your comments, Pete. Like I said before, the lower rack position was an experiment based on a book, but I should have realized after the first blackening that that was the reason for the burning. Trusting a book over pizzamaking.com seems silly now, but I guess that's the experimenter in me. Now I know for sure. As soon as I get some more cheese, we'll raise it back to the middle rack and try a slightly lower temperature.

I was surprised to find out that the good stones are 3/4" thick. Our Pampered Chef stone is 15" in diameter and between 1/4 and 1/2" thick. Maybe we'll get one with more mass sometime, but for now we'll go with what we have, and if we treat it right it's been ok.

That raises another question. We normally stretch the dough to 14 to 15", so it basically covers the stone. Is this ok, or is there a reason why we should try to make the pies smaller than the stone?

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2005, 03:58:22 PM »
shoover,

It's not uncommon to find instructions in books to place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack position. I do this myself with NY style doughs. But, as you now know yourself, there are too many variables in home ovens, oven rack and stone placements, etc., to be able to follows that advice without question. Out of curiosity, which book were you referring to?

As for your question on the size of your pizza round in relation to your stone, all of my Lehmann dough recipes provide for uniform dough thicknesses, independent of the size (diameter) of pizza. So, if a recipe is for a 14-inch pizza dough, then it should be shaped and stretched out to that size to be consistent with the underlying methodology. There's nothing wrong with stretching it out more if that is what you prefer. The pizza and crust will just be slightly different. The only danger in trying to make a 15-inch pizza on a 15-inch stone is the risk of not getting absolute centering of the pizza on the stone. There is no room for error. One way to get around this problem other than going to a smaller sized pizza is to build your pizza on a 15-inch screen. You can then bake the pizza on the screen on a higher oven rack position and, once the dough sets up so that it is firm, shift the pizza off of the screen and onto your stone to finish baking. If you'd like, you can even make a 16-inch dough and use a 16-inch screen--if your oven is big enough to make that size with the door shut--and shift the partially baked pizza onto the 15-inch stone. It will overlap the stone a bit, but it will bake up fine. I do this sort of thing quite often since my stone isn't big enough to accommodate a 16-inch pizza on its own.

The first pizza stone I bought was one like yours. Then one day, inexplicably, it broke in half. In retrospect, that was one of the best things to happen to me because it forced me to move up to a better stone. If you ever decide to do the same thing there is an enormous amount of information at this forum on pizza stones and tiles.

Peter

Offline stymie

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2005, 04:22:20 PM »
For what it's worth I have a 15" Pampered Chef stone and bake at 500 degrees F at the lowest rack level. Pizza stone is black, the pizza's are not. I do use sugar in most of the doughs  and bake most pies in about 7 minutes with a 1hr preheat.
Also ovens, ingredients, stones etc.. vary. so what works for me might not for others
« Last Edit: July 10, 2005, 04:35:04 PM by stymie »

Offline shoover

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2005, 04:24:42 PM »
Peter,

The book is The Pizza Gourmet by Shea MacKenzie. It has an interesting introductory section including thoughts on the history of pizza, preparation and baking techniques, and an extensive glossary of pizza ingredients. The book then follows into dozens of novelty, gourmet, or regional recipes.

Thanks again for your advice. I agree, there is a ton of information here. All one has to do is pick any post and there is bound to be some excellent tips.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2005, 08:09:02 PM »
stymie,

Thanks for passing on your own experiences with the Pampered Chef stone in your oven. Your comments are valuable because they emphasize how many variables there are in a given oven situation and how important it is to learn the idiosyncrasies of your own oven, stone and rack positioning, etc. You did everything that shoover did (and possibly more) without experiencing the problems he did. My oven is around 16 years old, and I thought I knew everything about it. Yet, when I looked more carefully today I saw that I could configure my lowest oven rack to put it only a few inches away from the heating element or several inches away--by just turning the oven rack upside down. As home pizza makers, we will always have more oven problems than professionals. We have far more models at the consumer level, and the number of models and styles becomes very large when you extrapolate over a period of many years.

Peter

Offline TONY

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Re: Pizza burning pizza stone
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2005, 01:34:08 PM »
I used a screen for the first time on Saturday.  It was pretty cool.  I built my pizza right on the screen from the counter.  No peel transfer.  500 degrees, middle rack for 15 minutes..........it came out great!

Tony