Thanks again Scott. I have a list of places I want to check out while I'm here, including Una Pizza Napoletana in SF and Napoletana Pizzeria in Mountain View (the latter first, since I actually live in MV...). Despite the name I thought I heard of Una in an NY context, but I'll be sure to check it out regardless whenever I happen to be in SF. I have a couple others on my list that I don't recall at the moment, since I have the list on my personal laptop at home.
I'm a big proponent of the idea that if there's a material that will allow you to not have to mod or use the cleaning cycle, you should use it. For a 550 oven and NY style aspirations, that's 1/2" steel. 1/4" steel or iron will require higher temps. i know you can and have gone higher, but 550 is so much easier to work with as well as easier on the oven itself.
I agree. I don't like the idea of putting my oven through self-clean every week. It's annoying, it takes time, the entire apartment heats up, and I usually mildly burn myself. Plus the stress on the oven. But, if it will get me the taste, colour, and texture I want, I'll do it more or less gladly >:D
For NY with 1/2" steel plate, you won't need both elements on at the same time, nor should you need the self-clean cycle. If you have a powerful enough broiler for Neapolitan, though, then the question of whether or not the broiler will work during self-cleaning will need to be answered.
OK, I'll have to find out when I'm back in TO. If I can get my hands on a 1/2" steel plate, I'll do that, which will let me stay at 550.
Aditya, I'm seeing photos of some Famoso pizzas that look Neapolitan-ish, while others lean a lot more towards the NY side.
Apparently the owners of the chain send new owners to Italy to learn how it's done, but I'll trust your judgement :)
I would also, if you're in the neighborhood, swing by Avellino for a NY slice, not that we really need to confirm your love for NY style, but just because it should be superior to Amici's and a worthwhile experience.
Thanks for the tip, I'll add them to my list.
Larger pizzas are helpful when entertaining, but, more importantly, as you start to really get into NY style, you'll begin to recognize the innate superiority of a larger slice. Bigger is better. Larger pies have a better aesthetic, the rim to cheese ratio changes and it feels better in your hand. Cutting steel bar to support steel plate is no walk in the park, but it's way better than sizing your stone to a 14.5" shelf.
My biggest problem is that I just won't eat that much, and to me pizza just doesn't taste as good the next day. I might make a few large ones with some friends over to get the practice and so I know the difference and technique, but I wouldn't do it regularly. In addition to looking into getting a steel plate in TO I'm thinking of buying a 14x18 cordierite kiln shelf from a ceramics place in SF (they sell 18x18x1, but they said there's a place around the corner that can cut it down... worst comes to worst I can just buy a cordierite stone from Amazon, which would cost a bit more, but whatever). I won't be able to use a bigger-depth stone unless I take out the rack and put the stone in directly, but then I would need to get it in there by some other means.
If you feel like you absolutely have to go with a 14.5" stone, I won't judge you, but you will find a day when you yearn for larger pies.
We'll see :p If I never try it, I'll never yearn for it, so that's always a strategy!
It's easier, at this point, to tell from a photo than by wattage specs, but I would say the broiler element has to be a minimum of 5 kW. I've been meaning to touch base with Marlon (Bakeshack) about the particulars of his oven, as the oven he has is the best example of a Neo capable broiler. If we could get the brand, model and source from him, I think that would be helpful for those going oven shopping.
I'll send him a PM now. It'll be good info to have, though I doubt I'll be doing any oven shopping for a few years unless I manage to trash mine via self-clean abuse.
There is no potential top stone material on the market that can provide more radiant heat than an electric broiler. The only candidates suitable for a second stone setup are those without broilers. Your broiler, regardless of how strong it is, will give you superior top browning to any possible second stone.
So would I want to start the stone on the bottom, let it cook a couple of minutes, turn the broiler on, and then move it to the top? Or should I buy a second stone to put near the broiler and then move the pizza only from the bottom stone to the top one? I expect these would be similar, with the former being 50% cheaper...
As you move up in the pizzamaking world, stones are more commodities and less retail products. A steel plate distributor in SF will most likely charge you the same price as a steel plate distributor in Toronto. I also believe that a ceramics supplier will have pretty much the same price on a kiln shelf (should you take that route). Should you go the Neapolitan route and need the reduced conductivity of a Fibrament stone, shipping to Canada might be cost prohibitive, but, I really think a Neapolitan setup is a long shot.
I'm a fan of probabilistic, evidence-based, reasoning. Since you have pretty much all of the info that I have and you're still saying it's unlikely, I'm fine forgoing the Fibrament for now. They might charge a bit more for shipping to Canada, but given that the odds that I will need it are stacked against me it's the better choice to hold off. Plus I will probably be back in the US at some point in the future---I've crossed the border every year since 2009, though usually only for a week at a time :\.
(OTOH, it can't hurt to have the extra stone... More experiments are always good!)
Member Essen1 (Mike) bought steel plate in the SF area. You could touch base with him to see where he got it. Otherwise, find a yellow pages, look under metal and start calling/getting prices.
You do need to size a stone so that there's clearance for air flow, but the clearance doesn't have to be on all sides. Since your oven is wider then it's deep, you'll want the clearance on the sides- so either a 16 x 16 x 1/2" plate or a 14.5 x 14.5 x 1/2" plate will be fine. As I think about sizing the plate, it occurs to me that you generally don't want to size a plate without access to the oven. Every fraction of an inch of real estate matters, and, if you size it a bit too large, you won't be able to use it because the door won't close. In other words, I'd wait until you get back to Toronto to buy the plate.
That sounds like something rather heavy to be putting on my rack. Is that a valid fear? As for sizing, there's a chance that 16" would be too deep, so I'm hesitant to get one. I would like one bigger if possible, so I can make multiple smaller pizzas if necessary, hence why I mentioned the 14x18 stone above. I'd still be diameter-limited to 14" but it would give me some more space, and leave an inch (ish) on either side of clearance. Now that I think about it, that may be a bit small, so I might opt for 14x16 instead (cut down from 16x16). This is starting to sound more and more like the one I can buy from Amazon, which is about $40. The guys I talked to would sell the 16x16x1 for $37, and then I would have to pay to get it cut, so I could just get the 14x16x7/8 stone from Amazon instead. 1/8" hopefully won't hurt that much...
(In case there's any confusion, I'm still probably going to get a steel plate, after I can find a supplier in TO or, failing that, find one here and then ship it to myself (I don't think TSA will like it, so shipping is the way to go). But I still want a cordierite stone for experimental purposes, possibly some bread, as something to use here, and as some sort of stone option in case my oven does end up being capable of going Neapolitan.)
Btw, I went through some of your previous posts and noticed you're playing around with sourdough. Sourdough is pretty advanced pizzamaking and isn't a big part of traditional NY style pizza. For now, I'd stick to IDY.
I stopped doing too many more experiments with sourdough just because I didn't have the time for it. It really did taste so much better though. Once I start experimenting with new things though I fall back to IDY-only, but once I have the new thing down I start bringing the sourdough back. It's been a while now though, I didn't really make any pizza at all the month before I left, and I've been out of TO for almost three weeks now. *gasp* No self-made pizza in almost two months. Oh god.
Thanks again for your response and advice Scott, I really appreciate it!