Author Topic: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod  (Read 1673 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline dcervone

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 14
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Boston
Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« on: July 27, 2012, 12:36:18 AM »
I've been following these forums for several years and the knowledge, expertise, and passion for pizzamaking within this community is truly remarkable! I recently moved into a new apartment and for the first time in a long time have a reasonably high powered oven and I'm curious to see what I can get out of it. It's a self-cleaning electric oven with one single heating element on top (no bottom heating element). When I activate the broil setting, within a few minutes I read temperatures of around 900 when pointing my IR thermometer at the oven ceiling (so basically into the heating elements). But the problem is that the temperature probe is basically right in the middle of the heating element, at the very back of the oven (pics attached). Consequently, the heating element never stays on for very long... it will go for a few minutes at a time, but even preheating the oven to something normal like 350F takes a while because the heating element cycles a number of times.

I've tried baking pizza on a cordierite shelf on the top oven rack (about 3" below broiler). Eventually the stone will get up to around 550-580, and then I can get one more several-minute cycle to bake the pizza. But because the stone temperature is so low, the bottom is not done enough by the time the top is done. So I'm looking for some advice on insulating the temperature probe, so that when the stone is at 550, I can slip it on the probe and have as much uninterrupted broiler power as possible to get the stone temp up.

I've seen frozen towels as well as insulating firebrick discussed quite a bit here, but I'm slightly concerned about their efficacy given the fact that my probe is sandwiched between the base of the heating coils. It seems easy to imagine the towels sagging as the ice melts and steams and eventually coming into contact with the coil itself, which seems like a fire hazard. Also, the insulating firebrick would have to be really narrow, around 1" total thickness, and so I'm not really sure this would offer much insulation. I've seen scott123 advocating using insulating firebrick as a probe condom a number of times, but I'm curious as to what success people have had with it... ie how much longer/hotter they were able to push their ovens, especially with a broiler set-up like mine.

Any advice would be much appreciated.  :)
-Dan


Offline dcervone

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 14
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Boston
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2012, 12:44:28 AM »
Here's an example of the kinds of bakes I'm getting. This baked for about 3:10. Dough was 61% KABF, 3% salt, and 1% IDY. I'm not really putting much effort into tinkering with the dough at the moment because I first want to see what the oven is capable of. That said, the crumb on this bake was pretty dense as I did not let it rise much (1.5 days in fridge, then 1.5 hrs on counter before baking). I'm not sure to what extent the oven configuration/temperature is also a factor in this.

-Dan

scott123

  • Guest
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2012, 03:26:34 AM »
Dan, this oven has to have some kind of bake element.  Are you sure it isn't hidden? A baking stone can't be pre-heated with a broiler.  The broiler will drive the surface temp of the stone up, but it won't saturate it with heat like the bake element can.

As far as oven mods, go, it's been a while.  The last person that tested the insulating brick wasn't getting a lot of traction from it.  I'll track down that thread if we need to, but, in the mean time, let's figure out the bake thing.  I have never, in all my years, come across an electric oven without a bottom element.

Does this oven have convection?

Offline Chicago Bob

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11101
  • Location: Durham,NC
  • Easy peazzy
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2012, 08:59:34 AM »
Is the material readily available for the "bandage" type insulator that simply slips over the probe. I've seen that somewhere around here and thought it looked like an easy fix.Is there a special adhesive used to close/form the pocket or could you maybe just wrap it with some steel wire? Thanks.

like a small knife sheath is what I'm trying to describe here.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2012, 09:33:17 AM by Chicago Bob »
"Care Free Highway...let me slip away on you"

Offline dcervone

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 14
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Boston
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2012, 12:02:10 PM »
Bob, is this what you're referring to? http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=13018.40 (reply 57). I'd put this in the same category as the frozen towel... I'm still concerned about the proximity of the insulating fabric to the actual broiler element.

And Scott, I think there is in fact a hidden bake element. I tried turning on the bake setting and noticed an immediate gradual increase in the floor temp, and after some googling found out that bake elements beneath the oven floor are actually fairly common in new ovens (which this is). Thanks for pointing this out! So I suppose preheating the oven at 550 for a while, then running the broiler immediately prior to and during the bake will give better results. Probably won't get baking times down but at least the bottom of the pizza may be more fully cooked, which is a start.

But I'm still curious about insulating the probe as I've seen a few members here have a lot of success with broiler based methods (Toby, Chau, David Deas) and want to see if my oven is capable of anything similar.
-Dan

Offline Chicago Bob

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11101
  • Location: Durham,NC
  • Easy peazzy
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2012, 12:41:30 PM »
Bob, is this what you're referring to? http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=13018.40 (reply 57). I'd put this in the same category as the frozen towel... I'm still concerned about the proximity of the insulating fabric to the actual broiler element.

And Scott, I think there is in fact a hidden bake element. I tried turning on the bake setting and noticed an immediate gradual increase in the floor temp, and after some googling found out that bake elements beneath the oven floor are actually fairly common in new ovens (which this is). Thanks for pointing this out! So I suppose preheating the oven at 550 for a while, then running the broiler immediately prior to and during the bake will give better results. Probably won't get baking times down but at least the bottom of the pizza may be more fully cooked, which is a start.

But I'm still curious about insulating the probe as I've seen a few members here have a lot of success with broiler based methods (Toby, Chau, David Deas) and want to see if my oven is capable of anything similar.
Thanks Dan. There seems to be a couple suggestions on that thread and eveyone kinda took off with the drilled out brick idea. One guy "communist", sorta got overlooked he said...Don, what I do when using thermostat manipulaton is use a magic cake strip, folded in half, and slid over the probe.
I don't know (yet) what a "magic cake strip" is.
Your description of a ceramic fiber sheath is what I was trying to describe. Thanks again.
I believe you have plenty of room to not need to worry about it touching your heat element...but even if it did, isn't that what it is made to do...not catch fire?
"Care Free Highway...let me slip away on you"

scott123

  • Guest
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2012, 01:32:45 PM »
Here's the most recent insulating brick experiment.

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,19236.0.html

As you can read, he was able to hit high temps for the first hour or so, then the burner shut off.  The high temps could easily have been the blocking action of the tile ceiling and not the insulating brick.

Even if insulating brick buys you a 180 deg. increase for an hour and a half, by the time the pre-heat is done, that won't give you enough time for more than 1 pie. There's also the question, with cordierite, as to whether or not a 180 deg. bump will be sufficient for Neapolitan undercrust char.

Member Malanga (Andrew), seemed to construct his brick fairly conscientiously and talked about the hole being small enough for a snug fit.  I don't really see any way of improving on that.

It was just one test in one oven, though, so I'm not giving up on insulating brick, but the results were disappointing enough that, for the moment, I'm going back to the drawing board.

Cake strips are fundamentally just cloth, so, even wet, they wouldn't be suitable for use that close to the broiling element.

Ceramic fiber might work, but I have concerns about breathing/eating these kinds of fibers, so it would have to be enclosed.  Due to the proximity to the broiler, I'm not sure I'd use aluminum.

The frozen towel trick has the best track record, but, I, too, would be concerned about the proximity of the element.

Dan, while a gentle mod will give you sufficient temps to give you good NY style undercrust browning in 4 or so minutes, because of the placement of your probe and the difficulty implementing a mod, I think you could make your life a lot easier with a 1/2" steel plate that will give you that browning at 550.

As you'll probably notice, I am talking about NY here. I can tell, by looking at your broiler elements that they will never produce Neapolitan leoparding.  At least, not without really extreme potential oven jeopardizing temps- and even then, I think it's a long shot.

At the end of the day, either your broiler has what it takes to do Neapolitan or it doesn't, and, if it doesn't, imo, it's better to embrace NY- and work towards achieving NP on another piece of equipment, such as an LBE or a WFO.

buceriasdon

  • Guest
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2012, 04:08:22 PM »
The problem with suggesting making a probe cover using Kaowool or ceramic blanket material is unless one knows someone with some leftovers one has to buy a certain minimum, 25 square feet or so making it not very economical. That's why I never suggested it. It's quite inexpensive to buy one insulating firebrick from a ceramic supplier giving you enough material to make two probe covers that can be replaced during the bake cycle as the first one no longer insulates, the second can take over. Just an idea......
Ceramic blanket could be covered with aluminum foil in order to contain any loose fibers.
Don

Offline dcervone

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 14
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Boston
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2012, 05:37:59 PM »
Again, thanks for the info. I tried another bake today, this time with a round cast iron pizza pan placed on top of the cordierite shelf the entire time. I was hoping the fact that the cast iron is more thermally conductive (think I read that somewhere), along with decreasing the distance to the broiler element, would improve the bake time.

The results were pretty good in that this time the bottom was nicely cooked and with the right amount of crispness for my tastes. The bake was still 3:00... this combined with Scott's comments on the broiler and temperature probe set-up I have leave me thinking that I should work on a different style other than Neapolitan.
-Dan

scott123

  • Guest
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2012, 06:08:30 PM »
Dan, you pre-heated using the bake/bottom element, correct? How long was the pre-heat?

This is definitely a huge step forward.

Before you completely give up on Neapolitan- did you watch the broiler, and, if you did, did it stay on for the whole bake?

Normally I don't recommend stacking stones due to the concern that they might not sit flat/contact each other evenly, and thus brown the bottom of the pizza unevenly, but I think you lucked out with this cast iron/cordierite combo. You're definitely getting more undercrust browning with the combo then you would with either by themselves.

In fact, you might have stumbled on to a viable combo for other people looking to avoid the weight of steel.  Cast iron tends to be pretty flat, as does cordierite.  I guess there's always the risk that the two items might have gaps between them, but if someone is dead set against 40 lb. of steel, it might be worth the risk- especially if they've got a cordierite stone already.

Anyway, I digress. If the King Arthur's Bread Flour in the photo is what you're using, then you're pretty much in a NY style territory right now.  It's probably just a matter of a few tweaks to the recipe to optimize the dough for this setup- such as some oil and perhaps a smaller thickness factor/smaller dough ball size. Could you post your recipe?


Offline dcervone

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 14
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Boston
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2012, 08:41:48 PM »
Scott, there is actually a triple stack going on here. On the very first level is a cast iron grill pan, then the cordierite stone, and finally the cast iron pizza pan. The cast iron grill pan is there just as a way to decrease distance to the broiler. I have all of this on my top oven rack right now. I have some bricks, but they would have been too thick to place under the cordierite, so I used the cast iron grill pan (quarry tile would probably be better if heat distribution were a problem). As it is though I could still get a bit closer to the broiler and be able to launch the pizza...

My procedure is to preheat to 550 (highest oven setting) for a little over an hour. In doing this the oven uses both the top and bottom heating element. At the end of this hour all of the stone and cast iron stuff was at 550. When I start prepping (taking out dough, cheese, etc) I turn the oven completely off so that the air temperature lowers a bit and the broiler won't cycle off when I start the bake. Right before topping the dough and transfering to the peel, I turn on the broiler (the stone/cast iron at this point is till roughly 550... usually the oven is only off 2 or 3 minutes) so that it will be glowing by the time of the launch. After launching, I close the oven door for the first 30 seconds or so, then leave it cracked open the rest of the bake, with a 180 degree turn of the pizza happening at about 2:00. For the pizza, the broiler was on the entire time, but I'm not sure if it was at full strength. The ideal would be to launch as late as possible so that the broiler would be still be on, uninterrupted, by the time the pizza finishes, but I haven't tested enough to see where this barrier is.

My dough recipe is as follows: 100% KABF, 61% tap water, 3% salt, 1% IDY. Ingredients were mixed similar to Varasano's recipe, no bulk ferment, balled at 240g, 3 days in fridge, and about 2-3 hours at room temp prior to baking. I'm not really sure about the diameter/thickness factor, if I had to guess I'd say about 10-11" in diameter. I haven't spent any effort tinkering with the dough really, I just wanted something close enough to be able to evaluate the oven potential. On a side note, I'd be interested in pursuing Roman-style thin crust pizza, although I don't see a lot of info about that on these forums (just a few mentions of a section on it in Peter Reinhart's book). I lived in Rome for a little bit and I vaguely remember timing some bakes around the 3 minute range, though I can't recall very well. In any case it seems like a much lower temperature is needed for this style (although many places in Rome use a WFO) because it seems like they are using a lower hydration dough which is stretched much thinner than as done in Naples.
-Dan

scott123

  • Guest
Re: Seeking advice on a gentle oven mod
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2012, 03:09:01 AM »
Dan,

Based on the lack of leoparding with close proximity to the broiler and with the broiler on for the entire bake, I think, until you track down other equipment, you can put Neapolitan to rest for this oven.

Judging from the color you're getting on top and your impending move towards a NY direction, I don't think you need the grill pan.  Extra items suck up heat and extend pre-heats.  Bricks are the worst culprits, but additional cast iron pans will increase the thermal mass as well. I think you should get plenty of broiler impact without the height of the grill pan.

Between the color on the base and the color on the top, I'd like to see you turn off the oven a bit longer so that the broiler will stay on while the oven door is closed. A closed door will trap a bit more heat and give you more even browning.  With a long enough rest- not 550, but not 525 either- perhaps 535, I think you can hit a nice 4 minute bake top and bottom. The broiler might turn off during those 4 minutes, but you might get enough color before it does- with the door closed.

Recipe-wise, NY is 2% or less salt, and I'd start off with 2% oil. 1% yeast is a little high for a 3 day cold ferment, but, as long as the dough isn't deflating by the time you use it, that's fine.

I can't help you with Roman style, but you should be able to get some help from the Pizzarium thread:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,9989.0.html