Author Topic: "Good pizzas are 90% oven" "conveyor ovens are not great" Oven primer for newb  (Read 22464 times)

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Offline Nick - Pizza Man

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Hi,

I have seen statements like that in many topics here, but I haven't been able to find any topic that explains why.

I run a pizza shop that is part of a chain, so naturally my oven is a conveyor, a Middleby Marshall.

Why are conveyors not so great? What makes a good pizza oven? What should you look for in an oven?

I am not new to the food industry, but clearly world class pizza is a couple of levels above where I'm at.


Offline The Dough Doctor

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Nick;
You have to define what constitutes a great pizza oven first. For some it is an oven that operates at a very high temperature, and gives up a pizza every 2 to 3-minutes, but it requires a lot of valuable floor space, needs to be manually operated (in/out/rotating), requires free space in front of the oven for the oven operator to work (again a valuable commodity), is relatively expensive when sized for the volume needed, will not be allowed in some locations, may be expensive to operate, lacks portability, gee... the list just goes on and on. Now, lets look at an air impingement oven (conveyor oven). It has a relatively low purchase cost, economical to operate, has high volume capacity, requires a minimum of floor space, minimum to no operator expertise needed, can bake just about any type of pizza along with a plethora of side dishes, can bake both thin and thick crust pizzas side by side, the airflow helps to provide a consistently dry pizza, again the list goes on and on. It just so happens that from a commercial point of view there are a lot of advantages to the air impingement ovens that other oven types just don't have. Deck ovens as well as wood fired ovens are great for small stores (independents) and even small chains, but when you start looking at 25 or more stores, not to even mention thousands of stores for some of the larger chains, you want things to be as simple as possible and as economical as possible from both a purchase price v/s pizzas per hour, as well as space allocation in the store (space is a very costly commodity). So, what is a great pizza oven? It's the one that works best in your specific application. Air impingement ovens can also be set up to replicate most types of pizzas too. The word versatile comes to mind.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

scott123

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Nick, there are a few different facets to this discussion.

Conveyors are associated with chain pizza, and, for pizza obsessives, chain pizza is inferior to the independents. Chain pizza can be highly profitable, it can have many loyal fans, but, side by side, placing the best independent deck oven slice next to the best chain conveyor slice, there's no competition. A conveyor has certain attributes that prevent it from making the same pizza as a deck.  You don't get the same oven spring, the microblistered undercrust, the artisan quality. There's a soulfulness and an energetic quality to the best deck oven pizza that you don't find in conveyors.

I strongly recommended a deck oven to Bagsy because I was aware of how incredibly profitable a 4-5 minute deck oven pie can be in his particular area. While I firmly believe that this particular pizza has a universal appeal, and can be immensely profitable just about anywhere, I'm not all that familiar with the market in Australia, and, had you asked the same questions as Bagsy, I might not have offered the same advice.

Bake time is critical to world class pizza.  As you extend the clock, oven spring suffers and the end result is inferior.  The only way to truly understand this is to experience a 4 minute deck oven NY style pizza.  60-90 Neapolitan is also spectacular, but 4 minute NY tends to be a bit more accessible, and, for certain markets, more profitable as well.

scott123

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Tom, if quantity and ease of use are the goals, sure, nothing beats a conveyor.  If quality is the goal, though, a deck always trumps a conveyor.  I've never seen a conveyor oven pizza win any kind of 'best in county/state/region' award/recognition.  If it could make truly world class pizza, someone should be able to coax it from it and achieve acclaim. So far, nobody has achieved this in any major pizza market.

Conveyors produce mediocre pizza.  They can pump out a record breaking number of pies and require almost no skills to use, but that doesn't change the fact that the end result is mediocre.  Just because mediocre pizza can be profitable doesn't mean that we have to aspire to it.  McDonalds is highly profitable as well, but if someone were opening a restaurant, I'd be telling them to aim higher.  Conveyors make McPizza.

Offline Jet_deck

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Conveyors make McPizza.

Perhaps the best one-liner of the year. :-D
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Offline dellavecchia

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My brother in law runs many restaurants, and one of his places that serves pizza uses a conveyor oven. It was imported from Germany and has stone tiles. I can't remember the name, but a lot of effort went into finding a conveyor oven that produced the pizza he was after. And that his operators could produce quality pizza consistently. I believe the bake time is 5-6 minutes. The pizza is thin crust and absolutely delicious. His dough is really well done - overnight rise using fresh yeast. Tender, yet slightly chewy.

John

scott123

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John, is the pizza baked on stone tiles? If you could find out the name of the oven, I'd appreciate it. Also, do you have a name for your brother in law's pizzeria?


Online Pete-zza

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scott123,

One name that comes to mind from my past reading over at the PMQ Think Tank is a French company by the name of Picard. They make a stone conveyor oven: http://www.picardovens.com/commercial-ovens/products/Pizza/lp-200-stone-conveyor-oven.aspx. See, also, the PMQ TT thread at http://thinktank.pmq.com/viewtopic.php?p=70220#p70220.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 19, 2012, 11:57:33 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline dellavecchia

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John, is the pizza baked on stone tiles? If you could find out the name of the oven, I'd appreciate it. Also, do you have a name for your brother in law's pizzeria?



Yes, the pizza is baked on the tiles. I will email him about the oven name. Here is the restaurant pizza menu, which is a tavern:

http://www.coppertoptavern.com/ordereze/Content/5/PageDetails.aspx

John


Online Pete-zza

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Here is another stone conveyor oven, from Italforni: .

Peter

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Scott 123;
You have not been to any of the PMQ Pizza Shows. A few years back Dave Smith took first place with a pizza baked in an air impingement oven. I'm not going to get into any type of contest here but I will add that "world class pizza", whatever that might mean, may not be the pizza that everyone wants or needs. I personally like a pizza baked in a wood fired oven at high temperatures, but then again, that is not everyones cup of tea. So, once again, the oven that works best for YOU is YOUR best oven. We should remember that quality, like beauty is really nothing more than a perception.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Offline Chicago Bob

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Scott 123;
You have not been to any of the PMQ Pizza Shows. A few years back Dave Smith took first place with a pizza baked in an air impingement oven. I'm not going to get into any type of contest here but I will add that "world class pizza", whatever that might mean, may not be the pizza that everyone wants or needs. I personally like a pizza baked in a wood fired oven at high temperatures, but then again, that is not everyones cup of tea. So, once again, the oven that works best for YOU is YOUR best oven. We should remember that quality, like beauty is really nothing more than a perception.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor
Scott said...."So far, nobody has achieved this in any major pizza market."

I had my first Papa John's last night and you are right Tom...their pizza's are not cooked properly/underdone.
"Care Free Highway...let me slip away on you"

scott123

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Scott 123;
You have not been to any of the PMQ Pizza Shows. A few years back Dave Smith took first place with a pizza baked in an air impingement oven. I'm not going to get into any type of contest here but I will add that "world class pizza", whatever that might mean, may not be the pizza that everyone wants or needs. I personally like a pizza baked in a wood fired oven at high temperatures, but then again, that is not everyones cup of tea. So, once again, the oven that works best for YOU is YOUR best oven. We should remember that quality, like beauty is really nothing more than a perception.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Tom, when it comes to pizza, quality is highly measurable.  It's not some subjective, pie in the sky, "I love all my grandchildren equally" kind of scenario.  There are three metrics involved:

Revenue

Where ever one may happen to be on the globe, great pizza makes money.  Lots and lots of money.  Mediocre chain pizza can be profitable as well, so one can't judge pizza solely by sales, but sales is an important metric.

Acclaim

When was the last time Dominos won an award? An award that it didn't give to itself?  Great pizzerias don't always stay great, but, in order to achieve fame, they had to, at some point in time, be doing something right. Like I said before- pick any major U.S. market- NY, LA, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Chicago, Seattle, Boston and find me an award winning pizzeria using conveyors.  Any newspaper poll, editor's best of list, online survey, anything lending the least amount of respect to these purveyors of mediocrity.

Brand Loyalty

This is more than "I am a Dominos guy" or "Our family only eats Papa Johns"-  more than just being drunk in the middle of the night, being happy with any slice that comes your way, but regretting it in the morning.  This is about customers that would take a bullet for you. You won't find this depth of passion with chains. Out the three metrics, this is the hardest to measure, but it's still quantifiable with a just a few interviews of customers.  You talk to a customer of any legendary NY area pizzeria that's still producing an award winning product and they will profess their love to the heavens.  You stop anyone outside of L&B and ask them their thoughts, they will talk your head off.They're not just there because they're hungry. They're there because, for many, it's a religious experience.  The photo below (credit: Norma) perfectly sums up the kind of fervor that independents inspire.  Do you really think you'd see these plates saying these things in a place selling McPizza with a conveyor? Do you really think a conveyor produced pie would inspire someone to write "I Love You" on a plate? Not in this universe.

Offline Chicago Bob

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Had a PJ's the other night...their conveyor oven sure cooks some crappy pizza man. All the independents around my area don't have a clue as to what they are doing. They get away with it because the consumers also don't have a clue. Is it too late to stop the madness cycle....unfortunately, I am thinking it is.
"Care Free Highway...let me slip away on you"

Offline Aimless Ryan

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The photo below (credit: Norma) perfectly sums up the kind of fervor that independents inspire.  Do you really think you'd see these plates saying these things in a place selling McPizza with a conveyor? Do you really think a conveyor produced pie would inspire someone to write "I Love You" on a plate? Not in this universe.

Check out the plate to the right of the one with the Van Halen logo, just a little south (and slightly west) of center. Awesome!

That's passion for pizza right there.
Ryan
http://www.ryanspizzablog.blogspot.com

Disclaimer: Don't necessarily believe anything I say here. My brain ain't quite right anymore (unless it is). If I come off as rude or argumentative, that's probably not my intention. Rather, that's just me being honest, to myself and everyone else; partly because I don't have enough time left to BS either you or myself. If you are offended by anything I say, it's probably because you think lying to people (to be "polite") is a good idea. I don't.

Offline TXCraig1

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Check out the plate to the right of the one with the Van Halen logo, just a little south (and slightly west) of center. Awesome!

That's passion for pizza right there.

You would get a real kick out of reading all the plates up on the ceiling of Best Pizza - and there are a lot more than you can see in the picture. Passion for all sorts of things... If you're ever in Brooklyn, you should check it out. Great pizza too obviously.
Pizza is not bread. Craig's Neapolitan Garage

Offline Nick - Pizza Man

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Thanks for the replies. Certainly some food for thought there.

I see the advantages of my conveyor every day - we cook all sorts of things in it, and my not-particularly-skilled staff can use it without a hassle. Can't see how a wood fired oven can handle the same volume, although to be fair I have never used one.

I live in Melbourne Australia and I have been searching high and low for a decent pizza place (besides my own .. can I say that?). Unfortuantely we don't have any genuine New York or Chicago style pizzas here, which is a real shame. I would love to try a deep dish pizza.

What I have learned, from trying a different pizza store each night, is that oven choice means diddly squat if you can't make a decent dough.

(and that it's not a good idea to tell a pizza shop owner that their pizzas are average)


Offline weemis

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(and that it's not a good idea to tell a pizza shop owner that their pizzas are average)

I still ain't learned that yet...  >:D
Nick Gore - just a dough eyed wanderer

Offline David Deas

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Can't see how a wood fired oven can handle the same volume, although to be fair I have never used one.

Wood fired ovens can handle volume just fine.  At peak hours you can be cooking several pies at once, each in less than 50 seconds a piece. The problem with the wood fired ovens is that you had better have an operator who knows exactly what the heck he is doing.

Offline Assman22

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Conveyors produce mediocre pizza.  They can pump out a record breaking number of pies and require almost no skills to use, but that doesn't change the fact that the end result is mediocre.  Just because mediocre pizza can be profitable doesn't mean that we have to aspire to it.  McDonalds is highly profitable as well, but if someone were opening a restaurant, I'd be telling them to aim higher.  Conveyors make McPizza.

Gotta be honest, I strongly disagree.  When using a conveyor oven, you must have the right dough to make it great.  I'm an independent that uses a conveyor, very rare.   Most indy's use wood-fired or deck ovens. 

Scott, have you ever used a conveyor oven?  Have you ever played around with the dough when baking with a conveyor oven? 

I've used all 3 oven types in my 10 year pizza career:  wood-fired, deck oven, and conveyor.  The first two cook at high temps and you need more moisture to stand up to the heat.  In a conveyor, you need to reduce the moisture level to get the crispy outside and chewy inside at 475 degrees. 

Something I've learned is there is a way to stack the toppings in deck ovens/wood-fired ovens as opposed to conveyors.  In the former, you put most toppings on top of the cheese.  In the latter, you put about 30% of toppings below the cheese so they don't dry out with the air impingement format. 

Comparing ovens is like apples and oranges, but I will put my conveyor pizzas up against any of your deck oven pizzas.  After a ton of R&D, I have the rights pans, the right dough recipe, and the right temperature on my conveyor to out-do your deck oven pie you're so proud of in less time and less money but still using top-notch ingredients(not papa john's "better ingredients").  Again, it's all about how you adjust your dough to your oven type.  Not which oven makes the best. 

Online waltertore

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This argument will go nowhere because we all have our own definition of what is a great pizza and usually it comes from our upbringing.  For me the art of a deck gas oven is the art of making a great pizza.  I was raised on them in the NJ/NYC area.   WFO pizza is great but I will take what I consider a great deck pie over a WFO great pie anyday.  I now live in central Ohio and the conveyor oven is king.  IMO the pizza out here stinks.  Again this is based on my upbringing.   Last weekend we had a front page article on our pizzas.  The cover picture had one of my students tossing pie.  Tossing is another part of what I consider a great pie and it has to be cooked direct on a stone. 

Our orders exploded this week and about 90% of the orders came from people raised in the NYC/NJ area or have experienced a great pie there.  They all said they were desperate for a deck pie done right and when I asked them about pies around here they all mentioned conveyor ovens and how bad the pies were.  Yet these conveyor oven places sell tons of pizzas to the natives.

 For me a conveyor takes the art out of it.  You can train a person in less than a day to make pizzas from begining to end using a dough sheeter/press/screen/pan.   The way we make pizzas takes years.  Volume/space  has pretty much driven all pizza oven design in the USA and the conveyor oven has far surpassed all oven designs that I know of for putting out large volume, minimum space, and unskilled workers needed to run them.   Money is the goal oftentimes over a great artisan product.   I respect people that love their conveyor oven pies and I don't doubt they can make a great pie with the right ingedients/dough.  But being raised in the pizza world of the NYC metro area I doubt I will ever have them into any place I run.  Maybe that is wrong and could be akin to talking nice to your plants and treating cows with love.  My mother, who is from Abruzi Italy, still talks that way.  She said they had happy cows but it took much more time and effort than the way we raise them here......  Is the milk better from one of her happy cows that lived in beautiful pastures with streams and shade trees than the pen kept drug injected, grain feed cows we raise here?  I guess that depends on the individual eating the products.   The main thing is to make the pizza of your dreams and to find the pizza that you can't live without.  No matter how it is made is not the point.  Your smile is :)  Walter
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 12:08:56 PM by waltertore »

Offline pythonic

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Assman makes some very strong points regarding dialing in the dough to your specific oven.  Would love to see pics of some of his pies.  Top and crumb view.

Nate
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Offline Assman22

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Nate,

I will gladly do that when I get my new place opened up.  Love this forum btw, exactly what I was looking for and I really enjoy your posts/pics.

Conveyor ovens are different, yes.  With any oven, you must adapt your operations to how the oven operates.  Most importantly, you must change your dough recipe accordingly and also layer your toppings in a different order on a conveyor as opposed to deck/WFO.  To bake breads/rolls/breadsticks properly in a conveyor, it's best to use a deep dish pan and cover with either a serving circular for pizzas or foil.  You're going to have to do 1.5 runs on pizzas with 4+ toppings, etc etc etc.  Please feel free to ask any questions about the conveyor oven, I'd love to help anyone.  Anything to rid this country of as many crappy pizza places as possible as soon as possible!  There are so many that fit this bill in San Francisco, good Lord!

Just seems like people write off the oven type because chains use them.  Chains make chain pizza because they only care about money.  You CAN make kickass pizzas in a conveyor oven, you just have to know how to do it.  Takes a lot of R&D time, trial & error. 

When my new place opens, I'll gladly give anyone on here a tour of my kitchen and you'll see how I roll.  I keep it simple but my pies are second to none.  I promise you, I'll make your head spin.  I love pizza like no other, it's my art.  I believe you can be great at anything by combining true passion and ambition.  "Do What You Love" and "Respect the Craft" are the mottos I follow. 

Thanks for everything you do Nate, big fan/follower of yours!

Offline jsaras

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Generally speaking, what's the trick to getting a good pizza from a conveyor oven?
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Offline Assman22

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Generally speaking, what's the trick to getting a good pizza from a conveyor oven?

Great question jsaras. 

First, you must have a good oven.  I personally like Middleby Marshall ovens, as far as conveyor ovens go.  I've used the PS-200, PS-570 (the Cadillac of conveyor ovens), and PS-360(which is the model used mostly by the big chains like Papa John's, etc.).  Lincoln and XLT are good ovens but buyer beware, they break down and need more attention more so than Middleby Marshall ovens. 

Next, you must use less moisture in your dough recipe.  I use 5% less moisture (reduced 2.5% oil and 2.5% water) at a 7:30 minute run at 465 degrees, than what I was using in a 650 degree deck oven.  Makes a crispy crust on the outside and chewy inside.

The order of toppings or "the toppings tower" as I call it, must be adjusted.  Due to how the air impingement ovens heat the products, you must place certain toppings under the cheese so they don't dry out.  Most notably, spinach, chicken, sausage, ground beef, and ham. 

I'll gladly show you some other tricks I do if you visit my pizzeria in person.  Will show how I do pepperoni-laden pies the customers can't get enough of!  There's so many additional ways to make your conveyor oven work for you and produce kickass pizza in an "idiot proof" system(whereas you can have newer employees run the oven and still work efficiently for you).  The sky is the limit my man!