I got my Pizza Bella pizza oven yesterday. I tried to measure its operating temperature on "high" with my standard 600°F oven thermometer but the oven heated well beyond that limit... I'd have to guess that it went as high as 750-800°F... maybe higher!!
Tonight I'll measure the temperature with my new infrared non-contact thermometer that'll read up to 1000°F.
As soon as I got home from work the package was waiting for me at the door. I performed the temperature test and then made up a quick batch of NY style pizza dough and gave it a three hour rise. Using one pound of flour to one cup of water, I had enough dough to make three 12" pizzas.
Here are my initial results:Pizza #1
- Cranked oven to high, waited for thermostat to click off. Temperature was waaay off the scale of my thermometer. Plopped pizza #1 onto the stone and closed the lid. Kitchen immediatly started filling with smoke. Cough, cough!!
After exactly two minutes I cracked the lid. Bottom of pizza was charred a nice burnt black (and stuck to the stone!), top of the pizza was perfect!
Scraped pizza off of stone and used spatula to scrape burnt crust off the stone. Even with this dismal failure, I tasted the puffy upper (unburnt) crust and toppings... pure delight! The crust had very
thin crisp outer shell and the inside was light, moist, and puffy! It was a perfect NY style crust. Now I had to work on the bottom of the pizza.Pizza #2
- Lowered the oven temperature to "Medium" and let the stone cool down. Pizza #2 was placed on the stone at which time I closed the lid and set thermostat to "high" (to get the top heating element to turn on). After two minutes I lifted the lid to check on things. The top was cooked nicely, the bottom was just beginning to burn. Out of the oven it came. This pizza was completely edible since it had not burnt, but some of the old bits of burnt crust from pizza #1 were still on the stone and imparted a burnt taste to the crust. Pizza #2 was just "OK" in my opinion.Pizza #3
- Lowered the oven temperature to "Low" and let it cool down even more. About 30 seconds before the pizza went on I cranked it to "High" to get the top element heated up. After two minutes in the oven, the bottom of the pizza was light brown and one side of the top was starting to brown. I rotated the pizza so it'd cook evenly on top. After about three minutes the bottom was tanish-brown and the top crust (not the toppings) was starting to burn. I took the pizza out at that point. This pizza was the best of the three. I think it was slightly undercooked on the bottom and the top crust edge (not the toppings) was slightly overcooked. No burnt pieces tainted this pizza and it had excellent flavor. My wife said "this tastes like mall pizza", by that I assume she meant it tasted like Sbarro's pizza at our local mall... which is good! So, with the help of my newest kitchen gadget, I've elevated my "homemade" tasting NY pizza to "mall" tasting NY pizza... using the same recipe that I've been using all along. This prooves my point that the oven
is the key to getting professional tasting pizza.
I read in Jeffrey Steingarten's book "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" (highly recommended, by the way) that the NY pizzeria ovens are about 650°F on the cooking deck, and the air above the pizza about 850°F (he measured this with the same type of IR non-contact thermometer that I just ordered). In his book, the chapter about making perfect pizza at home, he goes through the same trials and tribulations that all of us here are still going through... he tries get his home oven to go above 500°F, he tries using an outdoor grill, etc., etc... it's a very good story. And I find it humorous that I've essentially done the exact same things that he's done. Jeffrey is the food writer for Vogue Magazine.
You can rest assured that I will be experimenting with my Pizza Bella for quite some time, tweaking my technique, to get that perfect NY style crust.