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Author Topic: advice for keeping detroit-style pizza warm for a few hours for farmers market?  (Read 932 times)

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Offline carrson

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Hello! Long time lurker, but first time posting. Figured you all would be a good place to try and ask around for some advice on an issue Im trying to solve.

As mentioned in the title, am looking for some advice on keeping pizza warm for up to 4 hours, though probably for more like 2 hours or so. I recently started a small pizza shop out of a shared commercial kitchen doing detroit style pizza, and we are going to be starting at some farmers markets in January and Im trying to figure out the best way to keep the pizza warm and also not ruin the quality of the pizza. Our goal is ideally to get up to around ~100 pizzas sold per market, and the market lasts about 4 hours (9am-1pm), though we are expecting the majority of sales in the last 2 hours (11a-1p). We considered trying to make the pizza fresh on-site, but there's a whole host of issues with trying to do that unfortunately: mostly that it doesn't seem practical, and would be quite expensive. Since its detroit style and not say neapolitan, the pizza takes 10-15 minutes to bake, which means each oven can maybe turn out 4-5 pizzas/hr, which means you'd need something like 5-10 ovens, and thus either a ton of propane or generators too, I dont think customers really want to be waiting that long for fresh pizza etc. It just seems impractical right now.

So the alternative seemed to be to try and sell slices with the idea of making the pizza before hand, then transporting it to the market hot to sell, possibly with the idea of keeping one person at the kitchen making pizza continuously, and then doing several "deliveries" over the course of the market, eg every hour or two, so that the pizza is fresher. The problem is generally that the pizzas tend to steam a bit in something like a box and the bottom crust in particular becomes less crispy/gets a bit floppy, so we're trying to figure out some way thats not too expensive but still keeps the pizza's quality reasonably well.

We've looked into a few options, something like the Cambro insulated food carriers, with some baking sheets + wire racks to keep the pizzas off the baking trays, but its a bit on the expensive side, as they dont fit a ton of pizzas, like maybe 10-15, so we'd need possibly up to like 10 or so carriers, which would be a lot of stuff to transport/lot of space taken up, the carriers themselves are a few hundred bucks each, plus baking trays + racks, all told it would be probably several thousand dollars, which is a bit expensive. We've thought about possibly just insulated delivery bags, putting the pizzas in boxes, possibly with a wire rack in the box, etc. We've thought about also just cooling the pizzas down before putting them in boxes to remove the steaming issue, combined with maybe some sort of re-heating on a griddle or in a small portable oven or something when the customer purchases a slice. That seems potentially reasonable, but it adds some complexity to the whole setup, also makes it take longer to serve the customer, etc. so Im not sure.

Really though, I just wanted to see if there was anyone that had any experience with doing anything like this and if maybe there was a good solution out there that Im not thinking of, particularly before we go spending a few grand on a solution that may or may not work that well, etc.

Any advice/help would be appreciated!

Thanks in advance.

Edit: and some shots of the pizza, since who doesnt like that  :D
« Last Edit: January 01, 2023, 01:49:06 AM by carrson »

Offline Andrew t

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your pizza looks great.

I do pop up on site pizza up in Sacramento. Good luck with this business model.

It'll be a challenge with the constraints to maintain quality for a hot hold product. Cooling and reheating will present different challenges.

I've looked at morning markets and the only model I could come up that I thought had a high likelyhood of sucess was a 'take and bake' model.

Here's how it would work- proof and prebake shells with some of the cheese in half hotel pan sized aluminum pans. Chill, then top with remainng cheese and toppings. Wrap and sell with cooking instrucitons and sauce on the side. I would personally make a QR code to a youtube video of cooking demo as well a written directions.

The foil pans worked pretty well when I tested it. Is it the same a fresh hot pizza I cook to order, no. But it's a solid product.

In another life I sold another product at Farmer's makrets. Another question to consider- is the market customer base 'grocery shopping' or is it more of a street fair. If it's grocery shopping, prebakes could do well. If it's street fair, slices might be better. Either way hot a ready whole pies might be a tough sell.

I personally have never pursued slice business becasue the per transaction dollars are so much lower and it requires high volume which adds to staffing needs.

I am a solo operator and like it that way. I'm also microbuisness that intends to stay a side hustle for the foreseeable future. The opportunity cost is my top consideration when looking at differnet sales channels.

good luck.
Andrew

Offline foreplease

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Great post, Andrew.
-Tony

Offline scott r

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maybe some sort of re-heating on a griddle or in a small portable oven or something when the customer purchases a slice. That seems potentially reasonable, but it adds some complexity to the whole setup, also makes it take longer to serve the customer, etc. so Im not sure.

I cant stress enough how much I think this is the only way to go here.  It may add some complexity but it will improve the pizza you are selling 100% which is all that matters if you want to make it.

Offline carrson

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Hey, thanks for the reply Andrew.

When you say pop-up on site, are you also doing Detroit style, and are you doing baked to order? If you dont mind my asking, what sort of setup are you using, eg propane ovens, generators/electric oven, something else? How many ovens do you use, and how many customers are you serving/over what period of time? I assume you have pre-baked dough and then are dressing the pizza/baking to order?

At the end of the day, Id really like to be serving the best quality pizza I can, so if baking them fresh on site is feasible, I would re-consider my opposition to it, as the last time I looked into it, it just didn't seem feasible doing some back of the envelope calculations. We want to be able to do multiple markets ideally, and the upfront cost of so many ovens, plus staffing requirements for dressing/making/baking that many pizzas in a short time period, in such a small space, etc. just made it seem like not a great idea in my mind.

I've also thought about a "take and bake" model, as Ive done some experiments with both chilled/frozen pre-bakes, and actually they turn out surprisingly well, the pre-bakes reheat well enough that its *very* close to as good as freshly baked crust. In fact, Ive taken to keeping a supply of frozen pre-bakes on hand in case something goes wrong with that day's dough making/baking, I keep them as my backup. The one thing I worried about for a take and bake/frozen model was the pans -- I use lloyd's 8x10, but I couldnt find any seemingly suitable disposable pans that were the same size as the lloyds 8x10 -- when you mention the half sheet hotel pans, are you talking more of a sicilian style?

And yeah, I would prefer to sell whole pizzas over slices (I was initially quite resistant to selling slices at all), but the business is struggling a bit with marketing/exposure, getting our name out there, etc. Everyone that tries the pizza seems to really enjoy it, but we really need some exposure and we need some sales volume. At the moment, we're only doing like 3-5 pizzas a night (to be fair, we've only been open about 6-8 weeks once you remove the holiday break), so the farmers markets are a bit of a gamble to try and help get our name out there etc. I unfortunately suck at the social media marketing/instagram/yelp type stuff. We need to get to 15-20 pizzas/night to make the business viable, so were losing quite a bit of money at the moment. Im really hoping the market will provide a better source of word-of-mouth type referrals etc. We also use all organic/locally sourced/very high quality ingredients, so the market's clientele kinda fits well with us (we're in silicon valley).

I actually did some experimenting tonight, and found that pizza boxes + insulated delivery bag kept temps up better than the cambro insulated pan carrier, where the pizza was on wire racks -- I was expecting the cambro to do better actually, so was a bit surprised. I think the boxes did better probably because they helped keep the heat enclosed in a smaller volume. The one issue was the pizzas in the box/bag combo steamed a bit more from the smaller space/less room for the steam to escape, so the bottom crust wasnt quite as good as the pizzas on the racks. We may need to look into some way to re-heat them on site, eg some sort of portable griddle/oven to crisp up the bottom and get everything hot again -- that would also let us leave the pizzas out to cool a bit before boxing them and hopefully solve some of the steaming issue. Im somewhat reluctant to go that route, since some of the markets around here ban any sort of open flame etc., plus it becomes an additional expense. But I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. For now I think we'll try and rely on just constant deliveries to the market of fresh pizzas once an hour or something.

Will let you all know how things go with the market/what we end up trying to solve the heat + steam issues. Appreciate the response though, if just to see hear what approaches some other people have tried/considered, its certainly useful feedback!
« Last Edit: January 02, 2023, 01:21:30 AM by carrson »

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Offline carrson

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I cant stress enough how much I think this is the only way to go here.  It may add some complexity but it will improve the pizza you are selling 100% which is all that matters if you want to make it.

Yeah, I am certainly heavily considering going that route. I was really hoping there would be some sort of solution that would keep the pizza reasonably fresh that would make it unnecessary (for a variety of reasons), but as I mentioned in my previous post, I did some testing tonight with pizza boxes + insulated delivery bag and compared that with some pizzas in a cambro insulated pan carrier on baking trays/wire racks. Overall, both held temp reasonably well -- the pizzas were about 145F or so internal by the time I got them into the delivery bag/cambro, and after about an hour, the pizzas in the box/bag combo were still about 120-125F internal, whereas the pizzas in the cambro had dropped to about 110-115F. At 2 hours, they had both dropped another 10 degrees or so each. Overall, the quality was reasonably good on both, even at 2 hours -- the cheese had certainly solidified, but the main issue was the texture of the bottom crust, and just an overall heavy moisture/steamed quality. It hadnt gone completely soggy/floppy or anything, but it wasnt a nice crisp anymore either (the sides stayed reasonably crisp though). Compared to fresh, they were like a 6-7 out of 10 or something -- the flavors were still there, but you could tell the pizza had been sitting out for a bit; it was mostly a textural thing with the cheese/crust, and then just overall temp too could have been better. Being detroit style though, I think it held up better than say neapolitan or NY style would after a couple hours, as it was still quite good pizza IMO.

Absent anyone else mentioning a better way though, I think you're right, and this is probably the solution Im leaning towards as a reasonable mix of not too expensive, not too time consuming on site (so dont necessarily need a lot of staff), and still good quality for the customer etc. Will have to run some more tests to see how well the pizza comes back to life with a small portable oven/griddle.

Offline scott r

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Good luck with this.  Your pizzas look great!

Offline carrson

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Good luck with this.  Your pizzas look great!

Appreciate that (and your comment as well Andrew!) Honestly been struggling to stay motivated with things the past few weeks, its been a bit frustrating/stressful with the lack of sales, so its always appreciated to get some positive feedback -- especially on here, where there's a ton of good pizza!

Offline Andrew t

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Carrson-

My set up is a Blodgett 911p in hte back of a pickup with a pop-up tent with make and service tables. My house style is 9x16 pala style, striaght baked. I added pan pizza last year (I don't call it DSP b/c it's prebaked). I make 10x14 in DSP pans. I do a prebake, top and finish to order for the pans.

I settled on prebakes b/c I personally don't dig the striaght baked DSP. I use a 75% hyrdo long CF with 10-20% mixed grains. It's the same as my pala dough. You could call it Sicilian with a cheese skirt.

I wokr alone and can sell 50-60 total in a 4 hour window. Taking orders, streching, dressing, baking, cutting and serving. It's hustle to do more than 45. I do 1-3 might per month at a local brewery. A slow night is 25 a busy night is 45, slammed is 55+.

My blodgets allow me to do 3 pizza (either one) at a time. I run it at 650-700 with 1.25 inch firebrick deck, the oven is modified to run hot. I can turn out the pala in 4-6 minutes depending on how many back to back bakes. The pans take about 8-10 minuntes. I have to double pan the finish bake sometimes b/c the deck is so hot.

I hear you about starting out. For me that is exactly why I've kept is as a side line for now. I need to develop the skills and interest in the marketing side to the same level I have for the hospitality and culinary side. I heard a great nugget a few months ago that sums up my position- 'make a great product and let people know about it"- I've got the product but letting them know is my struggle.

good luck
Andrew

Offline carrson

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Hey Andrew,

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Did you find the Blodgett used somewhere? That's a nice oven. And yeah, I do DSP, but a bit my own way, not quite traditional. I also do pre-bakes, mostly because I think its better pizza in the end honestly. Its interesting youre using the same dough for DSP/Pala, I could see it though. Our doughs really aren't too far off, to be honest. Im doing more like 72% hydration, and a fairly long preferment rather than a long CF, but I also do a mix of flours.

50-60 in a 4 hour window by yourself is impressive to say the least. Obviously have all your mise en place done beforehand, but thats still hustling, thats 12-15 pizzas/hr, especially only being able to do 3 at a time, that means youve got the oven full nearly the entire time, and you're dressing a pizza in ~2-3 minutes, since you still have to get the finished ones out of the oven, put new ones in, plus de-panning, boxing, etc. Not sure I could keep up with that sort of pace, I feel pretty good about myself if I can do half that many, though the way I dress is slightly more complex than standard, which takes a bit more time.

But yeah, I hear you, Im still working on the "and let people know about it" part too. Good luck though! I may have to come up to Sac to check your pizza out sometime. Maybe the next time Im up in the north bay picking stuff up, I can run up there.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2023, 09:36:00 AM by carrson »

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Offline Pizza Shark

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Carson, 

I think I may have a solution for you.  Detroit style pizza is very forgiving when it comes to reheating due to the Crisco or other hydrogenated oil that you probably grease the pans with prior to baking.  I'm not sure how present the "Health Police" are at this Farmer's Market in which you are looking to sell but you should keep it safe to avoid problems. 

We all know that a Detroit Style pizza (or virtually any other kind of pizza) once baked can sit at room temp on the counter overnight and we can all eat it the next morning for breakfast without getting sick.  I've been eating last night's pizza left on counter the next morning for breakfast for 30 years and never been sick. However, the Health Police think differently.  So here is my recommendation...

You are baking 8x10" Detroit style I believe.  Bake it, pull it from the pan, let it cool on a vent rack for say 20 minutes and then into the cooler it goes wrapped in plastic wrap and bring it down to refrigerator temp that can be held through the transport with many others all stacked in a cooler and stored at the Farm Market.  Give it a try with 1 pie. 

At the market what you need is a way to rapidly reheat, re-crisp and hold pies for sale.  So, what you need is 1 or 2 Air Fryers that you can pull those pies from the cooler, unwrap, and put into the air fryer that brings them back to full life and crispiness in about 3 minutes at maybe at a setting of say 375 degrees.  When you pull them from the air fryer you then need to store the pies for sale and that is when you place them on a heated griddle and keep them covered with a sheet of aluminum foil (shiny side down and facing the pies as always) until they are sold. 

I say you only sell whole 8x10 pies and charge accordingly. You are not a charity, you are not there looking to build a name for yourself, you are providing a great product and people will pay for it.  Do NOT sell slices and go down that road. 

If I were you, I'd offer a cheese, a pepperoni and maybe a "Supreme" that has roni, sausage, green pepper, shrooms and onion.  These are the BIG 3. 

Now, your Detroit pies are 8x10 I think so you need an air fryer that can take 8x10 pies.  That is a little tough but if you search on Amazon they are out there.  You want one with high velocity air and pulls a full 1800 watts.  Maybe something like this?  As far as the resting plate/griddle where you keep them warm and crisp after pulling from the air fryer and hold them for sale, something like this that should hold 3 at a time lined up. 

Don't let people tell you you can't venture into the Farmer's Market and make this work without spending lotsa of money, buying mobile ovens or spending a fortune on holding bags and thermal containers.  I say you can give it a try dirt cheap with only a few hundred bucks spent on a common cooler, an air fryer and a heated griddle.     
       
« Last Edit: January 05, 2023, 09:18:47 PM by Pizza Shark »

Offline carrson

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Hey Shark,

Thanks for the reply. Its funny that you mention not selling slices -- I was adamantly against selling slices for quite some time, but some of the other owners at the shared kitchen Im at convinced me it was worth trying. I do think in a high foot traffic type scenario, like a farmers market, it makes more sense than it would at the shop (a very low foot traffic scenario), but I hear you about not selling slices. It adds more work, leads to more, smaller transactions, you end up with partially unsold pizzas, etc. I dunno, I think we'll try it and see how it goes, but I definitely might make changes if it seems like its not worth it. FWIW, the main reason really is to get our name out there -- I suck at the marketing side of things -- I think our product is good, but we definitely need a way to increase our exposure, get our name out there.

At the shop, I normally sell a full pizza for about 18-22$ (depending on toppings). I think my plan is to sell a slice (1/4th of a pizza) for 8$, but then offer a combo of 2 slices and a soda or something for 14-15$, or a full pizza for like $22-24, and try to push people towards larger purchases. Might need to adjust the prices, we'll see I guess.

As far as reheating, something along your idea I think is probably the way Im leaning towards. At one of the markets, we'll have access to electricity, but at the other, we wont, so we need a solution that will work at both (propane based or maybe a generator). I ran some experiments the other night, trying out various re-heating methods. What Ive found is that the biggest issue is really more the steam, not so much the temperature -- the pizzas just steam in a box or any container you put them in, and the crust loses a lot of the crispy texture. The crust is really what makes the pizza (or at least, the style im doing). I tried a few different ways of reheating -- on a griddle, in an oven, etc. The problem with a griddle-type reheating is that the bottom does crisp back up fairly well, but the top doesn't really reheat at all. OTOH, if you stick it in an oven, the issue is that it takes much, much longer to reheat than you might think. 3 minutes @ 375F wont be nearly hot/long enough to really heat the pizza back up. It was actually taking 6+ minutes in a 550F oven to get the top to reheat decently, closer to 8-10 to get it good and hot. But that makes sense when you think about it. Considering I pre-bake the bread completely, all Im really doing when making them fresh is cooking the toppings/melting the cheese and crisping the crust, and that takes about 10 minutes, so it's not too surprising that it takes nearly the same time to reheat it. And the issue becomes if you're going to spend that much time to reheat a slice, you kinda may as well just bake them fresh on-site, which kinda defeats the whole purpose.

What I really need I think is something like a broiler/salamander to heat the top, combined with a griddle to get the bottom crispy. The other option someone mentioned was to try something like an Ooni, since it can go up to 900-1000F, and that might be able to reheat quickly enough to make sense. I did look around for a portable salamander/broiler, but they're fairly expensive, like several grand typically from what I found. If anyone has a good recommendation for something like that for under say 500$, please share. The one idea that I had that might work that I havent been able to test yet is a heat gun. I actually have one Ive used before for food (was using it for searing a steak after sous vide cooking), and that thing I think goes up to like 1500F, so Im going to try testing that to see how well it works, will report back on how it goes.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: January 06, 2023, 11:25:43 AM by carrson »

Offline jsobolew

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I have a pop-up where I normally sell Neo/NY hybrid 2.5min bakes at a brewery once a week and I make 40 in a day. Because I'm lucky enough to have a strong, loyal customer base, I take online pre-orders and always sell out. However, once a month I do Sicilian style slices at a different location on a walk-up order basis. It's helped me expand my base a little and it's just fun to do something different. That said, I make less money on my slices and it takes more time BUT I'll let you know how I do it.
I have 2 Baker's Pride P22 style 220v ovens so I can bake 4 at a time. I usually make 12-16 but you could obviously do more if you had more time and more pans. I bake the pizzas the night before in Lloyd pans, cool to room temp on cooling racks then I put them in aluminum baking sheets with plastic lids and place them in the fridge overnight. The next morning I set up the oven which I normally use for my round pies (Edil Planet Nonno Peppe with homemade gas burner) but I run it at about 500f. I can place about 6 slices on a screen and heat them for about 2-3 mins in the oven when I get orders and that seems to do the trick. I'm careful not to brown too much in the initial bake because the reheat does add more browning. I also like to go a little light on the sauce for the initial bake and add just a little more on the reheat because I like the fresh taste of lightly cooked sauce. The bummer about this is that it takes more time because you are making all the pies one day and serving them the next instead of doing it all on the same day but it makes the mobile setup much easier and all you have to do on the second day is reheat slices and enjoy chatting with your customers.

Offline Andrew t

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jsobolew's method could work really well with a Blackstone.

I used the OG Blackstones when starting out and they have a new model.

The rotating stone is 16" and you can adjust the top heat very well. Might still take 4+ minutes for HOT but you could fit 8 slices the size you're cutting them. Use a screen or baking steel to adjust bottom heat.

THe new BS is $800 but I still see OG ones on CL or FB for $300ish.

The new model looks very portable.

Offline PizzaGarage

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Your going to be hard pressed to do 100 in 4 hours without ovens, slices might be a better way to go using Turbochefs Rapid Cook (air impingement top and bottom)
I would use a insulated holding cabinets to store whole pies received.  Temp needs to be a min of 140.  Slice and reheat in the turbochef on demand.  For the spot with electrical use that for the Turboís and holding cabinet, for the other use a low decibel covered portable generator.  The Turbochef will reheat rapidly and get the slice into the desired near fresh condition.  No humidity in the holding cabinet, vented boxes, let the pies cool on a rack before sliding into the box uncut ( you must let them steam off, longer than normal try 3 - 4, 5 min and get them down to 150-160, temps will drop more during transportation, you will be reheating later so itís ok to let them cool more, min safe temp is 140 to the holding cabinet - you want to maintain the crust) Use ripple sheets in the box to keep the crust in good shape as well.  Look for auctions and used Turbochefs, you can find these all the time.  New they are super expensive, used between 3-5k or less.

« Last Edit: January 11, 2023, 01:58:58 AM by PizzaGarage »

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