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Offline f.montoya

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I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« on: May 19, 2015, 09:51:44 AM »
A little background…

I’ve had my WFO (which I built) in my yard now since 2012. Ever since then, (I guess as my pizza has improved), I’ve had more and more requests to do events here in Japan, such as local community “Omatsuri”, (festivals). The idea is to raise money for other events and excursions for the kids in the community and for upkeep of the community center facilities. Other events put on by companies for their employees are also being offered my way. However, I have declined everything due to my oven going absolutely nowhere (as it probably weighs several tons and is stuck to the foundation, LOL).

Also, I have been teaching “easy” pizza making classes over the last several years. Mostly types of pizzas that can be made in a home oven and often for Japanese housewives who want to make something different for their family over the weekend. However, some of them and several of their husbands have shown interest in NP and wood-fired pizza in general, one of whom built a small oven from large stones and firebricks in his garden. Of the classes I teach, only one of them is in my town, the others are about a 30 minute drive from here. There is huge demand for pizza in Japan. A large Dominoes pie goes for about 3,000 to 3,900 yen ($27 to $35 http://www.dominos.jp/eng/pizza/search). So teaching how to make pizza inexpensively, yet with high quality ingredients, is a niche I have been trying to fill. So far, so good. But I need a new challenge for some of my more serious Japanese pizza fanatics. So I will introduce them to wood-fired pizza. Probably starting with something NY, so they learn the basics of turning a pie in the oven without the ticking-time-bomb 60-90 second bakes of NP, and then progress to NP. For my class in my town, I have already been using my WFO but I needed a portable oven that I could take on the road.

For quite some time, I had been considering several options, from making a large purchase of something on a trailer, to building something portable on my own. The trailer option fell off the table quickly as I, and my wife, reminded ourselves that roads, parking and public parks & recreation area access are all very narrow with tight spaces here in Japan. While I was considering designs for ovens, I also continued to look at what people on these forums were using, and more importantly, the results they were getting. I just couldn’t help but be amazed by Don Luigi, Steve and Portboy8192’s results, among others.

And my review…

So I made a decision and got my hands on the Pizzone (90 x 70). The oven came in a big box on a Thursday a few weeks ago. On first glance I was quite impressed with the craftsmanship of the entire oven. Everything looked extremely durable and everything fit together with precision. It was not too heavy for my wife and myself to lift and move, so that was a big plus. All of this was well and good but I was really dying to try it out. For my specific purposes, I built a custom sized, double-level cart for the oven to make loading and unloading from my small SUV a cinch.

Fast-forward to May 17th.

Well a few days leading up to this day, I made 3 experimental doughs (my wife hates when I do this, except when she likes one of them!). The video below was a brainstormed idea between myself and my youngest daughter. We were going to a free camp-ground on a Sunday, where we knew there would be lots of barbequing going on and thought “how cool it is, that we’re the only ones making pizza at the beach!”

As for the oven, here is what I have to say. It’s a serious WFO. Make no mistake. It’s for real. It works very differently from the other 3 WFO’s I have experience with but not much at all in a negative way. It took me about 6 or 7 pies to understand how the heat convection is working, how the flame and coals position affects the bake, and realizing that the metal dome and walls do not radiate heat as much as they reflect heat, but you get plenty of radiant heat from the oven face, as it is made of refractory material. The insulation on the top and bottom are sufficient to get the floor in the high 800’s and even 900’s and the dome area at 1000f when you’re managing the oven with your full attention.

I liken this oven to that of a mix of the two Japanese sports cars Mazda Miata and Nissan Skyline. It may not be a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, but for the size and price it easily outclasses the others with similar aspirations. Provided that you are willing to struggle, and even burn a few pies, this oven will take you to the land of NP temps, like a 0-60 in under five. The rest is up to you.

The Bad?

•   Well the oven face was “really cute”, my wife said. But after we left the beach, the oven face was black with soot over the door. I guess it could use a slightly wider chimney to allow for more flow of air and smoke. I suppose I can scrub it clean with water and a brush, but this was a minor issue and did not affect baking.
•   Because of the material it is made of, baking bread and other things with “leftover” heat is possible, but not for an entire day or two like I do with my Alan Scott designed oven. You still need some live heat source to do this kind of baking. 
•   The included thermometer was a little misleading. It may be because it’s in the forward area and in a corner. I used my infrared laser thermometer and it consistently showed temps in the 800 and 900f range (between floor and upper dome), while the wall thermometer showed only about 700f.

The Good?

•   Where do I start? It took only about nine pieces of 2 – 3 inch thick logs to get the oven up to 900f.
•   It got to 900f in less than 30 minutes. (wary as I was, I heated the oven for an hour before baking anyway)
•   I used about a tenth of the amount of firewood I would have needed for the exact same time used with my home WFO.
•   After removing the coals and embers from the oven, the outer-side cooled to under 95f in only 45 minutes, making it safe load into my SUV to take home.
•   Did I mention that it’s easy to move?
•   The Pizzone oven uses 8 floor firebricks. They sent me an extra two firebricks just in case. Very nice of them!
•   You don’t need to use the oven door during your bake. I’ve seen lots of youtube videos with Italian Pizzaioli baking NP with this oven using the door. It’s completely unnecessary. The oven gets hot enough, and stays that way with attentive oven management.

All-in-all, a damn good oven. Like the Miata or the Nissan Skyline, for the price and size, if put your foot in the gas pedal it’s going to surprise you.

The video is still uploading. I will post it below this post as soon as it’s ready.

Offline Don Luigi

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2015, 10:06:57 AM »
Can't wait to check the video when I'm home and great to see more people getting into the oven and share their tips and tricks especially experienced Pizza Maker's like you, Fidel!
On a neapolitan pizza journey with Wood fired oven Pizza Party 70x70
My Pizza

Offline mitchjg

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2015, 10:18:21 AM »
Fidel:

How did you feel about the "roominess"?  Did it feel at all cramped to you?
Mitch

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Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2015, 10:33:47 AM »
Fidel:

How did you feel about the "roominess"?  Did it feel at all cramped to you?

The 90 x 70 "Pizzone" is the roomiest oven they have. The tight confines are only apparent in the low dome. Other than that, the space for launching a 13" pie and space for turning it was no issue. I probably will not cook 2 or 3 such sized pies at a time in this oven but  could safely do two 11'' pies with short bake times and have plenty of space for turning. However, I still have not tried two pies. I will need to make a better assessment of hot and cold spots in the oven first before attempting multiple pies at once. Rest assured, I will put it through it's paces.

Offline 3pedals

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2015, 10:39:52 AM »
I'm guessing the fire has to be positioned in the back instead of the side to maximize cooking surface area?

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Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2015, 10:57:38 AM »
I'm guessing the fire has to be positioned in the back instead of the side to maximize cooking surface area?

Do you want to maximize your cooking area? Or do you want to get a true Neapolitan Pizza?

I never recommend putting the fire in the back of a WFO. You lose heat because the direction of convection pulls the heat into the fire, up the dome and out the chimney and door, thus losing heat and having more heat in the back and less in the front.

You get a consistently high temps when you have high heat and flame on one side. The convection action pulls the heat from the source and swirls it around the chamber of the oven, which produces better balance of temperature throughout the oven.

Offline f.montoya

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« Last Edit: May 19, 2015, 11:02:00 AM by f.montoya »

Offline David Esq.

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2015, 12:37:43 PM »
Wow, your stand is incredible. Love the precision with which  you are able to slide the top half with the oven, right onto the bottom half.

The black on the oven face should wipe right off with a damp paper towel, no soap needed. At least, not if you wipe it off before the oven cools.  This is what makes me leery of putting the oven indoors.  Until I can get consistent fires without blackening the front, I am afraid to hook it up to a flu inside (even though a flu would likely draw the smoke out more efficiently and thereby lessen the smoke coming out the front).

Offline Don Luigi

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2015, 12:45:50 PM »
Cool stuff, Fidel - great review and very nice stand and setup. Love your obsession for Pizza!
It surely works great to have the door off for 90 sec - 120 sec Pies but if you want to stay in 45-70 sec range I found you need the door on. It just keeps the heat in a little more. But I am looking forward seeing more form you and the Oven :chef:
On a neapolitan pizza journey with Wood fired oven Pizza Party 70x70
My Pizza

Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2015, 08:25:08 PM »
Cool stuff, Fidel - great review and very nice stand and setup. Love your obsession for Pizza!
It surely works great to have the door off for 90 sec - 120 sec Pies but if you want to stay in 45-70 sec range I found you need the door on. It just keeps the heat in a little more. But I am looking forward seeing more form you and the Oven :chef:

Hi Don,

Just curious, but do you have the pizzone (90 x 70)? Although the specific pie shown in the video was about 90 seconds, I had several pies in the 45 to 60 second range with the door off. I used the door for only the first 2 pies out of 15 total on this day. It just seemed cumbersome so I just stopped using the door and just made sure I had a neat row of flame on the right side, from front to back. My home oven's radiant heat allows me to get away with more uneven piles of coals and flame. It took me about 6 pies to figure out that this was one difference I was dealing with. But the pizzone is fairly deep from the front door to the back wall so I think it holds heat just fine with an evenly distributed line of flame and coal bed. Once I made the adjustment, the bake times dropped from about 90 seconds to 45 - 60...without the door. :)

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Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2015, 08:34:24 PM »
Wow, your stand is incredible. Love the precision with which  you are able to slide the top half with the oven, right onto the bottom half.

The black on the oven face should wipe right off with a damp paper towel, no soap needed. At least, not if you wipe it off before the oven cools.  This is what makes me leery of putting the oven indoors.  Until I can get consistent fires without blackening the front, I am afraid to hook it up to a flu inside (even though a flu would likely draw the smoke out more efficiently and thereby lessen the smoke coming out the front).

Thanks David. I will probably clean it today as you recommend.

Having rebuilt the chimney on my home WFO twice, I found the reason for the some of the smoke exiting the door(thus the blackening) to be due to smoke bottlenecking through the chimney flue that is too narrow. I hesitate to do any modifications myself to the Pizza Party oven's flue opening because I will use it 100% outdoors. For my purposes it works great and I don't mind having to clean it but maybe future versions of the oven, they might want to employ larger flues for home installations.

Offline David Esq.

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2015, 09:44:28 PM »
Actually, the door keeps the smoke in too. But I know your feelings about the door!

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2015, 10:25:19 PM »
Fantastic review and video of the oven in action Fidel.  I love how you mentioned the light weight of the oven, the heat up times, the results you got with the door off, and cool down times.  Bravo Fidel! 

Offline Jon in Albany

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2015, 10:36:49 PM »
Great post. I really enjoyed the video. That stand is pretty slick.

Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2015, 12:00:04 AM »
Thanks Jon. Thanks Chau.

Before the rainy season starts here in Nippon, I'm going to try to get another bake in with it and hopefully make another video with specific things I learn about managing the oven for a session of several hours. There are other points I didn't mention yet but will later. Mostly things like letting the oven cool for long periods between pies (like when you're chatting with friends and end up neglecting the fire and not making another pie for a half hour or so).

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Offline Don Luigi

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2015, 02:27:47 AM »
Hi Don,

Just curious, but do you have the pizzone (90 x 70)? Although the specific pie shown in the video was about 90 seconds, I had several pies in the 45 to 60 second range with the door off. I used the door for only the first 2 pies out of 15 total on this day. It just seemed cumbersome so I just stopped using the door and just made sure I had a neat row of flame on the right side, from front to back. My home oven's radiant heat allows me to get away with more uneven piles of coals and flame. It took me about 6 pies to figure out that this was one difference I was dealing with. But the pizzone is fairly deep from the front door to the back wall so I think it holds heat just fine with an evenly distributed line of flame and coal bed. Once I made the adjustment, the bake times dropped from about 90 seconds to 45 - 60...without the door. :)

Fidel, I have the 70x70. I see how the extra depth of the Pizzone can lead to a more even heat in the back half of the cooking chamber. Makes sense. Also we have totally different techniques baking with the oven (which is great since both seem to work well!). I use the heat shield/deflector (no radiant heat from the coal bed) and ALWAYS have a big fire rolling across the dome when the Pie's in. I keep the door off in bewtween bakes often to not over heat the oven floor too much. I also actually USE the door to regulate the air flow and control the flame for top heat. Different strokes. But I definitely give your (more traditional wfo) technique a try soon.  ;D And try a copycat of your stand...
On a neapolitan pizza journey with Wood fired oven Pizza Party 70x70
My Pizza

Offline PrimeRib

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2015, 08:40:49 AM »
Did you consider a Blackstone or were you set on wood fired?  P.S.  That stand is sweet.

Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2015, 10:16:26 AM »
Did you consider a Blackstone or were you set on wood fired?  P.S.  That stand is sweet.

I have about 3 1/2 cords of firewood. So yeah, I was pretty much set on wood fired. And I have made over 2,500 pies over the last 2.5 years in my WFO, and some of those in my dad's WFO and my friend's WFO in Kakogawa City(Aussie friend of mine who lives about an hour from my house). I've kind of built a relationship with fire, flame, coal beds and the like.  :)

Offline f.montoya

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2015, 10:45:57 AM »
... But I definitely give your (more traditional wfo) technique a try soon.

And I, yours. I have that deflector thingy too. Being that I've only made 15 pies in this oven so far, I am totally looking forward to my next bake and experimenting again.  :)

Offline corkd

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Re: I needed a second WFO and I selected a Pizza Party WFO
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2015, 06:25:36 PM »
great review. how much time between pies? how was the oven temp recovery?

clay

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