I think we would all like to have a wood fired pizza oven. The majesty of the clay dome is unrivalled but unfortunately I live in a two bedroom flat in the city centre. I have spent some years making pizza in all manner of shapes and sizes. I started with dried yeast, moved on to fresh and have been experimenting with sourdough. I’ve tried different flour combinations but none of these things matter unless you can actually cook it.
Conventional wisdom is to get your oven as hot as possible. Place your pizza on a baking tray and then place this in the oven. Unfortunately the result is either board like crispy or just a soft mess. The evolution of this is to heat the baking tray and then use a second baking tray as a peel to slide the prepared pizza on to the hot tray and place it back in the oven. I just don’t think you can garner enough heat into a baking tray to make this method significantly better. The time it takes to cook a pizza using both methods is just too long. The pizza is dry before it is crispy.
I was lucky enough to be given a pizza steel by a Tom at Breadfellows (a man who knows about crust) and it is good and certainly better than the 50p paving slab I bought from B&Q. What the slab had in its favour was that it was thick and held its heat much like the pizza steel. Yet I still couldn’t get the results I craved. I buy into the science, the pizza steel is a conductor and holds 18 times more heat (a bold internet claim!) than a conventional pizza stone. I’m less convinced that it produces a heat pocket at the top of the oven, I have done some rudimentary heat testing of this theory and it doesn’t seem to make a great deal of difference.
Fundamentally the success of a pizza oven is that it’s capable of temperatures in the region of 330 degrees centigrade. That means you can cook a pizza in 90 seconds. The pizza will be crisp on the outside but doughy on the inside. Cooking pizza in a domestic oven at 225 degrees just doesn’t cut it. You’re probably asking what the point of this blog is then? The game changer is a frying pan!
Heat a frying pan untill its very hot, put the rolled out or thrown in the air pizza base on, add your toppings and then place it under a grill you have preheated to its highest setting. It takes a bit of practice to get it quite right but the results are way beyond anything else.
If you are looking for pizza know-how and an excellent base recipe, I would highly recommend Ken Forkish’s Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast book.