Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pizza!......Yep That's Right, Pizza!

As you can probably tell by the title of the this post I'm into Pizza. Eating Pizza, talking to my Pizza enthusiasts friends and, oh yeah, cooking pizza.

When I first started this blog I was right up front that this blog would not always be about plane making. If you've been following my blog from the start, you might remember my first post was about the brothers Abraham having a bit of trouble in their neighborhood when they engulfed the entire area in smoke during their first attempt at making charcoal. Food or cooking related post are not uncommon here, nor are firetrucks in the driveway at the Abraham compound.

When I first started my foray into making pizza I thought I would end up in the camp of Chicago style pizza and the first pizza's I made were cooked in deep cast iron skillets and they were good enough to keep my interested piqued. But then my 2 oldest children went to college in the Northeast and I got my first taste of pizza in Philadelphia and eventually in Brooklyn...the Promise land of pizza. This is when I got really interested in  the Neo-Neapolitan style of pizza. Unfortunately while in Brooklyn I did not have the pleasure of eating pizza at Grimaldi's under the bridge or DiFara's, two of the better know pizzerias. I'll be traveling back to Brooklyn in October and I hope to remedy this fact.  Subsequently while attending a Lie-Nielsen Event in St. Louis I had the opportunity to dine on what would be considered the type of pizza you would find in Rome, Italy. This pizza had a crispy, almost cracker type crust and the sauce possessed a slightly sweet taste. I was really intrigued with this pizza and even though I don't remember the name of the place, the pizza was quite memorable, and I guess that's the real difference in pizza, what pizza is memorable.

About this time I was given Peter Reinhart's book "American Pie". I've just read it thru for the second time. I think it may be one of the most informative books about pizza that I've read. Not only did Peter grow up eating pizza in the Promise land of the Northeast, he then traveled to the Mother land, ate and researched pizza all over Italy, then returned to the states and pretty much did the same thing here.  He is most certainly a Neapolitan style pizza person. If you're from Chicago and firmly in the camp of the deep dish pizza you won't like what he has to say about that style pizza, in fact you probably should just skip reading "American Pie". Personally I have to say that I've enjoyed pizza in Chicago but it was memorable because of the company of the people I was with at the time. I have good friends and customers in Chicago.

Ultimately I would like to own a brick or masonry wood fired pizza oven, however I am presently making do with what my oldest son calls a FrankenWeber. I cooked pizza tonight and here is my process of the actual cooking. I won't go into recipes and such at this time.

If you buy the "Kettle Pizza" kit that basically just gets you a way to put pizza in and out a Weber grill and gives you easy access to the stone on the grill. You will never get this setup to cook the top side of the pizza sufficiently. The top of the grill is thin metal and it just doesn't have the capability to retain and radiate heat. It requires a modification. But first you need a good fire and to that fire you need to add some chunks of wood. The wood will raise the temperature inside the grill much higher than with charcoal alone. You need to position the coals toward the rear of the grill so that the heat rises from the rear and then flows over the top of the pizza as it convects toward the opening.

Then you add the Kettle Pizza band and the stone where you will be actually placing the pizza. The shiny appearance on the stone is a freshly applied coating of olive oil.

Then it's time for the modification that actually makes this work. Another grill on top of the band and a 19" diameter stone used to radiate heat from above the pizza to cook the toppings.

Here the FankenWeber is fully assembled and the temp gauge is well past 700 degrees, the stones have been given time to heat up and we're ready to cook.

And the picture at the top of the page is the result. I'm still trying different dough recipes in order to achieve a thinner crispier crust, and that's part of the fun of pizza. Like Peter Reinhart, I'm in pursuit of my version of the "Perfect Pizza".

The FrankenWeber is far from the perfect pizza cooking set up. It has it's faults. You'll need to quickly prep and cook your pizzas because there is a fairly short window of time for holding the 700 degree plus temps and adding more wood to this setup after everything has come to these high temps is not easy and can be dangerous, but for now it will suffice.

If you do attempt to add wood to this hot setup and you burn yourself in the process, the other people in your household will give you that "Look" know the "Look".....the one that implies....."you should have known better!"



  1. Ron,

    Love the food posts as much as the planemaking. Give the dough recipe in Rose Levy Barenbaum's "bread bible" a whirl. Although that crust in the picture looks pretty good to me

  2. I highly recommend Grimaldi's under the bridge. It can be a long wait, but it is well worth it.

  3. Hey Ron, great post. But WHY, did you post this after I go on an organic, smoothie, eat healthy kick???? :o)

    I think that if you are going to build a brick or masonry wood fired pizza oven you would do yourself a great service by working with a fantastic contractor. Even if only as a consultant, I highly recommend X Abraham. Not that you did not already know that and much better than me but just in case.:o)

    Thanks for the post Ron. Fred

  4. Hey Fred,

    I've been trying to eat healthier lately myself. I find it's easier during the week if I indulge myself on the weekends a bit. (Grin)

    I think PX Abraham is fully engrossed in another summer project already.