I'm very proud to announce today the release of the new Serious Eats edition Baking Steel and KettlePizza combo set, what I believe to be the best out-of-the-box system for making true wood-burning Neapolitan-style oven pizza in your back yard.
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Back in April, I asked this question: What if Andris Lagsdin, creator of the Baking Steel and Al Contarino, inventor of the KettlePizza were to get together to create a model based on their two products that works exactly like my set up straight out of the box? Well, folks, I'd like you to meet the new KettlePizza and Baking Steel joint pizza oven.
As I write this post, I'm sitting in the study at my friend's home in Belfast, looking out the French windows to his back yard. His dad is busy stoking the flames of a wood-fired stone pizza oven that he built with his own hands. This is probably the best possible way to enjoy pizza: real fire, close friends and family, everything hand-made. But I'm usually not this lucky. My own best pizzas are made on my little 80 square-foot deck on the 17th floor of a Manhattan apartment. If you're like me and your access to stone ovens is limited, the grill is your best bet for making crisp-on-the-outside, soft-and-airy-on-the-inside pizza. It's the only heat source that approaches the insanely high temperatures that are so essential to great pizza.
I first started testing the KettlePizza after-market Weber kettle grill insert a couple years ago, when the product was still in its infancy and, frankly, not all that impressive. Since then, it's gone through several iterations and is now at a point in its life where I can safely say that it's one of the best, easiest-to-use options out there for making real, wood oven-style pizzas at home. I'm talking 750°F floor-temp, 1,200°F air-temp, a less than 3 minute-bake, smoky, blistered, crisp-on-the-outside-tender-in-the-center, poofy-lipped, best-pizza-you-ever-made-at-home level stuff here. It's a $300 value, and you can enter to win one in time for Father's Day, just by answering the following question: What's the greatest pizza-related mistake your father has ever made?
It's exciting times indeed in the world of backyard pizza-making. Last year, I tested out two fantastic products that improved the quality of my home-baked pizzas by leaps and bounds. This year, I've combined their powers to produce the ultimate—and inexpensive—home pie-slinging setup.
The other week I agreed to host a pizza party at my place and planned on banging out a dozen or so pies from my modified KettlePizza grill insert (read the post to see how we modified it for perfect pie-making), and did what I normally do: made a big ol' pile of dough, left it fermenting in the kitchen, then headed out to grab ingredients. By the end of the night I was thinking, when is too much too much for toppings? Are you a when!-screamer or are you a more-the-merrier type pie eater?
Good news: we finally got some good results out of the KettlePizza after-market insert that supposedly turns your kettle grill into a wood-burning pizza oven. Strike that, we actually got great results. In fact, I'd even say the pies I've been pulling off my grill for the past few weeks have been some of the best I've ever made at home. This time, we've tried out a few different inexpensive hacks to modify the existing insert into something that really produces a great pie. By the time we were through, we were pulling out neapolitan-style pies that cooked through in a mere two to three minutes, producing excellent charring, a moist, cloud-like interior, and a crackly, blistered crusts.
We tested the KettlePizza insert back in 2010 when it first came out and were not extremely impressed with the results. Since that early look, the inventor, Al Contarino has jumped into the conversation to let us know that he's come up with a new and improved model that should address many of the problems we had with the old one. We were all too happy to give the new model another shot. Here's how it went down.
The KettlePizza insert does indeed add some juice to Weber-grill pizza-cooking—once you get the coal temperature and stone temperature up to snuff. And doing that takes a boatload of fuel and a lot of attention.
The Kettle Pizza grill insert promises to help you turn your 22-inch Weber kettle grill into a fire-breathing pizza-cooking machine. But does it work as billed? That's the question we sought to answer last night when we tested it out.