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big party...keep it hot - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community

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big party...keep it hot

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  • big party...keep it hot

    I'm celebrating my sons new career with the fire dept. Hired yesterday!!!-
    We are thrilled. These jobs are very hard to come buy around here.


    We are going to hire a band and have lots of pizza. My 36x30 oven maintains heat well but I don't know how to keep it hot for say 50 to 100 pizzas.

    I assume I am going to have to keep a fire going not just bank the coals at the back like I always do. Adding wood seems like you would get some smoke. I will start the fire way ahead and really build up the heat...say 3.5 hours ahead

    Is there some trick I need to know for such a big party? Well, big for us. I will make the dough balls ahead and put out a production line of toppings....

    Your thoughts?
    sigpic

  • #2
    Re: big party...keep it hot

    If you keep your pieces of wood fairly small (like two inches or less) they will burst right into flame in the hot oven, smoke will not be a problem. Here's the time to use your seasoned hardwood: pine and such will pop and throw cinders on your pizzas. It's always a good idea, by the way, to use small wood for flame when cooking pizza, the flame going up the side of the dome recharges the floor heat and promotes even cooking.
    My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2

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    • #3
      Re: big party...keep it hot

      I once did 30 pizzas with my 40 inch oven. You can only get it so hot, so I added some coal near the end of the firing. The trick is to have an assembly line (with the help of some of your guests) and process the pizzas in and out quickly.

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      • #4
        Re: big party...keep it hot

        Whoa...neil2 like bituminous coal from the coal mine. That is a totally new concept for me. No coal around here so far as I know. Coal...this may be pretty unusual my friend.

        Dmon, I think the hardwood is the way to go since I have a bunch. We call it madrona.

        This is a little nerve racking this is a lot a people...who knows what the actual numbers will be
        sigpic

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        • #5
          Re: big party...keep it hot

          berry
          as a fellow barrel vault owner if you really need to do a lot of pizzas you can consider banking the coals and keeping the fire to one side...let it go all the way to the back of the oven and keep the fire licking the keystone of the arches...that should minimize any cold spots
          Good luck!
          Dutch
          "Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity. " Charles Mingus
          "Build at least two brick ovens...one to make all the mistakes on and the other to be just like you dreamed of!" Dutch

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          • #6
            Re: big party...keep it hot

            Coal fired pizza ovens were very common. (I believe there are still some commercial ones in New York.)

            I use a low sulpher antracite coal from time to time. People say it is the best pizza they have ever had.

            For a supply, check with the local blacksmiths.

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            • #7
              Re: big party...keep it hot

              well, The party is over. I cooked 48 pizzas
              The dough was made up into little balls and put in paper hamburger holders. This made the distribution easy.
              The fire worked well and the oven maintained a temp of about 735 F. This was the optimal temp for me. I just added madrona wood through out the evening. It all took about 3 hours.
              The guests made pizzas and mixed with alcohol many managed to get sauce on the bottom of the pizza ...even with direct instructions from my wife Peggy. the result was sticky pizza..on the plate, peel, and oven floor. Ouch. I acquired the knack of scraping the peel and unsticking the pizza and trying to salvage all I could. I was reasonable successful.
              I was very stiff and sore when it all came to an end. That, for me, was a lot a pizza.
              In the end it was a good time had by all including me
              berryst
              sigpic

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              • #8
                Re: big party...keep it hot

                Nice going. Congrats to your son. It's a noble profession.

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                • #9
                  Re: big party...keep it hot

                  Originally posted by berryst View Post
                  mixed with alcohol many managed to get sauce on the bottom of the pizza ...

                  Thats funny!

                  Congrats... Sound's like a good time.

                  Les....
                  Check out my pictures here:
                  http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/les-build-4207.html

                  If at first you don't succeed... Skydiving isn't for you.

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                  • #10
                    Re: big party...keep it hot

                    Originally posted by berryst View Post
                    I was very stiff and sore when it all came to an end. That, for me, was a lot a pizza.
                    I know THAT feeling!! 48 pies is a lot of pizza baking for anybody!
                    Ken H. - Kentucky
                    42" Pompeii

                    Pompeii Oven Construction Video Updated!

                    Oven Thread ... Enclosure Thread
                    Cost Spreadsheet ... Picasa Web Album

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                    • #11
                      Re: big party...keep it hot

                      berryst and all,

                      We'll be in a similar situation next week. Invited my freshmen students to come over, assuming about half would show; so far all 32 said they would! (Behold! The power of pizza.) I'm desperate for advice.

                      How long did you fire your oven prior to the event? You were speculating about 3.5 hours. Did you do that? About how long did you keep it at the "top temp"?

                      How about keeping the fire going while cooking pizzas? Dumn suggests smaller (2" diameter) logs of hardwood. Did you do that? How much of a flame did you keep going on the side?

                      Last question: what sort of surface did you use for people to make their pizzas? Could I give folks sheets of non-stick aluminum foil to make their pizzas on and then slide them onto a peel? (I have two metal peels + the turning peel.) I thought about parchment paper, but am worried about moisture from the high hydration dough.

                      All advice gratefully welcomed -- especially since we've only been working with the oven about a month.

                      Kathy

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                      • #12
                        Re: big party...keep it hot

                        Hi Kathy!

                        You don't have to heat load an oven to do pizza - just get it up to temperature.

                        Once your oven is "clear" (the soot has burned off) you are effectively in business. Should be about 45 to an hour 15 depending on your oven. But if you have been using it you should know how long that takes. To be "safe" an hour and a half of big fire should be more than plenty.

                        I typically then take out most of the coals and all but the largest remaining "logs" and let them burn and the oven equalize - and let the hearth come down to the 750 F range. As soon as it hits that range you are ready to cook! And as dmun says, keep logs (2 inch is fine) burning to keep the oven at temp. If the hearth gets cool, just stop and rake some coals over the floor for a few minutes, then shove them back under the logs and rebrush the hearth and go back to cooking. If you keep good flames the dome should be no problem!

                        Good luck! 32 college students sound like an army!
                        Jay

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                        • #13
                          Re: big party...keep it hot

                          Jay,

                          Thanks for the very quick reply & very helpful comments.

                          Yes, it seems to take about an hour for the oven to clear, but the floor temp (at least where there is no fire) still seems cool-ish. After re-reading some of the posts, I think I'm not building the fire wide enough (keeping it too much in the middle). So will try that before the big event.

                          Also, after reading your advice, I don't think I've been doing the "fire during the pizza making" quite right. Probably leaving in too many coals and not keeping enough of a fire/flame going.

                          How did you handle making all those pizzas? Did people just eat in shifts?

                          Thanks, again.

                          Kathy

                          P.S. 32 college kids will certainly provide entertainment!

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                          • #14
                            Re: big party...keep it hot

                            Hi Kathy!

                            I build my fire so it pretty much fills the oven for the last half hour. That puts coals everywhere to heat up the hearth. If the whole hearth isn't hot it will tend to lose heat pretty fast and you won't be able to easily get it hot.

                            You want the hearth in the 750 degree range where you will be cooking pizzas. If you don't have an infrared thermometer, toss some flour or semolina on the hearth (1/4 t. is enough) and count to three at a one second pace. The flour will be white, white, black on the counts of 1, 2, 3. If it is over about 5 seconds your hearth is too cool.

                            And yes, you want quite a bit of flame. It's flames that keep the oven hot and radiate heat down from the top to toast the top of the pizza and give the speckled caramelization that most of us like. I like my flames going up to near the top of the dome. And...if you haven't seen any posts on it, most of us put the fire to the SIDE - not in the back. This has two benefits: 1) you won't shove a pizza into the fire, 2) you will have a greater temperature profile and room to move pizzas from hotter to cooler (up front) areas on the side where you are cooking.

                            I typically do a total of one pizza a person and I deliberately keep my crowds down to about 20. I typically just do the pizzas about one every four-five minutes (and sometimes two at a time) and keep them rolling out. We decide what pizzas we are serving in advance (usually 4 or 5 different ones) and I make, say, 4 margharitas, then 4 Italian sausage and mozz, then 4 quattro formaggio, etc.

                            When I do smaller groups I usually leave the dough on a tray but when I do big groups I like to have the dough in individual bags to keep them from drying out.

                            You are almost doubling my max group size! My approach may not acccommodate a group that big. Others on the site involve guests in pizza prep but newbies usually put too much on the pizza, get sauce on the peel and under the pizza, and things can easily get sticky. When I do that I use aluminum pizza pans (like at pizzarias - I have about 20). I like them because I can put the pan directly in the oven and if they are "glued to the pan, the baking will solve the problem.

                            Good Luck! Please report back on your adventure!
                            Jay

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                            • #15
                              Re: big party...keep it hot

                              Jay,

                              You are the best! Great info. Now I have a much better idea about firing the oven for pizzas. A problem in our previous trials was that not all the hearth was hot enough & it tended to cool down. Should have figured it out about the fire filling the oven for the last while, but didn't -- as my students would say, "Duh." (This may also explain the need to refire a bit before baking bread the other night.)

                              The restaurant supply place had those "pizza screens" and we were wondering about them for this event, but the pizza pans would be even better. We know what you mean about the creative ways pizzas get built. This past weekend, we ended up with one of those accidental calzones that others have mentioned on this forum. Our guests were gracious and did not complain -- we had warned them that they were guinea pigs for the evening!

                              I'll post after the event (next Sat. 8/29). Fortunately, there's still time to make a couple more trial runs. Messing around with the pizza oven sure beats putting a syllabus together, especially for a died-in-the-wool procrastinator!

                              Again, thank you.
                              Kathy

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