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Top cooks too fast - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community



I'm Peter Reinhart! Ask Me Anything! Monday, February 15, 2016 7:00-8:00 pm EST

To kick off our AMA feature, we have invited author, chef and master bread maker and host of Pizza Quest, Peter Reinhart, to be our first host! Peter will be in the Forum on Monday, February 15th, from 7:00 - 8:00 pm EST. If you are unable to be online during the live session, you can post your questions in the sticky post. Peter will answer those questions during the live session on February 15th. You can view Peter's answers to your questions as well as what happened during the live session in the session thread.

Ask Me Anything New Forum Feature

You will notice a new forum at the top of the main page called, "Ask Me Anything". This forum will be used for live one hour "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) sessions hosted by people who are knowledgeable in different areas pertaining to wood fired ovens. How it works:
- Each AMA will have a "sticky" thread where the community can post questions they would like answered during the live session. This will allow everyone to participate even if you can't be online for the live session. These questions will not be answered by the host until the live AMA; if you need an answer quickly, you should post it in the appropriate Forum area for the community to respond.
- Another thread will be posted for the live AMA. Registered users who are logged in during the live session can interact with the host by asking questions and receiving responses.
- The live thread will remain in the AMA forum to view after the session.

We hope you enjoy this new feature! Please let us know if there is a topic that you'd like to have as an AMA and we'll look for a host!

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Top cooks too fast

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  • Top cooks too fast


    I grew up in New Haven CT, and was weened on great pizza, including Ernies, Sallys, Modern, and Pepes. I lived in Manhattan for 20 years so I still had access to some world class pizzarias (ALL FIVE OF THEM). None the less I have been cooking pizza at home since I was a small child due to my father becoming orthodox (Jewish) and dragging us all into that BS with him, so I had to try and recreate edible pizza at home. I have used numerous stones over the years including the useless round 1/4 inch thick variety.

    Now I am in Jerusalem Israel on a contract programming project with my brother (I am not religous in any sense) and the food in general is beyond grotesque here, let's not get into the horrible excuse for pizza! Recently at a high end home baking equipment store here I found the holy grail! The owner had 10 so called Italian Pizza Bricks (really a pizza stone) a little over an inch thick, and wooden peels (unfortunately with a long handle). I bought the stone and peel and downloaded your guide just to learn new things, and see if I have been correctly placing my stone all these years. I made my dough a produced three pizzas today (I waited 20 minutes between each one to make sure the stone was back to about 550 F. I actually tested the stone temperature at 545 degrees F with an infared laser thermometer my brother and I use to check circuit board temperatures.

    My oven here has a rear 4" inch convection fan, a top visible thick wire element, and a bottom element under the floor panel. I put the stone directly on the oven floor and set the combo mode so all three heating methods were on. I set the stove to it's MAX setting and let it heat for 1 hour. My problem is that the toppings and cheese seem to be about to burn before the dough has any real good blistering or char marks. I was thinking about raising it just below the convection fan but, it seems that would cause the top to cook even faster. The pizza came out more like home made pan pizza than the brick oven look and feel I was trying for (and have achieved many times over the years). Any suggestions?

    Also as you may or may not know, the famous New Haven Appizas do not use fresh Mozzarella, but rather Grande Whole Milk Mozzarella from Wisconson, or Kraft Polly -O- whole milk Mozzarella (Ernies uses Polly -O- and Alta Cucina Tomatoes rather than San Marzanos). Have you tried making conventional Pizza Napoletana but substituting Shreded Grande instead of Fresh Mozzarella? I am trying to get the New Haven Modern, or Sallys style look, feel and taste here.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!


  • #2
    Re: Top cooks too fast

    Pre-shredded mozzarella is full of starches and stablizers (to prevent the shreds of wet cheese from sticking together) and pizza purists frown on these additives. Nothing wrong with shredding your own though. Even easier is slicing it with a cheese wire and throwing it on in chunks.

    I know it's heresy in some circles, but i prefer dried mozzarella from the supermarket to the classy wet packed fresh stuff. I like how it gets brown spots in the WFO, and I like how it tastes.
    My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


    • #3
      Re: Top cooks too fast

      Hi Moses!

      It sounds like you need to turn off the convection while you are baking pizza. It will help with the warm up but it increases the heat transfer rate to the top of the pizza too much from what you describe. Other choice would be to find a lid you could put over the pizza part way through....

      Only things that make sense really fast...


      • #4
        Re: Top cooks too fast

        I'm going to have to agree with Jay. By no means am I an expert on ovens or oven baked pizzas, but here is my take. My mother was a wonderful cook and baker. Didn't matter whether the oven or stove was gas or electric.....she excelled...until the "new wave" convection ovens came out. She had baking problems for the last 6-8 yrs of her life...after 70+ yrs (died at age 88) of cooking experience, she simply could not get a handle on that convection feature...burning the top of everything that went into that oven. Granted, she was getting on in years, but that woman could cook with a wooden match and rolled up newspaper.....I have to believe there is a learning curve with that convection feature. I can't speak from personal experience, I have yet to own an oven with a convection feature.
        Try baking with it off or as Jay recommends, by covering the pizza - at least for a couple of minutes of the bake.



        • #5
          Re: Top cooks too fast

          Thanks for the story RT! I don't particularly like convection either. Faster - MAYBE? but certainly BROWNER!

          Moses, rereading your message I realized you said you put the stone on the oven floor. You did not say how long it took to cook the pizzas so...I am really guessing here, but I am going to bet that, while the surface of the bricks was hot, they weren't heat loaded - i.e. the interiors were still a bit cool so they cooled somewhat on putting the pizza down and couldn't heat back up enough to give you a good bottom crust. So I would suggest you try moving the stone to the bottom rack and turning off the convection when when you bake pizza.

          I will bet that will solve your problems. And if not, then aluminum foil or a lid (preferably vented for moisture) at the very end.

          Good luck!


          • #6
            Re: Top cooks too fast

            Originally posted by texassourdough View Post
            I am really guessing here, but I am going to bet that, while the surface of the bricks was hot, they weren't heat loaded - i.e. the interiors were still a bit cool so they cooled somewhat on putting the pizza down and couldn't heat back up enough to give you a good bottom crust. So I would suggest you try moving the stone to the bottom rack and turning off the convection when when you bake pizza.
            I thinking the same thing. My oven (not convection) does not perform well with the stone on the floor, but if on a rack in the lower-third or middle it works just fine... provided I do one thing: preheat for 45 minutes or more before baking.


            • #7
              Re: Top cooks too fast

              Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I agree with the turning off the convection idea, as this is the first time I have used a stone in a convection oven. That will probably do the trick. I am going to try that tommorow with the stone on the rack in the bottom third of the oven instead of on the floor. If that doesn't work I am going to use the old put the sauce on with no cheese cook for a few minutes, remove and then add the cheese for the final bake. Would rather not though since the pizza is usually done in about five minutes.


              • #8
                Re: Top cooks too fast

                Hi. I recently bought a convection oven and also found that cooking times seemed to always be off. Then I googled and learned that convection ovens tend to cook faster than regular ovens. Thus, you either lower the temperature and cook the same amount of time, or reduce the baking time and bake at the same temperature. I can't remember the precise amount you decrease the temperature, but recall the baking time can be 5-10 minutes less.

                The convection function is best for cakes where you need a uniform temperature throughout the oven for even rising. Theoretically, another advantage of the convection oven is that it also enables you to cook different items at the same time as the smells of both items do not transfer onto each other.