Pizza Nerd Heaven

If you like pizza, or cooking, or chemistry and physics, or the restaurant business, or photography, or any of a number of other things, you will love this awesome web page:

Jeff Varasano’s Famous New York Pizza Recipe

There are too many things to list about what’s great here, starting with the secret math nerd recognition signal, and including this passage about reverse-engineering your self-cleaning oven:

I’ve got my oven cranked up to over 800 F. Use this section with caution: i.e. no lawyers please. I’m just telling you here what I did. I’m not telling you what you should do. You are responsible for whatever you choose to do. In Naples, Italy they have been cooking pizza at very high temperatures for a long time. There are some real physics going on here. The tradition is to cook with a brick oven. I don’t have a brick oven. So this is what I do:

On most ovens the electronics won’t let you go above 500F, about 300 degrees short of what is needed. (Try baking cookies at 75 instead of 375 and see how it goes). The heat is needed to quickly char the crust before it has a chance to dry out and turn into a biscuit. At this temp the pizza takes 2 – 3 min to cook (a diff of only 25F can change the cook time by 50%). It is charred, yet soft. At 500F it takes 20 minutes to get only blond in color and any more time in the oven and it will dry out. I’ve cook good pizzas at temps under 725F, but never a great one. The cabinet of most ovens is obviously designed for serious heat because the cleaning cycle will top out at over 975 which is the max reading on my Raytec digital infrared thermometer. The outside of the cabinet doesn’t even get up to 85F when the oven is at 800 inside. So I clipped off the lock using garden shears so I could run it on the cleaning cycle. I pushed a piece of aluminum foil into the door latch (the door light switch) so that electronics don’t think I’ve broken some rule by opening the door when it thinks it’s locked. Brick ovens are domed shaped. Heat rises. There is more heat on top than on the bottom. A brick oven with a floor of 800F might have a ceiling of 1200F or more, just a foot above. This is essential. The top of the pizza is wet and not in direct contact with the stone, so it will cook slower. Therefore, to cook evenly, the top of the oven should be hotter than the stone. To achieve this, I cover the pizza stone top and bottom with loose fitting foil. This keeps it cool as the rest of the oven heats up. When I take a digital read of the stone, I point it at the foil and it actually reads the heat reflected from the top of the oven. When it hits 850, I take the foil off the top with tongs and then read the stone. It’s about 700-725. Now I make my pizza. As I prep, the oven will get up to 800Floor, 900+ Top. Perfect for pizza. Different ovens have different heat distributions. I experimented extensively with foil to redistribute the heat. I tried using one layer, multiple layers and I adjusted the amount I used on the top and the bottom. I also played with using the shiny side up or down, etc. Eventually, I worked out a simple system for myself. Some have tried to get high heat using a grill. This can produce high heat, but all from the bottom. One could adjust the differential, by playing games with foil. But an oven with heat from above is better.

Warning: If you read all the way to the end of that web page and you do not live in a city with a good pizzeria, you’ll be sorry.

Advertisements

About Polymath

Discoverable with effort
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Pizza Nerd Heaven

  1. I am hungry now… We do have nice pizzerias, but none that is open at 1am. I hate life. lol. I can make a fairly good pizza and I know what he’s talking about – regular ovens suck for making pizza.

  2. Polymath says:

    That’s one thing that sucks about being such a night owl. When I lived in NYC I could get stuff like pizza 24-7 but even in the suburbs it isn’t too bad, there is a Papa John’s near here that will deliver until 2am.

    Eat a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich to tide you over until the morning, then look at the pictures on that page again (pizza porn!) and go out and satisfy yourself.

  3. Grumpy Goat says:

    That’s a pretty innovative way to work it. I’ve never tried it that way – but at 500 degrees it’s just not quite the same. Cool story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s