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Author Topic: Kettle Pizza fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)  (Read 11917 times)

jkolantern

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Kettle Pizza fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« on: February 29, 2016, 08:44:24 AM »
So like many others here, I was excited to jump on the Groupon deal (with the additional discount) and picked up a Pizza Kettle last week, after reading many, many reports here and elsewhere on the web about how it was essentially an idiot proof pizza making experience.

Well, you know the old saying, make something idiot proof, and they'll go and invent a better idiot.  I, dear friends, appear to be that new class of idiot fully capable of making the Pizza Kettle significantly worse than just a good old kettle (or gasser.  Or oven.  Or leaving a pizza out in the sun and willing it to cook.  I kid about the last-barely).  I was having pretty darn good success using a 22" kettle and a full chimney load of KBB.  I put a cast iron griddle elevated on a few upside down charcoal baskets with most of the coals not under the griddle.  I'd have a few moderate issues with the top not getting fully done, or the bottom beginning to burn, but I was getting >500 degree temps and pizzas done in between 5-10 minutes.

However, I felt like I could do better, you can't have enough toys (some people's comments that "its my favorite accessory" surely helped) and I like to support made in the USA when possible.  Win win win with the discounts.  Fast forward to yesterday.  I've got my 22" out, fire off a chimney, load up the grate, add in the griddle, go next level by adding a top grate and putting on another, smaller griddle in an effort to do a poor man's Pizza Steel and decrease the head space.  I arranged the coals in a 'C' shape around the back and sides with one chunk of wood (first pizza was intended for the hungry girlfriend, who can be touchy with regards to smoke flavor so I wanted to go minimal on hers, not knowing what I was in for), using a charcoal basket in the middle to help keep it clear under the griddle and watched the PK thermometer. 100 degrees....110 degrees....120 degrees...(pauses to do taxes) ... 150 degrees (changes oil in car, runs several loads of laundry) ... 180 degrees .... pulls out hair dryer and starts blasting the opening...200 degrees....200 degrees....200 degrees.  Topped out.  Now a full chimney of KBB will typically get me easily into the 450-500 range, so I start spot checking with my infared reader, thinking maybe I have a wonky thermometer.  Although the temp is higher in the back than the open front (understandably) the temps are in the 180s to very low 300 range.  I'd read that some people have success with an unlit chimney on top of the lit coals, so I dumped in most of a chimney of unlit lump.  No real change.  I'm on an easy 20+ minutes now and the temps were just 2-300 degrees.  I light 3/4 of another chimney of KBB and dump that on top of the lump, arranging it more towards the front to fit everything in.  I finally get into the low 300's and figure I'll throw the pizza (made in the included pan) in and the temps would rise. 

Over 20 minutes later I pulled it out and it was...mostly cooked.  A little doughy for me.  I went in and made myself a small pie and added it to the griddle, still with KP therm reading below 400.  Scorched the bottom to a crispy black in about 10 minutes (griddle temped in the high 500s at this point), though the top looked decent).  Made another one and used the pan.  Around 12-15 minutes mostly cooked, tossed it on the griddle to crisp up the bottom and then domed it to finish the top.  Next one I tried about 4 fist sized chunks of mesquite.  None of them really launched into blazing flame.

Long story a little bit shorter, while I finally got a couple decent pies, it was a 2.5 hour ordeal and a LOT of babysitting for something that was supposed to be easy.  Some of that was fiddling with a new toy, but still, much more work for same or worse result as my kettle and a griddle on some elevated baskets.

Now, I know there was a lot of thermal mass in there (2 reasonably big cast iron griddles) but the open window in the front sure seemed like a giant heat loss, rather than a nice source of air.  Plus, I don't think it was that much more than a stone and a Pizza Steel.  I followed the instructions by shutting the top vent and alternated the bottom between wide open and partially open.  The KBB had been from an open bag stored in the charcoal bin of my covered second generation performer, and showed no signs of dampness or anything.  I waited until nearly all of the chimney was ashed over (all but the top few briquettes, which had started to ash).  The mesquite was from an unopened, albeit slightly old, bag of chunks.  I used the C shape for charcoal arrangement.  It was in the mid-50s here and sunny, with some wind but not a crazy amount.

So basically, what the heck happened and went wrong? This really knocked the excitement out of the purchase for me, although I'm going to try again as soon as next weekend. Seems like everybody else went put together, add to grill, dump in chimney and chunks, poof, pegged thermometer.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 07:37:45 AM by jkolantern »

MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2016, 08:59:44 AM »
@jkolantern -  Sorry to here that your first attempt wasn't more successful.  I'm still getting my pizza cooks dialed in, but have not had problems getting the temps up to 500-800 degrees.  I usually do a full lit chimney of KBB in the C shape you described.  Once that is on the grate, I add between a half to whole chimney worth of unlit KBB, then leave the lid off for about 5 minutes to let those coals get going.  Next, I add a lot of mesquite chunks.  The chunks are probably fist sized as you described, but I use 8-12 chuinks.  This may sound like it would be too smokey, but the chunks will burn hot and fast and a lot cleaner than they would if you are smoking slow and low.  At this point I put my cooking grate in the Kettle Pizza, put everything on my kettle, then place the lid on with the vent closed.  I run the bottom vents wide open the entire time.  At this point I usually give it 15 mintues or so for my stone to get up to temp, then I'm ready to put a pizza on.  If your fire is burning right you should have nice flames burning in the back and a little on the sides.  My flames usually lick up the back of the kettle and curve forward as it hits the lid.

You might try leaving out the cast iron skillets next time.  I'm thinking they may sucking up more heat than the kettle and coals can keep up with.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 09:08:01 AM by MikeRocksTheRed »
62-68 Avocado BAR-B-Q Kettle, Red ER SS Performer, Green DA SS Performer, Black EE three wheeler, 1 SJS, 1 Homer Simpson SJS,  AT Black 26er, 82 Kettle Gasser Deluxe, "A" code 18.5 MBH, M Code Tuck-n-Carry, P Code Go Anywhere, 2015 RANCH FREAKING KETTLE!!!!!!

MacEggs

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2016, 12:27:34 PM »
I personally find that the wood does not impart a smokey flavour to the pizza.  IMO, you need to use more wood.

It is used essentially to get the temperatures up higher than just using charcoal alone.

I use lump and about 4-6 chunks of sugar maple with the KP unit.  It can easily bottom out the needle to 800+.

I didn't get it right the first time, or the second time Heck, I'm not sure if I have it right yet, but it's lotsa fun !!
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Jason

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2016, 02:36:25 PM »
These pizza accessories definitely make you scratch your head, when you first start using them. Please, don't get discouraged.  :)

Like these guys are saying, burning the wood chunks will provide the high heat needed. If you have a spare cooking grate, put it on the top level of the Kettle Pizza insert. Next, use fire bricks, another pizza stone etc. to help direct the hot air and flames over the top of the pizza, (for me, this was the single biggest hurdle to success) instead of going straight to the top of the kettle lid. I had a friend cut a round piece of steel from a 55gal drum, to achieve this. I'm anxious to try this out and am pretty confident it will be a good alternative to the steel insert that Kettle Pizza sells. Kettle Pizza developed that new steel for a very good reason. If I could afford all the bells and whistles, I would gladly buy all of the goodies, but that's not happening any time soon  :o 

I will take some pics and post them a bit later today.

Jason

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2016, 04:17:27 PM »
A couple of fire bricks to corral the lit coals. I have been using the Coshell brand of charcoal, because of how long it lasts and how hot it burns.



Upside down hinged cooking grate makes it easy to slide wood chunks into the fire. I usually use a 16" diameter 1/4" thick piece of steel (on loan to a friend) at the cooking level. Notice the stone is as close to the opening as possible, as it gets FREAKING HOT back there and will quickly burn whatever gets back there!



This is where I have been putting the stone (of course the weber lid is on at this point too  ;D ). It's on an upside down cooking grate, at the very back of the oven. This helps force the flame and hot air over the pizza, which is crucial, if you plan on doing thin and crispy type dough.



This next pic shows what I am hoping will be the final piece to make cooking the thin and crispy type dough we "mostly" prefer. @swamprb mentioned doing this, or something similar, in another post. That's just the lid of a 55gal steel drum, that a friend of mine cut out for me.

« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 03:46:09 AM by Jason »

kettlecook

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2016, 05:28:39 PM »
First off, I assume you bought the KettlePizza. Second, I'd just follow the instructions. One almost ashed over chimney of regular Kingsford dumped in a "C", and two or three large chunks or small splits of hickory or oak is all it takes to cook my pizzas in less than five minutes. If you don't have a hi temp (cordierite) stone, just spin the pan. Keep it simple and if at first you don't succeed, try following the instructions. Not trying to be a smarta$$, we've all been guilty of overthinking things. Contrary to what you might've read, the Baking Steel is NOT REQUIRED. Use enough wood to keep the flames burning, and you'll be fine.


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swamprb

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2016, 02:22:19 AM »
Quote from:
This next pic shows what I am hoping will be the final piece to make cooking the thin and crispy type dough we "[i
mostly[/i]" prefer. That's just the lid of a 55gal steel drum, that a friend of mine cut out for me.




This is exactly the setup that I have had in mind for my own version of the KP mod, except that I will be using the top section of an open top drum, the lid and a 2" screw in exhaust vent from BBQ Smoker Supply dotcom.

http://www.bbqsmokersupply.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=100&zenid=90b9c9e59d30763c6b78e82db4a4e762

I cook on: Backwoods Gater, Lang 36, Hunsaker Smokers, Pellet Pro 22" WSM, BGE's, WSM's, Cajun Bandits, PK Grills, Drum Smokers, Genesis Silver C, Weber Q's, Cookshack 008, Little Chief, La Caja China #2, Lodge Sportsman...oh yeah! Weber Kettles! Kamado restoration and pit modification hack!

jkolantern

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2016, 06:22:42 AM »
Thanks everybody for the encouragement.  @Jason I did have a heat deflector on the top-maybe I didn't do a good job of describing it.
This is how my Kettle Pizza was set up


@kettlecook I'm guessing you didn't read the post (that's ok, it was long).  I do have a KP, I didn't use a stone but a griddle, and I did have wood chunks and a lit chimney of coal in a C shape in accordance with the instructions. This was my set up, pre charcoal.

The coal was filled in between the intact upside down charcoal basket and the metal strips (leftover from disintegrated old charcoal baskets) that I used as a buffer between the coals and the porcelain (even though this is a beater red, I figure why not use a shield if I have it to keep the porcelain from getting worse).
I did ultimately come up with some decent pizzas, just after more work than anticipated.



And all things considered, it could have been worse-I could have NOT been outside on a near 60 degree day in FEBRUARY grilling.


I'll hopefully be back at it again this weekend and will incorporate some of the tips (more wood from @MacEggs more time with the grill open to get the charcoal and wood going from @MikeRocksTheRed ).  Thanks again everybody. I'll let you know how it goes.  Also, one definite win that I didn't mention was the Bobby Flay quick dough-very easy and nice texture and consistency (I only had to make it because my pizza store bought dough wasn't sealed up properly and became unusable, so I even started this cook on the wrong foot).


MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2016, 06:36:38 AM »
@jkolantern -  If you can't hit high temps next attempt, I'd maybe pull the top griddle off.  Since it is only deflecting a portion of the heat I suspect it might be what is preventing you from hitting high temps.  I think though that with some more wood and giving a little more time with the lid off you will be in good shape.  I'm glad you used the Bobby Flay dough on your first cook and like it so much.  I think its great, and going with fresh made dough on your first cook in my book cancels out any problems you had with temps.  I did 3 cooks with store bought dough before I felt comfortable throwing in a new variable of making my own dough.  I'm hoping to do some pizzas tomorrow or Thursday and will make sure to keep good notes on how I setup, temps, results, etc.   Now that we have a dedicated pizza section I'll probably burn up a few pies that I'll be embarassed to post!  LOL
62-68 Avocado BAR-B-Q Kettle, Red ER SS Performer, Green DA SS Performer, Black EE three wheeler, 1 SJS, 1 Homer Simpson SJS,  AT Black 26er, 82 Kettle Gasser Deluxe, "A" code 18.5 MBH, M Code Tuck-n-Carry, P Code Go Anywhere, 2015 RANCH FREAKING KETTLE!!!!!!

kettlecook

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Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2016, 06:49:56 AM »
Ok. You mentioned the Pizzakettle, (an actual grill), a couple times so I was just clarifying. For all that cast iron, even in place of the stone, you need more wood, or larger chunks. I prefer to cut my own and/or use the mini log splits used for offset smokers that some stores sell. I'm thinking the biggest potential for crazing is from the flames, not the Kingsford, so I just do as the inventor suggests. Keep the coals back away from the pizza with good leaping flames from the wood. Do that and you don't need anything on top of the Kettlepizza for all but the thinnest crust pizzas. I've actually had the opposite issue of the toppings burning before the crust bottom was crisp. This is basically how I do it but with oak and/or hickory:
https://youtu.be/_zcl_AP5jd8


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« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 06:58:54 AM by kettlecook »

MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2016, 07:17:43 AM »
@Jason -  I love the idea of the upside down grate!  That makes it so much easier to add more fuel during the cook.
62-68 Avocado BAR-B-Q Kettle, Red ER SS Performer, Green DA SS Performer, Black EE three wheeler, 1 SJS, 1 Homer Simpson SJS,  AT Black 26er, 82 Kettle Gasser Deluxe, "A" code 18.5 MBH, M Code Tuck-n-Carry, P Code Go Anywhere, 2015 RANCH FREAKING KETTLE!!!!!!

MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2016, 07:22:13 AM »
Ok. You mentioned the Pizzakettle, (an actual grill), a couple times so I was just clarifying. For all that cast iron, even in place of the stone, you need more wood, or larger chunks. I prefer to cut my own and/or use the mini log splits used for offset smokers that some stores sell. I'm thinking the biggest potential for crazing is from the flames, not the Kingsford, so I just do as the inventor suggests. Keep the coals back away from the pizza with good leaping flames from the wood. Do that and you don't need anything on top of the Kettlepizza for all but the thinnest crust pizzas. I've actually had the opposite issue of the toppings burning before the crust bottom was crisp. This is basically how I do it but with oak and/or hickory:
https://youtu.be/_zcl_AP5jd8


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Great video!   Thats pretty much what my setup looks like once it gets going except I use chunks.  I'd use logs just like in the video if I had any!  The KettlePizza looks cool as hell when cooking pizzas at night!  I just ordered 2 more wooden peels to I can have three pizzas ready to go in one after another without having to go back inside spread the dough and add the toppings before being ready to put it in.  I'm thinking with multiple peels I should be able to really take advantage of the heat and bang out 3-4 pizzas in under 20 minutes!
62-68 Avocado BAR-B-Q Kettle, Red ER SS Performer, Green DA SS Performer, Black EE three wheeler, 1 SJS, 1 Homer Simpson SJS,  AT Black 26er, 82 Kettle Gasser Deluxe, "A" code 18.5 MBH, M Code Tuck-n-Carry, P Code Go Anywhere, 2015 RANCH FREAKING KETTLE!!!!!!

kettlecook

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Re: Pizza kettle fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2016, 07:31:22 AM »

Ok. You mentioned the Pizzakettle, (an actual grill), a couple times so I was just clarifying. For all that cast iron, even in place of the stone, you need more wood, or larger chunks. I prefer to cut my own and/or use the mini log splits used for offset smokers that some stores sell. I'm thinking the biggest potential for crazing is from the flames, not the Kingsford, so I just do as the inventor suggests. Keep the coals back away from the pizza with good leaping flames from the wood. Do that and you don't need anything on top of the Kettlepizza for all but the thinnest crust pizzas. I've actually had the opposite issue of the toppings burning before the crust bottom was crisp. This is basically how I do it but with oak and/or hickory:
https://youtu.be/_zcl_AP5jd8


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Great video!   Thats pretty much what my setup looks like once it gets going except I use chunks.  I'd use logs just like in the video if I had any!  The KettlePizza looks cool as hell when cooking pizzas at night!  I just ordered 2 more wooden peels to I can have three pizzas ready to go in one after another without having to go back inside spread the dough and add the toppings before being ready to put it in.  I'm thinking with multiple peels I should be able to really take advantage of the heat and bang out 3-4 pizzas in under 20 minutes!

Yep. We found the wooden peels for cheap at the Kitchen Collection. Wood can be expensive so I buy hickory firewood splits and use a chop saw to cut them in half for my offset smoker. I use the knotty ones for the Kettlepizza and they'll burn pretty long. Since they take longer to get going I use less dense or smaller chunks/splits as well.


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jkolantern

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Re: Kettle Pizza fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2016, 07:43:43 AM »
@kettlecook I'll second Mike on the great video link.  Thanks!  And yes, I dyslexia-ed Kettle Pizza to Pizza Kettle in the title (see original post-I'm an idiot).  Fixed the subject in case it helps other people browsing-nice catch.  I think I will forgo the top level on the next attempt, which I'm now fired up for.

Bustin Butt

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Re: Kettle Pizza fail (long post looking for advice/fixes)
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2016, 08:22:51 AM »
@jkolantern your dough looks fantastic. What dough did you use?
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