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Author Topic: Pizza on the grill set up questions  (Read 4594 times)

gchenworth

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Pizza on the grill set up questions
« on: January 17, 2018, 08:21:59 AM »
My first attempt at pizza on the grill went poorly last summer.  It didn't take long to figure out why.  I put the stone directly over the coals and by the time the toppings were melted, the bottom of the pie was completely charred.  My wife took pictures while I scraped the char off and posted for her amusement on facebook.  No one would eat the pie except me... whatever... I enjoyed the pie after working to remove most of the char.

So after finding you guys I've gotten excited to try to master this technique again with a little better preparation.  So bear with me while I outline what I think the problems are as well as the solutions...

So charring bottom is about getting the hot coals out from directly under the stone... done.  Got that lesson quickly.

The other is the heat wants to go up into the dome instead of sliding across the surface of the topping.  But it's a little more complicated than that... a closed grill won't stay as hot as needed.  So Kettle Pizza addressed that problem by offering up an opening in the front that allows for lots of air flow as well as pizza loading/unloading and also drives the hot air over the toppings. But the added height means more of the heat goes further up into the dome so you need higher overall heat to get effective temperatures at the top surface of the pie.

Concurrently, baking steel came to market with their product designed to improve on the pizza stone for cooking pizza in the home oven.  Apparently the steel does a better job of transferring heat to the pizza crust than a pizza stone so the bottom can get the leopard spots everyone seems to love before the toppings get over cooked, plus has the benefit of durability (no cracked stones).

So the person at serious eats help connect the KP people with the Baking Steel people to make a better mouse trap and their collaboration results in the baking steel being used as an internal lid on the KP.  They say the benefit of the steel is about radiating heat back down to the surface of the pie because the thick steel stores so much heat.  I'm skeptical about this point... I'm inclined to believe the benefit is derived from redirecting the heat over the surface of the pie rather than into to the dome of the lid.  I only say this because of my experience with my offset barrel smoker.  Before modification, all the smoke and too much heat spilled from the fire box into the smoker barrel resulting in craze heat spikes.  By installing a cookie sheet above the opening of the firebox into the smoker at a downward angle, the smoke passes easily into the smoker but most of the intense heat does not.  Effectively by redirecting the air flow just a little, the temperature profile at the meat surface is changed dramatically

Plus I'm confused a little about the Baking Steel story...  if the baking steel's ability to conduct heat is better and more uniform than a pizza stone in the home oven, wouldn't the same be true on the grill?  But in the KP plus baking steel setup, they are still using a pizza stone.

So first, I'm wondering if anyone here has ever used the baking steel products as they were originally intended... to replace the pizza stone.. but on the grill.  I heard one suggestion that because of the hotter temperatures achieved in the grill compared to the home over, that the steel would cause the bottom to burn compared to a pizza stone.  Does anyone have any experience ?

Second, I saw the lid modification someone posted here where the opening for the pizza was cut directly into a lid.  It seems to me that this might solve the problem of the pizza insert causing the dome to be higher and therefore losing effective heat at the surface of the toppings.  It doesn't look as cool, bit it seems like the cool looking insert created another problem that is then solved by an over-engineered, excessively expensive 1/4" steel internal lid...

Third, someone posted here that prior to getting the baking steel insert for their KP, that they used other devices (pizza stone) on the top of the KP to redirect heat over the surface of the toppings and that seemed to work as well if not better than the baking steel insert.  That makes me wonder if buying a 20 - 22" pizza stone and using it just like the baking steel wouldn't work every bit as well as the baking steel at half the price and weight.

But that brings me back to the mod shown where the guy simply cut an opening on an extra lid.

All my thoughts here are flawed in that they aren't driven by actual experience... except my inept first attempt resulting in charcoalized pizza crust.

Has anyone worked through these various approaches who can offer their real world experience?

I've read through a ton of posts here to see if these questions were already answered.  If I missed and I'm asking redundant questions, I apologize in advance.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2018, 08:28:07 AM by gchenworth »

HoosierKettle

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2018, 08:47:03 AM »
My experience is with a pizzaque and a friends kettle pizza. Your logic sounds completely sound imo. We did not have the baking steel or anything to bring the heat closer to the toppings. The pies I have made have turned out good but not as good as what I get in my conventional gas oven. I think the steel or similar to bring the heat closer to the toppings is what is needed. It looks like the European weber pizza accessory addresses all of these issues. I do not have one but google it to see what I mean.  Unfortunately they are not available o er here.


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HoosierKettle

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2018, 08:49:09 AM »



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MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2018, 09:30:15 AM »
The key to cooking a good pizza is having the air temp above the stone hotter than the stone itself.  It's a bit of a fine line but from what I have experienced I have never had the top of the pizza cook so much faster than the bottom that I had a done top and soft limp crust.  So since the key is the air above the stone being hotter than the stone itself, that is where the baking steel comes in to make that easier.  I don't have a steel yet, but the steel would make the really hot air in the dome lower and closer to the top of the pizza.  This means (in my opinion) I could probably put a few more coals under the stone and cook with a hotter stone since the heat above it will be much hotter than not using the baking steel.  I'm guessing if dialed in, pizzas would take around 2-3 minutes instead of 3-5 minutes to cook.  I think buying and using a big stone in place of the baking steel sounds good in theory, but it would have to be a good stone that won't crack, and I think it would take a lot longer for a stone that size to get hot and start working properly to deflect heat back down to the area above your bottom stone.


Do you have a pizza attachment?  You refer to the KP a lot but didn't say if you actually had one.  The main thing I am picking up is that your stone was too hot for the temp above it.  I don't put very much charcoal under my stone, all of the heat is in the back and sides for the grill, and the wood in full flame licking up into the lid is the key to getting the area above the stone hotter than the stone so the bottom doesn't burn before the top is done.

Here is a pic I found of my setup from a post back in March.  I use the same coal setup now but not quite as many coals in the center between the baskets.  I've dialed that back a bit.

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!!!!!!

gchenworth

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2018, 01:49:42 PM »
Mike, thanks for the insight on the coals setup.  No doubt that's why I burned the crust last summer. And no I don't have the kettle pizza yet.  I'm trying to understand this stuff as best I can before making the investment because I don't want to waste purchase dollars on trial and error when guys like you may be able to steer me in the right direction.

One of the premises that I haven't really bought into yet is that the thickness of the baking steel and heat radiation is what has the Big Bang for the buck in terms of cooking toppings.  I'm more inclined to believe the redirection of hot air and flame over the top of the pizza toppings have the biggest impact on cooking the toppings.  I think of it this way... if you stand in front of a hot fire, the radiant heat is what's warming you but if you put your hand in the path of the rising heat and flame directly over the flame, the radiant heat is relatively inconsequential by comparison to direct exposure to the hot air and flames.  And if that analogy holds true than virtually any material that is robust enough to handle the hot air redirected from its surface should get the job done... so a $10 round baking pan should perform virtually the same as a $100 15 pound piece of steel.  And if that's true, then it isn't just about saving a few bucks but also having materials that are easier to handle.

On the other hand, I am inclined to believe what I've heard that steel conducts heat better than a ceramic material and therefore should perform better as a cooking surface than a pizza stone would.

But again, I'm trying to apply logic based on my other grill / smoker cooking experience but with no experience with the kettle pizza, baking steel or other mods.  That's why I'm hoping that others who may have already experimented might help correct my assumptions if they are incorrect.

Old Dave

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2018, 11:37:56 PM »
There are a lot of ways to setup the Weber kettle for great pizza. This is a method I use for cooking the lower temperature pizzas (350-450) that works well.



I use a ceramic plate setter under my hearth stone and this raises it up into the dome which will produce a much better pizza. It also solves the problem of burning up the crust before the top gets done. Very even baking or cooking with my setup.



I often run several at a time with this setup.



Pizza done on the Weber kettle.

Firemunkee

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2018, 07:56:41 AM »
While we are talking setup, the baking steel that PK sells has holes on the side (that seem to line up with the opening of hinged grates). My question why have holes rather than a baking steel that covers the entire area of the lid? Perhaps to promote air flow to keep temps up?
Together we'll fight the long defeat.

MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2018, 09:03:02 AM »
While we are talking setup, the baking steel that PK sells has holes on the side (that seem to line up with the opening of hinged grates). My question why have holes rather than a baking steel that covers the entire area of the lid? Perhaps to promote air flow to keep temps up?

So you can add wood chunks mid cook.  When I do pizzas I usually do 6-8.  I have to add wood chunks every other pizza to keep it burning at 900-1000 degrees.
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!!!!!!

gchenworth

  • Smokey Joe
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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2018, 09:18:08 AM »
@HoosierKettle

Was looking at the design of the weber pizza oven and it looks like it addresses a lot of the issues that I had questions about... maybe the stone should be closer to the opening to allow for more fuel at the back without falling directly under the stone, but it looks interesting to me.  I emailed weber asking why it isn't available here and the response...  "Thank you for being a Weber fan!  This accessory is only available in Europe because the of demand, however, I will be sure to pass your interest along to our team."

I wonder it they received more requests for availability if that would impact their sense of what the demand would be...

MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2018, 09:39:41 AM »
Mike, thanks for the insight on the coals setup.  No doubt that's why I burned the crust last summer. And no I don't have the kettle pizza yet.  I'm trying to understand this stuff as best I can before making the investment because I don't want to waste purchase dollars on trial and error when guys like you may be able to steer me in the right direction.

One of the premises that I haven't really bought into yet is that the thickness of the baking steel and heat radiation is what has the Big Bang for the buck in terms of cooking toppings.  I'm more inclined to believe the redirection of hot air and flame over the top of the pizza toppings have the biggest impact on cooking the toppings.  I think of it this way... if you stand in front of a hot fire, the radiant heat is what's warming you but if you put your hand in the path of the rising heat and flame directly over the flame, the radiant heat is relatively inconsequential by comparison to direct exposure to the hot air and flames.  And if that analogy holds true than virtually any material that is robust enough to handle the hot air redirected from its surface should get the job done... so a $10 round baking pan should perform virtually the same as a $100 15 pound piece of steel.  And if that's true, then it isn't just about saving a few bucks but also having materials that are easier to handle.

On the other hand, I am inclined to believe what I've heard that steel conducts heat better than a ceramic material and therefore should perform better as a cooking surface than a pizza stone would.

But again, I'm trying to apply logic based on my other grill / smoker cooking experience but with no experience with the kettle pizza, baking steel or other mods.  That's why I'm hoping that others who may have already experimented might help correct my assumptions if they are incorrect.

It' definitely all about the deflection from "lowering the roof" of the grill.  Some people just cover and extra cooking grate with foil instead of a baking steel.  I've seen people use fire bricks as well.  I do think using a stone to do this is going to suck up a lot of the heat you are trying to achieve.  My cooking stone usually only get to 500-650 despite the grill overall being at 900-1000+ degrees.  I might be totally wrong about that though.  The nice thing about the KP baking steel is that it goes all the way from back to front, and has openings on the sides for adding wood chunks.  Since I do 6-8 pizzas per cook, the expense of accessories pay for themselves fairly quickly vs going out and buying $15-$20 wood fired pizzas.  If my average cook was 2 pizzas, I'd probably go one of the many DIY routes for getting the top heat closer to my pizzas.  In the long run though, foiling a grate and using said grate at 1000 degrees is probably going to mean replacing that grate once or twice a year from using it at such high temps.  I warped a GBS grate cooking grate (in the normal cooking grate location) using it with my stone on top of it before I upgraded to the KP prograte and tombstone.  I think foiling a grate would be the best option for a DIY pizza roof.  Adding a stone or fire bricks is going to add weight that is going to cause stress on the grate at super high temps.  That said, if I was only doing a few pizzas per cook I'd probably just get the Pizza Que instead of the KettlePizza.  That is a good bang for the buck if you aren't going to want to do any of the upgrades available for the Kettle Pizza.
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!!!!!!

gchenworth

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2018, 01:50:19 PM »
That's great insight and the kind of experience perspective I was hoping for @MikeRocksTheRed ... Really appreciate it.  It's a little about cost for me but not totally.  I just spent a month building a grill table to house my weber with a concrete top with glass aggregate because I want it to perform right AND look good.  My sense is that the weber pizza oven probably solved a lot of these issues in 1 build while the Kettle Pizza was more of an incremental thing... create the insert which raises the dome then create an internal lid with the baking steel to bring it back down.

I don't think I'll get the Pizza Que for a bunch of reasons... the first being that I don't want to compromise my ability to end up with the best overall product.  I do think the best overall product right now from what I can see is the Kettle Pizza fully dressed out.  I do hate the idea of spending a big premium to fix an initial design flaw, and I think inserting the $100 baking steel is just that.

I think I may try a mod before I go all in on the Kettle Pizza though.  I have an old lid with a dent that I may bang the dent out, cut an opening in the front and even add an internal lid in the form of a pizza pan... An idea I saw from a post on another forum called Frankenweber Pizza Kettle.  I would only do the lid mod but use wood and charcoal instead of his gas burner.  I doubt that I'll stick with it because my I value the aesthetic as well as performance.

If the Weber Pizza Oven were available here, I'd probably order it today.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 01:52:28 PM by gchenworth »

MikeRocksTheRed

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2018, 01:54:19 PM »
That's great insight and the kind of experience perspective I was hoping for @MikeRocksTheRed ... Really appreciate it.  It's a little about cost for me but not totally.  I just spent a month building a grill table to house my weber with a concrete top with glass aggregate because I want it to perform right AND look good.  My sense is that the weber pizza oven probably solved a lot of these issues in 1 build while the Kettle Pizza was more of an incremental thing... create the insert which raises the dome then create an internal lid with the baking steel to bring it back down.

I don't think I'll get the Pizza Que for a bunch of reasons... the first being that I don't want to compromise my ability to end up with the best overall product.  I do think the best overall product right now from what I can see is the Kettle Pizza fully dressed out.  I do hate the idea of spending a big premium to fix an initial design flaw, and I think inserting the $100 baking steel is just that.

I think I may try a mod before I go all in on the Kettle Pizza though.  I have an old lid with a dent that I may bang the dent out, cut an opening in the front and even add an internal lid in the form of a pizza pan... An idea I saw from a post on another forum called Frankenweber Pizza Kettle.  I would only do the lid mod but use wood and charcoal instead of his gas burner.  I doubt that I'll stick with it because my I value the aesthetic as well as performance.

If the Weber Pizza Oven were available here, I'd probably order it today.

Glad I could help out.  I still don't have a baking steel so I wouldn't necessarily call it a flaw that the steel fixes.  I think it's just smartly running a company and coming up with add on products to keep business moving.  The steel is definitely next on my list of BBQ accessories though.
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!!!!!!

WMT

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2018, 11:13:35 PM »
Great topic guys and lots of good info. I too want to master the art of wood fired pizza. I have to agree that its the redirect of the hot air and flames that is whats cooking the top faster. I would bet that a thinner baking steel would do as good of job as the the thicker one. IMO the only thing a thicker steel is going to do is hold heat for a longer period of time because it has the mass to store more heat that a thinner one. The steel is only going to heat up to the temperature of the oven or air hitting it. It will not get any higher. If you take two same size peices of steel with one being thicker than the other and place them in a 800 degree oven untill they are both fully heated, they will both be the same temperature. The only difference being is the thinner one will heat up faster and it will also loose the heat faster because of its mass being smaller. I think the reason these baking steels are quarter inch instead of eigth inch is to possibly help keep them from warping because of the heat. Look how thin the lid is on the weber pizza oven and it does a great job from the reveiws I have seen. The reason it doesnt warp is because it has a dome shape and this strengthens and stabilizes the thin metal. Lots of great pizzas have seemed to be made with out any pizza attachments by simply just elevating the pizza higher in the dome of the kettle during the cook so the lid pushes the heat back down on the top of the pizza.
Of course this is just my opinion.

A bit off topic here but, I thought weber was an American company, so doesnt it seem strange that they are supplying Europe with pizza ovens and not their own country. Seems a bit unfair. I would think they would have a demand for it if they give it a try. I know I would buy one.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 11:35:24 PM by WMT »

Firemunkee

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2018, 09:08:46 AM »
This thread has a great wealth of information. I have been reading all the posts in the pizza section starting with the oldest and this one thread sums up a lot of the foundational knowledge of pizza cooking. I thought it would be good to have a sticky post (or something similar that can easily referred to) with this kind of knowledge to get people started on pizza making, and I think this thread would be a good candidate for that. Great knowledge, great people!

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gchenworth

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Re: Pizza on the grill set up questions
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2018, 09:45:38 AM »
Call me a skeptic, but I'm inclined to believe that the baking steel used in the KP is 1/4" thick because that's what baking steel makes and markets... thick, cold rolled steel and that's their market niche.  And when serious eats put them together with KP to make a better mouse trap, they probably learned that having a more efficient cook surface in the form of the baking steel probably resulted in more burned crusts before topping got cooked because too much heat/flame was going into the dome.  And that they didn't need to learn how to make the cook surface more efficient, rather they needed to figure out how to get the heat and flame down to the surface of the pizza.  No doubt the Baking Steel does that... I just think it's over-engineered for the job required.  Kind of like buying a Lamborghini in order to become a Uber driver...  I'm not taking anything away from owning a Lamborghini... it's just a little over-engineered for the required job.  For those people who also intend to use the Baking Steel as a grill top griddle that's different.  That's more like the Uber driver using Uber income to pay for his Lamborghini so he can have fun on the weekend.  I get that...

After many years of use, I cracked my pizza stone last week cooking in the oven and I plan to replace it with a Baking Steel product because I believe it will do the job better in the oven.  And I know there are cheaper knock-offs out there but I'll buy the Baking Steel because if that guy didn't have the inspiration and invest his heart and soul into the business, it or a product like it wouldn't be available to me.

But the reason I guess I'm most resistant to that heavy baking steel is about managing the cook.  I routinely shut down all air when I'm done cooking because I hate wasting fuel and leaving a fire to burn out.  So I envision myself when the pizza cook is done, taking off the lid.. probably sitting it on the concrete, then needing to remove the baking steel with fire resistant gloves and finding a safe place to put it, in order to remove the KP attachment, close the vents and put the lid back on to choke out the fire... then pray to God no one steps on the Baking Steel with bare feet until it cools... quite a while from now due to its thermal mass.

Having said all that... I'll probably end up with that exact set up by the end of the summer if a better mouse trap doesn't show up on the market.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2018, 09:51:00 AM by gchenworth »