Eater’s Pizza Week has reminded me it’s been a while since I’ve made pizza at home, one of my favorite kitchen past times. Part of the reason for the lack of sweet pie making came when I moved and lost access to our hacked pizza oven – Varasano style, I removed the safety latch which locks the oven while cooking on the clean cycle, allowing me to cook pizzas at 850F, as well as singe the hair off my face and arms.
I’ve come a long way with pizza. Check out the pie below from five years ago or so. Everyone has to start out somewhere. Recently, Adam Kuban, founder of Slice (part of Serious Eats) and a current pizzaiolo at Paulie Gee’s in NYC, posted one of his pizzas from 2008. Notice any similarities to the below? Now check out his current pies.
There’s a lot to learn about pizza, and it all comes from practice and feel. Learning what kind of hydration you like, how long to ferment, how to handle a sticky dough, and practice with your cooking medium – especially at high heat, one learns the nuances of hot spots and timing. Heck, just learning how to move quickly makes a difference. Back in the day, half my pizzas wouldn’t slide of the peel, creating an impromptu calzone situation.
I still cook on the Little Black Egg sometimes, and do simply use my oven cranked to 550F on occasion. I get my cast iron pan or baking sheet very hot, then drop the pizza, and a few minutes later, crank the broiler. It’s a method which works especially well if the pizza is sitting on something which retains heat well, like cast iron, or the Baking Steel, which I recently used at my parents’ home with very good results.
Anyways, just for the hell of it, here are a few of my favorite pizzas from the last few years.
A hacked oven pie I was especially happy with – I always want a thin pizza, with no gumminess inside the puffed-up crust.
For maximum crispiness, always cool on a rack to avoid steaming.
Have your prep ready and move quickly, especially if working with a higher hydration dough, shake the dough back and forth on the peel on occasion. Another tip I’ve learned – use less sauce then you might think.
Results from above.
I do enjoy a pan pizza too. This is Kenji’s “fool proof pan pizza“. It reminds me of a less gross Pizza Hut.
I do love the crusty edges from the oil in the pan.
Occasionally I will make Chicago style pizza too, which has a more pie/cracker like crust, and of course, the heap of sauce on top. I was pleased with this version, I thought it was better than when I actually ate at Gino’s in Chicago.
“Fried pizza” at home. It sure does puff up nicely.
A tailgating pizza at Georgia Tech using the Little Black Egg. One of the best pies I’ve made. Super thin inside, very puffy but light exterior.
Finally, the below is not my pie, but my source of inspiration – Varasano’s pizza. It’s still my benchmark for pizza in Atlanta. Thin, sourdough crust, never soggy, never doughy and undercooked (Antico’s), and after a rocky start years ago, it has become very consistent.