Another Eggfest win using a Pizza-Porta

I have heard companies say that they love their customers.  In this case, love isn't exactly the right word.  I am in awe of this group.

 Ship of Fools team photo - who brings a mixer to an Eggfest?

Ship of Fools team photo - who brings a mixer to an Eggfest?

They are Pirates (or the Ship of Fools here) and they are the most daring, outrageous pizza cooking bunch I have ever seen.  Before they cooked pizza using the Pizza-Porta at Porkopolis last year we had a couple of telephone conversations about pizza making, but it became clear that they had everything all figured out. I was a guest at the Porkopolis event and was very impressed. The team had racks and pans and rollers and timers and signs custom made for the event. They ended up cooking 50 pizzas that day including some pretty unique combinations. And, they took first place in the competition. That is first place with pizza at a meatfest... err.. I mean Eggfest!



 Winners accepting the trophy at 2017 Porkopolis

Winners accepting the trophy at 2017 Porkopolis


Well, they did it again!  This is the menu from the Chain of Lakes Eggfest in Winter Haven Florida in March.  They again skipped the basic margherita and pepperoni in favor of some magical pizzas.  To honor the local cuisine, they invented a couple of pies.  A Cuban pizza made perfect sense for a Florida event, but then they went and made a Key Lime Pie pizza!      

I have tried many different things on pizza, but Korean sauce on brisket sounded  a little out there.  And, a Cuban sandwich is tough to imitate in pizza form. Key lime pizza? I was skeptical.  Thankfully we had a runner who went down and snatched up some samples.  Let me tell you, I was blown away.  They pulled off an amazing combination and the crust was crispy and not overwhelmed and loaded down with moisture. My compliments to the chefs!   








When the day was done and the judge's votes were counted, the Ship of Fools pulled off another win at an Eggfest They were the 2018 Judges Choice. 

 Key Lime Pizza with Graham Cracker crust!

Key Lime Pizza with Graham Cracker crust!

 That meringue was made in the booth!

That meringue was made in the booth!

 Yes, they had shirts with a Pizza-Porta printed for the occasion.

Yes, they had shirts with a Pizza-Porta printed for the occasion.


In addition to having great cooking skills, they are the nicest folks you could ever meet. Competitive yes, but they are great ambassadors of the Egg community.  I am humbled to have had such a fantastic team choose the Pizza-Porta to demonstrate their skills! 

Thank you Greg, Bill, Teena, and Kellie (and Aaron) for choosing the Pizza-Porta



Winner swag!



Business Startup - 6 Tips

This is a quick blog not on the Pizza-Porta product, but on the process of launching a business. Many people ask me about the thrill of going from idea to product to distribution.  It is the coolest job in the world. right?  Not a cubicle for miles. Meet new people. Cook at fun events. Trade pizza for beer!  For those who are thinking about doing something like this, I offer the following advice:

You need Product Passion -  You are going to have to love your product for a couple of reasons. First, you are going to doubt yourself and the product over and over, and over.  Second, some people are going to tell you that your baby is ugly - to your face! Third, you are going to need to demonstrate your product a lot.  You need thick enough skin to gently defend your idea, but not so thick that you don't listen for feedback - when it is good.

Find a Go signal - I have invented a number of "fantastic products" in my career.  Most of them are thankfully still in a notebook and did not get an investment. I am a lean entrepreneurship consultant and advocate. In this practice you spend as little as possible to find out as much as possible as fast as possible (I should trademark that maybe). Drawing pictures, creating brochures, and using look-alike products to gain an understanding of what your consumer wants are all really cheap methods to get feedback. Keep testing/refining your product concepts until your consumers give you a real "go signal". Make this hurdle high - collect deposits, get down-payments.  For example: If someone hands you cash it is pretty much a "go". If they tell you your idea is awesome - they could just be polite. (working with Moves The Needle taught me well) 

Listen, but do it carefully. You want to gain insights into how your product concept fits into the life of your consumer. Don't forget, though, that not everyone you speak to is a target customer. You need to make sure that your are crystal clear on what type of customer you are targeting, and speak to them. I received a lot of feedback that was completely misplaced because the person I was speaking with wanted to help me, but did not understand backyard pizza. 

Don't polish it too much. Until your product is purchased for full price and put to use by a consumer that you did not personally sell, you really don't know how it is going to go. As soon as you have something you can put in the market, Go! All the study and second guessing and design iterations just costs you money beyond that point. Get your product good (not perfect) and go. Then work on improvements based on real market feedback.

Figure it out-ness. The fantastic part about being an entrepreneur is that you have new challenges each day. The brutal part about being and entrepreneur is that you have new challenges each day. You are going to have to be very versatile. How do you do accounting? What if someone wants to ship a pallet?  What happens if your website dies? What do you do when a competitor launches a knock off? You don't have to make everything up every day, but be prepared for some creative problem solving on the fly.  

Love life. Don't forget to enjoy the ride. Thankfully people remind me of this at shows all the time.  "Wow, you have the coolest job!", "Wait, you get to drink beer and make pizza at your job". "That is a cool invention".  It is easy to get bogged down in accounts receivable and lose track of how extremely lucky you are!

I hope this is a helpful list. I am grateful to all those folks who did favors, cut deals, took a risk on me, or offered feedback along the way. Let me know if I can pay it forward to you - send me an email.               


Learning from Pros

 No gas jets here - 100% wood fired  M    ugnaini   oven

No gas jets here - 100% wood fired Mugnaini oven

I like to tell people to seek advice from those who know best. I try to learn about pizza cooking from people who make pizza for a living. A good pizza restaurant will do hundreds of pizzas a day! I love to learn as much about authentic pizza as I can. A trip to Italy is definitely in my future!

I went on a field trip recently to learn food operations from the guys at Local Pie Bluffton. Sonny was kind and patient enough to let me help with prep one afternoon. I found out later that his team usually does all of this without help - and much faster!

What we did.

We started with a tour of operations and introductions to the team. We then got an Introduction to restaurant hygiene and safe food practices. These are all great things to understand. 

1) Slice mushrooms. Local Pie has an amazing mushroom pie that includes smoked mushrooms. We sliced an entire 24"X12" box of Baby Bellas and Large Shitake mushrooms that they source from a local farm. These are mixed together with some special ingredients and wood smoked for a few hours. It is amazing how a 5 gallon bucket of mushroom pieces shrinks when cooked. 

2) Slice tomatoes for roasting.  Again, a huge tray of tomatoes that were sourced from a farm about 30 minutes away were cut into wedges for roasting.  These were seasoned and placed on a tray in the pizza oven where they were roasted for a very brief time.  

3) Making Ricotta Cheese. I have attempted ricotta cheese at home in the past. I used a gallon of milk and cream and ended up with about a tiny 1/4 cup of ricotta. I learned to cook the milk until it "breaks".  Then remove and stir before filtering the whey out of the curd.  We created a tub of ricotta that was super smooth and creamy.  

4) Making Mozzarella Cheese. A pizza restaurant uses fresh mozzarella on nearly every pizza. Cheese production is as urgent as dough. We made a batch of fresh mozzarella from a 44 lb cheese curd. The process is not difficult, but to do it right there are a number of variables. First, the curd is diced into chunks and put into warm water.  Then, hotter and hotter water is added to cook the curd.  In the hot water, the curd makes a miraculous transformation into a giant ball of taffy-like cheese. Pulling and stretching aligns the texture of the cheese and makes it into a homogeneous ball.  Once the cheese is cooked and smooth and stretched we cooled it with salt water.  Finally, after about 15 minutes the fun part - form it into balls and shape it into 2 lb. sausage shapes in plastic wrap.    

 Huge batch of gooey Mozzarella

Huge batch of gooey Mozzarella

5) Making dough. I have made my share of dough in the kitchen using various recipes. I even upgraded and got an 8qt Kitchen Aid mixer.  Even with this mixer I am only able to make about 6 dough balls at a time.  24 pizzas takes four batches of dough.  The restaurant is a little different.  Their giant mixer makes 100 dough balls at a time!  My prep for Eggtoberfest would have been very different with this mixer!  Mind blown.

 Dough Mixer - done!

Dough Mixer - done!

Local Pie uses a starter/Poolish added into the flour and water that supplies the active yeast.  They also use some EVOO.  I was not given the recipe, but did add the parts as directed. They do use 00 flour as they are cooking in an 800 degree oven.  Sonny pointed out that cooking their dough in a home oven would not work that well, because the 00 flour does not brown at less than 700F degree.  If you had pizza from the Local Pie booth at Eggtoberfest, you know that their dough cooked beautifully in the Pizza-Porta at 800F.     

We put the ingredients in their mixer and bam! - 2-3 minutes later it was completely incorporated and smooth as silk.  We dug out the dough and placed it on the counter.  The staff saw this happen and all jumped in to help.  They have a cool tradition to gather around and catch up with each other while forming dough balls.   



Once the dough was formed, we had to end our tour. It was a great day of learning the details of a pizza restaurant.  Did I mention that we made pizzas throughout all of this prep work?  Patrons were in and out throughout this process and we stopped and made a pie or two and then jumped right back in.  I am thankful for the team at Local Pie Bluffton for showing me how all of this worked.  I am so impressed with the team there because I left in the afternoon while they cooked pizza unit 11:00 pm that night.  

This trip reinforced that a great pizza starts with great ingredients.  Everything we did was from scratch - no Cisco cans in this back room. Local Pie makes some fun pizza combinations based on what they can source fresh, locally. This daily routine is a lot of work, but the difference is obvious when you bite into a pizza.  So, why am I writing this post? It was gratifying to see that I can reproduce the steps of a great restaurant at home and use the Pizza-Porta as a very close approximation of a real wood-fired oven.    


Thank you for following us. If you are in Hilton Head be sure and check out Local Pie.


Shop for Pizza-Porta and accessories HERE






It Ain't Just The Dough Recipe

When we cook pizza at shows and events, we are frequently asked for our dough recipe. We are happy to share recipes that we have tested, but that is not the key to our great pizza. Our quest for that perfect, crunchy, light crust in the Big Green Egg® started with us tweaking multiple dough recipes. The results all seemed pretty average, regardless of the ingredient proportions. It wasn't the dough recipe that was holding us back.

Pizza is a wonderful, simple food consisting of a few ingredients placed on a bread base. Dough is made from only a few ingredients: flour, yeast, water and a little salt. Fantastic crust is the result of getting the chemistry and physics exactly right.  Here is a link to a detailed article on the subject click here. There are hundreds of postings that endorse cooking pizza at temperatures above 600ºF, but they don't explain why. This article explains the importance of temperature on the dough baking process.  Here is a recap of the action taking place as dough heats in an oven.


 Chart from

Chart from


Step by step, the dough metamorphosizes from a gooey pale dough blob into a crisp, airy, browned crust.  The challenge of making extraordinary pizza versus average pizza is that the dough must make this journey at a certain pace. A pizza dough placed in a high-temperature oven (>600ºF) will heat from the outside in.  As the outside of the crust reaches 150ºC (302F) it forms that beautiful toasty brown color. Then, as it hits 200º (392ºF) it begins to show that black char, hallmark of a wood-fired oven pizza.  Meanwhile as the internal temperature reaches 100ºC  the moisture in the dough turns to steam which cooks the internal portions of the dough leaving it soft and slightly chewy. It is just like searing a tuna or a steak - At high temperature the outside gets charred and crispy quickly so the inside does not have time to soak in heat and remains lightly cooked.

For hundreds of years, wood fired pizza ovens have cooked at 700ºF-900ºF.  This high temperature takes dough through all of these steps in about 2 minutes.


 Pizza-Porta vs Wood Fired Oven

Pizza-Porta vs Wood Fired Oven

Pizza cooking in a kamado grill (without a Pizza-Porta) often progresses too slow or inconsistently (BGE, Kamado Joe, or other).  The heat may be low, it may be too concentrated in the stone, or the delicate heating process is interrupted by opening the dome causing a sharp drop in temperature. These factors interrupt the steady progress and led to a tough, chewy, and dense character.  This can not be overcome with a different dough recipe.

After numerous average pizzas, we decided to take on this problem. Our crust needed steady, intense heat on the top and bottom so that the dough temperature would increase steadily and rapidly.  Our solution is to increase the radiant energy available from the dome by keeping the lid down and closing off the chimney. Further, we  capture the rising heat and create a convection flow over the top of the pizza by placing the chimney vents below the dome. And finally, we balance the three energy sources by deflecting the intense heat from under the pizza stone . These modifications, made possible with the Pizza-Porta, enable any kamado grill to perform like a wood-fired pizza oven.  An easy-to-install accessory is all it takes.

We are happy to share dough recipes.  But, our crunchy, light crust is as much a result of the Pizza-Porta as the dough ingredients.


Life's too short to make average pizza.


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Thank you to for the detailed resources on bread making.

Internal cooking Setup in a Pizza-Porta

I have spent a lot of time fussing with kamado style grills.  From the Akorn to the Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, to the Grill Dome, I worry about the details of how each performs.  When making a product that many of you will use in a variety of cooking conditions it is important that everything has been tested and works.  I have also spent time with wood-fired pizza ovens.  Some are giant restaurant models, others are individual pizza ovens.  Each of these ovens has its own characteristics. The best advice is: Know Your Oven.


Original Pizza Cooking Challenge

In a wood-fired pizza oven, the fire is built on one side.  The heat travels to the top of the oven, heating the roof. Therefore, the primary heat source is above the pizza. That means a Kamado oven is built completely upside down for traditional pizza.  The heat source is below the pizza, making even cooking challenging. The trick is to limit how much heat comes up through the stone, and maximize how much heat gets focused on the top of the pizza.  Below is an illustration of the challenge in cooking a pizza in a Kamado grill.


no deflector.gif


The heat is focused on the bottom of the stone, overheating it, and then a great deal of the heat is lost thought the chimney before it can cook the top of the pizza.


Optimal Setup

Using the Pizza-Porta allows you to cap off the top and heat up the inside of the dome to cook your pizza evenly on the top and bottom.  This diagram shows one more trick you can do to balance the heat in your oven.  By placing additional deflectors under the pizza stone, you can get even more heat to go around the stone and heat the sides of the dome. This balances the heat from the top and bottom.


with deflector.gif


Setup is very important to cooking in your Pizza-Porta.  The personality of your particular grill combined with how you are cooking will affect how you set up your grill for a pizza cook. Just like cooking pancakes on a griddle, each raw pizza will reduce the temperature of the stone.

If you are going to cook a bunch of pizzas in rapid succession, you want a quick recovery time for your pizza stone, so you should reduce the deflection of your setup.  If you are going to cook pizza with 15-20 minute breaks between them you should definitely add additional temperature deflection. The Pizza-Porta was built to allow you to vary the internal setup of your grill to meet your needs.  Racks, deflectors, double racks. lifters, and other items can be used to customize what you want to do. We are launching our deflector accessory as a way to give you more options for your internal setup.

Too Hot?

So what if your stone gets too hot? In a pizza restaurant they will put a "blank dough" into the oven to cool off the floor.  This dough is often burned on the bottom so it is discarded. This is a great way to get the heat down.  Another option is to put a little water in a cast iron pan and place it on the stone for a few minutes.  This will cool off the stone in the same way.

Check out our our new deflector here

Thank you for reading!

Double Your Pleasure with an RCL Double rack

Double Pizza Rack 1.jpg

I had an huge epiphany when developing the Pizza-Porta.  Just like stacking ribs or butts when you are cooking for a crowd, you can stack layers of pizza in the Large Egg! The Pizza-Porta door was actually expanded along the way to add access for a second tier rack. This added space for a second pizza actually makes the capacity equivalent to a 36-40 inch wood-fired pizza oven. We use a double rack for events and catering (and when lots of people show up for a pizza party!)

Wood-Fired oven floor.jpg

The Pizza-Porta creates even temperatures in the oven chamber so a double rack would cook each pizza at about the same rate. By opening the door you can check the progress of each pizza without impacting the temperature.  I wanted to tackle a couple of challenges when developing a new double rack specifically for the Pizza-Porta.

The Challenge:  Make a rack that is customized for the Pizza-Porta with a couple additional features:

  • Added width between the front legs to clear a 12" wooden pizza peel
  • Align the height so the top and bottom stone have equal access through the door
  • Add a backstop
  • Bonus - it folds so it is easy to store!

The Result:

Double Rack 1.jpg

This three-leg stand holds 2 of the 14" BGE pizza stones at the optimal height for the Pizza-Porta.  The feet of this rack sit on the fire ring, so that it will straddle the platesetter placed with legs facing up.

rack semi fold.jpg

The three legs are precisely cut from heavy stainless steel to accommodate a wider peel.

By arranging the features carefully and pivoting in the center, the legs nest to make a compact, folded stack for storing.

folded rack.jpg

The Rear center leg is extended up to serve as a backstop for the top and bottom pizza stones so that pizzas are not accidentally pushed off the back.

dblrack in.jpg

This is our first rack design.  This one is specific to the Large BGE and will not fit the KJ or other grills.  Let me know if you would be interested in a rack for those grill configurations.  I love to solve grilling challenges, please share yours.

Thank you for reading.  If you call it Pizza Porta, or Porta Pizza, we would love to hear from you. Subscribe to our occasional blog.

Shop for the RCL Double rack here

Eggtoberfest 2017

triple logo.jpg

How could we compete with the fun we had cooking with the All-Star Big Green Craig team last year?  Start with a few Bloody Mary's and....  No, wait, we had to plan first. And make dough, lots and lots of dough.  As the plan came together we had a couple Pizza-Porta owners who wanted to do some cooking of their own.  Then, we found out the guys at Local Pie, the number one Pizza restaurant on Hilton Head Island, were available to show what pizza professionals can do with a Pizza-Porta.  We decided to link these together and make a pizza piazza at Eggtoberfest.  This is a little picture story of the event.  We got so busy cooking, we did not do a great job with photos! As some of you saw in my posts, the dough making started on Wednesday evening using Peter Reinhart's recipe, and required the appropriate beverage choice. Then, we made dough on Thursday, and then we made some more on Thursday night.


Friday night we enjoyed some tasty BBQ with a little help from my Flame Boss and Lane's Classic rub.  We also did some final recipe testing on our Pizza menus (an excuse to cook some pizza with shortribs).

Eggtoberfest warmup

We set our alarms and got up super early to pack and trek out to Stone Mountain.  Our team of Backyard Pizza Chefs did a fantastic job setting up and taking pictures.  Please check out the backyardpizzachefs Facebook page and www.backyardpizzachefs website.  We want to create a space for information on pizza cooked on the BGE or Kamado Joe.

backyardbooth Eggtoberfest.jpg
Backyard Pizza Chefs team

And the Pizzas that were created in these three booths were amazing.  I walked around checking on the oven temperatures and it turned out that each booth settled on a different temperature.  Local Pie was cooking their 00 dough at 750-800F, the Pizza-Porta booth was running 675, and the backyard team ran at about 625. It was interesting to see the results. The only Egg that got refueled was the Local Pie booth that cooked 50 pies in total. We ran about 4 hours on our initial load of charcoal.

Shoutout to Unicoi Preserves for sharing some of their Salted Carmel Peach preserves.

Unicoi preserves pizza.jpg
bbq chicken pizza .jpg

We were excited to see a huge crowd form before the gates opened - and then a T-Rex came and ate a bunch of, wait that didn't happen.  Pizza was enjoyed by hundreds and hundreds....and then some.

And we did collect a big pile of votes - thank you for all of those!

eggtoberfest pizza line
 Some were more rustic than others!

Some were more rustic than others!

Eggtoberfest large Big green egg

Ben showed off our new double stone rack.

And when we ran out of dough we celebrated!

double pizza rack demo.jpg

Thank you to everyone who came to one of the three booths to taste pizza made in the Pizza-Porta.  Our professional chef team, team of owners, and company team thank you for all the great comments and appreciation for our hard work.  Now, if you have any ideas for next year, let us know.

Thank you to Lee and Sonny from Local Pie. Thank you Carrie, Tim, and Firmon on the Backyardpizzachefs team. Thanks to Maggie, Aiden, and Carter who got drafted to help. And, thanks to the Pizza-Porta team; Ben, Becca and my lovely wife.  This could not happen without all of you.

Men's Journal Article


I do a great deal of searching on "Pizza ovens". "Backyard pizza", "Garden Ovens" to see what is going on in the market.  I came across an interesting article in Men's Journal a few weeks ago. Zack Pollack, who is a restaurateur in Los Angeles, was interviewed about backyard pizza grilling.  The article is entitled "Pizza is the new Barbecue" - I could not have said it better.  He talks about $9000 brick ovens but then discusses alternatives.  Here is a direct quote from the article:

  • What's more important than price, Pollack says, is finding "something with mass. Generally, the heavier the better. If the oven wall is an inch and a half thick, pass." (A thicker-walled oven, two inches or more, will have more thermal mass and more insulation.) Also, look for an oven with the smallest possible mouth. And avoid anything that has an internal exhaust. "Ovens with large openings or exhausts inside the dome will let way too much heat escape," Pollack says. You want the oven to get to a minimum of 800 degrees. It can have a chimney, he says, but it must vent from the front — above the oven mouth, not inside the dome. Finally, look for an oven with a low dome, which will "literally press the heat down onto the pizza, giving you the gorgeous blistering and supple texture I look for in great pizza."

In his description of what to look for in a wood-fired oven, Pollack points to all the features that make the Pizza-Porta great for backyard pizza cooking.

Mass/Thick walls - This is the benefit of starting with a heavy BGE/kamado style grill. Hours of great pizza.

A small mouth - Pizza-Porta has a small opening with a door - no lifting the lid to check the pizza.

No internal exhaust - The chimney is capped off to retain the dome heat with the Pizza-Porta.

800 Degrees - Possible with the heavy ceramic walls.

Chimney should be in front - The Pizza-Porta side vents are in front and lower than the dome.

Low dome - The BGE/kamado style grill has a tried-and-true dome shape for radiant cooking.

Thank you to Zach for sharing this advice, and thank you for reading.

You can Read the full text of the Men's Journal article - here.


How to get a pizza off the peel!

Wooden pizza peel

If you have experienced this problem, you are not alone. This is the number one question we get!  Try these steps and see how easy it can be to handle a pizza.  Also check out the blog post Peel/Spatula for full details about this tool of the trade. Here are a few tricks we have learned about handling raw pizza. Whether you call it a pizza peel, pizza spatula, or a pizza paddle, these tips will help.


  1. Aluminum peels are amazing at sticking to raw dough.  Try a wooden peel instead to put raw pizza on the stone.
  2. The peel does need a little bit of dry lubrication - an eighth of a teaspoon of semolina flour, or cornmeal, or even flour will work.
  3. The peel must be absolutely dry - don't wash the wooden peel before cooking. Flour the peel if it is even slightly moist.
  4. The pizza stone must be hot >400F for the dough not to stick


  1. Dough should be prepped in advance and be formed into a ball that is folded tight to form surface tension.
  2.  The dough ball should sit to dry slightly and form a light"skin".
  3. Dough should not be cold.
  4. Don't break the surface skin of the dough when forming a pizza
  5. Rolling with a rolling pin can squeeze out moisture.  Hand toss, or press and stretch on a smooth floured surface.


  1. Make sure your peel is smooth, dry, and clean. Sprinkle it with a tiny bit of cornmeal, semolina or flour.
  2. You can dunk a dough ball in a pan of flour before stretching it.
  3. Stretch your dough out on a smooth surface and then arrange it on the wooden peel. (Don't roll or flatten the dough while on the peel.)
  4. Shake the wooden peel to ensure the dough is not sticking - if it is, stop here and flour the dough.
  5. Decorate the dough with ingredients while it is on the peel.
  6. Carry the peel to the oven and place the peel so the pizza is all the way over the hot stone,  Shuffle the far edge of the pizza onto the stone and then jiggle/draw the peel out from under the pizza. The action is more like jerking a tablecloth out from under a table-setting than shoveling coal.
  7. Arrange the pizza on the stone as you withdraw the peel. - If it gets oblong or weirdly shaped, leave it and enjoy its craft-pizza uniqueness. If the edge droops off the stone, let it cook for a few minutes before using an aluminum peel to lift the whole pizza and rescue the edge.
  8. Be patient- perfectly circular pizzas come from factories. Practice makes perfect and your friends won't mind.
pizza Dough Boxes-1.jpg
160820 Tomato Fest-12.jpg
Pizza-porta First Production-6.jpg
PP First Production-13.jpg


  1. Parchment paper - great for baking cookies! not really necessary if you follow the steps above.
  2. Aluminum grids - that is how Dominoes does it in their electric conveyor oven.
  3. Do not put cornmeal on the hot pizza stone.  Just don't.
  4. Visit a wood-fired pizza place and do what the pros do.
  5. Start with a light "ingredient load" on your pizza to get the hang of it.
  6. Multiple 8oz pizzas are a great deal easier than one jumbo 16" monster.

Enjoy your time making and baking pizza!

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North Georgia Eggfest 2017

Hiawassee GA Eggfest.jpg

The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds is the beautiful setting of the Georgia Mountain Eggfest.  This is the perfect place to have an Eggfest. We were excited to come back for our second year.


A huge thank you to John Hall and the North Ga Eggers for coordinating this event again this year. Eggfests like this are fantastic events for new and old Eggers to get together. I am always amazed at the ingenuity and the culinary skills of my fellow Eggers.  There were some amazing dishes again this year.  And, as one newcomer to the Egg community said to me "All the chefs are so friendly and answer all your questions". I learn something new at every Eggfest we attend!

We started out the morning with some great conversations, and as the pizzas started coming out, folks were lining up for a taste.

Hiawassee-eggfest North Georgia.jpg

We had a very curious crowd who wanted to learn how we converted the Big Green Egg into a pizza oven.  It is great having so many people interested in how the Pizza-Porta works.  Cooking over a thousand pizzas in the Pizza-Porta this year has taught us a few lessons. Here were the top questions that we were asked about the Pizza-Porta:

  1. What is that? I have never seen it before.  - Yup, we are pretty new, as last year was the first time we had product to sell.
  2. What is in there?  The pizza stones and the rack are standard parts available at any Egg dealer.
  3. What kind of stones do you use?  We use the Big Green Egg stones - they are really durable, and thick enough to take real heat.
  4. Are there two stones in there? For shows, we use the Roswell Rig by Innovations by Chance so we can cook 2 pizzas at a time.
  5. What is your setup? The plate setter is in the bottom legs up, then the double rack sits over it creating an air gap.
  6. How long does a pizza take?  At 625 F we cook for 4 - 5 minutes
  7. Why do you need that?  So that you have steady oven temperatures and balanced heat. With these handled, you can relax, enjoy your company, and focus on making great pizzas.
North Ga Eggfest curious Pizza

Meanwhile, inside the booth, Ben was teaching folks how to stretch the dough and make pizzas.  Some of his pupils were newer to Egging than others!  He had a few questions that seemed pretty universal:

  1. Do you make your own dough?  Yes, although we only do pizza as a hobby, we make pizza dough all the time.
  2. How do you keep the dough from sticking? Dough balls with a little bit of skin, plus a tiny bit of semolina on the peel don't stick.
  3. How do you keep the dough from shrinking back? Dough at room temperature is much easier to stretch.
  4. How big are those dough balls?  We stick to 8oz dough balls as they are easy to stretch, transfer and handle.  Cooking multiple 12" pizzas gives you a chance to try a number of different topping combinations each time you cook.
  5. Aren't you going to put tomato sauce on that one?  We have found that some combinations are fantastic without a tomato sauce base.
  6. Hey mister can you make a cheese pizza?  Why yes we can.

The girls decided on a tre formaggi (triple cheese) pizza. Good choice.

Pulling quatro fromagio

Here are some additional photos of the afternoon.  We were glad to meet so many people who enjoy cooking on the Egg, and we hope that our demos and advice were helpful.  Making pizza on the egg is simple, can be healthy, and when you have friends or family gathered around the Egg, it is a fun evening.

Georgia Mountain Fair booth

I want to thank my wonderful team for all of the hard work behind the scenes putting our Eggfest offering together.  Thank you Becca for serving hundreds of tastings with a smile, and Nancy for being our orchestrator and organizer, Ben for putting together nearly every pizza today, and Tim for being our DJ,  photographer, pizza cook and Instagram-er.

All told we cooked all 42 of the doughs we brought, and gave out 770 taster plates.  It was a great day!


To learn more about the Pizza-Porta, check out a techy blog here

To see some 3rd party reviews of the Pizza-Porta, click here

If you are ready to convert your Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, BSK, Grill Dome, or round Primo into a wood fired pizza oven, click here

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter  @pizzadashporta

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Pizza-Porta is only for multiple pizzas, right?


I am often asked if you only need the Pizza-Porta™ for cooking multiple pizzas. The improvements we made to the cooking chamber affect the first pizza, the third pizza, and the 20th pizza. Not only will the Pizza-Porta make one pizza like a wood-fired pizza restaurant, it will deliver 15 or 20 pizzas just like it for your backyard pizza parties. This wonderful, simple, food we call pizza started out as flatbread cooked in a wood-fired oven.  These enclosed ovens had a stone floor with a wood fire on the side. The smoke, trapped under the dome shaped ceiling, heated the brick or stone before escaping out the door or offset chimney. The evolution of the pizza is due to the characteristics of this style oven. Below are the critical parts of pizza making that evolved from this style oven and an explanation of how the Pizza-Porta helps your Kamado (BGE) grill perform like a traditional wood-fired oven:

Steady temperature:

The crust of a pizza is like bread.  The yeast expands to make bubbles that are captured in the dough. The critical part of this process is to apply high heat in a consistent manner so the bubbles are captured at their peak level.  As heat is applied, the gluten of the dough stretches with this expansion like bubble gum. The heat must then harden the dough at the exact right time. If the dough hardens too early the yeast isn't strong enough to push out the bubbles, and if hardens too late the bubbles collapse. Any fluctuation in temperature can interrupt this critical process. With a Pizza-Porta the lid stays down so the temperature remains constant from when the pizza is placed until it is removed. Any fluctuation in temperature can keep your dough from forming properly because the yeast is active and expanding for a very limited time.


Cooking pizza is baking. Baking is not like cooking meat. Baking is very sensitive to ingredients as well as technique. The key to baking is to reduce the number of variables.  Each step of adding ingredients, and folding and handling must be done exactly the same to ensure consistent results.  The same is true for the oven.  If you have wonderful results cooking at 600F, you should dial that temperature to cook every pizza.  With a Pizza-Porta you adjust the vents to dial in your desired temperature. You can adjust airflow as the fire matures to keep that temperature. This capability ensures consistent pizza cooking temperature time after time.


Consistent dough ingredients and a specific temperature will ensure the dough performs the same. The pizza toppings can change your cooking time significantly.  If one pizza is just cheese, it may cook for 4 minutes.  The same size dough with pepperoni and some onions and a few mushrooms may have twice the weight of ingredients and require 6 minutes. This is why the guys at your local pizza place seem to fuss with pizza. Pizza is cooked mostly by eye. You have to look at the top and the bottom to see if it is done.  With Pizza-Porta you open the door and look at your pizza. Checking has little impact on the temperature so you can check a pizza, turn a pizza, lift the edge, without losing heat.  This is how you are able to do consistent pizza all night long without the dreaded "black-bottom pie".


In a Kamado grill the heat source is below the pizza stone. Unless you are using the full radiant energy capability of the dome, the top of the pizza will not cook at the same rate as the bottom. The dome has to be hot to radiate heat down onto the pizza.  When you lift the lid, hot air escapes and the dome cools, losing energy.  Even when the lid is down and the top vent is open (it has to be pretty wide open for 600F+ temperatures) precious heat that could raise the dome temperature escapes. With a Pizza-Porta, the top cap is completely closed, trapping all of the heat, heating the dome and also creating convection cooking as it forced over the top of your pizza. Holding a pizza up in the dome (doming) will actually provide top broiling of the pizza.

One final point about proper equipment for the job:

We are proud to make the Pizza-Porta in the USA out of high quality, thick gauge, 302 stainless steel and 100% stainless hardware so that it will hold up to high thermal stress and can even be stored outside. An accessory for such a great grill has to be built right and built to last.


Made With Soul in the ATL


I did a factory visit to watch the production of a batch of the Large Pizza-Porta units. Christmas exceeded our forecasts so we are catching up on manufacturing. The laser cutting had all been completed and the parts were in fabrication.  METCAM, our Alpharetta GA based manufacturing partner has been fantastic to work with and helped make this product a reality.  I was quite the sight at the factory with my camera but got some shots of the various parts.

There are too many guards and obstructions for a tourist to take this shot of the laser, but this is how the parts are cut out of stainless steel. (photo credit


This photo on the other hand is a real photo.  This giant press brake takes flat blanks and bends them precisely into the final shape. Wouldn't it be great to have something like this in the garage for that occasional bend that you need to make?


This batch of the aluminum heat shields is cut with our logo and the holes for the handle. These pieces are complete and ready to go to packaging.


Parts are laid out for the next steps of forming.  That box in front holds the largest caliper I have ever seen (And the team pointed out a larger one three machines over). These flat 2D pieces will be folded origami style to make a 3D Pizza-Porta.


METCAM is ISO9001:2008 so there are systems for tracking everything in the factory.  Each item has a number and a version as shown on the tracking sheets.  Pretty amazing.


Each component of the Pizza-Porta was designed and custom machined for this purpose. Only the washers and bolts are "off the shelf" parts. We make every piece out of stainless steel (except the heat shield which is aluminum) for weather and heat tolerance. The fasteners and washers are all stainless as well to avoid any rust over their lifetime.


I am a big geek about manufacturing operations.  When there is a huge pile of flat steel on one end of a building and intricate, assembled consumer products coming out the other end it is like magic.

This batch of Pizza-Porta units is almost complete.  The entire product, including the wooden handle and even the box, is made right here in Georgia.  I have looked at other options including India and China that would bring the cost down, but choose to keep the production here.


Proudly made in the USA

Let me know what you think of this blog.


Setting up the Pizza-Porta for the Kamado Joe®


I am excited to announce that I have been spending some time cooking on the Kamado Joe Classic.  The Pizza-Porta was designed to fit this grill, but the cooking characteristics and setup are a little different.  For those of you with this kamado grill, here are some comments about the fit and about cooking pizza. Setting up the grill for a high-temp cook is very straightforward - First make sure that the ashes are cleaned out.  Then, choose some large chunks of charcoal and put them in the bottom of the firebox to ensure airflow, then fill the firebox area with a full load of charcoal like this:

Kamado Joe fill




This will be good for a 2.5 to 3.5 hour cook.

Note that the deflector support is in the highest setting and that is it turned a bit to the left - you will see why in a sec.





Kamado Joe deflector




Next, place the deflectors on top of the support.






Kamado Joe Pizza Stone


Next, is the pizza stone, but it needs some sort of temperature break between the deflector and the stone.  You can use the metal grate - as shown, or pipe fitting, balls of aluminum foil or other devices to give the pizza stone a little bit of height off of the deflector.







Kamado Joe with Pizza Stone


Finally, the Pizza-Porta is placed over the pizza stone and sits around the deflector rack.  Note in this photo that the support for the deflector fits into a cutaway spot on the base of the Pizza-Porta.  You can also see in this photo that the top, stopper nuts should be adjusted all the way forward for the Kamado Joe.






You can now close the lid.

KJ lid down




This is how the Pizza-Porta should look with the lid down





Cooking on the Kamado Joe.

Keep the bottom vent and the top vent fully open until your dome temperature reaches 500 degrees.  Then, close off the top and use the vents on the Pizza-Porta and the bottom vent to moderate your temperature.  It will take longer than you want for the pizza stone to reach full temperature - be patient!  For your first pizza cook, I would recommend a 550 to 600 degree cook.  After you master pizza at this temperature you can adjust accordingly.

At this temperature, pizza will cook in approximately 5 minutes. Check and turn the pizza at about 2 minutes to make sure that the fire is even and the top and bottom are cooking at similar rates. If toward the end of 5 minutes you want the top a little bit more done, you can "dome" the pizza by holding it up inside the dome for about 30 seconds. Experiment and see what works best for your pizza taste!  Please see other sections of the website for tips and tricks of pizza making.

With a little bit of practice you will be pulling out pizzas one after another like this.



Pizza pull Kamado Joe








Thanks for reading.






Top 10 Ideas for Pizza Ingredients

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We have a number of new Pizza-Porta users out there thanks to some discerning Santas.  To get you started on developing your pizza craft, I have listed ten pizza recipes for idea starters.  I have also listed a few tips for getting started creating your own pizza combinations. 10 - Fig - EVOO base, dabs of Fig preserves, pecans, goat cheese and fresh mozzarella.  After removing pizza from the oven garnish with arugula and a bit of balsamic glaze.

9 - Margherita - Tomato sauce base, fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, a few basil leaves

8 - Four Cheese.  EVOO base, fresh mozzarella, cheddar, asiago, garnish with parmesan (or choose other cheese combinations)

7 -Veggie - Mushrooms, glazed onion, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes

6 - Sausage and mushroom - Browned sweet Italian sausage either crumbled or sliced, glazed onions, mushrooms

5 - Seafood pizza - EVOO base, fresh mozzarella, raw shrimp in small pieces, bacon.

4 -Bacon and egg - Use either Italian bacon (Prosciutto) or your favorite thick cut (precooked), fresh mozzarella, and place a small raw egg toward the center sunny-side up. Spinach is a great garnish raw or cooked.

3 - Chicken wing pizza - Use wing sauce as a base coating, add blue cheese and mozzarella, dark meet chicken, and a few glazed onions

2 - BBQ Chicken - BBQ sauce base. cheddar and mozzarella, chicken, bacon, red onions, garnish with cilantro

1  - Chicken Rosemary - EVOO base, fresh and shredded mozzarella, roasted garlic, a sprinkle of rosemary.  Sun dried tomatoes are a great option.


General tips:

Let the ingredients speak - small amounts of high-quality ingredients will have a great impact.

Dab the sauce - Tomato sauce has a great deal of moisture. Spread thin or even dab the red sauce

EVOO- A slow pouring container will allow you to meter out the amount of olive oil that you want

Pizza cooks fast on the Pizza-Porta so we recommend pre-cooked, roasted, or cured ingredients (onions, peppers, garlic)

There are unlimited combinations - you only need a tiny quantity per pizza, so try some different items.

Leftover ingredients make a great omelet or Spanish tortilla.


Please add your favorites in the comment section!



Pensacola Eggfest


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The Pensacola Eggfest marks the 1 year anniversary of the Pizza-Porta product.  I had been tinkering with a way to improve the results of my pizza-making in the egg for some time.  Last year I decided to "go-for-it".  We loaded up three hand-made prototypes and did our first cooking event.  Our test was having 10 people express sincere interest in the product.  If this happened we would take the next step (whatever that might be).  If not, we would enjoy pizza from the units we made and go home and do something else. When we got to the Eggfest, we were showered with attention.  People flocked to the booth asking questions, looking for details, and asking where to purchase. We got the signal we were looking for.  We also had people raving about the great character of the crust and taste of our pizza.  We kept hearing that the pizza was somehow better than their usual Big Green Egg Pizza.




This year we returned to the Pensacola Eggfest having cooked a couple hundred pizzas.  We also brought some units to launch Escambia Electric, the Eggfest dealer in Pensacola.  It was a great "homecoming" for us.  Thank you to the organizing committee and all of the volunteers who put this spectacular event together for the community.  We are humbled by the amazing impact that the Pensacola Eggfest has on this community.


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Our day was again filled with curious onlookers and eager taste testers.  We showed people how to stretch dough and how to load pizzas into the oven.  The pizzas again received fantastic feedback.  We earned pizza cred from quite a few skeptical fans who had never had pizza that good out of an egg (or as some said, even at a local pizza joint).  A steady, 650-700F degree oven does wonderful things to good pizza dough.  Thanks to all those who supported us for people's choice with their tips!  And thank you for your praise!

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We were then honored when we got called down for the award ceremony!  The Pizza-Porta Peelers team was awarded the "Spirit of Eggfest" award.  It was fantastic to be recognized, and we are grateful for the award.  I want to thank my ever-dedicated support team for shopping, making the trip, serving, busing, cleaning, and being fantastic friends.

Thank You Pensacola!

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The Egg is a dome, a pizza oven is a dome. What is different?


Wood fired pizza ovens have been evolving for centuries, maturing into the igloo shapes made of fire bricks that we know today.  These ancient, simple, ovens have cooked outstanding bread and pizza for centuries.  What is so different from a Big Green Egg or Kamado style grill? It may be odd to think of it this way, but the evolution of the oven actually drove the development of the food.  Pizza looks like it does because hot, domed ovens were very good at baking the top and bottom of a flat dough quickly.  The floor of these stone ovens was hot.  Moist dough is placed on the floor of the oven and the stone surface absorbed moisture creating steam, heating the bottom before drying out and then crisping the crust. The dome shape of the ceiling reflects heat down onto the top of the bread or pizza.  The heavy, thick walls of the oven accommodate high temperature and keep it very steady.  There is actually a chemical reaction of yeast trying to expand as it hits a certain temperature. The gluten allows the dough to stretch into bubbles before the flour hardens and gets crunchy.  If the dough heats up at the wrong rate, or inconsistently, the wonderful bubbles do not fully form and the character is lost.  Wood fired ovens with heavy walls and wood as fuel bring all of this magic together at a precise rate.

The Big Green Egg style cooker, on the other hand, evolved with other kinds of food items. The dome shape does reflect heat, and the walls can stand up to high temperatures.  Everything else about this traditional Kamado style oven however, makes cooking pizza challenging.  The temperature control in a kamado style grill is achieved by controlling the airflow so the dome must stay down to cook effectively. (If your looking, you're not cooking). The fire/heat is underneath the pizza stone.  When you lift the lid to check the pizza, you actually cool off the top of the oven chamber. The chimney is at the top of the dome so the the hottest potential air escapes through the top. If the Kamado style oven was the go-to for baking in the Middle East and Italy, we would probably not have pizza today.

This is why we developed the Pizza-Porta.  It is a simple device that radically alters the cooking chamber.  We don't suggest that the Big Green Egg is unable to make pizza.  We are modifying the cooking chamber so that it performs up to the level of a wood-fired pizza oven.  Pizzas will be cooked evenly top and bottom, the dough will rise properly, the temperature is adjustable and consistent, the first and last pizza will cook the same, and you will have a relaxing cooking experience.  Here is a simple explanation in pictures.

Reg BGEgg Pizza cooking
Reg BGEgg Pizza cooking

This is a pictorial of cooking pizza on a Big Green Egg or other Kamado style grill in the conventional manner. Each time you open the lid it will affect the dynamics of the temperature and the fire.

When you open the lid to add, check or retrieve a pizza, your fire is fully vented and all the heat escapes the dome.  Even when the lid is closed, the heat passes around the pizza and vents out the top because the vent must be open wide to reach higher temperatures.  The pizza is cooked mostly by heat conducted through the stone. Finally, Pizza cooks quickly at 600F, so even a fast recovery time will alter the cooking temperature and make the precise cooking time unpredictable.

A wood fired pizza oven has a completely different design.

brick oven
brick oven

This oven employs three forms of heat to cook a pizza: conduction, radiation, and convection.  The fire is built to the side of the pizza and the heavy dome stores and reflects heat to the bottom of the oven.  The mass of these ovens keeps the temperature under control and very consistent.  The crust cooks on the bottom from the heat conducting into the crust from the floor.  The top of the pizza cooks from radiation off of the dome, and the convection of the heat swirling around as it crosses over the pizza to exit the chimney.  These ovens are designed specifically to handle and maintain temperatures from wood burning with wide open venting.

Adding a Pizza-Porta to a Big Green Egg/Kamado grill solves pizza cooking challenges.


The fire is still below the pizza, but the plate setter diverts the heat around the pizza stone controlling the conductive heat.  The top vent remains closed for cooking so that the heat builds in the dome, heating it to create the radiant energy needed to cook the top of the pizza.  The heat flowing around the dome is trapped because ot can only escape via the vents positioned lower than the dome.  This airflow of heat also cooks the top of the pizza via convection.  When the front door is opened briefly, there is an increase in airflow, but the heat trapped in the dome keeps the temperature steady. With the door closed the airflow is balanced keeping the temperature under control.

By changing the dynamics of the cooking chamber, the Big Green Egg/Kamado grill cooks like an authentic pizza oven.

So all of this geeky information is great, why should you care?  By adding this device to your grill, you can take your pizza to the next level.  You can cook restaurant quality pizza all night long.  Since the temperature is balanced you can cook at 600F+ resulting in 5 minute pizza cook times.  This steady burn is more efficient so a single load of charcoal can last 3 -1/2 to 4 hours.  And, you won't have the stress of hoping the unseen pizza is done and not burned each time you lift the lid.

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Twice the Pizza! with a Pizza-Porta


A double rack means twice the pizza!  I have experimented with the "Roswell Rig" from Innovations by Chance, and here is the best way to align it for the Pizza-Porta. The rack is a great invention and holds 2 pizza stones.  It is a bit narrow, but will handle a 12" peel.  When you set the double rig in the Egg on the high portion of the fire ring (not in the plate setter notches) the top stone is a little bit too high in the Egg for the Pizza-Porta door.  I set the rig down in the notches for the plate setter. (the plate setter then sits on the higher setting).  I then space up the bottom pizza stone in the Roswell rig about 1/2 inch so that it is closer to the height of the BGE felt.  I had an old broken Pampered Chef pizza stone and used three pieces under the bottom pizza stone.  I also position one leg of the plate setter in the front to block the heat that can only escape from the vents and door.

This arrangement works very well.  The bottom pizza gets good heat radiation from the top stone, and the top pizza gets all the dome heat reflecting down on it. Having the plate setter up a little closer to the bottom stone also helps deflect heat around it.  I prefer to put cool/raw pizzas on the bottom stone for the first part of cooking just to keep that stone's temperature down.







Pulling the top pizza out of the double rack with a nice crispy crust.

























There is plenty of room for the top pizza in this configuration.






A double rack does allow you to crank more pizzas out in a short time.  We did 32 pizzas for a dorm party with one full load of charcoal.

Write to me if  you have used the Ceramic Grill Store's rig with the Pizza Porta.  The Pizza-Porta does accommodate the rig, but I have not cooked with it.

The Pizza-Porta team cooks at the Tomato Festival


One of the many benefits of launching a product that combines outdoors, pizza, and fresh ingredients is the setting in which you find yourself cooking. Last weekend we had the opportunity to cook pizza on the Pizza-Porta in the most beautiful spot in Georgia.  North Georgia has terrain suitable for growing grapes.  And, when you can grow grapes, you might as well make wine!  We were at the Crane Creek Vineyard  to celebrate a different plant that bestows us with wonderful tastes, the tomato.  This annual event featured live music, wine tasting, and lots of food that highlighted the tomato.  We were there of course to promote its use as a sauce and as a fresh, juicy topping.  I am not going to prattle on too much about the day and let the photography do the talking.  These are actual photos from the day, not internet images of northern Italy.

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And after all it was a celebration of the tomato - the winery had harvested hundreds of tomatoes, so this is what we saw everywhere!

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Enough distractions from the beautiful scenery. The crack cooking team had to forgo adirondack chairs, wine tasting, and caprese salads. We were here to cook!  We unloaded the Big Green Egg, placed the Pizza-Porta, and started making pizza.

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Of course we featured fresh ingredients and interesting tomatoes.

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Margherita was the most popular pizza of the day.  We tried to riff on the Margherita for the festival.  The pizza below features roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and is topped with organic arugula and balsamic glaze.  All topped with a little parmesan.




We were close enough to enjoy Cornbread Ted and the Butterbeans  throughout the day.

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The festival was a blast.  We met some great folks from Florida, Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina.  Blaine and Kate shared great stories about cooking on their Pizza-Porta. Boy do they cook pizzas!  There were some who were not familiar with the capabilities of a Big Green Egg, and others who never imagined cooking pizzas at 600F all day long.  We did some demonstrations on how to make and stretch out pizza dough showing the virtues of homemade and pizzeria dough. We ended up cooking until the 44 doughs we brought were all cooked.  It was a great day at the vineyard, and we look forward to doing more events in exotic locations like this.  Thanks for everyone who came out and enjoyed pizza with us. Special thanks to Crane Creek Vineyards for hosting such a fantastic event!


Look for us at Eggs on the Beach near Destin in September and Eggtoberfest at Stone Mountain Park in October.


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Thank you to Tim for his outstanding photography.

Is it a paddle, shovel, spatula, peal, or peel?

old pizza guy.jpeg

So, why use a giant paddle?

You know that tool, the one you’ve always seen the chef at your favorite local pizzeria using—what special function does that paddle serve? The technical term for that handy pizza paddle is a “peel”. People often ask me about the differences between cooking pizza using a peel and simply setting the pizza on a stone with parchment paper or an aluminum pan. In order to understand the important relationship between the peel and the perfect pizza, let’s delve into the history of pizza for a minute.

While this guy is hardly ancient, you’ll notice that he’s demonstrating the traditional method of cooking pizza using a peel to place the pizza inside a wood fired oven.


Although we tend to associate pizza primarily with Italy, the history of pizza can be traced back to the Mediterranean and Middle East. During ancient times, the Greeks, Egyptians, Armenians, Israelis, and Babylonians were cooking flatbreads that would be the predecessors to pizza as we know it. By the Middle Ages, the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian peasantry had begun topping these flatbreads with whatever was available to them—chiefly olive oil, garlic, and spices. Thus, these first pizzas resembled what we, today, would call focaccia. It was not until the year 1522 that tomatoes arrived in the New World from Peru. Because they were initially suspected to be poisonous, tomatoes were only consumed by the poor. Naturally, they began appearing on flatbreads. With the introduction of the Indian Water Buffalo in the New World and the subsequent production of mozzarella cheese, (Mozzarella di bufala, or buffalo Mozzarella) peasant flatbreads increasingly began to resemble our modern concept of pizza, which was not widely popularized until the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The most famous pizza was cooked  to honor the Queen Consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizza maker, created the ‘Margherita pizza’, which contained tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil to represent the colors of the Italian flag.

Throughout this entire evolution of the pizza from simple, flattened dough to the modern pizza, which is essentially an edible plate, cooking tools remained much the same.


This is an ancient wooden peel.  It was used to place flatbreads and hearth breads, like the one below, into ancient wood burning ovens. This hearth bread is cooked by slitting the top of a large dough ball and placing it directly on the hot stone floor of an oven without a bread pan. Cooking on the stone floor of the oven is important because it absorbs moisture from the dough giving a burst of steam and then cooking the dough dry for a beautiful charred bottom.  You can imagine the challenge of taking a sticky, raw dough ball and placing it right-side-up in a hot oven.  The peel has done the job for thousands of years.


Here is a beautiful example of a hearth- baked bread being retrieved with a wooden peel, as it would have been thousands of years ago. We can clearly see why the peel has been the obvious tool of choice for pizza makers throughout the ages, as the early derivatives of pizza were simply flatter variations of the more traditional “loaf” in this image. Even today, inside each “real” pizza parlor around the world, there is a chef placing pizzas in an electric, gas, or wood-fired oven using a wooden or metal paddle called a pizza peel (chains like Dominos don't count, of course, as they use a metal conveyor belt).

There are a couple of different common styles of peels that I will highlight here.  In each of these styles, different handle lengths are available. Choose the length that suits the depth of your oven.  At a minimum, a 20" handle allows you to use two hands to position a pizza in a 600F-900F oven without burning your hands or singeing your eyebrows.

Wooden peel-


We have had great success placing pizzas in our oven with a wooden peel.  When pre-treated with flour the wood absorbs enough moisture that the raw pizza dough does not stick.  Adding a tiny bit of cornmeal on the peel, underneath dough that is dry to the touch, will ensure that the raw pizza will slide off easily onto the stone.  Put the stretched out dough on the peel and then add ingredients, but don't let it linger on the peel for too long or it will stick.  A wood peel can be used to retrieve pizza also, but it is a little bit too thick to get under the hardened, cooked crust.

One other pizza trick is "the kiss".  Some pros have been known to puff a bit of air under the pizza just before placing it in the oven.

Metal peel -


Pictured are two examples of a metal peel.  One is a shovel style with an aluminum handle, the other is a standard wooden handle.  These are great for retrieving and turning pizzas in a hot oven.  Metal peels can be used for placing raw pizza, but extra precaution must be taken to ensure the bottom of the raw dough is dry or the dough will most certainly stick.  These are available in many widths and handle lengths.  Check the size that you order because they come in giant sizes that won't even fit in the door of your home oven.  A 12" wide peel works well with a standard BGE 14" stone.  A 12" peel can be used to retrieve  pizzas up to about 16".

Turning peel.


This specialty peel is round so that you can get one edge under the pizza and revolve the pizza in place in a brick oven. Wood ovens tend to have more radiant heat on one side than the other.  This peel also has cutouts that scrape the cornmeal off the bottom while you move the pizza.  It is great for retrieving pizza, but not placing, as the raw dough will settle in the slots and stick to the peel.

So if you are going to cook pizza in any oven, you are going to need a large, flat instrument to move the dough from the prep surface to the oven. Whether you use wood or metal doesn't matter.  With a little bit of practice you will master the art of pizza handling.  A peel is a simple, elegant, traditional tool designed perfectly for the task.

This guy never even heard of parchment paper, and I bet he made a hundred thousand delicious pizzas!


Photo credits:

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Gluten Free Pizza with traditional pizza character!


We are pizza nuts spreading the idea of backyard craft pizza on the BGE. When doing demos we are always asked about opening this world to people who want gluten free pizza. I have been focused on getting traditional pizza just right so I have not put much attention on this challenge. One of my team members is a great cook and has found that a gluten free diet is much better for her.  So, I began looking around for a recipe that was as close to conventional pizza as possible.  My criteria were:

  1. Conventional pizza cooking method - raw dough with ingredients into the oven.
  2. Has to taste/crunch/chew like a traditional crust
  3. Must be Italian style- ( a Mexican corn tortilla makes a great quesadilla, but not a pizza)
  4. Non gluten-free eaters should appreciate the pizza on its merits.

So this left me with very few options that I could find in recipes.  Cauliflower recipes (no offense to those who love them) did not seem to be the right thing, and other combinations were different dishes entirely.  I mentioned this challenge to Charlie Augello of E48th Street Market  in Dunwoody, GA and he gave me a grin and handed me the solution.  Caputo -The Flour of Naples,  knows a little bit about pizza, so I gave it a try:




This is an interesting mix of corn starch, rice, and other things.  It has the most bizarre feel in the bag.  If you walked on a field of it there would be a squeak like a sandy beach.  I used half of the bag or 500g of flour (17.6 oz).

I followed Caputo's online recipe, with two small exceptions; For this batch I used baker's fresh yeast instead of dried, and since I would be cooking the dough in 7 hours, I added a little honey to jump start the yeast.



I used a 3X conversion for the fresh to dry yeast, so 9 grams (.3 oz) of fresh yeast is equal to 3g of dried yeast.  I added a little water to the yeast to make a kind of slurry and added it to the dry ingredients. (I measure by weight as much as possible. Try a scale, it is so much easier.)

Then, I added the typical other ingredients of pizza crust.

14g Kosher salt

1.5g of Baking soda.

1 tsp of honey

13.5 fluid oz of water

.75 fluid oz olive oil  (EVOO)

I mixed the dry ingredients in the stand mixer, and then tried the dough hook.  A dough hook is not useful without gluten, so I turned the dough onto a surface coated with this special flour and kneaded it by hand for a few minutes.  Again it has a strange feel about it when you squish it.

I formed three dough balls, about 300 grams each, and let them rise on the counter for about an hour.  I then put them into the refrigerator for about 5 hours - overnight would have been even better.

An hour before cooking, I pulled the dough balls out of the refrigerator and found that they had risen much more that expected.




They looked great.  A slightly different smell than regular pizza dough.  (They smelled a little like saltine crackers!)  I worked with one to create the first pizza and found that it handled a bit differently.  There is very little stretch to the dough.  Draping the dough across your hands is not that effective because it lacks that window-pane property from gluten.  So, I formed the dough into a pizza shape on the counter and then transferred it to the peel.  The pizza below has red sauce, mozzarella, chicken, onion, and a little basil.  The raw pizza looked great going into the Pizza-Porta.





I was a little nervous how this would cook so I checked it about every minute.  I was amazed to watch the edge start to rise and get a little bit brown after 4 minutes.

When I pulled it out of the oven after about 5 minutes at 600F, it looked fantastic.





The true test would be in the eating, and sure enough it was great.  The edge had bubbles and was a bit puffy.  The middle was a little bit dense, but crispy.  This particular pizza could have cooked just a bit more as the dough on the bottom is a little thicker than a typical pizza.  Non- gluten free eaters agreed that it was a little bit more dense than regular pizza, but good, and the gluten free eater of the bunch said "This is the best pizza I have had since going gluten free years ago"  - Yay, we had success!

The second pizza was a different concoction.  Artichoke pesto as the base (hence the green tone), topped with shredded chicken, feta cheese and onions with a little basil.




We got this crust a little bit thinner in the center, and cooked it a little bit browner to yield this pizza.



This pizza was a winner all around.  The dough had  the chance to rest longer at room temperature before cooking, letting it rise a bit more.  The additional cooking time and thinness got the center to cook more thoroughly and provided an even lighter, crunchy crust.

The online recipe needed a little more yeast, and I recommend a longer aging period. From this experience, I highly recommend the Caputo "Free of Gluten flour".  Thank you Charlie, for a great gluten free solution!


Here is the full recipe.   Enjoy - Thanks for reading.   Cortlandt

Gluten Free Pizza

500g Caputo "Free of Gluten flour"  (Half of the bag)

3 g dry yeast (half a pouch) - use bread-maker yeast if possible  (9g of fresh yeast in this recipe)

13.5 fluid oz of water

.75 fluid oz Olive oil  (EVOO)

14g Kosher salt (slightly less than a Tbsp)  half this amount for table salt

1.5g of Baking soda. (1/4 tsp)

1 Tsp of honey

This will yield 3 Pizza doughs of 300g (10 oz) each