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
On Saturday, May 7th, we joined a fellow entrepreneur and friend Evan, from Hedgehog Lacrosse,for our first real-live barbecue contest. Smoke on the Lake is a fundraiser for the Rotary club of North Cobb County, GA. This event gave us a chance to test out some changes in our hinge design. Cooking Friday night and five hours on Saturday gave us lots of time to test. We also got to some Pizza R&D. Hedgehog Lacrosse has a snazzy tent and trailer that we enjoyed over the 2 day event.
We setup at this beautiful setting on Lake Allatoona near Acworth, GA on Friday night. Not knowing what to expect we only brought 10 pizza doughs along for the night. The crowd finished those off in no time. We enjoyed Evan's fantastic wings, a concert and fireworks to end the night.
Early Saturday morning we put the Pizza-Porta to work roasting peppers while getting up to temperature.
After the pizzas starting rolling out, we had some guest pizza makers show up to help. Our kids basically took over operations.
The day was picture perfect with blue skies and a great crowd. We even got a sneak taste of the winning ribs submission and second place chicken winner - thanks to our neighbors - Team Sweetbottom. They pulled an all night effort and took home some hardware.
On the pizza R&D front, we tried some different combinations. We stripped the meat off a batch of chicken wings and added hot sauce, blue cheese, and mozzarella to make a wing pizza that was fantastic. Then, to test chicken thighs, we added roasted garlic, and Fontina cheese. It really brought out the flavor of dark grilled chicken. Another notable experiment was testing different versions of pulled pork.
After an evening and a whole day of open and closing the Pizza-Porta - we are satisfied with the new hinge design. On to production.
Thanks kids for running the show for a while!
Make your own hand-crafted pizza this weekend.
After long deliberations we attended our first food festival. We were afraid to show the Pizza-Porta to anyone who might knock it off an go into production. Our patent is pending, so we hope that does not happen. We set up a couple objectives for the show: 1) Can we make authentic pizza from scratch on-site? Oh, and there will be 1200 people! 2) Does this crazy design work with off the shelf eggs? 3) Does anyone else think this is a good idea? 4) How do we get a "buy" signal?
The Pensacola Eggfest turned out to be a fantastic event. Everyone we met was helpful and supported everything we needed to do our cooking. We realize that pizza at a BBQ festival might seem a little weird, but the crowds were fantastic. We are proud to be part of this event and also to support Chain Reaction.
How did it turn out for us? 1) affirmative - We made dough for 50 pizzas - we put a stacked pizza stone in one BGE and a single in another. We cooked every single pizza! One egg was still on the first load of BGE charcoal at the end! Steady 600F degrees from 10:30 till 2:00 cooking the majority of the pizzas. We heard that our pizza was delicious, with just the right crunch. 2) affirmative - We placed the two Pizza-Porta's in their eggs, slid them around a little to ensure the fit, and then started cooking. 3) affirmative - We had a great number of folks tell us that this was a good idea. Thank you Big Moe Cason, Chris Grove, and Big Green Craig for the shout-outs. 4) affirmative - We hope to be shipping in a few months.
Backyard Gourmet Pizza Peelers was our team name for the event. Special thanks to our wives for the hall pass, and for jumping in to help!
Here are some other photos:
This is an account (from memory) about the first prototype.
As I mentioned elsewhere, Ben (my now Pizza adviser) purchased a Forno Bravo pizza oven for his backyard. I was intrigued to say the least. It cooked really hot 800-900F (your home oven is really only good to about 450° F). and it kept a very consistent temperature. He had a couple of really fun pizza parties in his back yard. I was hooked.
I tried making some pizza's in an Akorn that I was playing with, and they turned out pretty mediocre. The bottom got done, but the top was always undercooked. My crusts were pale, and the pizzas never matched the quality of the wood fired oven. I also noticed that the process just wasn't conducive to an enjoyable pizza cook. I was leaning over a 700° fire trying to slip a pizza peel out from under the pizza. It is like tailgating with a disposable aluminum grill. You can do it, the food is hot, it is charcoal, but it is really not that great.
So, I set out to make great pizza on a kamado style grill. Great pizza would make me happy so it would be fun. This was a project for me - not to start a business.
I began by propping open the lid of the Akorn. I could slip a pizza onto the oven and it protected me from that blast of heat, but I lost any way to control the temperature. I also lost so much heat that I just ran through charcoal. I added some baffles to the side to keep the heat in, but with an open window I had no temperature control. One night this turned into a + 1200F inferno. I started tinkering in the shop with some sheet metal to create a device that would insert but also control the airflow. After 47 cut fingers and a few nights of work, I came up with the design below. (This one is made of galvanized metal, but I was testing temperature control, not cooking. I understand that cooking and galvanized metal do not mix.)
This was the first prototype of a Pizza-Porta. The door was a great addition because I got temperature control back. I made different versions of this thinking that the door would be the ultimate solution. Unfortunately, it did not improve the character of my pizza. Access was easier, but the top of my pizza was still not cooking as fast as the bottom. And, the crust did not compare to the wood-fired oven. I parked the prototype in the garage.
I did some research on wood-fired ovens. It turns out that the fire heats the roof of the oven and the roof of the oven in turn heats the floor. I realized that the uneven cooking was due to the roof of the kamado not retaining heat and that the highest temperature air was escaping through the chimney. It hit me that closing the chimney and providing an alternate, adjustable chimney would accomplish this.
I drilled some holes in my test bed model and cooked a few pizzas. I immediately noticed the difference in the way the pizza cooked. The top was cooking even with the bottom. The crust was actually getting brown around the edges. And, the crust was lighter because it was cooking even and rising as a unit. No more frying-pan pizzas!
I had made the transition from providing access to the pizza stone, to creating a cooking chamber that cooked pizza like a wood-fire oven. Along the way, people that I spoke with said that they would be interested in buying one. I began thinking that this might be a viable product - but that is a different story. I took the next step in prototyping to create a water-jet cut set of parts. I hand-bent them to make this mild-steel version for demonstration.
After doing a lot of pizza cooking and completing all the details of setting up a business, I began the process of developing a model that could be produced in manufacturing. This was the first version from METCAM in stainless. At last a real product.
This is a condensed version of a great deal of ups and downs. Thank you for everyone who supported the journey.