pizza oven

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

The Pizza-Porta team cooks at the Tomato Festival

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

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

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

Gluten Free Pizza with traditional pizza character!

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

Hiawassee Egg Fest - Beautiful mountain setting and great food

If you have not been to this Egg Fest in the GA mountains - you are missing out.  Ample parking, a tree-lined thoroughfare, buildings for the vendors, real bathrooms, and Lake Hiawasee in the background. We packed the Egg in the car and put the mobile cart on the back and headed 2 hours North to the mountains.

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The site was absolutely gorgeous and we did most of the setup on Friday night before the fantastic covered dish cook's dinner.  Thank you to all of the cooks who brought their "A-game" to the covered dish.  (If you are going to attend a covered dish dinner - make sure there are a bunch of Eggers there!  Wow)

Saturday morning we started setting up for Pizza production.   We had 40 dough balls on deck and plenty of ingredients to make a variety of different pizzas.

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We cranked up the egg about 8:45 thinking that with a 9:00 gate opening, we would have "tasters" at about 9:30.  We were wrong!  People showed up at 9:02 and were excited to start tasting food.

This photo was taken at about 11:00. See the line in the background?  We had great folks coming by all day long.  There were many questions about how to handle dough and transfer it to the pizza stone.  We tried to do as many demos as possible.  I even had a challenger watching my every move to see if one would stick to the peel.  I had one stick to the peel late in the day - we got a little more cornmeal on that edge and it slid right in.

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My good friend Mark was a substitute pizza chef for this event.  He actually volunteered for this. For those who watched and tasted, Mark had only made 4 or 5 pizzas before this event.  I think you will agree he did a great job.

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With the help of both of our daughters we cranked out and served pizzas.  At about 12:30 it was time to add charcoal.   So our first load of charcoal lasted nearly 4 hours.  This is a new record for the Pizza-Porta cooling crew!  We reloaded and after a 10 minute warm up we were cooking again.  We realized that we had already cooked 28 pizzas!  Only 12 left for an event that lasts until 3:00!

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We were so busy that we didn't take very good photos of our creations.  This Margherita was near the end of the day.  We slowed our pace a bit and ventured out to taste some of the fantastic dishes from our Egg neighbors.  Shout out to elk sausage, stuffed peppers, and some sort of pork extravaganza on a tooth pick.

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This is our last pizza at about 2:15.    

We got to meet some legendary eggers and some who were taking the plunge by buying an Egg at the festival.  Welcome to the family!  Thank you to all the organizers.  A special thank you to Crane Creek Vineyards for agreeing to share booth space.  See you next year!

Thank you for reading.

Cortlandt

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Post trip update:

While unpacking, I found the leftover charcoal from the entire day of cooking pizza - we used 1/2 bag for 40 pizzas..

Smoke on the Lake - with real smoke

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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.

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After the pizzas starting rolling out, we had some guest pizza makers show up to help.  Our kids basically took over operations.

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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.

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Thanks kids for running the show for a while!

Make your own hand-crafted pizza this weekend.

Cortlandt

Prototype to production - we came a long way

  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.)

Proto 1

Proto 1

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!

Test-bed model new airflow openings added

Test-bed model new airflow openings added

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.

Hand-made prototype - ready for Pensacola Eggfest

Hand-made prototype - ready for Pensacola Eggfest

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.

First model made in production

First model made in production

This is a condensed version of a great deal of ups and downs. Thank you for everyone who supported the journey.