Here are some Basic Tips and Tricks we have learned about cooking pizza in a kamado, KJ or BGE.
There are a few things that have to work correctly to make great pizza - in any kind of pizza oven oven. A kamado grill or Egg has the additional challenge of the heat source being located below the stone.
1) It is critical to trap as much heat as possible above the pizza so that the temperature is balanced above and below the cooking surface.
2) High temperatures that are consistent must be maintained throughout each pizza's cook time.
3) Controlling the temperature by adjusting the airflow is just as important for a high-temperature cook as a low-and-slow cook.
4) Pizzas each cook for a different amount of time so a predictable cooking environment inside the oven is crucial.
5) You cook pizza by eye so you must monitor the cooking progress throughout the cook.
The Pizza-Porta is designed to ensuring all of these conditions are met in a kamado grill. Here are some other tips for managing pizza cooking on a BGE, KJ or kamado grill.
Getting up to 500F-600F temperature:
Moist charcoal – charcoal stored outdoors in the paper bag will get moist. Try to store charcoal in a dry place.
Small lump impeding airflow – Small pieces that pack tightly together block the ventilation. Hand place some large chunks in the bottom, or use an accessory like a Kick Ash Basket ®.
Large Lump - Huge lumps of charcoal create 2 issues - 1) There is less surface area burning so the maximum temperatures are a bit lower. 2) Large lumps are often not fully carbonized, so the center portion is not producing as much heat.
Running out of fuel – Start with a very full load because consumption of charcoal is high at 600F. A full load can last 3.5 hours at 600F with a Pizza-Porta. (That is like 20 pizzas!)
The fire too small. If you do not let the fire get big before switching to the Pizza-Porta vents, the temperature will advance slowly to 600F. Leave the top dome vent open until the BGE/KJ reaches 500F, then close it and use the side control vents.
Sufficient airflow: Make sure that deflectors and pizza stones leave plenty of room for airflow. On the KJ, remove the ash scoop for high temperature cooks - it constricts the airflow tremendously. Also ensure the the heat deflectors/ plate setters are not placed too close to the edges leaving only a sliver of airflow.
Balancing the heat/ internal setup:
It is important to arrange the components inside of the kamado grill to balance the heat. In a kamado grill all the heat is generated below the cooking surface. Ceramic is really good at conveying heat. Do not put a pizza stone directly on top of a plate setter, it will burn the bottom of the pizza - end of story. You must create a thermal break that does not conduct heat. The metal grate, large balls of foil, tiny flower pots, or spacers from a kiln should be placed between the pizza stone and the plate setter. Fire bricks place on the plate setter even transmit too much heat through to the pizza stone. Some other tips:
We have had good luck with the plate setter legs down, then a rack or spacers, then the pizza stone. Additional spacers are helpful to get the stone a little higher in the dome. Our aluminum heat deflector or a foil circle under a pizza stone also does a great job of deflecting heat. A double rack is a great addition that allows flexibility between the top and bottom heat characteristics.
Placing a raw pizza on the stone cools the pizza stone slightly. Cooking one after another will keep a stone cooler. If you take a break between pizzas, check the next pizza after 20 seconds to ensure it doesn’t scorch. Your aluminum peel will take some heat out of the stone. Wood fired pizza places will put a "blank" dough in to absorb heat if their oven floor gets too hot. A cast iron pan will do the trick as well.
Bottom line - no matter the set up, check your pizza often. Every pizza cooks in a different amount of time. The Pizza-Porta allows you to inspect without losing heat and changing temperature.
Do what works for you. We left the interior layout of your oven up to you. This flexibility allows you to try different setups, and customize the cooking layout. You may devise a hot cook setup, a bread setup, and a deep-dish setup that are slightly different.
Dough will stick to a stone that is below 400F. Makes sure the stone has had time to heat up.
Do not put cornmeal on the stone - this is a weird internet myth from someone who did not know what they are doing.
Try semolina and flour on your wooden peel instead of cornmeal, it is less likely to burn. Start heavy with 1/8 of a tsp and work your way down in quantity
Moisture, oil, cheese or other bits on your wooden peel will make a pizza stick - scrape clean and keep the wood peel dry and floured.
There is no judgement here - We don’t recommend it, but if metal screens or pans make your life easier, go for it. We do discourage parchment paper for cooking at high temperature (read the package). That silicone is going somewhere.
If you usually cook 'low and slow' in your kamado grill and have not had a high temp cook in a while you will have excess smoke until that pork goodness burns out. This may give your pizza too intense of a smoke flavor. Cook all of that off before starting pizza (but watch out for a grease fire that overheats your pizza stone). Other points:
Ensure that the area around your base and dome is clear of flammable items.
Keep plastic containers away from the grill
Make sure your grill is centered in the table cutout for a high-temp cook - especially a wood table.
Your dome may be left with a white powdery residue – this is normal.
Pizza is a bit of an art. Try some raw 8 oz dough balls from a local pizza place to get a feel for the process.
When you start making your own dough, make the same exact dough recipe a couple of different times. Use the same measuring cups, same scale, same bowls to remove variability in your dough process. This will allow you to make tiny adjustments that make your pizza your own. An important point I learned from Ken Forkish is that time is an ingredient in dough and should be as consistent as possible.
The professionals make it look easy because they practice. After cooking a few pizzas, you will become better and better.
Helpful Links for Pizza Dough Recipes
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