January 27, 2008
4 min. read
For New York Style pizzas, you really need a stone. I have heard for people using unglazed tiles from a hardware store, but I am concerned with impurities that may come out of those tiles if I pick the incorrect one. I have purchased a thick stone, but it eventually cracked after some use , but no mis-use from me. I’m currently using a large round stone from Pampered Chef.
The trick for a great crust is to get the pizza into a hot oven onto a hot stone. By hot oven, I mean as hot as your oven will go hot. Mine is 500. If you can get 550, all the better. Get the stone in there and preheat at least 30 minutes. This gets the stone as hot as the oven. The stone makes the bottom crisp, with a nice soft center. To get the pizza in the oven, you use a device called a pizza peel. I made the mistake of getting two of the cheap wooden peels. These are fine for getting the pizza into the oven, but tougher to get the pizza out. I would recommend jumping immediately to aluminum peels. My wooden peels go unused now. The thinness of the aluminum makes a huge difference.
Once the dough is ready, it doesn’t really matter if you roll out the dough or hand toss. I like keeping a little thicker edge on the dough to give you a breadstick to eat after you finish the piece.
To slide a pizza into the oven, you need some ball bearings. Flour or corn meal are common. I prefer cornmeal. Sprinkle a little on the peel over the area that the pizza will cover. It makes the most sense to position the pizza as close to the front edge as possible. Shake the peel and make sure that the pizza dough moves around easily. Now make the pizza as quick as possible. The cornmeal will take moisture from the dough and will start to stick. Before trying to put the pizza in the oven, do another shake test. If it doesn’t move, you didn’t use enough corn meal. Get under the dough with a spatula or turner and sling some more cornmeal in there. You want to find out now, not when you are shaking the toppings onto the hot stone, with no pizza dough. It is better to error on the side of too much corn meal at first. However, the corn meal will burn when left on the stone.
Do not try to get the pizza off with a quick jerk. This will also distribute toppings onto the stone. Put the peel in the oven at a 25 to 30 degree angle and touch down on the stone where the edge of the pizza should go. With small easy shakes, ease the pizza onto the stone.
Getting the pizza out is where the aluminum peel really shines. It is 1/8th the thickness of a wood peel. The allows you to slide the peel under the pizza without kicking the pizza off the back of the stone and into the back of the oven, This makes a lot of mess and a lot of smoke. Getting the pizza out is where you want a quick action. If you did everything right, the pizza should not be attached to the stone at all.
When it all goes wrong. Well, I’ve found a long metal turner made for outside grilling very handy. If you pizza sticks at all, you can scrape it off with this turner. It also help clean all the cheese that is on the stone from where you put on too much cheese and not enough corn meal and the first shake just tossed cheese and toppings onto the stone. It is gonna happen, just have fun.
When messing around and cleaning the stone, it is a good idea to wear some oven mitts. I’ve managed to hit the oven rack or something a few times and a 500-550 degree oven makes burns happen fast.