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Can You make Authentic Neapolitan Pizzas at Home?


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#31 emannths

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:22 PM

Anyone have any idea what the recovery time is for baking a pizza on an Al plate--after removing the first pizza, how long do you have to wait before baking the second pizza?

#32 scott123

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:25 PM

Here's a pizza baked on 1/2" steel plate for 3 1/2 minutes at 530. As far as coal oven style pizzas go (Patsy's, Lombardi's, Totonno's, John's) this is a pretty amazing offering, but again, in no way is this Neapolitan.

mark pizza.JPG

Edited by scott123, 25 February 2011 - 02:05 PM.


#33 Paul Kierstead

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:30 PM

What's your point?

#34 Chris Hennes

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:45 PM

There are some very nice photos (on pages 2-26 and 2-27, when the books arrive) of pizzas that certainly look cooked to me, but they aren't showing the underside of the pizza, so perhaps the char level does not meet scott123's requirements for Pizza Napoletana. Who's going to take one for the team and try it?

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#35 mkayahara

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:48 PM

Is the level of char in question actually a part of the "pizza napoletana DOP" definition?
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#36 Guy MovingOn

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:50 PM

Here's a pizza baked on 1/2" steel plate for 3 1/2 minutes. As far as coal oven style pizzas go (Patsy's, Lombardi's, Totonno's, John's) this is a pretty amazing offering, but again, in no way is this Neapolitan.

mark pizza.JPG

That looks pretty delicious!
How long was the steel plate heated for before sliding the pizza onto it?

To be honest, I am not sure that I would particularly want to eat a pizza significantly more charred than that.

#37 BadRabbit

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:01 PM

Is the level of char in question actually a part of the "pizza napoletana DOP" definition?



If I'm not mistaken, DOP requires cooking directly on a stone surface so char would be moot if we're looking for meeting regulations. There are also multiple other requirements outside of our discussion here (e.g. wood fired oven, 900F temp).

http://www.pizzanapo...are 2008 UK.pdf

Edited by BadRabbit, 25 February 2011 - 02:11 PM.


#38 mkayahara

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:05 PM


Is the level of char in question actually a part of the "pizza napoletana DOP" definition?



If I'm not mistaken, DOP requires cooking directly on a stone surface so char would be moot if we're looking for meeting regulations. There are also multiple other requirements outside of our discussion here (e.g. wood fired oven, 900F temp).

Then I don't understand why we're having a discussion about whether or not a metal plate can produce Neapolitan pizza... by definition, it can't.
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#39 Chris Hennes

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:07 PM

Right, it goes without saying that one cannot use this technique to make an official "Pizza Napoletana," by definition. It is then simply a matter of making the best reproduction we can (or, perhaps simply making the best-tasting pizza we can!). The DOP standard lays out what we are looking for in excruciating detail, including the final temperatures of the various ingredients. And it says not one word about "char."

Read it here.

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#40 Dave the Cook

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:10 PM

In the link BadRabbit posted, as well as this one: My linhttp://www.fornobravo.com/vera_pizza_napoletana/VPN_spec.html (they say essentially the same things), there is no mention of char, nor anything that sounds like char. What it says in Section 2.5 implies something else, at least to me:

The consistency of the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” - (Vera Pizza Napoletana) should be soft, elastic, easy to manipulate and fold. The crust should deliver the flavour of well-prepared, baked bread.


Who wants charred bread?

What Modernist Cuisine says is "you can cook a pizza that's as fast and good as any you'll find in Naples." That's quite a boast, but it's not the same thing as saying "This is how you make Pizza Napoletana."

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#41 BadRabbit

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:10 PM



Is the level of char in question actually a part of the "pizza napoletana DOP" definition?



If I'm not mistaken, DOP requires cooking directly on a stone surface so char would be moot if we're looking for meeting regulations. There are also multiple other requirements outside of our discussion here (e.g. wood fired oven, 900F temp).

Then I don't understand why we're having a discussion about whether or not a metal plate can produce Neapolitan pizza... by definition, it can't.


I was assuming that an effort was being made to produce an equivalent product though without rigorous adherence to traditional method.

#42 scott123

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:14 PM


Is the level of char in question actually a part of the "pizza napoletana DOP" definition?



If I'm not mistaken, DOP requires cooking directly on a stone surface so char would be moot if we're looking for meeting regulations. There are also multiple other requirements outside of our discussion here (e.g. wood fired oven, 900F temp).


Char isn't technically a component of the DOP, but the high oven temp is. With those temps, in order to cook the pizza all the way through, char is a natural byproduct, so my contention is that char is a de facto component of the DOP.

#43 Chris Hennes

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:28 PM

I dunno about that: in an oven of those specs with a dough of those specs and ingredients of those specs, by that argument there is no need to include a description of the final product at all... it's a given. And yet they list out very particular descriptions of the crust's qualities, and the qualities of all the other ingredients as well, going to far as to list final temperatures. I'd think that if char were so important to the quality of the pie, they would say something about it.

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#44 lancastermike

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:36 PM

As the old saying goes, I don't have a nickel in this dime. What I wonder is do they suggest that a pizza cooked on a metal plate, be it steel, aluminum or maybe even titanium taste better than the exact same pie made on a stone, or simply that it will be finished sooner?

Edited by lancastermike, 25 February 2011 - 02:47 PM.


#45 Chris Hennes

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:49 PM

A little bit of both, Mike. What they say in particular is:


Italian pizza makers have a rule: Pizza Napoletana should take no more than two minutes to cook. Even slightly longer in the oven produces a crust that they deem too chewy.

So then the goal is to cook faster on the theory that faster=better:


Fortunately, using only an electric broiler and a thick metal plate, you can cook a pizza that's as fast and as good as any you'll find in Naples.


Edited by Chris Hennes, 25 February 2011 - 02:49 PM.
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#46 scott123

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 04:20 PM

I dunno about that: in an oven of those specs with a dough of those specs and ingredients of those specs, by that argument there is no need to include a description of the final product at all... it's a given. And yet they list out very particular descriptions of the crust's qualities, and the qualities of all the other ingredients as well, going to far as to list final temperatures. I'd think that if char were so important to the quality of the pie, they would say something about it.


Chris, 'well-prepared and baked bread' doesn't have a gummy core. For that dough, with that flour, hydration, length of fermentation, and that oven temp/bake time, the only way a gummy core can be avoided is by producing char. It's almost impossible, with those temperatures, not to produce char. I've seen countless numbers of Neapolitan pizzas and not one has ever lacked char.

Take any Neapolitan pizzeria and do an image search using the term 'upskirt' Here's the one's that I could think of:

Da Michelle pizzeria upskirt
Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente pizzeria upskirt
Antica pizzeria upskirt
Motorino pizzeria upskirt
Paulie Gees pizzeria upskirt
Lucali pizzeria upskirt
Donatella pizzeria upskirt
Keste pizzeria upskirt
a16 pizzeria upskirt

Now, I'm not cherry-picking these to support my hypothesis. This is every single pizzeria I could think of. Think of another one and try it. Any one.

#47 Chris Hennes

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 04:30 PM

the only way a gummy core can be avoided is by producing char. It's almost impossible, with those temperatures, not to produce char.

Does that make char a desirable outcome, or simply an unfortunate byproduct? Again: the standard that describes the ideal finished pizza is quite specific. And it does mention the color of the crust:

Appearance: 'Pizza Napoletana' STG is characterized by a raised crust of golden color -- a definite product from oven, soft to the touch and to the mouth.

If char were important to what makes a pizza "Pizza Napoletana" I believe the standard would say so. I can only conclude that char is a byproduct, at best neither desirable nor undesirable, but not important to the definition or quality of the pie. So whether or not the metal plate produces it is simply irrelevant: the pizza meets all other end-product specifications (to my eye, based on the photos in the book; and based on the statements of the authors, whom I think are sufficiently credible).

Edited by Chris Hennes, 25 February 2011 - 04:36 PM.
Formatting and punctuation

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#48 Dave the Cook

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 05:31 PM

Just so everyone knows that we're talking about, here are a couple of photos (screen shots, actually) from Modernist Cuisine that show a side view of the pizza as it's cooking, and the finished product (sorry, no upskirts).

mc_pizza_2.jpg

mc_pizza_1.jpg

(Photos copyright The Cooking Lab, LLC; used with permission.)

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#49 blackp

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 05:33 PM

Does anyone else feel that this discussion is spiralling out of control towards the "mine is bigger / better than yours" stage?

Can we put a lid on it and wait until someone has actually tried making a pizza on a 3/4" metal plate using a domestic oven?

I believe that the authors had success with this method, but the kitchen equipment available to them is not the stuff of mere mortals.

I would really like to see the results before purchasing yet another item of kitchen gear which takes up space and is seldom used - especially if it weighs 30kg.

Just my $0.02c

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#50 scott123

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 07:38 PM

mc_pizza_1.jpg


Well, that decides it. There's no way in heck I could scrape together $467, but if that's how this 20th century Guide Culinaire is going to portray pizza, then I'm going to daydream about buying something else.

#51 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:16 PM

2. I just preheated my oven until the bottom element turned red hot and then put a 1/4" steel plate with a cup covering the top on the top shelf. I left it there, with the bottom element on full blast for 2 minutes. After that time I measured the change in temp of the top of the plate. 5 degrees. In pizza terms, that's meaningless. Having an oven with the ability to have both top and bottom elements on at the same time has no bearing on whether or not 1/4" steel plate can produce a Neapolitan pizza.



The point of the discussion as I've understood it is that the metal plate, *when fully up to temperature, after a long preheat*, can transfer sufficient heat to a thin piece of dough directly in contact with it over 2 minutes to result in a nicely baked pizza.

The time it takes to preheat the metal plate itself--being heated by the air in the oven, and thus verys low--is irrelevant to the rapid heat transfer from the hot plate to the pizza.

And both the broiler and the bottom element are relevant because being able to keep them on together may permit the oven to get hotter than top element alone. What's so complicated about that?

I have been feeling a little wary about ordering the book, because so much of my cooking is not in line with what I've come to understand about molecular gastronomy--I have no interest in trying to make a spherical gel of olive-ness, I'd rather just eat an olive--but stuff like this, the discussion of heat transfer and cooking properties of the oven, taking things a LONG step past 'stones store heat and thus the oven temp doesn't drop as much when you open the door to put the pizza in', is what may make it worth it for me.

#52 nathanm

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 11:01 PM

This pizza discussion is quite silly. Scott123 clearly hasn't even seen the actual pages in the book that are relevant, and is going off on a tangent criticizing things that are not in the book.

Note that the instructions in the book does NOT say that the plate is at 550F. It says to put the oven at it "hottest setting", which for most ovens is 550F, for "at least" 1/2 hour. Then put the broiler on and get the plate even hotter. Then cook the pizza.

The actual tempertaure of the plate could potentially be much hotter than 550F, because the broiler is typically not regulated by air tempreature. The broiler element is typically at least 1000F. The plate does NOT come into equilibrium with it, but it can get hotter than 550F.

Nowhere do we say that this is 100% the same as a genuine "Neapolitan pizza". We do say that a Neapolitan pizza typically cooks in 2 minutes or under, and this technique can approximate that cooking time. But the "char" that Scott123 finds so precious may, or may not occur. Indeed, we don't mention char at all.

Just in case this is not clear, the whole point of this technique is to improvise a way to turn a home electric oven into something that can cook a better pizza crust. We can hardly gurantee that every random home oven will beat out a professional pizza oven. There is way too much variation in ovens to make that feasible. Some ovens will not reach the right temperature.

We find that this approach CAN improve pizza. We like the results better than a pizza stone. That's all.

The experiment that Scott123 discuses is irrelevant. I don't understand how it is relevant. He seems to be testing the wattage of his oven element - i.e. how much heat can it transfer through the plate. This is not related to the techinque, but perhaps I don't understand his experiment.

As many posts above say, the essence of this techinque is to preheat the plate as hot as you can get it with the lower oven element, we say 1/2 hour, but in some ovens you may want to go longer - it is oven dependent. Then turn on the upper broiler element and let it get the plate even hotter. Then, with the plate as hot as your oven can possibly get it, and the broiler element on full blast, put in the pizza. It will be heated from below by the hot metal plate, and from above by the broiler.

Your mileage may vary! I do NOT guarantee that you'll get a perfect char, but depending on your oven and your plate you might get a good approximation. The thicker the plate, the more likely you'll get a good result. There is no guarantee that a 1/4" plate will work perfectly but it will be a lot better than a cookie sheet, and in our tests, better than a pizza stone. A 1/2" to 3/4" thick steel plate, or a 3/4" or thicker aluminum sheet will, all things being equal, be better than a thinner plate, but if your oven is weak no amount of metal plate thickness will save you.

As several people noted (and is noted in the book), this technique was developed by Chris Young for Heston Blumenthal and the BBC perfection series. As such it has been around for a while.

Kenji Alt-Lopez has a somewhat similar approach. He uses a broiler to cook the top of the pizza, and puts it in a steel skillet to cook the bottom of the crust. In that case he is substituting the oven burner and skillet to heat the bottom with the pizza stone. This approach will also work, but you need to have a BIG burner with a lot of BTUs and a big skillet.

I hope this clears the issue up.

Edited by nathanm, 25 February 2011 - 11:02 PM.

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#53 Guy MovingOn

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 03:05 AM

The Heston Blumenthal recipe involves heating a heavy cast iron pan on the highest hob setting for at least 30mins and then placing it inverted under the highest grill/broiler setting before sliding on the pizza.

Is the metal sheet significantly hotter than this method?

#54 scott123

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 05:35 AM

Note that the instructions in the book does NOT say that the plate is at 550F. It says to put the oven at it "hottest setting", which for most ovens is 550F, for "at least" 1/2 hour. Then put the broiler on and get the plate even hotter. Then cook the pizza.

The actual tempertaure of the plate could potentially be much hotter than 550F, because the broiler is typically not regulated by air tempreature. The broiler element is typically at least 1000F. The plate does NOT come into equilibrium with it, but it can get hotter than 550F.


Nathan, have you used many home ovens? Unregulated broilers? 99.9% of home ovens have a thermostat probe, that, when the oven hits the temperature on the dial, the thermostat cuts the burners off. Both burners. Do you not see the potential safety issues of having a broiler that doesn't turn off? You can crank the broiler to your heart's content, but that probe is going to be in the exact same vicinity as the plate. You might be able to get the broiler to stay on for a few seconds and drive the surface temp of the plate up a bit past the peak dial temp, but the impact will be trivial, and, more importantly, it might prevent the broiler from kicking in while the pizza is being baked- and that will prevent proper browning on top of the pizza.

Peak oven temp is peak oven temp- regardless of whether or not it's reached with the top burner or the bottom, and for most home oven owners, that peak is less than 550. I'm fixating on 550 because that's typically the highest temperature home oven dials go to. In reality, a good portion of home oven temps peak out at well below that. Cook's Illustrated recent article "Thin-Crust Pizza" (January 1, 2011) operates under the assumption that most home ovens don't go above 500.

Nowhere do we say that this is 100% the same as a genuine "Neapolitan pizza".


So, you're telling me that it doesn't say this?

What Modernist Cuisine says is "you can cook a pizza that's as fast and good as any you'll find in Naples."


I don't see how anyone reading this statement could interpret it as anything other than a guarantee of Neapolitan baking times and Neapolitan quality results. It doesn't say "you can cook a pizza that's better than a pizza cooked with a pizza stone," or "you can, with a freak home oven utilizing an unregulated broiler, cook a pizza that's as fast and good as any you'll find in Naples." If you're going to guarantee Neapolitan bake times and quality, you have to have some semblance of what makes Neapolitan pizza great, namely, oven spring (and the associated char that comes with it), and if your method can't reproduce that for the majority of your readers, you shouldn't be promising that it will.

As several people noted (and is noted in the book), this technique was developed by Chris Young for Heston Blumenthal and the BBC perfection series. As such it has been around for a while.


...and, had your researchers done their homework, they'd be aware that Heston's technique has been thoroughly proven to produce inconsistent and mediocre pizza for just as long. If you read the Kenji Alt-Lopez article you posted, you'll see that he completely dismisses the Blumenthal approach. In the pizza community, Blumenthal's method is ridiculed.

If Heston wanted to refine his technique and publish it, I'd have nothing to say. Heston doesn't really have enough clout to influence the public's perception of Neapolitan pizza. Same thing for Chris. But your name is attached to this and that carries weight. This volume has historical significance. Many people will read this sweeping claim about Neapolitan quality and bake times, purchase 1/4" steel plate, make mediocre pizza that looks just like the one in the picture and, because they read it in your book, falsely associate that pizza with Neapolitan style.

If someone came along with a $40 sous vide technique that produced results slightly better than boiling but promised their readers that it could match the best equipment on the market, how would you feel? By spreading the idea, inside or outside the book, that 1/4" steel can "cook a pizza that's as fast and good as any you'll find in Naples," that's what Chris, and, by extension, you, are doing with pizza.

#55 weinoo

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 05:46 AM

I don't see how anyone reading this statement could interpret it as anything other than a guarantee of Neapolitan baking times and Neapolitan quality results. It doesn't say "you can cook a pizza that's better than a pizza cooked with a pizza stone," or "you can, with a freak home oven utilizing an unregulated broiler, cook a pizza that's as fast and good as any you'll find in Naples." If you're going to guarantee Neapolitan bake times and quality, you have to have some semblance of what makes Neapolitan pizza great, namely, oven spring (and the associated char that comes with it), and if your method can't reproduce that for the majority of your readers, you shouldn't be promising that it will.


I'm wondering, scott123, if anyone in Naples bakes pizza at home? And if any of it is any good? And if you would agree that, if it's baked at home, in Naples, it is Neapolitan pizza?

We understand that you're a purist - that's great. But for most of us, this technique will work just fine, thank you.
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#56 dcarch

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:17 AM

Scott123, "---Nathan, have you used many home ovens? Unregulated broilers? 99.9% of home ovens have a thermostat probe, that, when the oven hits the temperature on the dial, the thermostat cuts the burners off. Both burners. Do you not see the potential safety issues of having a broiler that doesn't turn off? You can crank the broiler to your heart's content, but that probe is going to be in the exact same vicinity as the plate. You might be able to get the broiler to stay on for a few seconds and drive the surface temp of the plate up a bit past the peak dial temp, but the impact will be trivial, and, more importantly, it might prevent the broiler from kicking in while the pizza is being baked- and that will prevent proper browning on top of the pizza. "


Get an IR remote thermometer and measure the bottom of the oven where the heat is generated by the burners, you will know what Nathan is talking about. The steel plate gets high heat by conduction.

Furthermore, the capillary thermostat probe only measures the average air temperature., It is incapable of measuring radiation temperature. You can get burnt (charred) in ice cold air in front of a vigorous bonfire.

dcarch

Edited by dcarch, 26 February 2011 - 06:25 AM.


#57 scott123

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:40 AM

I'm wondering, scott123, if anyone in Naples bakes pizza at home? And if any of it is any good? And if you would agree that, if it's baked at home, in Naples, it is Neapolitan pizza?

We understand that you're a purist - that's great. But for most of us, this technique will work just fine, thank you.


Come on, Mitch, this isn't Chowhound :wink: I thought this is the home of the culinary purist. Am I wrong in that assessment? Nathan is certainly a sous vide purist. All I'm asking is the same respect for Neapolitan pizza and what it represents.

#58 weinoo

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:48 AM


I'm wondering, scott123, if anyone in Naples bakes pizza at home? And if any of it is any good? And if you would agree that, if it's baked at home, in Naples, it is Neapolitan pizza?

We understand that you're a purist - that's great. But for most of us, this technique will work just fine, thank you.


Come on, Mitch, this isn't Chowhound :wink: I thought this is the home of the culinary purist. Am I wrong in that assessment? Nathan is certainly a sous vide purist. All I'm asking is the same respect for Neapolitan pizza and what it represents.


Trust me; Neapolitan pizza gets plenty of respect here.

But that's not to say it's always the greatest pizza - it is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. I've had less than great pies at Motorino, Keste, and yes, UPN over the years.

And as far as purists go, I guess that depends on one's definition of a culinary purist :wink: .
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#59 qrn

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:10 PM

With my oven set at 550deg, and the 1/4" plate on the bottom rack,its 1/1/2"above the heating element. in the 30 minutes it takes to get the element to heat and to cycle off at 550,at that time,I check the temp of the plate and its at730deg.using an infra red thermometer, Plenty hot, to get the crust a nice brown crunchy finish in very short order..
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#60 dcarch

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:33 PM

With my oven set at 550deg, and the 1/4" plate on the bottom rack,its 1/1/2"above the heating element. in the 30 minutes it takes to get the element to heat and to cycle off at 550,at that time,I check the temp of the plate and its at730deg.using an infra red thermometer, Plenty hot, to get the crust a nice brown crunchy finish in very short order..
Bud


Thanks for the confirmation.

Exactly what I (and others) was indicating to Scott123. The oven thermostat only measures average air temperature. The steel temperature can get even higher if you place the steel plate right on the bottom.

Here is going to be the big difference between stone and steel in the making of the pizza:

Immediately after you place the pizza dough on the steel, the temperature of the steel will not drop down very much becuase the higher heat capacity and conductivity of the metal.

On the stone, soon after the pizza dough in put on the stone, immediately the stone will be cooled down significantly because the much poorer conductivity of the stone.

Which one will make a better tasting pizza? Depends.

dcarch