Bought a 15"x16"x5/8" cordierite octagon shape Kiln Stone Shelf, $18+tax. I wanted a 15" round or 16" round but none to be found in Sacramento. There was a 16x16 but the corners would have not fit in the kettle, so I decided to go ahead with the octagon. After thinking about it, I think the octagon will work better allowing more heat to pass around the sides thus heating the space above the stone faster after opening the lid and putting a pizza on.
The goal: Attempt to make pizzeria quality pizza with that wood/brick oven flavor at home, 1st in the weber kettle, later on my weber gas grill. I want to put the pizza on the grill once, cook once, not cook one side and remove then cook the other side. This is a serious challenge of controlling heat, in a weber kettle.
1st attempt weber kettle.
My pizza making experience is not much. I have tried to make a few pizzas using store bought pizza shells, 1st cook one side, then take off grill add sauce and toppings and cook other side. The results are mixed, bottom over cooked mostly and top not quite done.
You can see from the picture the bottoms got burned using the new pizza stone, however in three attempts, each pizza got better with adjustments. I apologize for no pictures, when I can successfully produce a decent pizza I will post the pics.
1. Bought 3 pre-made pizza doughs from Trader Joes, 2 plain and 1 whole wheat.
2. Started the charcoal briquet starter, when ready dumped in weber, heated grill for 10 min. cleaned grill. Started 2nd group of charcoal in briquet starter.
3. Added pizza stone, and preheat. Preheat stone time would be the time to start 2nd batch of charcoal.
4. Ready toppings and dough. Making a round pizza out of the dough was an interesting challenge. The package said make 12" pie. I was able to get to about 14".
BIG PROBLEM, no pizza peel (paddle). After going to target, walmart, sears, I was still up pizza-creek without a paddle (peel). Moving sticky dough is tough enough, loading that dough after the sauce and toppings are added is impossible. After getting a reasonable pie shape I had put the dough on a floured pizza tray, stretched till about 14" then added sauce and toppings. I put the tray on the pizza stone. The idea let the crust get firm and then slide pizza directly on pizza stone, cooked in tray about 3 or 4 minutes.
5. Slid pizza directly on pizza stone and cooked about 8-9 minutes, until toppings done.
The majority of crust bottom burned crisp, the top was not quite done, could have cooked another minute or two.
Still editable on outer edges.
Adjustment for 2nd pizza.
I raised stone 2" off grill with metal ring I have. This time instead of pizza tray, I used a throw-a-way 12" thin aluminum pizza pan, again put on stone. After 2 minutes slid pizza out of pan directly on stone. I peeked about 2 minutes later and the dough was rising and cooking very nice. Cooked for another 7 minutes.
Again the crust bottom was burned, mostly the center. The top was almost perfect, nicely cooked, the outer crust was done nicely and tasted great. Most of the pizza was editable.
Adjustment for pizza 3
The 3rd pizza was the wheat dough. We decided to push all the charcoal to the sides, leaving about 6-8" bare space in the center of charcoal rack. This also got the remaining coals very hot. Again used another 12" aluminum pan to place pizza on stone. Cooked 2 min. in alum. pan then slid pizza directly on stone. We peeked at about 5 min. the pizza top looked great. Cooked another minute, and pulled.
The center of the crust was burned again, but not as bad as pizza 1 or 2. The pizza top looked amazing the side crust looked great, the top looked as good as pizzeria pizza. Taste, pizza 3 almost had that taste, it was good, everything cooked, cheese melted perfectly. The bottom crust had a slight crisp bread like crunch, except in center where bottom was burned.
1. Absolute must, get a pizza peel! After all was done, I realized I could have used cardboard + parchment paper. I had both.
2. Putting the uncooked pizza directly on the stone would have had much better results. The alum tray or pan reflects heat away, yet was sitting on a 500 deg stone, the bottom is getting cooked but the heat is not going through the pizza and cooking the remainder.
3. NO olive oil on bottom crust. I kept seeing this in videos about cooking pizza on bbq grill. However in none of these videos was a pizza stone used. Yes olive oil is needed to help brown crust quickly when no stone is used. When a stone is used the olive oil burns.
4. Need to get two new remote probe digital or dual probe thermometers (my taylor quit). I need to monitor what is happening with temperatures, both on the stone and 2 or 3" above stone. I had a oven thermometer on the stone, it read 550 deg, so the stone temp was near perfect.
5. I liked moving the coals to the sides. I will get about a 10" x 6"hi metal ring, when I add 2nd batch of briquets I will then use the metal ring to keep coals to the side. The cordierite stone holds heat, so there should be enough radiant heat to keep the stone at 500+deg with coals not directly under the stone. I will play with it both ways of course.
6. Next time I will do some dry runs on dough alone. Learning what is happening with the heat, during the cooking process is critical to good results. Controlling heat is what us smoker/grillers do to get great tasting food.