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The physics of baking good pizza (arxiv.org)
368 points by Tomte 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 154 comments



This post encouraged me to make account and leave a comment after couple years of read-only

/sorry for bad english/

Long ago, in yearly middle-school time I am argue with friends about optimum(by combined simplicity and taste score) way to bake frozen pizza, and all about with electric heating oven VS microwave. After some time oven was chosen, but I thinked that made oven pre-heaten was waste of time and try to approximate it with longer cooking in just powered oven. I have been tried to made some calculations with paper and microcalculator. Some years after I remembered it and understood that I was reinvent some integration stuff.

And pizza was burnt because all of this distraction


1) Frozen pizza is awful 2) To properly bake a pizza you need 350/400 C 3) Normal electrical ovens arrive to 220/240 C and the pizza becomes dry and crunchy 4) If you put a frozen pizza in a cold oven it will always be burnt because by the time the inside is cooked the outside has become overcooked and burnt 5) Please don’t make me cry writing pizza misadventures :’(


I've actually had some really good frozen pizzas. The best ones I ever had were actually $4 frozen pizzas from the supermarket that were made in Italy. I'm not sure how they made a pizza in Italy and shipped it to NZ and managed to sell it for $4, but they were great, or at least the quattro fromaggio ones were. The ones with any frozen vegetables like mushrooms were sort of crap, the mushrooms went all watery.

In my experience with frozen pizza, the ones with less ingredients are better. Any frozen vegetables will go watery, so your options are really pepperoni or plain cheese. You want a pizza with a nice thin base

Let the pizza defrost for a little bit with the wrapper off before you put it in the oven, then blast it in the oven at maximum temperature.

It helps if you put the pizza on a pizza stone or on a rack, rather than on a tray. If it's on a tray, the bottom tends to get soggy.


I really, really love Red Baron frozen pizza. I dunno, I think it's the crust maybe? It's crisp but not cracker-like, a bit buttery, almost pastry-ish.

(Geez, I sound like a shill. After 5 years and 8000+ HN karma, Red Baron's sockpuppet account finally pays off!)


Playing the long game! Very good.


Just a detail: That's bluewater shipping, which is unbelievably cheap these days if you have the right kind of load. Some of the modern ships carry a thousand containers per crew member. The cost of the crew, fuel and ship itself is spread over many containers, and if your load has the right weight/volume ratio, you can negotiate extra low rates.


I just find it so fascinating that it can be cheaper to ship things from Europe than make them locally, even if logically I know that it makes sense.

As another example: the budget branded fries that I brought for $2 for a kg came from the Netherlands. Not only was I amazed that it was cheaper than locally made fries, but that was cheaper than I could buy fresh potatoes.

Somehow it's cheaper to grow potatoes, cut them up, package them, and ship them to New Zealand, than it is to grow potatoes in New Zealand and drive them to the supermarket.

Looking at ballpark estimates, potato chips weigh about 500 kg/m^3 [1], meaning you can fit 27 t in a shipping container [2] with some space left over, as 27 t is the maximum weight for a 40 ft container. This would cost around $4,500 to ship from Rotterdam to Auckland in a refrigerated container [3].

So per 1 kg packet, you're looking $0.17 for shipping costs. That's pretty astoundingly low.

[1] http://www.mpd-inc.com/bulk-density/

[2] http://www.dsv.com/sea-freight/sea-container-description/dry...

[3] http://worldfreightrates.com/freight


The key word is "fresh", also termed "spillage". The potatoes you buy have to be there when you walk into the shop, fresh enough that you don't walk out again or complain. Shops throw away a lot of vegetables, even fairly robust ones like potatoes, and of course the spillage percentage is added to the price you pay. The fries are much more flexible time-wise.


You still have to drive it to the stores once it's on land though...


You have to do that anyway: either from the port to the store, or from the field to the factory to the store.

Unless your point is that the shipping is cheap in absolute terms, in which case 'yes' :) Although I don't think it will add much. Say pizzas are shipped 500 km, on average (for the North Island - most of them will stay in Auckland, and I imagine those going to Wellington are shipped there directly). Either way, transport like that will cost you, say Eur 1/NZD 1.75/USD 1.15 per kilometer? (IIRC from the time I worked for a transport company). But you can fit, say, 50k of them in a truck. That's 1-2 cents depending on which currency you look at, and that's using lowball estimates, and not using bulk shipping discounts.

It's amazing and completely counter-intuitive how cheap shipping is. Which is also why I so dislike the 'food miles' concept. Yes, it's 3k km to drive lettuce from Spain to Northern Europe. But you can fit so many of them in a truck, that the per-item cost is tiny, and quite often offsets the extra costs you'd have to make to grow that same lettuce up north. And yes that's even when calculating in the environmental costs (depending of course on the crop and the time of year; my point: just having fewer 'food miles' doesn't necessarily make it better for the environment).


ALDI has some really good ones for $3AU too, the supreme ones (basically ham, cheese and capsicum if that counts as supreme) anyway.

I cook from frozen normally, but for a really "gourmet" frozen pizza experience defrost is completely and stick it under the grill. Wonderful grilled cheese on top and still a soft fluffy base underneath.


As a recent immigrant to Australia, I'm yet to try the Aldi frozen pizzas. The 3 for $6 ones look good though.

I'm constantly impressed with the quality of Aldi food for how insanely cheap it is, especially their frozen goods. I can eat well for $5 per day on Aldi food.


Same deal in the UK. Some people turn their nose up at it, along with their fellow German brethren Lidl. I don't see why. Some of the food outright beats the food from Tesco, where it can sometimes be twice as expensive.


Uh, off-topic but as a non-native speaker, is that use of "capsicum" standard? Where are you located?

I had to look it up to make sure you meant (US: bell) peppers.


Capsicum is the standard name in here (Australia) from wikipedia:

>The large, mild form is called bell pepper, or by color or both in North America and the United Kingdom, but typically called capsicum in New Zealand,[8] Australia, South Africa, Singapore, and India.

It does seem strange that even anglosphere countries in the eastern hemisphere ended up with a different name for some reason. Presumably it was also called that in the UK at some point too.


I grew up in Australia calling them capsicum. Now I live in the UK and the Netherlands, it is pepper/paprika respectively.

Some other differences in Australian and UK usage are zucchini vs courgette and eggplant vs aubergine. Not much of a French influence down-under. And Italian immigrants dominated Melbourne's fruit and veg trade in the 1960s.


I always get confused and just use one or the other. Conveniently it doesn't really matter because everyone understands me when I use any of the above in Australia.


> Presumably it was also called that in the UK at some point too.

Perhaps it became common in all of these countries at the same time, long after colonisation, leading to different marketing/naming between these countries.


>4) If you put a frozen pizza in a cold oven it will always be burnt because by the time the inside is cooked the outside has become overcooked and burnt

This seems backwards. The hotter the oven, the less time for the heat to diffuse inwards before the outside is burnt. The lower the temperature, the more even the heat.

I'd imagine the reason not to put it before it's done preheating is standardization. If my oven takes 5 minutes and yours takes 10 to get to 400, there's no way to write one single set of directions for how long to cook it from the time of powering it on. It's hard enough with everyone's different freezer temperatures.


Yes, but the hotter it is the faster the outside will burn at a faster rate. If you want meat evenly cooked, it is slow and steady fire. If you want it crusty on the outside but raw inside, you would use strong fire. That is why you unfreeze food at room temperature and not in the oven.

PS, I found best results with a bit of microwave first (to unfreeze the inside, the microwaves do penetrate quite well) and then to the oven.


As a roccbox owner and someone who has made pizza from my earliest memories, I would say there are some tasty frozen pizzas. Totinos comes to mind, it is nothing like a neapolitan or even dominos pizza, but the way it cooks up turns it into a sweet-sauced cheesy cracker. You just can't think of it as traditional pizzs.


If you freeze your own pizza they taste pretty good, so I wonder why store bought pizzas don't.

You can't bake good napolitan pizza at home but you can bake decent pizza at home as long as you change the recipe to be nontraditional. I make a very wet dough, let it rise, then spread it on olive oil greased sheets, rise again then pre bake the crust until it is firm enough to put on the toppings then bake again. The crust is like a thin focaccia.


>"You can't bake good napolitan pizza"

Yes you can. Good dough, high thermal mass (baking steel) and thorough preheating are the most important points.

"Oh, but it doesn't get to 350/400/a quadrillion degrees like a real pizza oven does!" the peanut gallery cries.

A lot of great pizzarias don't bake their pizzas above ~300 anyway. Just turn your oven way up and let it preheat properly. It is not properly heated when the indicator bulb turns off. Give it at least another 15 minutes to get the baking surface thoroughly warmed through. If water droplets don't show the Leidenfrost effect on the baking surface, it is nowhere near hot enough.


The problem with low heat is that the pizza doesn't rise properly and the pizza needs to stay in the over for longer which makes the crust dry out. If you have a good oven and a pizza stone then you might be able to do it, but most people don't have that. My oven maxes out at 200 even though it claims to do 230.


~240 here, and I've got a very high thermal mass baking steel.


The solution to 2 is to get a special pot made out of stone that you place in the oven and it accumulates heat. After 30 minutes it has the necessary temperature and then you place the pizza on top of it.


Or a pizza steel which I've wanted to try forever: https://slice.seriouseats.com/2012/09/the-pizza-lab-the-baki... ... not a perfect neapolitan but looks good enough for me.


My wife and I just made 4 pizzas on this last night. It is great but the edges around the pizza were golden brown and not that bubbly crispy crust you get in pizzerias. I am convinced now more than ever that the dough is the critical procedural element we were getting wrong. She used a 1 hour dough where even the pizza steel recommends a 72 hour one. Needless to say, she has one in the proofer for Wednesday night.


I highly suggest this recipe (From here: http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm)

  Ingredient (grams)        1 Pie  3 Pied  5 Pies	
  Filtered Water	    110	   330	   550	
  King Arthur Bread flour   168	   510	   850	
  Kosher or Sea Salt        6	   18	   30	
  Sourdough yeast culture   15	   45	   60	
  Instant Dry yeast 	    0.5	   1.5	   2.5	


  All ingredients into mixer except 25% of flour.
  Mix on lowest speed for 1-2 minutes or until completely blended.
  Cover and Let it rest for 20 minutes.
  Start Mixing on Low speed for 8 minutes. 5 minutes into it start adding held back flour gradually.
  Mix for 1 more minute

  Divide in to 300g balls and either let raise warm (3-10 hours) or cold (2-7 days).


Good recommendation! Big fan of his work...


I use the recipe from this book + the levain instructions — https://www.amazon.com/Flour-Water-Salt-Yeast-Fundamentals/d...

Highly recommend though I believe the author is located in the Pacific Northwest, and one thing I have found is nearly all recipes should have their hydration ratios adjusted to your local climate. Local humidity / seasons tend to have impacts on dough.


Having worked in Italian Pizzerias (in Italy), 2 days minimum for a decent crust, but the cheap places don't all do that.


2 days in the fridge? How many hours out after that? Tell us the secret!


It's not a formula! Take it out when you start prep for the evening, so it's at least 90 minutes before first use. But pizza made at close will be different than pizza made at the beginning of the shift.


Forgot to mention: It is a perpetual starter--take a pizza worth of dough to start the next batch (for maybe 100 pizzas).


To add, I think perhaps the levain makes it develop to a good state faster such that 2 days is fine as opposed to the 3+ I seem to need with no levain, if you want the nice spotted and bubbly dark and light pattern as opposed to the even golden brown.


For sure a live starter makes things move extremely fast. We would usually leave it at room temp for a shift and then refrigerate. I have seen people talking about 5+ days here. That would leave a spoiled batch using this faster method. 4 days tops usually.


I would agree with this as well. My best crusts rise from 36-48 hours in the fridge, after which they're baked almost immediately at 450-500F for 10-12 minutes.


At least two days, I'd say 5+ is best if you have the foresight.

To use, just take it out a few hours ahead of time so that it can warm up to RT and rise again.


> not that bubbly crispy crust you get in pizzerias

Yes, aside from high heat the cold ferment step seems to play a big role: https://slice.seriouseats.com/2010/09/the-pizza-lab-how-long...


Indeed. Although Physics is important in the cooking process, Pizza is all about Biochemistry. Since flour and water have essentially no flavor, all the taste comes from what the yeast makes as it metabolizes the flour and other carbohydrates present. More metabolic activity == more flavor. More time == more yeast output.


Good dough is easy:

* Use bread flour

* Let it sit refrigerated for a few days before use. 1-2 weeks is pretty ideal.

Compared to a fresh dough, you'll get that nice crispy crust and chewy, flavorful interior.


1-2 weeks is far too long for a yeasted dough to sit in a refrigerator. 2-5 days would be the max.


I agree. 24-48 hours is the ideal refrigerator proofing time for pizza dough in my experience.

Too much beyond that the dough will break down too much, becoming gooey, tearing easily when handled, and resulting in a hard/crunchy crust.

Proofed dough balls can be frozen for storage, however. They keep well in the freezer and defrost quickly when needed.


I use a ~35x40cm, 8mm thick, ~8kg slab of iron as a baking steel. It does take a while to heat up, and conversely also to cool down again, but it produces extremely consistent and good results.

As someone who's cracked several conventional baking stones, I would be seriously surprised if the Slab O' Steel doesn't outlast me. I can highly recommend getting one, it's definitely worth it.


i have alot of plate steel lying around. cut a piece of 3/8" (~1cm) to fit exactly in the oven, put stainless handles on it (its probably 30lbs/14kg) to lift it in and out. cleaned it off well and seasoned with avocado oil (I guess flax is better, but it spoils)

takes a long time to heat up, but when it does pizza cooks like its supposed to, and the oven temp springs back quickly after you close the door.

inexpensive and pretty durable. highly recommend.


I just toss my cast iron griddle in the oven. It's not large enough to cook a huge pizza but I usually cook smaller pies anyway. Works great.


>"To properly bake a pizza you need 350/400" >"Normal electrical ovens arrive to 220/240 C"

You don't really need it, you can produce extremely good pizzas in an ordinary oven, as long as you remember to preheat it and have enough thermal mass in your baking stone/steel. Once the oven reaches temp, give it at least another 15 minutes to really preheat the stone.

Preheating and a good dough have been the key ingredients for me. That and a hefty 8kg baking steel. Metal retains more heat and dumps it a lot quicker into the crust than a traditional backing stone.


1) agree, probably between awful and tolerable 2) yep, but in most home it isn't available(maybe in most homes in all remembered areas, excluding countryside) 3) yes(but one another time i have pyroelectric autocleaning oven and accidentally burnt accesories in it) 4) partly agree, but partly have ideas like ihm and franciscop https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17439057

sorry for slow answer


Portable bench-top pizza "ovens" do amazingly well.

They have a heated stone base and large electrical elements in the lid. You have to be careful not to cook it too fast -- you turn it right down between pizzas.

Downside is they only do one at a time but that's usually fine.

[edit - the one we have is very similar to this: New Wave NWKA 1200W Stone Bake Just Pizza Maker (Red) ]


My parents have one of those, they use it maybe twice a year. It does make good pizza though.

They're a like a bread maker in that regard. They seem super useful, but just never get used.


> They're a like a bread maker in that regard. They seem super useful, but just never get used.

I use my bread maker almost every day, sometimes twice. I dismantled the table top pizza oven because it was useless and now I just use the stone from it in the oven.

I suspect I am an outlier in the bread maker statistics :-)


That only gets up to 280C it looks like, at that point it's not really any different than an oven with a pizza stone


Preheat the pan with the oven for better crust.


No problem about bad English. But hey, can I ask you what your first language is? Very curious to know!


Cyrillic based east european ._.


I am very curious if you had any success baking pizza starting from a cold oven.


Yes, at least not worse than made-by-guideline freezed\simple recepies. This branch have some similar thoughts https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17439057


This paper is so oversimplified.

If you're actually curious in the physics of food, check out the journal of food engineering. We use much more complex physical models to simulate the physics of food.

Fun note, this is my job and it is pretty cool to really dig into the science behind cooking and then apply that to an industrial scale.


Related: I highly recommend the Cooking Issues podcast with Dave Arnold [http://heritageradionetwork.org/series/cooking-issues/].



And this great book:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Food_and_Cooking

The science and history of food! Great illustrations too.


Cooking for Geeks is really good too:

https://www.cookingforgeeks.com/


An excellent book that you can pick up, read a few random pages and walk away feeling you've learn't something. Always informative as to where ingredients come from and what happens when heated, kneaded, beaten, stirred, etc.


Any specific fun recommendations for a similar target audience as OP?


Yes, there's a youtube channel: "French Guy Cooking". It is in English, and in it a french guy with a dives into various aspects of cooking, equipment and technique as only a geek can (he obviously has a technical background).

https://www.youtube.com/frenchguycooking

I like it because he shows taste and sensitivity to the culinary arts, he's hilarious, but actually goes in depth on the topics.


oh god, I don't think the only thing close is Alton Brown's good eats. It is the closest thing to food science classes you'll get that are general and simple to understand


I realized that some frozen meals must be better than others. Thus, there must be a frozen meal that is best. I think cooking methods relate to that. I really appreciate those because they can be very cheap yet nutritious. However, I don't know if it's healthy to consume them too often.


> However, I don't know if it's healthy to consume them too often.

Frozen meals tend to have very high levels of salt in them. They also have poor quality ingredients, so are not as nutritional as you think.

If you must live on frozen meals, try making them in large quantities yourself over a weekend, and freeze them. Most basic 'meat & vegetables' meals can be frozen and re-heated.


If high levels of salt is the worst thing you can say about frozen meals then they're pretty damn decent for the convenience they offer!


I cook from fresh every day. Now granted I'm not the fastest cook - but it can take anything from about 20mins to an 1h 30mins to prepare dinner. While I'm cooking I'm cleaning and doing other tasks. Left overs carry over to lunch or another evening meal.

If I were to use a frozen meal, I'd have to defrost, and then cook, and likely would want something alongside it - like veg or salad. Unless Chef Mike (Microwave) is employed. I find it hard to see this being that much quicker.

I've had one pre-prepared bought in meal this year. Most convenience foods like this have a strange processed taste - that isn't just salt. This is coming from someone whose sense of taste has been shot totally to pieces.


> I find it hard to see this being that much quicker.

A part that's much quicker is that you just grab a frozen meal from the store, rather than first figuring out what to cook and then searching for ingredients at various sections of the store.


Once you cook regularly, "figuring out what to cook and then searching for ingredients at various sections of the store" takes next to no time. Most of what you buy are the regular weekly standards. Just spent two minutes writing a shopping list before you leave home.

Then for the first few days after you shop, cook the meals you planned. And towards the end of the week, open the fridge/cupboard and think "what needs to be used up?"

The more you do it, the easier it gets.


I just work with what I have, meal planning is too hard for me.


Is salt still considered bad for you?


When you eat too much of it, certainly.

It is generally thought that we eat way more salt than is considered healthy. Too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and kidney failure.

The Dutch government — to cite just one example — states that 80% of people in the Netherlands eat too much salt¹; i.e., more than 6 grammes per day, and lists the health issues mentioned above.

Conversely, eating too little salt is quire rare nowadays due to the high amount of salt in store bought products.

1: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/zout-en-natrium....


I'm a bit skeptical of an organisation that recommends eating lots of carbs and margarine. Is there good scientific evidence that salt is dangerous? A priori I'd find that strange, because our kidneys are good at filtering out salt, so why would the body have any trouble with salt as long as you drink enough water?


this is very cool!

1) what's the most helpful physics-based cooking tip most people aren't aware of?

2) are there efforts in food engineering to apply machine learning to recipes in the same way some projects are trying to automate other creative functions like graphic design?


It is a widely-held belief that searing a piece of meat before a slow roast will seal in the juices. Actual testing reveals this to be completely incorrect.

Searing (dry, high heat) produces maillard reactions which are responsible for lots of flavors that we like. So searing is good, but it's better to cook your meat to just below the temperature you want, then take it out and sear it. You'll have a more consistent doneness.


For anyone looking, this is what most people are now calling a reverse sear.


1)how to optimize volumetric versus surface heating versus air/water heating of food. Once you understand enough about heat transfer, combining microwave, broilers, hot air and sous vide type cooking let's you create food textures that are better suited for your personal likes. Like cooking a turkey, people that complain about it being dry don't understand the difference between heat transfer and mass transfer.you don't have to dry out meat when heating it.

2) this is for food science, not food engineering.But yes, my this is a new area food companies (and specifically my boss) is getting into is to use AI/ML for understanding process and recipes to design new foods or troubleshoot problems



about 2) there is (was?) an effort by IBM to make an AI chef using techniques from cognitive computing. See https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/28/cooking-with-c...


What is the most prominent journal for this field?


"journal of food engineering"


While not as heavy with respect to the physics, this guide goes into all the detail you could want when it comes to making great pizza at home:

http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm


This looks a lot like the (German) recipe I found on http://www.perfekte-pizza.de which I've had amazing results with.


Not even sure if this "paper" is wrt the physics. It just threw in batch of undergraduate-level heat transfer equations.


I was going to post the same link. I've always gotten amazing results with that recipe and my 8mm thick 8kg baking steel.

After breaking several conventional pizza stones, I figure this one is going to last for decades or even centuries. And there's just something so satisfying about a big honkin' slab o' iron like that.


My Pizza Rules (not that anyone asked, but...)

1. Don't "Moat" your pizza. The barren expanse of dried sauce and over-sized crust is the classic sign of "moating" the pizza. Spread the majority of the toppings as close to the edge as you'd like your crust to be, and reduce the amount of toppings (cheese, sauce, etc.) at the center. As the pizza cooks, the crust will rise, and the toppings will naturally flow to the center of the pie.

2. Don't use heavy-gluten flour. Some people like chewy (new your deli-style) pizza - but it has no business on my table.

3. Let the pizza cool for 2-5 mins before cutting. But, if you cool it for longer, put it on a rack so the bottom doesn't get soggy.

4. Never, ever, ever use cheap mozzarella. Especially if you are doing a sauce-less pizza.

5. You can put a touch of sugar in the dough, or you can put a touch of sugar in the sauce, but don't put it in both. Corollary: If you put pineapple or other sweet toppings on the pie, don't put any sugar in the sauce or dough.


"You can put a touch of sugar in the dough, or you can put a touch of sugar in the sauce, but don't put it in both. Corollary: If you put pineapple or other sweet toppings on the pie, don't put any sugar in the sauce or dough."

As an Italian, I feel the urge to jump in here. Sugar in dough is used to kickoff/boost yeast levitation, while sugar in sauce is used to affect tomato acidity. In both cases, they are not intended to provide your pizza with a sweet taste. If for some reasons you like some sweet flavor on your pizza, you should at least take into account the fact that it comes as a byproduct of diverse chemical reactions that affect consistency and PH of your pizza in multiple/subtle ways.


The American concept of "a touch of sugar" is different from most places', so for that audience the advice is pretty sound.

I moved to the USA from Australia. If I want bread that doesn't taste like cake, I actually have to bake it myself.


Have you tried buying bakery bread?

Lots of them simply don't contain sugar at all. Really.


As an American who lives abroad...I hear this about American bread all the time but I've yet to discover what's actually different. Supermarket sandwich bread is just about the same everywhere.

Perhaps the rest of the world is just used to buying from a bakery, rather than the supermarket?


In my experience, the difference is that in the US, bakery bread is more expensive, while in Europe it's just as cheap to buy fresh.


Well, it's the other way round. In Italy supermarkets evolved to contain bakeries, because otherwise people would not buy supermarket bread. Nowadays you can find pretty good bread at the supermarket, but it is all fresh


I should probably clarify: by "supermarket bread" I mean the pre-wrapped, pre-sliced stuff you buy from the carb aisle, like Wonderbread. Most American supermarkets (well, most suburban ones at any rate) also have traditional bakeries inside.


I'm not sure sugar in sauce affects acidity, I think that's a myth. Finding it hard to find some studies on it though, best I've found:

https://warmchef.com/does-sugar-reduce-acidity-in-tomato-sau...


No, but it does affect your perception of acidity.


Fair enough... Pizza is a savory dish and I've he'd the displeasure (on multiple occasions) of having sweet sauce and dough bloomed with lots of sugar, and it transformed almost into a dessert.


I use sugar in the dough for making it slightly brown and a tiny bit crunchy.


That will work, but the best way to add crunch and color to crust is to steam it: https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/02/28/steam-in-bread-b...

You crank up your oven to very high (for most ovens that is ALL THE WAY), let it stabilize temperature for 40-60 minutes with an empty pan in the rack underneath where the bread goes.

When the bread goes in, pour a cup of water into the pan. This will create steam in the early stages of cooking and promote good crust properties.


Thanks for the link. It looks interesting.

I look forward to reading it later.

I'll probably still end up doing the extra sugar when I feel like that particular type of dough (usually thin ones) since it's a different type of crunch.


Olive oil is for that purpose. Sugar is to feed yeast. It won’t be there by the time the dough is fired.


> It won’t be there by the time the dough is fired.

In my dough it most certainly is, and it makes a big difference.

Olive oil does not caramelise.


... your dough caramelizes? How much sugar do you put in?


Probably not as much as you're imagining. I like just a little bit of caramelisation.


I think there's probably some cultural assumptions in your list. I tend to assume Neapolitan style when talking about pizza, but I know this is not the default for most people.

That is - 450C (at least), cooking time under 90s, thin / crisp crust, with minimal toppings. In AU this is not hard to find, but there certainly are plenty of chain pizza restaurants that go for the heavy, piled-on, thick crust, 10 minutes to bake/boil. I gather in the US there are regions where the latter (Chicago perhaps?) is the default, but I'm not sure how common the genuine Neapolitan style is - in availability or popularity.

Anyway, to your list -- if toppings are flowing at all, you've got too many toppings. You definitely do want high protein flour - at least 12%, or higher if you can find it. When I lived in the UK this meant imported Canadian flour as the domestic product simply couldn't do it. In AU it's hard to find much above 12%. If you need to cool your pizza for 2-5 minutes before cutting, it's too big. : ) Agreed on avoiding cheap (or rather, low-quality) ingredients. Less is more on toppings - but go for the most exquisitely flavoured varieties you can find. Sugar .. I think is not needed. Tomatoes are high in sugars, and good flour really shouldn't need the additional sugars for the yeast. If it's for flavour only, then I can't help.


They also import Manitoba flour in Italy to make pizza. High gluten is a must or it will just fall apart if it is the right thickness / cooked correctly. 90 seconds is faster than usual, but yes it is cooked fast. Neapolitan in Italy means thicker crust than other regions, but you are probably right that is what you are eating. Outside of Italy I am not sure many people would be able to recognize the difference.


The 90s maximum thing was told to me by the bread chef at River Cottage (woo!) ... I did subsequently check, and it seems to be legit in terms of being able to be called a Neapolitan style pizza [1] -- you need to have it cooked in under 90s.

There's some other quite specific requirements, around thinness of dough, and flour type.

I gather the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana is a bit like the Comité Champagne - eager to protect their good name, and for good reason.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neapolitan_pizza


I can tell you straight up that in the real world that is not what happens most of the time. It's also not always Oak, many places use Beech or similar woods. It's virtually impossible to run an oven with 20 pizzas in it at that pace, and I have worked with some incredible Pizzaioli. I am also far from convinced that keeping it under 2 minutes makes the best pizza, and there were many times where we considered the oven too hot and had to damper it to cook properly. A lower temp--but very well heated for appropriate thermal mass--oven was the bee's knees.


Yup, I'm sure there's a bit of licence exercised with some of those requirements.

For example, making quite a small pizza would make it easier to get sufficient heat / rise in under 90s -- this is what we were doing on our bread-making course. The wood oven had been heating up all morning, I think reaching more than 500, but we were cooking with the fire completely removed, and the thermal mass holding the temperature around 350 ish from memory. More than sufficient.


never had a napoletana pizza with a crisp crust unless we have a different definition of crisp they are all pretty chewy which I love.


You are underestimating the peculiarity of Chicago style pizza.

I would think you would be able to source vital wheat gluten.


I eat a lot of "vegetables" , so a pizza for me is a vehicle for savory vegetables... Onions, bell pepper, olives, etc. So "moating" is something I'm sensitive to. But, to each his own.


For anybody interested in making pizza at home, /r/pizza is a fantastic resource.

Making your own pizza is fun and you can make some decent pies with only a little bit of practice.

For home ovens use bread flour. If you end up getting into making pizza, then go down the 00 flour + wood fire oven route.. but until then your home oven can produce some really outstanding pies.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/Pizza/wiki/recipe/dough

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/Pizza/wiki/recipe/sauce


The reddit probably has decent content, but the community at the pizza making forum is one of the most dedicated I've seen for something unrelated to gaming or software. Post have slowed down but it seems like that might be because they've figured out how to recreate nearly every pizza from every restaurant you can think of.

[1] https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php


PizzaMaking and the sub are basically the two best places. We share a lot of common members. PizzaMaking has more higher level industry folks along with some unbelievable hobbyists.

Over the past few years the ability to make a wide variety of really amazing pizza at home has become extremely accessible. The last wave of ovens are fantastic.


It's ridiculous how this sub is filled with photos of pizza, why would I care about somebody's else pizza?


There's lots of kinds of pizza out there. It seems like the commenters here haven't read the paper, because it goes over a sampling of the different styles in Italy, and you can not cook them all the same way, period. But a Neapolitan brick oven (or an equivalent) works for most of them.

However, you can approximate the specific variables of a Neapolitan brick oven by using two factors to your advantage: slow even conductive heat, and high radiant heat. You need these two because you're cooking two different kinds of food at once: bread, and cheese/vegetables.

For the conductive surface, you want something that retains a lot of heat, but not too much heat that it would burn the surface or overcook it before it's fully cooked through. I like a Dutch oven or very large cast iron skillet, as both retain a lot of heat and can transfer it effectively. In addition, you can add a lid to control the radiant heat on the top, as well as control water loss.

The surface radiant heat can be obtained with the broiler mode on a standard oven. By pre-heating a conductive surface, and controlling when the radiant heat is applied using a lid, you can time the bread cook time and surface cook time to obtain an even cook.

However, all this is very complicated and still not likely to work for all pizzas. So it's actually a bit easier to pre-cook the crust, add the toppings, and then cook the top as desired. This should work for virtually all pizza types as the bread is really the hardest part to get right (if you have good ingredients and a stable radiant heat source).


Pre-heating at the highest temperature setting for 45-60 minutes on the normal oven setting and then cooking on the broiler setting (again, properly pre-heated) works great for me. I also use a thick baking steel, hence the extensive pre-heating.

Works great, cooks amazing pizza in a couple of minutes.


No physics, but this guy makes fun cooking videos, and visited a bunch of pizzerias in Napoli to learn how to make great pizza: https://youtu.be/BFFfyrfYllQ?t=528


And he seems to prefer a baking steel.


Long time pizza enthusiast here. I've just gotten into the pursuit of making Neapolitan pizza after buying a pizza oven. I'm still coming up short and would love some tips.

I've documented more on my blog but I'm still getting wrinkles, uneven leopard patterning, and stiff edges on the crust.

[0] - http://dopeboy.github.io/roccbox-pizza/


Now I'm no expert, and make my pizzas in a conventional oven, but I'd look at the dough recipe first. The one you link to is:

    20 ounces (about 4 cups) bread flour, preferably Italian-style "OO"
    .4 ounces kosher salt (about 4 teaspoons)
    .3 ounces (about 2 teaspoons) instant yeast, such as SAF Instant Yeast
    13 ounces water
That's maybe too much salt IMO and maybe a touch dry. 20 oz is 566 g and that's 65% water. I usually make a pizza with 200g flour, 140ml water (70%), and less than a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Also if you add the salt at the start it will kill the yeast a little. I mix flour, yeast and water first, let it stand for a minute then add the salt at the end. I make New York style pizzas so I also add a spoon of olive oil at this point too or the result is too crunchy.

I was somewhat "inspired" to add more water by the Bonci recipe http://www.elizabethminchilli.com/2011/01/making-pizza-dough... and to reduce the salt by an Italian guy at work.

It depends on the yeast you use too I guess. You have to test out what works best for your ingredients. Don't be afraid to play around with time, leave it in the fridge for a day or more, take it out 1, 2, 3 hours before cooking. Add more or less water... experiment with the ingredients you use. For the longest time I was over-proofing the dough, it would often become a gassy soggy mess that was impossible to work with. I'd usually have to re-work it and it'd lose all the bubbles. I found that making the dough after breakfast, leaving it in the fridge all day and taking it out an hour before I was ready to bake it made it perfect.

I'm dead jealous of your oven BTW. I'd love to have a good pizza oven, but in a small flat where every inch counts it seems like an impractical luxury :-)


I got one of these wood/pellet/gas fired Uuni ovens and can highly recommend it for pizza aficionados. Reasonably priced too

https://uuni.net/

I use wood kindling or pellets for the fire - it gets hot enough in 10 mins. For the dough I use 00 (fine) flour, and depending on time I might prove the dough for 3-4 nights in the fridge.

Possibly the best cooking tool I've bought.


You've really got to be committed to making pizza after you get one of those! Do you make pies as gifts?


No, just for us and guests. It's pretty easy though, faster than using an electric oven and tastes 100x better. Also cooks an amazing steak in a sizzler pan!


I relented and bought a pizza steel. Best thing ever.

And not as over the top as a dedicated wood-fired oven (single use: pizza) for garden or balcony.

It's my 80% solution.


My plan is to get a pizza steel and do the cooking in my Big Green Egg. I can get the egg up to at least 700 F and I should be able to cook the pizza in a few minutes at that temp. The kamado ceramic body of the BGE will retain heat well and cook from both top and bottom. The oak wood should add nice flavor, too.


I baked three pies in my BGE last night. Delicious. Pizza stone on grate on plate setter and bake 2.5 minutes at 650-700, rotate 180 degrees, and another 2-3 minutes. Delicious. Easy shortcut is to use Trader Joe's crust.


Never heard about a "Big Green Egg". Thanks for mentioning it.

Are there versions that don't cost the equivalent of a small car?


Check out pizzamaking.com. It's probably the central place to chat about all things making pizza. While a home oven will get you decent pizza with a good stone, there are outdoor solutions that aren't too expensive. I got the blackstone oven, and it makes Neapolitan-style pizza in about 90 seconds, just like a large wood oven does. The difference is it uses propane with a giant flame arching over the pizza, and it has a motor to spin the pizza/stone inside. It was about $400, and well worth it if you want that style pizza.


$400 oven is pretty expensive compared to a steel made from scrap. And steel is way easier to use.


It's an oven that can get to 1000F, which a home oven won't get close to. You need that for Neapolitan pizza, and it cannot be emulated with a steel stone. Those are great for NY-style in the home oven though.


Yep, I bought a slab of steel from an auto parts fabrication shop at nearly market rate so I could afford to buy a thicker piece, and it made a huge difference compared to a stone or baking sheet. It did need some heavy cleaning and seasoning, however, so keep that in mind if you go the semi-DIY route like I did.


How did you go about seasoning it? I would assume that you just do it like cast iron (strip to bare metal, coat with avocado or flaxseed oil, fire to 500F for an hour) but I'm not sure. Are there types of steel that are more conducive to pizza-making?


How does a pizza steel compare to a pizza stone?


Higher heat capacity, higher heat transmission.


Pizza is interesting. Last year I spoke with the head of r&d of a major water filtering company based in italy, the birthplace of pizza.

A luttle unknown fact is Water quality makes a difference on the taste of pizza. There is a saying in the states that you cant replicate true new york pizza unless you use new york water, etc.

Good pizza water tastes awful if you drank it as is. I dont recall which elements were added inside of it, but its there. Another interesting tidbit is pizza quality is sometimes compared to coffee quality for water enthusiasts.

Sometimes called "waves". A first wave coffee shop is like getting a awful espresso shot at a hotel. 2nd and 3rd wave is like starbucks. 4th wave is when a coffee shop sources their own products and knows the history behind its goods. 5th wave is everything - these are generallly operated by famous baristas who have basic chemistry knowledge and expertise operating a espresso machine.

Pizza is the similar in ratings to coffee in this regards.


Reminds me of this great site: cookingforengineers; specifically the article on browning:

http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/209/Heat-Transfer...


I highly recommend a good pizza stone for baking pizza at home. I use this: https://pizzasteel.com, with amazing results.


You can use it in a (closed) barbeque as well.


Upvoted simply because of this very entertaining explanation of variations in heat transfer rates. The authors set up a theoretical "mom" touching a child's forehead to gauge temperature . . . and then go to town!

"Let us assume that your mother’s head is made of steel, and her temperature is the same: 36°С. Intuitively, it is clear the temperature at the interface will decrease, let us say, to 36.3°С."


Or learn from the master:

http://www.varasanos.com/pizzarecipe.htm


There is something in the dough of frozen pizzas that leaves a really bad aftertaste - I've never encountered a counter-example. I still enjoy pre-fabricated pizza from time to time (~once a year) but my girlfriend wouldn't touch one with a pole.

Whatever they put in the dough, it's definitely not the same as what they use in good pizzarias.


Someone's clearly trying to win an IgNobel Prize in Physics!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Ig_Nobel_Prize_winners


I recently read Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza and found his discussion about how to use temperature and time to produce good bread and pizza enlightening.


Does anyone have any tips on how to use buffalo mozzarella on a pizza (baked in a normal oven)?

The lower fat content means it doesn't spread very effectively.


It isn’t supposed to spread. Just tear it into chunks spaced apart and roll with it. There will be pizza real estate with no cheese, don’t panic. YouTube has videos showing how it’s done.


Convection ovens change the game as much as a stone.


[flagged]


That's very important in cooking in general, but is definitely not the most important part of baking pizza. Heat transfer is a lot more important, that's why different cooking surfaces (e.g. stone vs. steel) can yield dramatically different pizzas, even at the same temperature. You're going to get a maillard reaction no matter what.

https://slice.seriouseats.com/2012/09/the-pizza-lab-the-baki...


Kindly note that if you expect to put canned pineapple and honey on it, you don't need to go that far^


I strongly disagree, even as someone who doesn't enjoy pineapple on pizza and doesn't consume honey. Differences in the crust can be perceived independent of the quality of the toppings, and there are certainly people who understandably prefer canned pineapples, for convenience and/or taste.




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