One overlooked aspect of making a great pizza at home has to do with the application of heat. Not just with its temperature but also how the heat is applied.
More often than not, the way in which heat is applied to cook your pizza can make or break the final result, regardless of the recipe for your dough or what toppings you use.
The great thing is that you can achieve near restaurant-like quality pizza at home with the use of your humble backyard barbecue.
This is part 3 in a series of posts on making a good thin crust pizza at home. The topics covered in this series include:
Challenges: Challenges that home cook face and some lessons learned.
Dough & Sauce: Recipes for a good pizza dough and sauce.
Cooking 1 – Barbecue Method: Using a barbecue and pizza stone to turn your good dough into a great pizza.
Cooking 2 – Frying Pan Method: An alternate method of cooking a pizza that doesn’t require a pizza stone, barbecue or even an oven.
Instant Gratification – How to go from zero to a good pizza in around 90 mins.
As discussed in one of the previous posts in this series, there are three forms of heat that are applied to a pizza when it’s cooking:
- Conduction – heat transferred via direct contact
- Convection – heat transferred via the movement of hot air
- Radiation – heat reflected off the walls of the oven
While a restaurant pizza oven and your average home oven both transfer heat in this manner, home ovens are unable to reach the convection temperatures of 370-540C (700-1000F) that restaurant pizza ovens can reach. However, even it were able to reach those temperatures, it would lack the conductive heat of the oven floor of restaurant pizza ovens that give the pizza a nice light and crispy crust.
This is where the barbecue comes in. Not only is the barbecue able to at least equal and often exceed the temperatures of a standard home oven, as the pizza cooks very close to the heat source there is a lot of heat that is transferred via direct contact. This transfer of conductive heat, either via pizza stone or directly off the flat hotplate of the barbecue, while possible in an oven, is unable to achieve the same results of the barbecue.
While the barbecue goes a long way to help achieve restaurant-like pizza results, what it and the home oven both lack is sufficient radiant heat off the inside of the barbecue hood/oven ceiling to adequately cook the top of the pizza. This issue is resolved by finishing the pizza off under the grill/broiler, which will add some nice colour to the top of the pizza and, with the right pizza dough recipe, also give you those nice charred blisters on the crust.
Between the high heat transfer tag-team of the barbecue and grill, you can make a great pizza within around 10 minutes.
Following is a recipe for a wonderful Pumpkin, Asparagus and Mushroom vegetarian thin crust pizza. For a step-by-step guide on building and cooking the pizza, as well as more detailed information on the application of the barbecue method, make sure to check out link to the recipe notes at the end of the recipe.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I’ll see you on the next pizza post.
250g Cold fermented pizza dough
4-5 Tbsp Pizza Sauce
12-14 Pumpkin slices, thinly sliced
2 Stalks of asparagus
2 Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/4 Red capsicum, thinly sliced
1/2 Small onion, thinly sliced
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
1. Blanche pumpkin and asparagus in salted boiling water for around 1 minute and then place into ice bath to rapidly cool to room temperature. Place onto paper towels and allow to dry.
2. Pan fry mushrooms with a little oil and salt until cooked.
3. Allow all ingredients to come to room temperature (approx. 1 hour out of the fridge).
4. Place the pizza stone onto the grill grate side of the barbecue. Light up the centre burner and the burner on the opposite side of the barbecue to the pizza stone to its highest setting. Close the lid of the barbecue and allow it to pre-heat for at least 15 mins, preferably more. The barbecue should reach at least 260C/500F.
5. Set the grill/broiler to high and allow it to pre-heat.
6. Roll out the dough to the desired size (approx. 12-14 inches).
7. On a pizza peel or flat sheet pan, dust liberally with semolina or corn meal and place the flattened pizza dough onto it.
8. Lightly shake the the peel/tray from side to side to ensure that the dough has not stuck. If it does stick, gently lift up the area that has stuck with a spatula or your hand and dust underneath that area with more semolina or corn meal.
9. Add the pizza sauce and spread evenly across its surface, leaving a rim around the pizza dough for the crust.
10. Add the grated mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza sauce.
11. Add the ingredients to the pizza, starting with the pumpkin and finishing off with the asparagus. Add any leftover cheese to the top of the pizza if there is any. Lightly shake the the peel/tray from side to side to ensure that the dough has not stuck. If it has stuck, gently lift that area and apply more semolina or corn meal.
12. Open the barbecue. Use a light forward and backward shaking motion to loosen the pizza from the peel/tray, place the peel/tray over the pizza stone and slowly slide the peel/tray away gently depositing the pizza onto the pizza stone.
13. Close the lid and allow to cook for 4 minutes.
14. Open the lid of the barbecue and check the underside of the pizza closest to the burners using a spatula. It should show signs of dark brown or blackened spots. If so, rotate the pizza 180 degrees to allow the other side of the pizza to cook. If not, close the lid and give the pizza an extra minute to cook and then rotate.
15. Close the lid and allow to cook for another 4 minutes.
16. Open the lid and using the spatula, slide the hot pizza back onto the peel/tray.
17. Slide the pizza under the grill/broiler to brown the top of the crust and cook the exposed ingredients (approx. 2-3 minutes). You should see the thin light bubbles on the pizza crust should turn brown or char.
18. Remove the pizza from the grill/broiler and place onto a cutting board and cut into 6-8 wedges and serve, though be careful as the pizza is really hot!
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