It’s been a long time coming, but I finally got “sous vide” tattooed across my knuckles! This might turn out to be a career limiting move, in hindsight, but I’ve been so passionate about sous vide cooking that it’s become a part of who I am. I’ve already got the geek glasses on my right forearm, and I’m thinking of doing a time and temperature table on my left forearm next.
Update: April Fools! No ink on my hands… yet. Photoshop FTW.
My previous attempts at DIY cotton candy were insanely dangerous, and frankly, a lot of work. However, I realized that my Aerolatte might be an even better tool for the job. The Aerolatte is sold as a milk frother, and it certainly does that job well. But I’d argue that this tool is one of the most versatile and convenient pieces of gear in a Modernist home kitchen. The Aerolatte is a battery-powered whisk that’s perfect for mixing liquids in small quantities. I use to incorporate hydrocolloids like xanthan gum and tapioca starch into sauces – an application where thorough mixing is critical. I also use it to quickly dissolve salt and sugar into liquid brines, to emulsify salad dressing, and even to hyperdecant wine, a glass at a time.
But let’s talk sugar spinning. Professional and home cotton candy machines work by heating sugar inside a fast-spinning chamber. The centrifugal force produced by the spinning motion forces molten sugar through very tiny holes or slits in the chamber. As the sugar is pushed out, it forms thin filaments that solidify almost instantaneously to form the characteristic delicate threads of cotton candy. However, in our DIY approach, we can use the Aerolatte’s spinning whisk to produce the necessary centrifugal force.
Here’s the recipe:
- Start by heating granulated sugar in just enough water to wet it. Bring the sugar to a boil, monitoring the temperature with a candy thermometer or an infrared thermometer, and without stirring. The temperature will stall at 212°F until most of the water has boiled off. At this point, reduce the heat to avoid overshooting the final temperature of the sugar.
- Continue heating until the sugar to at least 260°F. This is the minimum temperature, in practice, at which it will produce threads. However, anywhere between 260°F and 300°F is a safe temperature range to reliably produce cotton candy. At lower temperatures the cotton candy will be more pliable, and at higher temperatures the final product will be more brittle. Unlike caramel or candy making, you don’t need to be super obsessive about maintaining a precise temperature here.
- With the Aerolatte off (not spinning), dip the whisk tip in the molten sugar. Then, while holding the Aerolatte perfectly vertical, position the tip just below the opening of a wide bowl and switch the Aerolatte on. The whisk will spin, throwing threads of sugar outward. It’s important to use a bowl that’s at least 12” wide, so the sugar has room to form long threads before hitting the wall of the bowl.
- Repeat this process until you have enough cotton candy for your application.
Just as with a cotton candy machine, you can also melt down hard candies instead of using granulated sugar. Additionally, you can add color and flavor to the molten sugar; dry powders work well, but oils and fats can affect the formation of the sugar threads.
This has been an incredible year. 362 days ago, as of the time of this writing, I walked into Modernist Cuisine headquarters for my first day of my new job. I was excited, nervous, and not quite sure what to expect, or what would be expected of me. I was thrilled that my work on SeattleFoodGeek.com had led to the incredible opportunity to leave Microsoft and work in a job that ran parallel to my passion. I had no idea just how amazing this would turn out to be, and what an indescribable dream of a year would lay ahead. With deference to the art of the humblebrag, here’s a look back at just a few of the incredible things that happened in 2012.
I met some amazing people
THE Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, and legendary geek hero. We had an intense conversation about the physics of cooking pizza on the surface of Venus, and about what really happens when you decant wine.
Chef Wolfgang Puck, who achieved fame at Spago and invented California-style pizza, and renowned Spago pastry chef Sherry Yard.
Chopped host and former Queer Eye food guy Ted Allen and Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. Ted was intrigued by a number of techniques that our culinary team demonstrated for him in the lab. Much to my surprise, Ina and Nathan had a long conversation about nuclear reactor design – it turns out that, prior to becoming a Food Network icon, she was a White House nuclear policy analyst.
…Not to mention dozens of other incredible chefs, scientists, businesspeople, artists and generally inspirational folks who were wise enough to avoid having their picture taken.
I traveled and I ate
My wife and I made our first pilgrimage to The French Laundry. Ever since I fell in love with food, it had always been a dream to visit this mecca of fine dining. We enjoyed 17 courses, including many of the restaurant’s iconic dishes (oysters and pearls, salmon tartare cornets) and incredible hospitality from the entire staff. In any previous year of my life, I would not have had the opportunity to eat this meal, nor would I have appreciated it so deeply,
I also had my first meal at Alinea. It would be an understatement that dinner at Alinea blew my mind. It would be more apt to saw that dinner at Alinea attached itself to a dozen points on my head, then ran off in opposite directions expanding my brain like a Hoberman sphere. Surrounded by my wonderful friends Jethro, Mindy and Eric (who works for Chef Achatz), we were served 25+ courses, perhaps a dozen wines, and enough caviar to make an emperor blush. That meal has forever changed the way I think about the restaurant experience.
In August of this year, Nathan and the culinary team were invited to cook for Charlie Trotter’s 25th anniversary, which precluded the restaurant’s announced closing by just a few weeks. I was very fortunate to be invited to tag along – although my cooking responsibilities were… limited, I managed to make myself handy as the unofficial event photographer. Throughout the weekend, in between being spoiled with dinners and parties, I got to hang out with chefs Sean Brock and Tetsuya Wakuda, both of whom have every right to be far less humble. I also briefly met Rahm Emmanuel
At the other end of the fussiness spectrum from Alinea and French Laundry, I also had my first meal at Chez Panisse. Some people perceive a tension between Alice Waters’ philosophy on food an the philosophy we extoll at Modernist Cuisine, but that tension is entirely false. We both seek to honor our ingredients and we both believe that food that is grown with more care tastes better. Well, lunch at Chez Panisse proved that within a few bites.
These were just a few of the incredible food experiences I had this year. There were dozens of others, from Momofuku Ssam Bar and NoMad in New York, to Canlis in Seattle, to grabbing an In-N-Out burger in the middle of the night in Hollywood. I feel like this has been a year of culinary rites of passage, and I feel unworthy knowing how many great meals still lie ahead.
I Helped Evangelize Modernist Cuisine
Part of my job (a big part, as it turned out) is spreading the word about Modernist cuisine, and specifically about our books. Sometimes this means getting on stage or in front of a camera, and other times it means doing whatever’s necessary to help Nathan or any other member of the team spread the word.
Here’s Nathan presenting at the American Museum of Natural History for the Modernist Cuisine at Home launch in New York City. We had just come from Google, where Nathan gave another presentation. Although you can’t see me in the photo, I was running the slide deck that night from the back of the room while Nathan was on stage and our culinary team was preparing tasting samples for the attendees.
This year, I also had the honor of officially representing Modernist Cuisine. Do you know what it feel like to go from being a fan of something to being a spokesperson? It feels really, really good. The photo above shows a talk I gave on our newest book, Modernist Cuisine at Home, at Powell’s in Portland.
While Nathan was cryofrying a burger for Jimmy Kimmel, I was just offstage. I actually did this demo, onstage on the Jimmy Kimmel Live set, in a run-through with the segment producers before Nathan arrived at the studio. They recorded my “performance” onto a DVD. That means, technically speaking, that there’s footage of me doing a cooking demo on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I’ll take it!
I also demonstrated liquid nitrogen ice cream and centrifuged tomato water live on Irish daytime TV to promote Modernist Cuisine. I also participated in a Food/Art/Science exhibition at the Science Gallery in Dublin. With the help of a few student assistants, we made a “wall of centrifuged foods” to illustrate the individual component ingredients that you can only obtain through culinary centrifugation. Unfortunately, I didn’t predict that the temperature created by the backlights in this display would be ideal for active bacterial growth inside the sealed test tubes. Within 24 hours, the centrifuged foods began fermenting. The gas released by the fermentation process caused enough pressure to pop the lids off most of the tubes, sending a spattering of food juice across the room. I called it a “kinetic exhibit” and pretended it was all part of the plan.
In perhaps the most rockstar moment I’ve ever experienced, I spoke to a record crowd of 2,500 fans at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, along with Modernist Cuisine chef Anjana Shanker and our former head chef Max Bilet. Neither before nor since have I seen a crowd cheer and make the sign of the horns in response to the person on stage saying the words “sous vide.”
Photo Credit: Gayle Laird © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu
I think this one unlocks some sort of nerd achievement: I appeared on the NOVA ScienceNOW profile of Nathan and Modernist Cuisine. At the time that NOVA was filming the segment on Nathan, I was our PR manager. We had a few minutes of downtime while we were waiting for someone to arrive for an interview, so they asked if I’d sit in. I didn’t expect that they’d use any of the footage, but when we watched the show, there I was!
I Made a Web Video Series with CHOW.COM
We call it MDRN KTCHN and all 12 episodes of season 1 are live. The show wouldn’t be possible without my awesome production team: Roxanne Webber and Blake Smith, without the fantastic support of CBS Interactive, and of course, without my job as Director of Applied Research at Modernist Cuisine. This show has been an incredible platform for reaching people who are interested in Modernist cooking, and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve created. Season 2 will be off the hook.
I’m on the Forbes 30 Under 30
To top it all off, as if a square millimeter of this year’s lily might go ungilded, Forbes Magazine named me as one of their 30 Under 30 in Food and Wine. Holy. Shit.
This year has been a phenomenal confluence of professional success and personal passion. Every day I work with people who I respect and admire, I’m having a blast doing it, and they pay me for the privilege. I owe thanks to my friends and family, particularly my wife Rachel, who gave me the support and courage to take a risk and pursue my dream job. But I also have an immeasurable debt of gratitude to Nathan, not only for hiring me and giving me these opportunities, but for literally creating the business of Modernist Cuisine. None of what I described above would have been possible without his trust that a food blogger and fanboy with a Microsoft day job could have something to contribute to the incredible work that takes place at Modernist Cuisine.
OK, enough gushing already. 2013 starts soon, and I’ve got big plans…
Ever wondered to yourself, “WTF is Modernist cuisine?” Here’s our answer. If you’re curious to learn more about the history of the movement, the reason that Modernist chefs don’t like the term “molecular gastronomy” or the difference between Modernist cuisine and Nouvelle cuisine, there’s no better resource than volume 1 of Modernist Cuisine.
This is an incredible honor, capping off an unbelievable year. I’m humbled by the talent in this year’s 30 Under 30 list, and so proud to be included!
Look for a round up of this year and some long overdue thank yous coming soon.
One of my favorite homemade gifts are flavorful infusions that taste like they’ve been aging for months. But, with a whipping siphon, you can get the same infused flavor in a matter of seconds.
Navigating the world of Modernist cooking equipment can be a daunting task for the uninitiated, but don’t worry, I’m here to help. This year’s list gift guide includes everything you need to start cooking like a Modernist in the comfort of your own home kitchen.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is an old management adage, but it’s just as applicable to precision cooking. An accurate, responsive probe thermometer is the single most critical tool in any chef’s arsenal for ensuring properly-cooked proteins. But, in Modernist cooking, temperature control is just as critical for hydrating hydrocolloids and activating enzymes. I recommend the Thermapen because of its exceptional accuracy and lightning-fast read times.
Any fan of Modernist Cuisine knows that an accurate, digital scale is required for every recipe in the book. This scale, by American Weigh, measures in 0.1 gram increments up to 2 kilograms, making it one of the most versatile I’ve found.
How would you like to give all of your favorite cheeses the same melting properties as Velveeta with out any compromise in flavor? Well, my friends, this ingredient does the trick. A carefully-measured dash of sodium citrate acts as an emulsifier to keep your cheese from separating into an oily mess when it melts. For more, see my CHOW video on High-Tech Melty Cheese.
The whipping siphon is not just for savory foams anymore! This indispensable tool also makes quick work of flavorful infusions, pressure-marinates meat, carbonates drinks, carbonates fruit, and much more. If you’re tempted by a cheaper, off-brand siphon, I’m afraid you (and the Modernist cook in your life) will be disappointed. iSi is the only siphon brand I’ve tested that can handle thick foams and purees.
As we explain in Modernist Cuisine at Home, The key to moist meat and crispy skin is injection brining. Brines help the meat absorb more water and hold onto it during the cooking process. Unfortunately, it has the same effect on poultry skin, and moist skin is just the opposite of crispy. To get around that conundrum, we recommend injection brining, which both protects the skin and speeds up the total brining process.
A chamber vacuum sealer is one of the most-used and most-critical pieces of gear in any Modernist kitchen. Unlike edge-style sealers, like the FoodSaver, a chamber vacuum easily seals bags of liquid. It’s the perfect companion for sous vide cooking, but it’s far from a one trick pony. Want to make pickles in 60 seconds, or compress fruits and vegetables? Done. How about extracting the dissolved gas from your omelet? Done. And if you’re preparing food for a potluck, leave your Tupperware behind: a vacuum bag is the ultimate way to transport your foods, cooked or raw.
It is literally worth owning a pressure cooker just so you can make the Caramelized Carrot Soup from Modernist Cuisine at Home. I’ve tried other brands, but my favorite is Kuhn Rikon. It is much quieter than pressure cookers with a “bobbling weight”, and has an easy to read pressure gauge. It even works on induction cooktops! You’ll find incredible time savings and more flavorful results from the dozens of pressure cooker techniques that Modernists cooks love.
I’m not much of a horsepower guy, unless we’re talking about blenders. The Vitamix is sets the industry standard with over 2 horsepower (peak) and blade speeds up to 240 miles per hour. That intense power yields finer purees, smoother soups, and stronger emulsions… not to mention fabulous margaritas.
Of course, I have to give a shoutout to two fabulous sous vide bundles that our partners at PolyScience and SousVide Supreme have put together for the holidays.
The Sous Vide Professional™ CREATIVE Series is my personal immersion circulator of choice. Featuring the same precision as its big brother, the CHEF Series, this circulator runs even quieter, making it perfect for home kitchens. And, of course, it makes the perfect gift bundle alongside Modernist Cuisine at Home.
This bundle from SousVide Supreme is everything you need to get started cooking sous vide at home. The SousVide Supreme water bath features a self-contained heating element and a small countertop footprint. The bundle also includes an edge-style vacuum sealer – perfect for sealing meats and vegetables for those long cooking times that produce such exceptional results.
[Disclosure: I and the Director of Applied Research for Modernist Cuisine. I have business relationships with some of the manufacturers suggested in this list. However, all of the recommendations listed here are based on my personal preferences alone and do not reflect an endorsement by Modernist Cuisine, LLC. I have not received, nor will I receive any money, products or preferential treatment for the recommendations on this list.]
Modernist Cuisine introduced the idea of a “constructed cream” – a cream-like sauce that has never passed through a teat [if you’re into vivid imagery]. Dairy creams, including milk, are actually emulsions. Milk, for example, is composed of tiny droplets of fat suspended in water and stabilized by a protein called casein. So, if milk and cream are emulsions of fat and water, why not emulsify together any arbitrary fat and water to produce a sauce with the thickness and mouthfeel of cream? Boom: constructed creams are born.
That one insight has incredible repercussions, and the Modernist Cuisine at Home recipe for Home Jus Gras is a great example. In a traditional gravy, you start with very flavorful roasting juices or pan drippings. The problem is that pan drippings are quite thin, so we typically thicken them by adding flour or cornstarch. This approach has “compromise” written all over it: starches are flavor inhibitors. The Modernist Cuisine approach is to combine those roasting juices with flavorful liquid fat instead, and to swap flour and cornstarch for xanthan gum, which can be used in extremely small quantities and doesn’t dull the flavor of the finished sauce.
The full recipe – which is amazing! – is in Modernist Cuisine at Home. However, if you’re short on time, we’ve developed an even simpler version using store-bough fat and stock. This Simplified Jus Gras recipe is in the Modernist Cuisine recipe library. I hope that this recipe is also a jumping-off point for you to experiment with your own flavors. Last year, I used this technique with rendered fat from a pre-Christmas goose and some spiced apple cider to produce a grain-free gravy that jived with my wife’s dietary restrictions. But, there’s no reason you couldn’t use bacon grease and whiskey, if you were so-inclined.
For the rest of the MDRN KTCHN series, check out CHOW.com.
I’ve always been fascinated by puffed foods. Maybe it’s because our brains are hardwired to enjoy crunchy snacks… maybe it’s because Snap, Crackle and Pop were sending subliminal messages when I was a kid. In this video, I explain the science of puffing and show you a simple one you can make at home: puffed rice crisps.
I love pumpkin carving – it’s my favorite part of Halloween. This year, I decided to do something a little different with my jack-o-lanterns: animate them! I was inspired by the guys at DigitalDudz, who came up with the very clever idea of brining Halloween t-shirts to live by taping your smartphone or tablet inside the shirt and playing a video that aligns to the image on the front of the shirt. If it works for a t-shirt, why not a pumpkin?
The process is quite simple.
- Start by picking a video that you want to incorporate into your pumpkin design. There are lots of videos on YouTube that will work, but I really liked the HallowEyes video pack ($6 CAD) from Hallowindow.com.
- Next, pick the device that you’ll use to play the video. Any digital device will work: an iPad or iPhone, any other smartphone, a Kindle Fire, a digital picture frame that supports video playback… even a small monitor or pico projector connected to a laptop. For extra versatility, consider using more than one device (ex. a smartphone for each eye).
- Load the video onto your device. Then, lay a piece of paper over your device’s screen and trace the outline of the important part of the video. In my case, I traced the outline of each eyeball.
- Pick the side of your pumpkin that you wish to carve. Transfer the outline from the paper to the pumpkin by poking a series of small holes into the pumpkin around the lines on the paper. Be sure to pick an area on your pumpkin where the device will fit nicely, remembering that most devices have a bezel that adds extra width.
- Cut a hole in the opposite side of the pumpkin, ensuring the hole is large enough to fit your device. Scrape out the guts.
- Put your video device in a clear plastic bag to protect it from the guts of the pumpkin. Most touchscreens will still allow you to control them through a thin plastic bag.
- Make a small alignment hole where you want the video to appear. In my case, I made a 1/2” hole in the center of each eyeball. Insert your device with the video playing and check the alignment against those holes. Then, working with a small amount of material at a time, scrape out the inside flesh of the pumpkin until your device fits against the inside wall. Be careful not to scrape too far or you could puncture the inner wall of the pumpkin.
- Remove your device from the pumpkin. Working from the outside face, gradually expand the alignment holes until they reveal the correct part of your screen.
- Finally, insert your video device one last time and hold it in place using toothpicks inserted into the inside flesh of the pumpkin. Play the video (on repeat, if your device supports it).
If you liked this project, check out my primer on carving pumpkins with a laser,
Before Modernist Cuisine, and certainly before Modernist Cuisine at Home, I thought pressure cookers were antiquated, holdover kitchen appliances, like manual egg beaters or the electric hot dog cooker. But, after my first taste of caramelized carrot soup, I was an instant believer. In this video for MDRN KTCHN, I explain how pressure cookers do their magic, and why you no longer need to be afraid of one exploding in your face.
Just need the basics of sous vide? This video, the second in the MDRN KTCHN series, breaks down the basics. My go-to sous vide machine these days is the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional CREATIVE series, but if you’d prefer to save a little money and don’t mind the elbow grease, join the 1,000+ folks who have built their own sous vide machines from my $75 DIY instructions.
I’m so excited to show you the first episode of MDRN KTCHN, a new cooking show that I’m hosting for CHOW.com, showing off the culinary innovations and food hacks of the Modernist Cuisine lab. In this episode, I explain how to give Velveeta-like meltability to the flavorful cheeses you know and love. This technique comes from Modernist Cuisine at Home, which devotes an entire chapter to recipes centered around this technique. Just last night, I used this cheese hack to create a mac and cheese sauce from smoked gouda and sharp cheddar – cheeses that would have otherwise melted into an oily mess.
We’ll be releasing new MDRN KTCHN videos every Sunday, so check back often. I’ve also got a few other CHOW videos online, including Mind-Blowing Microwaved Boxed Cake, Crispy Korean-Style Fried Chicken Wings, and How to Carbonate Fruit with a Whipping Siphon.
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I know things have been a little quiet on SeattleFoodGeek.com for a while, but that’s only because I’ve been working so hard to prepare some great tips for the launch of Modernist Cuisine at Home. Here’s a video tip from the book that I did for CHOW.com: how to carbonate fruit with a whipping siphon.
If you’ve never had carbonated fruit, it’s a very cool experience. If you have kids, this is a great recipe that they can make with you, and it’s a very clever way to get them to devour a siphon full of fruit.
Update: Andris Lagsdin, fan of Modernist Cuisine and steel expert has just launched a Kickstarter for Baking Steel, a low-cost slab of pre-cut steel for baking pizzas and breads in just the way I describe below! I’ve tested one of his prototype units and it performs like a champ – even with a single Baking Steel (no double-decker) I was able to produce fantastic, wood-fired-oven-like results on my grill! I highly recommend this Kickstarter for anyone looking to make pizza or breads at home.
The guys from Tested.com came to Seattle, so I shared with them one of the projects that’s been on my mind lately: making perfect pizzas at home. In a previous post, I discussed my approach to making great pizza dough. But, dough is only one half of the equation. Without a good oven, the best dough in the world still won’t produce quality pizza.
Now, let me first say that there are people who devote their entire lives to pizza ovens – to building them, to studying them, and to understanding how they work. I am not one of those people, and, although I still have a blank space in my yard that I one day hope to fill with an actual pizza oven, my goal here was to produce the best pizzas possible using my CharBroil infrared grill as a starting point. But if you want to send me a pizza oven, I’ll test the shit out of it.
There are two keys to hacking a grill into an effective pizza oven: getting it really goddamned hot, and holding the heat. Getting a grill hot is not so much of a challenge – add enough charcoal and let it burn for long enough, and you’ll have quite an inferno. Add more airflow or additional oxygen, and your fire will burn hotter and faster. But, retaining that high heat when you open the lid or add cold food… well, that requires mass.
Mass, like a pizza stone, or the thick floor of a pizza oven, or in this case, 25-lb steel plates, act like a heat battery, storing up heat energy. I was first turned on to the idea of using steel instead of ceramic brick by Modernist Cuisine, who recommend the technique not only for grills but for household ovens as well. So, why are steel plates better than a pizza stone? A few reasons:
- Steel is much denser than ceramic materials. A typical pizza stone has a a density of 0.0625 lbs. per cubic inch. The steel plates I’m using have a density of 0.329 lbs. per cubic inch – about 5 times as dense. That means that for the same volume of material, I can store much more energy in steel than brick.
- Steel has a much lower specific heat than brick. This means that it takes less energy to heat a steel block than a brick of equal mass. So, the steel will heat up faster in the oven.
- Steel has a much higher thermal conductivity than brick. Thermal conductivity measures how quickly heat moves through a material, or between materials via conduction. This means that the heat can move from the steel plate to the pizza crust faster than it could if I were using a ceramic material.
All of these factors are summed up in one convenient measure, known as thermal diffusivity. And, it turns out that the thermal diffusivity of 304 steel (the grade I’m using) is about ten times greater than the thermal diffusivity of brick. [I don’t have precise numbers for the ceramic composition of pizza stones specifically, but it will be similar in magnitude. Some types of steel, like high-carbon steel, have more than 20 times the thermal diffusivity of brick.]
Do ceramic pizza stones produce good-looking, great tasting pizzas? Yes, absolutely. But according to physics, they necessarily do so more slowly than steel. One of my pizza criteria is a crunchy crust that will support its own weight when held from one end. I’ve found great success in achieving this texture with a steel cooking surface. The other advantage to steel, of course, is that it will last nearly forever. I don’t have to worry about dropping and shattering it, I can use it as a griddle and scrape it clean, and if I need to build an impromptu blast shield, I’m all set.
To hack your grill into a worthy pizza oven, here’s what you’ll need:
- A grill, preferably one that runs on natural gas, or propane, but has a place to load in charcoal
- Two 1/4” 304 stainless steel plates [either purchased in pre-cut size, or custom cut to fit 2/3 of your grill area]
- 4 5-inch stainless steel pipe nipples, or any other 5” length of stainless to act as a stand for the top plate
- BBQ grill fan, or an electric bellows, or a hair dryer and about 18” of metal tubing to fit
- An aluminum pizza peel
To assemble your pizza oven:
- Place one of the stainless plates in a corner of your grill.
- Place two of the stainless steel pipe segments on the two far corners of the plate. Place the other two pipe segments on opposite edges of the plate, about 1/3 of the way back. These pipe segments will hold up the top plate. By pushing them back from the front corners, you allow yourself a little more room to negotiate the pizza with the peel.
- Place the top plate on top of the pipe segments. It should sit firmly – you sure don’t want it crashing down on you during cooking.
- Install your BBQ grill fan or bellows on the opposite side of the grill, above the open grilling area not covered by the steel.
- If your grill has a charcoal tray or basin on the open side, fill it with charcoal. If not, place the charcoal in a roasting pan or metal dish on that side of the grill. Ignite the charcoal, turn on all of the burners and close the lid. Allow the grill 45-60 minutes to preheat thoroughly.
- A few minutes before cooking, start your grill fan or bellows. This will boost the internal temperature of the grill and even out hot and cold spots. A cooking temperature between 800°F and 900°F is ideal.
- Just before cooking, turn the burners below your steel plate down to 75% power. This will help prevent the bottom crust from burning before the top crust is fully cooked. However, I’ve found that the first pizza of the day is usually somewhat sacrificial
- Slide your pizza onto the bottom steel plate and cook, turning once, for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the top crust is golden brown. Keep the grill lid closed as much as possible during cooking to maintain the high temperature.
- Enjoy extraordinary pizza made at home!
I hope you enjoy the pleasure of homemade pizza as much as I have. I’ve probably made 50 or so pizzas this summer, and there is nothing quite as satisfying than pulling a perfect pizza out of the grill and serving it to friends. If you don’t (or can’t) have a grill, this technique works pretty well in a home oven, too. Place one steel plate on the bottom floor of your oven to act as a heat battery. Set the other on the top rack. Preheat your oven for an hour on its highest temperature setting. You’ll need to add a minute or two to the baking time, but the results will be worth it!