Pizza, a meal that changed the world.
The average American home consumes 40 pizzas a year. After some quick math, that’s 3 billion pizzas sold across America and 38 billion dollars spent on pizza. Worldwide over 5 billion pizzas are sold each year. From its humble beginnings in Naples Italy, pizza has become a global phenomenon. Who would have thought a simple cooked dough, tomatoes, and toppings would have become so popular? But is it really a surprise? Italian is the highest-grossing ethnic cuisine in America so, why wouldn't pizza be one of the most highly sought-after meals? As kids, we can all think back to tasting our first pizza. However, talking to one of our guys in the shop he told a great story of his grandfather having pizza for the first time as he served in WWII. It seems hard to imagine but at one time there wasn’t a pizza place on every street corner. Major cities like New York and Chicago because of larger immigrant populations were the first places to experience a legitimate pizzeria in the early 1900s. However, pizza ultimately gained popularity in America after WWII. Now, you can make your very own homemade pizza in your very own pizza oven! I know it is crazy what was once a low-budget meal for poor labor workers has now become a billion dollar revenue maker. Pizza ovens, pizza flour, pizza peels, sauce, toppings, and all these items are flying off the shelves at a record pace. Now it seems like if you aren’t making your own pizza in your own pizza oven you are taking a step backward into the stone age.
What we would consider as flatbread today started as the first pizza dough. Pizza dough today has evolved from its original version. You can even find the specialty pizza flour that has been ground to certain specifications. These specialty flours also help when you are cooking at high heat in your pizza oven or your ceramic grill. Talk about taking your homemade crust to another level. Watch out, Papa! Now you can find in your local grocery store pre-made crusts, pre-made dough, or kits that have everything you need to make an exceptional pizza crust.
What started as tomatoes cut in half and drizzled with olive oil, turned into smashed tomatoes with olive oil and seasonings, into a blended tomato sauce. The first rendition of the pizza sauce was super thin. However, over time, pizza sauce has gotten thicker and thicker. If you are trying to be true to the early pizza-making process you need to stick with a thinner sauce.
Mozzarella from the beginning has been the cheese of choice for pizza. If you have never tried a pizza with fresh mozzarella you are missing out. It is incredibly delicious. No, not shredded mozzarella, but fresh. Talk about melt in your mouth, words can only describe so much at some point you need to taste it for yourself. You can find balls of fresh mozzarella in your deli section at your local grocery store.
Essentially, what was just some tomatoes, cheese, and basil has turned basically into anything under the sun. The original Margherita was named after Queen Margherita in 1889 and her choice of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Now you can get pretty much anything on your pizza from BBQ chicken to pineapple. If you can think up the flavor combinations it's probably been done before. From seafood to meat lovers, to fruit or even dessert pizzas. Your classics however are cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and supreme. For the more healthy folk, we guess you can throw in the garden/veggie pizza.
A popular choice these days is to make your own pizza right at home. You can buy a portable pizza oven you can use right at home. Some folks even go to the extent of having a traditional wood-fired oven built into their outdoor kitchen area. However, most people probably remember at some point pizza being cooked and coming right out of their oven at home. With the popularity of pizza and the fast-food pizza market, they use ovens that are more similar to your home oven than a wood-fired specialty oven that is more traditional. But we want to talk about using a smoker, ceramic, or even gas grill to cook your pizza. There is something about the taste of a pizza when it has been cooked at a high temperature and that char on the bottom of the pizza crust. Makes it feel authentic to its original roots of the docks of Naples.
The tried and true at-home method for years has been the conventional oven. It works and is reliable. Plus, we really didn’t have anything else to use if you were trying to make homemade pizza or even for a take and bake pizza(aka. Frozen pizza… it's not delivery, it's DiGiorno!) from the grocery store. Use the prescribed directions on your take and bake, which are usually 450 degrees for 18-20min. Every kitchen comes with an oven and its still a great way to cook your pizza.
If you are using a smoker to cook your pizza you might be following a trend that seems to be sweeping the BBQ community. Being a fan of the pellet smoker these pieces of equipment are pretty versatile. When we get down to the bottom line you basically have a wood-fired oven, right? Compressed wood pellets are burned to supply the heat and smoke to cook whatever you want. Wood-Fired? For your take and bake pizzas use the directions from the package. (usually, 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes) For your homemade dough and pizza, you can turn the temperature up(480-500 degrees) and give the pizza stone a try. Most smoker companies have accessories and usually one of those accessories is a pizza stone. You can put the pizza stone directly on the grates or what we have found is if you will elevate that pizza stone an 1-1.25” off the cooking grate the pizza stone keeps an even temperature and keeps your crust from getting burnt. (If you are not using a stone and put your pizza directly on the cooking grates we suggest lower temperatures. 400-425 degrees.) Remember, a good char and burnt are two separate things.
Most backyards in America probably have a gas grill. Most people probably think burgers, hot dogs, bbq chicken, or maybe an aluminum foil boat with vegetables. Maybe not a lot of people probably think, “yep, cooking my homemade pizza on my gas grill!” However, it is always an option. The reality is there is a heat source and a lid to help keep that heat in. While ovens are electric in the house, smokers are wood pellets and grills have gas. All have lids/doors to help keep the heat in and cook consistently. We would suggest using a pizza stone to help cook your pizza evenly and if you can elevate that pizza stone an 1-1.25” off the cooking grate the pizza stone keeps an even temperature and keeps your crust from getting burnt. If you don’t have a pizza stone you can use dual-zone cooking. Only use two of your 4 burners. When the dough has a nice crust from the direct heat move it over to the indirect side to finish cooking. Again, for a take and bake use the suggested times and temps. If you have made a homemade crust you can run a little hotter on the temperature. However, hotter temps mean we have to be more involved and pay more attention. It is not a set it and forget it method.
Growing up there was nothing like having something cooked over charcoal. Whatever you cook has a very distinct taste and when done correctly, it is one of the best ways to cook, in our opinion. Kamado Joe has been our go-to ceramic grill for years. Not knocking the others, but we are comfortable with the Kamado Joe products. Kamado has a line of accessories that make cooking pizza on their ceramic grills a breeze. Most ceramic grills have heat deflector plates(or you can use dual-zone cooking. Put charcoal only on one side of the grill) for cooking over indirect heat. Kamado has created a DoJoe that turns your ceramic grill into a makeshift pizza oven. Now, can you cook your pizza without the DoJoe? Yes! You can make great pizza with or without this accessory. However, it is super fun! With the DoJoe and your pizza peel (fancy terminology for a really big spatula), you feel like you are on the coast of Naples making pizza. If you don’t have a DoJoe we would suggest using a pizza stone to help cook your pizza evenly and if you can elevate that pizza stone an 1-1.25” off the cooking grate the pizza stone keeps an even temperature and keeps your crust from getting burnt.
Pizza, everyone’s favorite?
Now, some people might not be fans of pizza. Crazy, right? But if you are not a fan of fast-food pizza, making your own might change your mind. It really can be a different taste that you like. Pizza from a delivery place can be heavy and greasy. Making your own pizza can be light and smooth. Plus, you get to put all the toppings you want, in the way you want them on your own pizza. Listen, we know in a pinch it’s easy to order a pizza and feed the family in the hustle and bustle of today’s society. No condemnation here! But when you get the chance try it for yourself. That’s the #keepexperimenting motto. The experience is a blast and the end result is positively rewarding.