I explained that my biggest challenge when making pizzas is that if I turn the pizza too soon the center tears, too late and the crust burns black. The majority of responses say that the fire and ember pile is way too much and the pizza should be farther back from the flames. Another suggestion was to make the fire along the side of the oven so the pizza can be placed at the back of the oven and thus make the side of the pizza facing the oven visible so I can watch it for burning. I’d like to get feedback from actual MBG users.
Nice to see your oven doing its thing (as well as you!).
The commenters are maybe half right. That pie looks like it’s right next to the embers, so the edges are going to burn for sure.
But I think they’re also half wrong. That’s not too much flame for this particular design, which is different than the dome style many of them may be familiar with.
The keys are:
Hot hearth (> 700°F and 800°F isn’t too much)
Flames licking over the roof of the arch, offering a broiling effect to the top and center of the pie
I’ve tried it both ways, and I prefer back of the oven as you have it built here. The leading edge of the pie should be no more than halfway into the oven, and you absolutely need to keep an eye on it at all times. The moment the edge starts smoking you need to use that banjo tool to rotate the pie a quarter turn.
There are definitely uses for laying your fire to the side, especially if you are roasting or baking. And some prefer doing pizza that way as well.
Hope this helps, and I know there are other opinions on this, so let’s hear it!
I knew posting here would provide the specific help that I need. I am planning another pizza night this Thursday, I will be sure to keep the leading edge at the half-way point and watch it the whole time. My reason for putting it so close was to be sure the bricks were 750 degrees or so. If I place the leading edge at the half-way point should I build the fire there too so the bricks reach that temperature and then push it back before the first pizza?
Here is what to do
Rule 1 listen to bikerbudd Matt. He know his blank
Rule 2. Build the fire front back
Saturate the back right with coals
Move the fire from center to left corner
Rake the coal bed center to left
After about an hour that floor should be about
750. Clean the soot f the area in which you are going to make the pizza. Like Matt said
Get that flame massive and rolling over the center barrel area of the oven. Stretch the pizza and toss it in. What I do if the flame isn’t quit rolling enough
Soon as you stretch the pie and before you top it
Throw a piece of kindling on the fire to beef it up
Keep the pie 4” away from coal bed rotate as needed. See cooking left to right enables you to see the pie rather than front to back
All very good advice, but your dough might be part of the problem. These high heat ovens like a lower hydration level and strong glutens so that the pizza cooks fast and doesn’t tear.
I like a hydration level of 65-68% though have had success in the ranges from 62-70%. Above 70% and the dough gets pretty soft and sticky BUT does puff up really nice. Looking at the size of the air bubbles in your picture it does look like your hydration is pretty high.
To develop the glutens you need a higher protein flour and you must knead and rest it long enough for the glutens to form. I’ll knead for 5-6 minuets, rest the dough for 15 minuets and knead it again.
Keep at it. You’re really close to having some good pies. (If you would just take the mushrooms off-But that’s just me)
Thanks very much @kgondoly. I am using 65% hydration and King Arthur 00 flour. I am using a Kitchen Aid stand mixer to knead the dough and I let it rest for 20 minutes after shaping the big dough ball to allow the gluten to develop, then do a 48 hour cold ferment.
As @bikerbudmatt said, I have the pizza too close to the fire, and I think this forces me to turn it before the bottom has baked enough. I am going to make pizza this Thursday and will launch the pizza farther from the fire. I’ll follow up with my results on this thread.
It definitely took me a few attempts to get pizza that turned out evenly baked and consistent every time. Most of what I found was technique in turning them. I tell everyone who is making a pie in my oven that the first turn is the toughest, and to very gently slide under the pie to make sure it not stuck and doesn’t tear. The next turns are easy because the crust is fairly set. I settled on a 58% dough hydration with a 3 day fermentation in the fridge, it has the texture and flavor we enjoy the most.
Great advice @Bill. I do use a bango peel, but admit my turning skills need improvement. When I see people turn pizzas on YouTube they are able to effortlessly keep the pizza in place while turning it. When I turn it, it always travels a little,usually a little to the left or the right depending on which side of the pizza the peel is on.
I turn the pizza by sliding the peel under a portion of the pizza and slightly lifting it, then pulling the peel towards myself. It does turn the pizza, but it also moves it off its original position. I totally agree that the 1st turn is the trickiest. Any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’m also curious to know how close you place your pizza to the fire when you bake.
I generally build my fire in the 2/3 of the way to the back, when I push the coals to the back of the oven and add more wood for the lame over I place the pies about 3” maybe a bit more for the coal pile. The pizza we make those most is Neapolitan style so it’s a thinner hand tossed type pizza that bakes ver quickly. When stretched they make a 10” crust. I usually turn every 15-20 seconds.not overloading them so they’re a bit lighter helps also. We also found that you more flour on the peel really helps things move better ( in my opinion there is no such thing as too much flour)
Thanks so much Bill. I also make Neapolitan style pizzas. I tried placing the pizzas much farther from the fire and while I did get an even bake that didn’t burn and didn’t tear, the crust wasn’t as lite it was much chewier. There is definitely a sweet spot needed for this style pizza. The next time I’ll try about 3 to 4 inches back. My pizzas are 11 to 12".
We found if the oven is up to temperature as recommended here that 2-3 minutes is all the longer they should be in, any longer and we also noticed they got chewy not light and soft. Still great flavor just a bit of a jaw workout
Honestly, I think handling the banjo just gets better with practice. Technique is involved for sure, but after some time I developed a “feel” for when the pie was balanced on the peel just so, and would turn without shifting.
Also, I think our tendency is to come straight in from the front. I’ve noticed I get better results by starting a little to one side and pulling the pie toward me a bit. The effect is to pull the banjo back toward the center, which turns the pie as it comes back toward me. If the pie comes with it, it’s an easy motion to shift it back toward the flame.
Thanks Matt, I definitely need more practice to develop the feel for it. Do you place the entire bango under one side before pulling back? I’m wondering if part of my problem with movement and tearing is that I am not placing enough of the peel under the pizza before trying to turn it. I can and will experiment, but it’s always best to learn from the masters!
It seems like you are doing everything right from the dough, the oven temperature and the cooking aspects.
The one thing I might suggest, based on the pictures, is to go lighter with the toppings. Too heavy and you trap steam from the sauce causing a soggy middle that tears easier. Bill’s photos show a good amount of toppings for this style of pizza. As an experiment try going light sauce and toppings. If you can’t see sauce poking through the toppings you’ve gone too heavy.