KettlePizza creates a wood burning pizza oven in your Weber kettle charcoal grill. It’s easy to assemble, it’s affordable, it’s made in Massachusetts, and it really works.
Our friends at KettlePizza invited us to contribute to The KettlePizza Blog. We’ve been successfully testing their Serious Eats KettlePizza Special Edition Kit with plenty of Mindy’s dough recipes, sauces, and toppings. And R.B. has a newfound reason to continue his lifelong research of hardwoods in outdoor cooking applications.
After years (and years) of making pretty good pizza at home but never achieving the puffy, chewy, leopard-spotted crust we crave, we are now making the best pies of our lives thanks to this invention from Al Contarino and his KettlePizza partner, George Peters.
In a world of crazy gimmicks, it’s understandable when we’re a little skeptical. So, let’s unpack the KettlePizza experience.
It goes like this — you remove your Weber lid and the grill grate, start a charcoal fire, set in the Serious Eats KettlePizza kit (which is a pizza stone in a metal frame on bottom where the grill grate was sitting, and a 1/4-inch thick piece of Baking Steel set above it), add some hardwood to the burning coals, and put the grill cover back on. Now let it heat up to pizza temperature. KettlePizza cooks a beautiful pie in about 3-4 minutes at approximately 650F or more. The pies look like this:
KettlePizza kits offer a few different accessories and you can check them all out HERE.
After more than 20 years in Nashville we’ve have had plenty of southern biscuits, cornbread, and hot chicken, but with just about zero Italian heritage we don’t have a real pizza culture here. Until the recent influx of new restaurants with young chefs and now more than a few wood burning ovens, our city has been a virtual pizza desert. So, if you wanted good pizza you had to try to make it yourself.
We’ve fiddled with cooking techniques and dough recipes, all in hopes of turning out charred, puffy, chewy crusts. We’ve used the regular indoor oven and nearly every style of charcoal and gas grill. We even jerry-rigged a wood fired pizza “oven” with a campground fire ring and the steel cover from a metal fire pit to create some crucial “top-down” heat. It’s all pretty good pizza, but it’s not what you can create with KettlePizza.
Man, have we made lots of pizza together.
KettlePizza has a little learning curve, and each experience is a little different. We made some useful rookie mistakes during the first couple tries (like too much charcoal under the stone which burned the pies before the dough could fully cook). Now the Cheater Chefs are stepping up the homemade pizza game in a big, big way.
A Few Tips about Making Dough
Here is is our reliable “go-to” that always gives consistently great results. It’s a solid basic to handy in your recipe files.
These things matter when making great pizza dough and see more about Mindy’s pizza dough on our post at The KettlePizza Blog (hot link here):
It sure is easy to mix up the dough if you have a stand mixer. If you really get into this KettlePizza thing, you’ll want one.
Our recipe uses an equal blend of all-purpose and bread flours. Using both produces a dough that’s easy to handle AND has good structure provided by the high gluten content in the bread flour.
Pizza dough should be quite soft with a high hydration rate (a higher ratio of water to flour than regular bread). This helps give the pie a nice puffy crust.
Cut the dough into 6 to 7 ounces pieces, this will make you a 7 to 9-inch pie that works great in KettlePizza.
A kitchen scale is handy for weighing dough.
We use the same dough for a regular crust and a thin crust pizza. For a pie with a nice puffed-edged crust, shape the discs by picking up the dough ball and gently pulling the edge with floured hands moving around the circle, allowing the weight of the dough to pull it down. You can also drape the dough over your fist periodically to allow the weight of the dough to hang and help form the circular shape. The goal is to have a nice disc of an even thickness. Be gentle, no need to toss it around. For thin crust, get out the rolling pin and roll out the dough on a floured board into a thin round. Prick the dough with a fork to keep it from bubbling up during baking.
Make sure you have plenty of flour on the peel when you transfer the dough so it doesn’t stick. You can also use cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting.
If the dough is very stiff and won’t budge, don’t fight it. You can’t have pizza right now, there’s no forcing it. You’ll have to let it rest in a warm place covered with a wet towel or plastic wrap to soften it up and relax.
Our recipe uses instant yeast simply because it’s easy and you can just mix up all the dry ingredients together.
Small rectangular four-cup plastic containers (usually labeled for soup and salad) are super convenient for storing dough in the refrigerator. Stick to one brand so you won’t be searching through a pile of lids that don’t fit.
The amount of flour needed to make a consistent dough changes depending on the humidity. Drier flour needs more liquid. You’ll get used to how an easy to handle dough feels after a few tries. If it just seems too sticky, add a little more flour.
The Pizza Dough Recipe
2 ½ cups bread flour
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (or one packet that contains about 2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 ½ teaspoons fine-grained salt or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups warm water
Making the dough in a stand mixer: Combine 4 ½ cups of the flours (leave out ½ cup bread or all-purpose flour), yeast, and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and olive oil and blend with a spoon just to moisten all the ingredients. With a dough hook attachment blend and knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes. It should be quite sticky. If it seems stiff enough and like you can handle the dough, stop here. If the dough seems very sticky, add the remaining ½ cup of flour and blend well until smooth. It should be soft, but manageable with floured hands.
Making the dough in a food processor: Make the dough as with a stand mixer, using the plastic blade with your food processor to knead the dough.
Making the dough by hand: After combining the ingredients as above, gather the dough with floured hands into a ball and transfer it to a lightly floured board. Knead the dough, dusting with flour as needed, until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. It should be soft and pliable.
Using the dough in 24 hours or up to 4 days later: With floured hands, gather the dough into a ball and shape it into log about 12 inches long. Cut the dough into 5 or 6 even pieces. If you are using a scale, each piece of dough should weigh between 6 and 7 ounces. Shape them into balls dusting with flour as necessary. Place each ball into a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate the containers of dough 18 to 24 hours and up to 4 days.
Using the dough the same day: After kneading the dough, place it in a large mixing bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with a warm damp towel and allow to double in bulk. Timing will depend on the temperature of your room. In a warm room, it will take an hour or two, in a cool room you can leave the dough all day. After it has doubled in bulk, punch down the dough and divide it into 5 or 6 even balls. Place the balls on a floured rimmed baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. When the dough balls have doubled in size, it’s time to make pizza.
Making the Pie
Less is more when it comes to toppings. Go light on the tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings or the pie will be too heavy to handle on the peel and cook properly. Yes, topping combinations are endless, today we’re sticking to the basics.
The Tomato Sauce Recipe
You’ll get better, fresher flavor, with this simple combination of ingredients. Believe it or not, it’s enough for the 6-pie dough recipe.
2 cups canned crushed, diced or whole tomatoes crushed with your hands
2 tablespoons olive oil (just eyeball a good
2 to 3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed in a garlic press
Pinch of salt
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Have a small ladle or big spoon ready to coat the pies.
We recommend the packages of whole milk or fresh mozzarella. Simply cut the cheese blocks into rough slices with a knife. Pre-shredded bagged mozzarella lacks the flavor of the blocks.
Making the Pie
Less is more when it comes to sauce, cheese, and toppings. Go on the light side. Too much traffic on the pie makes a piece hard to handle and the pie difficult to bake. When KettlePizza is good and hot, spread the dough on the well-floured peel, spoon on the tomato sauce. Dot with pieces of cheese and other toppings. Giggle the peel back and forth and slide the dough on the board. Then slide the pizza onto the hot stone in one confident move. If the dough seems to stick a little at first, lift up the edge closest to the stuck spot and toss under some flour. Check for slid-a-bility. Add more flour as needed until it glides easily.
After it’s been in the oven for about a minute use the peel and tongs if necessary and rotate the pie 180 degrees to encourage even heating. That hot wood fire in the back of KettlePizza cooks the dough faster back there, so keep the pie moving a little as it cooks. You’ll get the hang of it quickly, and then you will look for any excuse to fire up your KettlePizza, as if you need an excuse.