‘You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six’. – Yogi Berra
Italians hotly debate where in world pizza originated. Some believe it comes from the south, and the city of Naples, others suggest it’s a Roman invention.
These days, wherever it was first cooked is immaterial, as the pizza has become the ubiquitous global fast food.
There is probably not a town in the world, where you can’t get a pizza in some form of another. And using one of the best portable pizza ovens can honestly give you great tasting pizza right in your backyard.
We like pizza so much that three billion are consumed in the United States every day. That’s enough pizza to cover 100 acres, of if you can’t get around that, how about 78 football fields.
The simplicity of a pizza is what has made it into one of our favorite snacks, party foods, and ideal for sharing.
Getting the Most from Your Portable Pizza Oven
Making a pizza may seem such a simple thing. Make some dough, slap on some tomato sauce and other toppings, pop it in the oven and hey presto, you’ve got a pizza.
Well if it were that simple, we would all be making pizzas. There is a little more to it, and here are the top tips to making a perfect pizza.
Use the Right Measurements
Measurement is key to making great pizza dough, so the traditional ways of measuring ingredients aren’t always the preferred when making a pizza…yes, even in a portable pizza oven. The great pizza makers all use a set of good kitchen scales to get the proportions accurate when making the dough for the base.
The traditional American cup measurement doesn’t work quite as well with dough making. Most recipes call for the weight of flour in either ounces or grams, not cups which is volume.
The reason the cup measure doesn’t work with flour is that it can be compressed. A cup of sifted and compressed flour can vary in weight by up to 50%.
It is easier if you think metric, rather than imperial when making flour dough, as the arithmetic is so much simpler.
Bakers will tell you they usually work dough recipes as percentages. Based on say 1000 grams of flour a recipe may require 60% water, or 600grams, and 2% salt or 20 grams.
Make the Best Pizza Dough
When it comes to what makes a real traditional pizza, the Associazione Verace Pizza Neopolitana (AVPN) has the last word. The organization sets the rules of making pizza and is very strict on what constitutes a real pizza.
Neapolitan pizza dough consists of flour, water, salt and yeast. The AVPN outlaws all types of fat in its pizza dough.
However, some chefs like to add a little extra virgin olive oil or even milk which soften the dough.
That said, AVPN pizza dough should be tough to work and stretch under its own weight.
It is common is some parts of Italy to add malt syrup to the dough to help the crust brown, and when that is not available sugar can be added instead.
Know Your Flour
Now that you have the quantities sorted, what about the flour itself. The type has an enormous impact on how the crust will bake and taste.
The classic Neapolitan pizza needs plain 00 Italian flour, which has a higher gluten content than flour used for pastry.
Some use strong bread flour. Whatever the type of flour you use, make sure it finely ground.
Figure Out Your Preferred Pizza Style
Even before you start mixing your dough, it‘s best to decide the style of pizza you are going to bake.
The classic Neopolitan has a tender and pillowy base, with a nicely browned crust. The New York or Roman thin crust has more of a snap to the bread base.
There is also the square-shaped Sicilian-style where the edge crust disappears under the topping. They are just a few of the styles you can consider.
Fermenting the Dough
Getting the dough just right is important. Kneading the mixture is important to develop the gluten in the flour.
Most people will use a mixer or food processor, but it can be done by hand.
Once the dough is sticky it‘s time to set it aside to prove. Cold fermenting the dough, by putting it in the refrigerator improves the browning characteristics and the flavor of the pizza bread.
Some pizza makers will tell you that three days in the fridge will give the ultimate dough, although it doesn’t have to stay in the cool for so long.
The general rule appears to be the longer, the better but no more than 72 hours.
No Rules for the Pizza Base…Really
Turning a ball of dough into a flat disk with raised edges does take some practice. We’ve all seen pictures of pizza chef’s spinning and tossing the dough to get it thin on the bottom and thicker at the edges.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty so to speak – a little molding with the fingers may be necessary. No one will complain about the shape if a home-made pizza tastes delicious.
The Sauce Is More Important Than You Think
Time to think about the topping. The sauce needs to be not too smooth and can be made from ripe tomatoes blitzed in a food processor, or you can get it from a can.
Traditionally the cheese should be mozzarella, although other cheeses are used widely around the world.
What else to add?
Well, the golden rule should be less is more. If you put a load of toppings on a pizza, it’s going to make it more difficult for the pizza to cook.
Try not to pile it high with lots of different flavors as they will just drown each other out. Think of two or three that complement each other.
Bake with High Heat
With the pizza ready, make sure your oven is as hot as you can get it. Pizza’s love extreme heat.
The hotter the oven, the quicker the bake, and the crispier the base. Most pizza makers recommend a heat of at least 600F to cook a pizza in a short period successfully.
If your oven gets to 900F, you could be able to cook a pizza in about a minute.
This is where a pizza stone comes in handy. The ceramic of the stone holds in the heat, and when the pizza is placed on top, the bottom will cook quickly and form a crisp crust.
The surrounding hot air gets the air bubbles in the dough to expand, and give a light, fluffy consistency to the edge.
At the same time that superheat will cook the toppings in next to no time.
Types of Portable Pizza Ovens
Electric Portable Pizza Ovens
In some respects, this is the plug and play version of a portable pizza oven. All you require is a power outlet, and you are ready to go.
Electric pizza ovens can be relatively cheap. Upper–end models sometimes have brick or clay linings to mimic a traditional oven and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The lining helps to keep the temperature inside the oven high and even for the best cooking. Cheaper models, use a heating element, which is likely to find it harder to reach the high temperatures needed to bake a pizza quickly.
Temperatures 600F and lower mean longer cooking times. Because of where they are built into the oven, the heating elements are more prone to giving hot spots inside the oven, and thus an uneven bake.
Probably the next simplest portable pizza oven is those that are gas–fired. As well as the oven you will also need a propane bottle.
Using a flame to heat the pizza oven, will mean you’ll get high enough temperatures to bake a pizza quickly.
Others add some flame to the mix so the top and filling can get the slight charring we have come to expect on hand-made pizzas baked in a traditional oven.
Other gas ovens use the flame to heat upper and lower ceramic tiles, to provide and indirect heat, which will give an even bake, and a crisp crust.
Wood-Fired Pizza Ovens
Going down the traditional route and baking your pizza in a wood-fired oven is not just about the smoky taste, but the aura of cooking in an artisan way.
The temperature in wood-burner can climb to 900F (480C) and more, which is ideal for rapidly cooking a pizza. With that amount of heat, a pizza can be cooked in less than a minute.
The best wood-fired ovens draw air and flames to the ceiling of the oven and then reflect it downwards to cook the top of the pizza.
What We Looked for in the Best Portable Pizza Ovens
A priority for a pizza oven is that it can reach a high enough temperature to cook a pizza quickly. The faster the bake, the crispier and more delicious the base.
The best indicator of how well a pizza will cook is the temperature of the base and the air temperature within the dome of the oven.
Having said that, different materials retain heat better than others. For instance, a pizza stone will often work better than a metal surface as the stone will draw moisture from the base quicker making it crispier.
The time it takes to heat up, cook a pizza, and be ready for the next one is very important.
If you are cooking for the family, the last thing you want is them complaining they are not getting their pizzas fast enough. Obviously, the more rapid an oven preheats, the faster it is likely to recover.
Portable pizza ovens will have to take some knocks, so are they reliable and sturdy? What about the parts are they likely to fall off during transit?
Also, we looked at the possibility of using the pizza oven to cook other things, such as meat and fish.
10 Best Portable Pizza Ovens
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What Are the Important Things to Remember in Pizza Making?
Property Salt the Dough
Make sure the dough is properly salted. Home cooks often err on the side of caution when seasoning pizza dough.
Yes it needs salt, but the added toppings are going to add salt to taste.
However, a good pizza is also about the crust, and it should be seasoned well, so don’t be afraid to add salt to the dough to improve the flavor of your pizza.
Make Your Own Pizza Sauce
Store bought pizza sauce may be simpler, but it is full of sugar, which is not what you want in a flavorful pizza.
Try making your own pizza sauce by blitzing in a blender ripe tomatoes, with a little garlic, basil and anchovy. That fresh tomato topping will spread delightfully on any pizza base.
Avoid Using a Rolling Pin
Try not to roll out the dough with a rolling pin to get it into shape.
Rolling knocks out the tiny air bubbles that have formed in the proving process and can lead to a thick and doughy crust.
Gently use your fingers to tease out a shape, nobody will worry your pizza is not round if it tastes good.
Go Easy on the Toppings
Less is more when striving for a great pizza. There is no need to pile it high with lots of different meats and vegetables.
After the tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese, just think of one or two other ingredients to help bring out the taste of the crust.
Pizza Stones Are Great…but Not Required
It’s not true that it’s pointless cooking a pizza without a pizza stone. It can be done with a baking tray as long as the oven and the tray are preheated.
If you constantly end up with a soggy bottom to your pizza, why not try par-baking.
Put the pizza base in the hot oven for a few moments to get a crust. Remove it from the oven, and then add the toppings before returning it to the oven for its final cook.
Go for the Heat!
Unlike other forms of cooking, pizzas love the heat. The hotter the oven, the better.
Each portable pizza oven is different, and each pizza you make will be slightly different too, so don’t take your eye off the cooking.
Remember to turn the pizza in the oven to make sure it is evenly cooked, and constantly check to make sure it‘s not overdone on the bottom or top.
How do I Clean a Pizza Oven?
It’s best to use a scraper to get pieces of food and ash stuck to the pizza stone. Only use water to clean off any food residue.
As a pizza stone is porous, it is unwise to use soap or other types of cleaners as they can be absorbed and taint the flavor of future cooks.
Why Are They Dome Shaped?
Due to convection, the dome shape helps the top of the pizza cook.
With a fire at the back of the oven, the hot air and smoke would be drawn to a chimney at the font of the oven.
The dome shape even projects the heat downwards onto the food, as well as the hot air passing across the food.
Are Portable Pizza Ovens Safe?
What Tools Do I Need For a Portable Pizza Oven?
Some people would say you need a steel or a wood peel to put a pizza into the oven, and a wooden one to pull it out.
The peel should be coated with flour to allow the pizza to slide off it easily and onto the heated floor of the pizza oven.
It’s also wise to have a brush on a long handle to remove debris from inside the pizza oven.
The thermometers or temperature gauges on these appliances are notoriously unreliable so that a good infrared thermometer will be an asset.
Remember we are dealing with things that are very hot indeed, so protective gloves are needed too.
Most accessories are optional when it comes to portable pizza oven extras. Chances are, you’ll be hooked on this culinary fun and eventually you’ll want to have all the tools that help make your pizza making experience easier, safer and more enjoyable.