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On the topic of am I going to burn my house down.....

I was seeing my MD last week and conversation turned to food and cooking. Namely pizza. He is learning to make his own. The conversation turned to ovens and he told me he is planning to disable the locking function of the self-cleaning cycle so he can get that oven and stone really hot and cook that pizza in 2.5 to 3 mins.

Okay, I am bothered and uneasy about this idea. Yeah I know the oven is insulated and when I use the self-cleaning cycle I do not set my cabinets on fire. I leave my really thick pizza stine in the oven all of the time even when cleaning and logically I know that the lock on the self-cleaning cycle is to keep you form burning your self but I am bothered. Has anyone tried this? Does the idea make you as uneasy as it does me? Am I worrying needlessly?

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  1. This is absolute MYTHOLOGY that restaurants have "hotter" ovens and that's why their food tastes so much better.

    The ovens actual operating temperature can't be much higher than 500 degrees. Why not? Because the YEAST DIES at that temperature! You get burned, unrisen garbage. The restaurant's ovens are constantly being opened and closed and the temp comes down as a result.

    Just cook your pizza at 450 and ignore this "You just aren't equipped" cop-out/supremacism. Finish it by turning on the broiler above it if you want the slightly charred top effect. There is no difference in the result when you know what you're doing.

    5 Replies
    1. re: peeder

      The oven temperature has an effect on the final characteristics of the crust. Some types of pizza crusts, like Pizza Napoletana, simply can't be achieved at temps. below 800°.

      Before you go pontificating about the actual operating temp. of commercial ovens and how 450° is just fine, I suggest you surf over to Jeff Varasano's website at <http://jvpizza.sliceny.com/ > and check out the pics of his pies cooked at home in an 800° oven and Pizzamaking.com and spend some time reading the posts by Pete-zza, Varsano, and Pizzanapoletana, as well as pizza industry consultants SliceofSlomon (Evelyn Slomon, author of _The Pizza Book_) and Tom Lehmann (aka, The Dough Doctor) on the relationship between temperature, oven spring, crust texture, and tooth, and post some pics of your results at 450° showing you can get the same results.

      1. re: peeder


        commercial ovens get hotter than 500. coal/wood fired can get considerably hotter, especially if there's a bellows of some sort. here's one i found w/ a quick google...


        also, commercial ovens used in applications where they are frequently opened/closed generally are 3-phase, which heat up faster and hold more consistent temps.

        and if there is a convection fan, commercial ovens generally have a cut-off that stops the fan from pushing out the warm air when the door is open.

        pro equipment often exceeds the performance of residential. that said, pretty good pizza results can be produced in the home oven. i'm not sure that disabling the lock would help; most ovens will not reach cleaning temps unless the lock is activated. so, the lock would have to be modified to engage the cleaning cycle, but allow the door to open. dangerous? a little. worth it? not in my opinion, especially if the oven is under warranty (also note that if a fire is traced back to the oven, and it has been modified, the insurance company will just laugh at you). if you're that into making pizza, get a pizza oven.

        1. re: peeder

          i asked the pizza dudes at lombardi's (nyc) once about the temp of their coal-fired oven. they said the temp is always in the range of 800-900 degrees, give or take. these guys know from pizza. also, having worked in a restaurant for several years, it is absolutley true that commercial ovens run hotter than 500. a 700 degeree oven is the savior of many a line cook in the weeds.

          that being said, i have had good luck with my baking tiles if i crank the oven to 550. (The oven runs a little hot anyway, closer to 600 when it has been blasting for a while.) i don't think it is necessary to disable the lock. if the stone is preheated for a half hour and his dough is good, he should have good results. my pizza is better than any pizzeria, save lombardi's and totonno. crust is always nicely charred on the bottom but still chewy. i've never timed it, but my pizzas cook in under 5 minutes.

          1. re: laguera

            I noticed that Jeff, the Atlanta pizza guy in the link below said that a pizza took 20 minutes to cook in a 500 degree oven. Not in mine. With the stone, my pizzas come out in less than 5 minutes too.

            But they certainly don't have that beautiful, springy, hole-y crust he has.

            1. re: danna

              I'm fairly certain that the 20 min. Jeff mentioned is for high hydration (67%) dough made with Caputo 00 flour rather than all purpose flour at hydration levels specifed in typical pizza recipes (52-56%).

              At low temps—and for pizza baking, 500°F is low temp—Caputo 00 flour does take significantly longer to brown than all purpose and bread flour do.

        2. Umm, the yeast dies in a 450 degree oven too. The rising takes place outside the oven as far as yeast is concerned. What takes place in the oven is from steam trapped in all those lovely little pockets the yeast made.

          Wood fired ovens at home and in restos do get up to some pretty high temps due to their thermal mass. This speeds up the cooking dramatically.

          As far as disabling the safety interlocks to acheive this in a conventional oven, this just strikes me as such a bad idea.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Scrapironchef

            Not all the rising takes place outside the oven: the heat of of the oven cavity causes the yeast to give off one last burst of CO2 before it dies from the heat: a phenomenon called "oven spring."

            It's not steam that creates the air pockets: it's carbon dioxide given off by the yeast. If the oven temp. is too low when the dough goes in, the outer surface of the dough forms a skin (crust) that prevents the dough from rising before the yeast has been killed by the heat, i.e., no or poor oven spring.

            1. re: mclaugh

              I'm aware of that, I was just pointing out that the yeast are going to be killed at any oven temp. What takes place in the oven is not done by living yeast.

          2. I certainly would never open the door of an oven in the cleaning mode: I think the heat would produce instant burns.

            1. Unless he knows how to disable it himself, I doubt that he will be able to get anyone to do it for him, so it might be a moot question.

              5 Replies
              1. re: jillp

                ooooh he is planning to do it himself

                1. re: Candy

                  I can hear the insurance adjuster now...

                  1. re: Candy

                    I think you should be happy you have an MD who thinks for himself and is willing to go against conventional wisdom. I also think you should be happy you're not married to him. ;-)

                    1. re: danna

                      He is young enough to be my son and he is a great MD. He is often thinking outside the box. I am glad to have him.

                2. That is what I am trying to reconcile in my brain. The temperature is not really an issue vis a vis kitchen cabinetry etc, don't think he is in danger if setting the kitchen on fire. Most of us have self cleaning ovens. My MIL is the only person I know who is afraid to use the self cleaning feature and has never cleaned an oven that I know of manualy or electronicaly. It is opening the oven door at the elevated temperatures that really bothers me I guess. It realy makes me uneasy.

                  1. A few months back, someone posted a link to a guy who's been trying to make the perfect NY pie.


                    About a third of the way down, step 4, you'll see what he did.


                    1. I've cut the lock on my oven, and no, the heat doesn't produce instant burns. I routinely hit 800°F surface temps on my pizza stone (measured with a digital IR thermometer) with no problems, with the outside of the oven cabinet measuring in the 80-90° range. (If you've ever cooked in a brick oven or over live coals or hardwood charcoal, the oven deck temp can get upwards of 1200°F.) You do have to be careful though and have proper equipment (high quality baking stone, a long-handled pizza peel, heavy, insulated gloves for oven mitts—I use welders gloves, etc.). You also have to watch things like a hawk, because a pizza can go from undercooked to burned to a crisp in 15-20 sec.

                      Disabling the lock WILL void the oven's warranty and may void your insurance as well.

                      Send you Dr. to Pizzamaking.com and Jeff Varasano's website mirrored at <http://jvpizza.sliceny.com/ > for discussions on the pros and cons of disabling the lock on a self-cleanining oven. Tell him to pay special attention to the warnings and cautions.

                      1. You could suggest that he grill the pizza outdoors. Most gas grills will reach temperatures of 800F and the flavor of the crust is unbelievable.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: cheryl_h

                          Gas grills can reach 800° at the grate: the problem is that they're not sufficiently insulated to retain enough heat in the air cavity above the grate to cook the top of the pizza before the bottom burns.

                          1. re: mclaugh

                            We don't cook the pizza on the grill only on one side. We flip it so both are grilled, then we top the pizza and broil in the oven. It gives us a terrific crust and perfectly cooked toppings.

                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              In other words, you parbake the crust.

                              There's nothing wrong with that. I do it myself on occasion when I want something a bit different, but it's not the style of pizza I'm after most of the time, and it doesn't come close to authentic Pizza Napoletana or NY-style pizza.

                              1. re: mclaugh

                                No, it's not parbaked, it's fully cooked on the grill. I was addressing the OP, not your taste in pizza.

                                1. re: cheryl_h

                                  You're parbaking the crust before topping it and finishing it on the grill.

                                  If the OP's MD is thinking about cutting the lock on his oven, it is highly probable that he's after a Napoletana-style pizza flash-baked for a total of 90-150 sec. rather than one with a parbaked crust.

                                  1. re: mclaugh

                                    No I am not. Read my post. I said:

                                    "We don't cook the pizza on the grill only on one side. We flip it so both are grilled, then we top the pizza and broil in the oven."

                                    The pizza crust is completely cooked ON THE GRILL. The oven is used only to finish the TOPPINGS. Get it?

                                    The OP mentioned achieving a high temperature. Period. Anything further is purely your conjecture.

                                    1. re: cheryl_h

                                      If you are cooking the crust on the grill before you top it and then cooking the pizza in the oven, by definition, you are using a parbaked crust for your pizza.

                                      [QUOTE]The OP mentioned achieving a high temperature. Period.[/QUOTE]

                                      Wrong. The OP said he wanted to cut the lock "so he can get that oven and stone really hot and cook that pizza IN 2.5 TO 3 MINS."

                                      There are precisely TWO styles of pizza that require sub-3 min cooking times: authentic Pizza Napoletana and elite NY style, a la the ones shown on Jeff Varasano's webpage, mentioned above. The fact that the good doctor is shooting for that time profile is sufficient proof that his goal is to make one or both of those styles.

                        2. Holy crap - does he know how hot those things get? Some of them get up to 1000 degrees. That's hot as cow piss. Tell him to be careful if he actually does it. Ever stand over an oven when it's opened at 500 degrees? Yeah... double that! Anyone into melting rocks?! ;-)

                          1. If you have a gas oven, the broiler may not have a upper temperature limit.
                            And if you've got a convection fan ... Maybe you could place some pans on
                            the top shelf to shield your pizza below?

                            1. I discussed this with Jackp last night. He actually knows of someone who disabled the oven-cleaning lock but found that it did not work well and ended up doing something involving a gas grill and a lot of bricks/tiles to insulate it.

                              Sounds to me like it would just be easier to go out for pizza.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jillp

                                It would be easier if you're willing to settle for ok pizza; if you're not willing to settle for just "ok" (and you're in the US), you've got three choices: visit Naples, Italy; visit one of the handful of restaurants and pizzarias in the US that serve pizza approaching the quality one finds at, say, Da Michelle or Antica Pizzeria Brandi in Naples, Italy: Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix), Il Pizziallo (Pittsburgh), Nizza La Bella and A16 (San Francisco), Pizziaolo (Oakland), Settebello (Las Vegas), Luzzos and UPN (NY), Antica Pizzeria (LA), and maybe one or two others; figure out how to make it at home.

                                Like mclaugh, I've cut the lock on my oven and I haven't had any problems with it.

                                Hate to say it, but if your DH's acquaintence had spent as much time figuring out how to use the oven after cutting the lock as s/he did figuring out how to rig a gas grill to emulate a brick oven to get the results s/he was after, odds are s/he'd be getting as good, if not better results with the oven.

                                Disabling the lock is a necessary first step, but it's only the first step: you still have to figure how to work with the idiosyncracies of your oven to get the results you're after, e.g., where are the hot spots and cool spots, what's the temp difference between the bottom and the top rack, what's the ideal stone placement for your oven, what type and thickness of stone works best in your oven (all stones are not created equal), how much does the temp drop when the door is opened, how long does it take for the stone to get back up to temp between pizzas, etc.

                              2. Wow, there is a lot of misinformation and some good information on this thread. I can't comment on it all, but since I seem to be the source of all this, I'm going to take a quick stab at it.

                                I put up my site 2 years ago, and knew the oven thing was going to cause controversy. Consequently, I've never publicized my site beyond pizzamaking.com, where I knew people would understand. But in Sept, my site got linked around, and has since gotten nearly 130,000 hits. So now everyone is trying to do the oven thing. I'm very careful and I hope everyone who tries it is also.

                                Neapolitan pizza is a wierd little specialty. It's very hard to do right. Very, very hard, even after years of practice. One thing is for sure: you can't just start switching around major components and get the same thing. I made my grandmother's sicilian pizza at 550F this weekend and everyone said it was the best pizza they'd ever had and I should open a restaurant. Good pizza. But it's not a Neapolitan pizza. Pies cooked under 750F have really no chance at all of replicating the right texture. Lately, I'm starting to agree with the pizza snobs from Naples that sub 90 second pies (850F and higher) are really where it's at. And even then, the distribution of heat (top vs. bottom) is also really critical.

                                The whole process takes years to master: the oven, the sauce, literally dozens of variables in the mixing technique alone, the various flours, different yeasts and different fermentation techiques, hydration percentages, shaping skills, cheese melting properties, etc, etc.

                                peeder, I'm sorry, but you really have no idea what we are talking about....

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JeffV

                                  Hey Jeff,

                                  Good to have you chime in. Have you gotten a photog lined up yet?

                                  1. re: JeffV

                                    For your next project, will you show the home chef how to recreate the Pringle?

                                  2. There was a great Jeffrey Steingarten article about replicating restaurant pizza. He couldn't jimmy his oven lock, and ended up with a thick layer of (formerly pizza) ash inside his oven.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lissar

                                      Well then he obviously wasn't paying attention in school the day they taught the difference between "cutting" a lock and "jimmying" a lock. :-)