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Jun 4, 2009 11:41 AM

Pizza stone question - how to get that black char?

I've been making pizza at home for quite some time now, and I do all the usual things - heat up my pizza stone at 550 for a good hour or so before adding the pizza. I am pretty satisfied with my results, but I wish I could get that black char around the crust thats so synonymous with coal oven pizzerias. Maybe it's not possible in a gas home oven?

Check out this pizze - Could it have been made at home? How do I get the black bubbles?

Im thinking this - I have my pizza stone on my bottom rack. Maybe I should heat it on the bottom then move it to the top rack? This way the top of the pizza will be closer to the top of the oven where it is hotter?

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  1. I cook pizza on a stone regularly and I am able to get some charring for the first pie. The subsequent pies are much paler (I'm too impatient to let the stone re-absorb enough heat after cooking one pie).

    I put the stone in the top shelf, but I think placement really depends on your oven. I turn the brolier on to help cook the top. That helps char the top of the crust edge.

    What many people are doing to get a bottom char is to use a cast iron skillet (or a cast iron pizza pan) instead of a stone. (I haven't done this yet myself). There is a thread here on CH about this technique.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fmed

      I use the broiler to finish.

    2. Ah.. the never ending quest for the perfect pizza.... I personally would not try this at home, but offer it up to you for what it's worth.

      13 Replies
      1. re: janetms383

        Yeah - I've read what Varasano has done, and that is crazy.

        Is broil hotter than 550? I know when i use broil i usually use the broiler tray, but If i set to broil will it get the oven hotter than 550?

        As per the cast iron idea, I actually cant use it because of the following that I do:
        I prebake the pie on a metal pan that is on the stone. As soon as the dough sets and slides I slide it onto the stone. This allows me to have MUCH larger pies than I could if i just make it on a peel.

        1. re: shorts

          I don't use broil to heat the stone. I use it for its radiant heat to cook the top of the pizza. I think it is hotter than 550, but in this context, that's probably irrelevant.

          I have recently started to use a perforated metal pizza pan (I got sick of that acrid burning cheese smell that I get when I screw up the placement of the pie on the stone). It works well with the stone....but I leave the pie in the pan for the entire cooking time.

          Some pics... This one didn't get as charred in the bottom as I like. I'll probably experiment with the cast iron technique soon (I'm waiting for the weather to cool off a bit).

          1. re: fmed

            Oops let's try the pics again...

            1. re: fmed

              Nice pics - here is one of mine...maybe i just need to cook it longer?

              So, heat the stone at 550, turn to broil when cooking the pizza?

              1. re: shorts

                Maybe not necessarily longer....just more radiant heat from the top (ie broil - which will for sure blacken it in spots).

                1. re: fmed

                  Made another pie tonight, turning the oven to broil when the pie was in. Saw some nice color, Thanks!

                  1. re: shorts

                    The tricky part about this is that ovens running at their hottest will often not kick the broiler on. My Miele has a broiler setting of 575, and the hottest the roast/bake gets is 550, so it will kick on momentarily, but not long enough in some cases. I've actually started using 2 ovens to make pizza. one running at 550 for a few hours (to get up to max temp and get the stone up over 550), and the other to finish with the broiler. I get pizzas out in under 4 minutes, which is preferable for Neapolitan-style pizzas. I can appreciate, of course, that not everyone cares about quick cooking times, but I say that for those who are interested.

                    1. re: tommy

                      That is the tricky part. You have to learn how your oven's broiler behaves - you may need to open the door to trick the broiler into turning on or igniting.

                      1. re: fmed

                        not with 2 ovens I don't. :)

                2. re: shorts

                  I'm not ready to mutilate my oven in order to use the cleaning cycle to make pizza, but the varasanos article give me an idea:

                  1. Buy an infrared thermometer.

                  2. Heat oven, with baking stone, to the max (500F), then switch to broil.

                  3. See how hot I can get the stone.

                  4. Make pizza!

                  5. Report back.

                  1. re: Zeldog

                    Still not hot enough?
                    Max. broiler temperature of your oven is about 650 degrees.
                    You probably want to find a commercial infrared broiler which will reach 1650 degrees.

                    1. re: Zeldog

                      you will get it to about 575-600 degrees most likely (if using an electric oven). i've found it gets about as hot when not using the broiler, but, i do switch from 550 (the max on roast) to 575 broil right before i put the pizza in, to bump up the temp of the stone. the broiler will then cycle off pretty quickly, but you might be able to get a full 4 minutes out of it, which is enough to cook a pizza (of the style i cook). if it cycles off, i then throw the pizza in the second oven, which is on standby at 525, and ready for the switch to 575 broil.

                3. re: fmed

                  Tried a new technique. I used an old cracked Pampered Chef pizza stone in a propane BBQ (a small Weber Q120). Preheated it for perhaps 20-30 mins. Put the pizza on the pizza stone for 3-4 mins. Then finished if off in my oven whose upper broil burner had been preheating on High.

                  It had a nice char on the bottom and good deep colour on top. The crust was both crunchy and tender. This is probably as close that I am going to get to making a real pizza at home.

            2. The Los Angeles Times Food Section did a feature on converting a home oven into a pizza oven using firebricks and a pizza stone. You can check out the articles at the following links:



              2 Replies
              1. re: Norm Man

                all of those bricks don't do much to create char unfortunately. the video also states to heat up the oven for at least an hour. i would suggest even longer than that with that much thermal mass. a constant routine of opening and closing the door helps as well, since the air cools down quickly (and the bricks don't), causing the heat source to cycle back on, adding heat to the stones.

                1. re: tommy

                  That's correct. Adding the extra mass doesn't help with char (I tried this a couple of years ago).

                  Using a stone material with better conductivity (corderite, Fibrament, etc.) may help. But I suspect that the cast iron method works just as well. (You heat the iron on the stove prior to putting it into the oven).

              2. According to this coal oven pizza guy his oven reachs 1,000 degrees.
                Pretty far from your home oven.

                7 Replies
                1. re: monku

                  A home oven that has a true self clean mode gets pretty close -- probably around 900F. That's how Jeff Varanasos was able get a good approximation of a NY style pizza -- by tricking his oven to operate in self clean mode while cooking pizza. See link upthread.

                  But I concur...nothing beats a hot coal/wood/etc brick oven for Neapolitan pizza making.

                  1. re: fmed

                    There's a thread on CH about the "self cleaning" mode of making pizzas.

                    I've read about people doing their pizza in the BBQ to get that coal fired effect.

                    1. re: monku

                      Now I there is also the "cooking on the bottom of a cast iron pan" method (there is a thread around here on CH somewhere) that we can combine with the "cut the latch off a self clean oven" method to get as close as we can get to a brick oven pizza.

                  2. re: monku

                    agree, "blisters"'/char require 800+ ...
                    as with steak and the fire off a pro salamander
                    ... not at home.

                    1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                      you can "char" anything if left in a 550 degree oven long enough. the question boils down to what type of charring you're looking for (leapording versus a more even char), vs how long you want to cook the pizza.

                      as far as steak goes, infrared at home does a nice job.

                      1. re: tommy

                        blisters (beyond leopard) ...
                        Don't get me wrong ... I've produced some toothsome creations in my time.
                        I'm also aware (and appreciate) that I've never been able to recreate that all too ineluctable je ne sai quoi I've had off a coal-fired pie with home applicances.

                        1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                          don't write off the possibility (i.e., quit), or discourage, is my point.