There are several types of delicious Italian-style pizzas, though as many may know, the delicious factor has a lot to do with how the pizza is cooked. Brick ovens produce the perfect textured pizzas that feature speckled crusts and fluffy, moist dough. Unfortunately, your typical at-home kitchen does not have the privilege of providing its own mom and pop style pizza oven in the comfort of home.
Andreas Glatz, a Northern Illinois University Physicist, and Andrey Varlamov, a Physicist at the Institute of Superconductors, Oxides, and Other Innovate Materials and Devices, question why this doughy phenomena only comes from brick ovens. Glatz points out, “Even if you prepare the pizza the same way, you cannot get the same results with just your oven at home”. The secret to this, as the two concluded in their paper published on arXiv.org, resides in special thermal properties that a brick oven offers.
The two began their cheese layered conquest by interviewing pizzaiolos (pizza makers) in Rome that specialize in Roman-styled Italian pizza. These pizzas are baked for two minutes at 626 degrees Fahrenheit; whereas Neapolitan-style pizzas bake at even higher temperatures. Glatz says that this cook time produces a “well-baked but still moist dough and well-cooked toppings”. The same settings and cook time in a traditional oven yields a much different result. The dough burns before the pizza’s surface even begins to boil; which is very important since you want the cheese and toppings to be well-cooked in addition to the crust.
The two realized that the main difference comes from how much slower the brick oven transfers heat to the pizza dough in comparison to steel ovens (thermal conductivity). A brick oven at 626 degrees will cook the Roman pizza crust at about 392 degrees. Then the pizzas top layer will receive indirect heat at 212 degrees where water will then boil off from the cheese and tomato sauce. After about two minutes, the pizza top and crust is cooked to perfection according to Glatz.
However, steel transfers heat to the pizza much quicker than the brick oven does. Glatz claims that it simply burns and lowering the oven’s temperature does not help since it will then not efficiently cook the top of the pizza.
Even though you can install a ceramic pizza oven in your home, you will still be unable to reach the proper cooking temperature of 626 degrees required for a Roman-style pizza. Most electric over cannot reach that high temperature since the typical upper limit for an at home oven is 550 degrees. On top of that, in order to receive the distinct wood-smoked flavor, you still need a brick oven.
Kenji Lopez-Alt gives us the inside scoop, explaining it might be more effective to make a traditional New York-style pizza at home. However, there may be a solution to getting a delicious Neapolitan pizza from your at-home oven. The answer? the broiler.
You can preheat a steel surface, like a pan or oven floor, inside the oven to about 430 degrees. This will quickly cook the pizza crust while simultaneously the broiler exposes the pizza’s toppings to the ovens direct heat.
Lopez-Alt says that “Steel at 500 degrees can burn the pizza in 60 to 90 seconds, so you can’t be too careful about that”. He explains that if the bottom is going to get burnt, you should pick the pizza up and let it finish under the broiler. He says it, “won’t be the same” as a Neapolitan pizza, but it will create a well-baked crust and fully cooked toppings.
So if you want that special brick oven pizza flavor, fire up your car instead of your at-home oven and drive to your nearest pizza place!