Cooking Poco Pizzas
After starting this business, I learned one thing really quickly...
No two ovens are alike.
Moreover, I don't think any two of you have ever cooked a pizza the same way. There are apparently a million ways to bake a frozen pizza, and you've all developed your own style. But you were taught by 'Big Pizza'. The mass-produced frozen pizza producers, who I still have a fond place for in my heart after I've had a couple beers, have spent decades training you how to make their pizzas. Directly on the oven rack, middle of the oven, and you're in front of the television munching away in under 15 minutes. This kind of ingenuity makes you downright proud to be an American.
But let's cut right to it. Those frozen pizza crusts were developed in a laboratory. Read the ingredients list. It's incredible. They were engineered to be so crisp you could soak them in water and they'd still have a decent crunch to them. And if you're ok with eating the chemical compounds that make that possible, then I'm ok with it, too. I still grab a Jack's Pizza from the store once in a while, because it's the same as how I love truly authentic Mexican food, but sometimes I just really want Taco Bell.
My pizzas are different. Here's how:
My pizzas are all 12 inches, and weigh roughly 2lbs, give or take a few ounces. I did have a 4lb Meatball Pizza once because I got seriously carried away. The average frozen pizza sold in the United States is around 1lb. They're also mostly an 11" pizza, and I have no idea why people aren't up in arms over this travesty. I could go lighter on the toppings, but I'm making pizzas with the best, home-grown ingredients I can, so my pride tends to give me a heavy hand with the toppings.
My thin crust is custom made for us by Baker's Quality Pizza Crusts in Waukesha, WI. It's a clean label with no weird stuff. Just good, wholesome food. There are no odd chemical crisping agents or stuff you can't pronounce. Sometimes when I overload these, the crust doesn't crisp up as much. I could go lighter on the toppings but most customers have commented that they like the size.
Wood Fired Crusts
My wood fired Italian crusts are hand made in Modena, Italy. They are wonderfully inconsistent--each one is like a snow flake. They each have different bursts and bubbles, shapes, and thicknesses. Made with just 5 ingredients: Flour, Water, Oil, Salt, and Yeast. They are wood fired in an large oak oven and are a genuine taste of the best of Italy. This is the only non-local item on my menu, but it's truly the best. These crusts aren't made to be crispy. They are made to be soft and eaten with a fork as they do in Italy, though most of you have learned you can crisp them up more on your own if that's your preference.
- For those of you who just skimmed the upper paragraphs and started reading here, go back and read that stuff. I'm on to you.
- Cook the pizza in a pizza oven or preferably on a Pizzazz Pizza Oven. I only use the Pizzazz, because you can choose to crisp up the crust more, or cook the toppings more. I am a pizza peeker, so with opening the door ever 5 minutes it's like my pizzas never get done in the oven. And on the Pizzazz you can pull a chair up and watch the whole time! They take a little longer, but you just can't go wrong. It works for so much more than pizza. And for those of you who "Don't need one more thing cluttering up the kitchen"... I'm rolling my eyes at you. Box up the blender, waffle iron, food processor and anything else you use maybe once a year, and replace them with this magical machine you will use every week. I'm not being payed by the Pizzazz people. I just love this pizza oven so much.
- If cooking in an oven, make sure 425º is really 425º in your oven. If you've never calibrated your oven since installing it, do it. Test it at a 200º, 350º, and 500º. I've noticed a lot of folks have a stable 350º oven but it doesn't actually get hot enough in the upper ranges.
- Cook the pizzas on the lower rack, closer to the heat source. This will crisp up the crust and let the cheese brown last. As mentioned above, the pizzas are a bit overloaded. So setting the pizza directly on a simple sheet of foil will prevent that awful 'drip-sizzle' thing we hate hearing coming from our ovens.
- Always cook the Wood Fired Italian Crust pizzas directly on a sheet of foil. As mentioned above, they are hand made, artisanal crusts. You've lived a life with beautifully consistent food products. Which is great. But the magic in these is that they're hand made. Some can have paper thin spots in the middle. I typically feed those that are too thin to my pigs, but some sneak through. So a sheet of foil, lower rack.
- If you are an oven peeker, go ahead and add 5-10 minutes to your cook time from the beginning. Once a door is open, you've stopped the cooking process and it can take a couple minutes for your oven to bounce back. Even if your oven temp comes back in a minute, the cooking process takes longer to pick up where it left off. I'm also guilty of this in the worst way. I get so excited watching stuff cook.
- If you're cooking a couple at one time, put them both on their own sheet of foil. One pizza on the upper rack, one on the lower. When the top pizza looks done, swap places with the bottom pizza so that the crust can finish cooking. I get it. The commercial, mass produced pizzas don't require this kind of care. So it is an extra step, but it's necessary.
- Don't cook the pizzas on a pan. The pans take longer to heat up than a sheet of foil. A frozen pizza on a cool pan can cause my more substantial pizzas to stick, it also creates this steaming thing for the first couple minutes which makes crust crispness impossible. The foil is a better heat conductor.
- If using a pizza stone, make sure it's very well preheated, and a very well seasoned stone. There is nothing worse than a new, clean pizza stone. Your stone with a lot of use should be essentially non-stick. With a lot of items having been cooked on and baked off over the years.