Homemade pizza burnt alert! Can you char like the pros, how much char is too much--and why is it such a battle?
Let’s be clear: When you make pizza, char happens. Especially if you’re doing it the way I recommend in my book Free The Pizza. I’m a big proponent of what's known as "the broiler method" for baking pizza. But why do some folks feel that char is a war to be fought far and wide?
Using the broiler technique gives your home oven thermodynamic characteristics similar to those of a professional pizza deck oven. And with a little practice, the result is a pizza that people love.
Char is one result of the Maillard reaction. This is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars in cooking food. It results in (get ready) melanoidins! These are "high molecular weight heterogeneous polymers." (Yes, this will be on the quiz.) Melanoidins taste great, and you enjoy them on all kinds of foods, from pan-fried dumplings to well-seared steaks. In the Maillard process, char is a step past brown before we get to burnt.
But what about char on pizza? Do people love that? I believe so. But what is char? When is it a Maillard too far? If you’re making homemade pizza in a standard home oven, there’s a chance you don’t encounter char. That’s especially true if you’re using the bake setting only.
Mr. Bill’s Mighty Meaty Madness With Mushrooms--wild & crazy picture of a homemade pizza non-recipe you can make.
Last week, I created a pizza called Mr. Bill’s Mighty Meaty Madness With Mushrooms. It’s a tribute to Bill, a friend of ours who likes a meat-forward pizza.
Would you like the recipe? I don’t have one. And this makes people crazy. I don’t have codified recipes. I contend that pizza is not recipes. Pizza is practice.
Making pizza is not a one-time thing. You have to first learn the process of how to make a basic dough recipe, and then turn it into a pizza. Once you do that, you become a practitioner of pizza.
I can give you the closest thing I have to a recipe for Mr. Bill’s Mighty Meaty Madness With Mushrooms. And that is showing you how I developed it. (If you already know how to make pizza, you can jump ahead to the non-recipe at the bottom of this tale.)
Welcome to the pizza topping Americans love to hate. I know a guy who, in college, would always order his pizza with double anchovies.
That way, he was guaranteed nobody would want any of his pizza. But this much maligned little fish is so much more than just the punchline to a joke.
There’s a lot of general food hate for unfamiliar foods—and some of it is deserved. Anchovies especially have been given such shoddy treatment at the hands of cooks who don’t care.
(ABOVE: Gratuitous image of a dough ball kneaded by hand, then placed in a glass bowl on an imitation walnut tabletop for maximum photogenic contrast.)
Some people will tell you that kneading pizza dough by hand is a dumb idea. Look at all the dough-mixing technology around you! Food processors! Stand mixers! Planetary mixers!
Hell, why are you even making your own dough? Buy it premade! There's perfectly good dough to be had in the supermarket! (You can see the slippery slope here. Soon, you're just buying the pizza of shame from a national pizza delivery chain, eating it in the dark and crying into your Chianti.)
TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains opinions about favorite styles of pizza that you may find objectionable. There is also a non-specific recipe that could make you cry.
Does chicken belong on pizza? That’s a big NO! Unless, of course, it’s a big YES! Either way, it’s a debate for the ages.
It might not be as intense and polarizing and likely to lead to fisticuffs as the interminable pineapple-pizza debate. And let’s face it, in this age of hair-trigger wuss-dome and “My rant is more righteous than your rant” life philosophy, nothing will ever match the fever pitch of the anti-pineapple punditry.
Nonetheless, the chicken-on-pizza debate rages in small corners of the my-pizza-loving/your-pizza-hating world. The struggle is real. And it’s a great way to avoid debating things that actually matter, like Voter ID laws or the designated hitter rule.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, pro-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
When you click those links to Amazon (and a few other sites we work with), and you buy something, you are helping this website stay afloat, and you're helping us have many more glorious photographs of impressive pizza.