The muscle-flexing machismo and FOMO of flaming ovens--and why you can be happy with your standard home appliance…
There is so much chest pounding about pizza ovens out there. It’s tiresome. I have nothing against the ovens. I have nothing against the people who use them. Some of those people are doing amazing things with them.
But for the most part, when I see consumer-grade outdoor pizza ovens being touted around and about on social media, I also see a lot of (choose one):
b) scorched crust
d) all of the above
An oven is just a tool. It does the job it’s supposed to do in concert with the skillset of the user. There is also nothing wrong with using a home oven to make pizza. And with 20 years of making pizza—half of it with a 1,200-pound wood-fired dome oven living inside my kitchen—the electric home oven remains my favorite way to make pizza. Am I just a gadfly?
Real bakers think I’m a heretic. And, of course, the online pizza people are right there with the real bakers. They’ll jump right in and say, “Don’t listen to him! He’s wrong!” Well, like I say at the very beginning of Free The Pizza!, I have no professional training. I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Here’s what I do know: after 20 years and more than 1,000 pizzas, I’ve figured out some things. And one of those things is that weighing the ingredients isn’t some kind of silver bullet. And I don’t think, as a beginner, you should a) have to buy a kitchen scale, and b) be lulled into complacency by watching the numbers.
This week’s Saturday Afternoon Pizza Post was going to be about the Netflix series, Chef’s Table: Pizza. But I can’t do it. It’s too long. It’s too cumbersome. I’m too overwhelmed by the brooding, self-important filmmaking that makes tortured souls of these fantastic professionals who deserve to be portrayed as joyful and excited. It was making me brooding and angst-ridden. And you don’t want me to make you read that.
The easiest recommendation about the series is this: watch episode #1 and take inspiration from Chris Bianco. He is a pizza God who brings joy to the series. And his canned tomatoes are excellent.
Instead, I’m doing a U-turn today. I’ve put Netflix on the back burner. Instead, I’m going to talk about something that brings me joy. And if you’re someone who loves using good tools that function well, you will find joy here as well. And perhaps there will be blood.
Free The Pizza says: Here's how to win the pizza-making mind game with a little mise en place and some useful psychobabble.
Don’t hate me because it’s French. Mise en place is a phrase that’s used in kitchens around the world. Mise en place can change your game in more ways than you imagine. And as a bonus, mise en place also refers to something you never expected. It involves psychology and is going to mess with your head in a good way. I promise.
If you don’t know mise en place, here’s a rough phonetic pronunciation that will probably get me into trouble with my high-school French teacher (she was an American chauvinist for France who had no sense of humor and always wore double-knit slacks): you say it “meez on plass.” Or, as the pros say in pro kitchen slang, “Meez.” Like, “How’s your mis?” Or, “Is your mis ready?” Contrary to popular myth, it has nothing to do with Les Mis-erables.
There’s a problem with Pizza Social. (In case you don’t know, Pizza Social is the social mediasphere where self-appointed experts dogpile on to tell you that you’re doing it wrong with your pizza.)
Example: You post a photo and say, “This is my first pizza! It’s not round. But it tastes great. Yay, me!” Reply: “It’s not round!" "That cornicione is too big!" "What’s your percentage?" "Your dough hydration is too low! You need to be at least 65% hydration! More water!”
You’re a beginning pizza maker. You have no idea what this means. You’re just happy you made something that tasted great. Step one: solved!
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the new, 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, professional-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?
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