Spoon and ladle, meet the spoodle. I hate my spoodle. Can you make fantastic pizza without this ingenious hunk of miracle hardware?
It’s a fantastic April morning. The sky is a hopeful and promising blue. The birds are singing songs filled with lust. And I am sitting here in the garden, coming to a frustrating realization: I hate my spoodle. Beware the expertise of others and the tips they bring you. (Me included.)
First, you’re probably asking what in the name of the Holy Mother Of Pearl is a “spoodle” anyway. It’s the logical yet awful contractional name for a tool that is part spoon, part ladle while bringing the best qualities of neither implement. Yes, it sounds like a breed of dog which is a cross between a spaniel and a poodle. Maybe it is. If so, keep it out of my kitchen and away from the pizza.
The spoodle is basically a flat-bottomed ladle with little to no angle in the handle. It was recommended as the ideal instrument for spreading pizza sauce. The recommendation came from the writers of an epic book about pizza making.
These writers (who have tested all tools and techniques) liked the spoodle's flat bottom. They suggest that it’s better for spreading pizza sauce evenly.
So I bought one. Silly me. I’ve found that it’s not better for spreading pizza sauce. At least, it’s not better in my world.
I’ve been making pizza for over 20 years. From Day One of pizza, I was spreading pizza sauce the way I’d seen it done in pizza parlors: A ladle of sauce is spilled into the center of the stretched dough.
Then, using the rounded bottom of the ladle bowl, the pizza maker spirals the sauce outward around the pizza to be. Stopping to add more sauce if necessary, the spiral is continued to the outer edge of the pizza.
The spoodle does not work well like this. Based on my experience, I can argue that it doesn’t work at all. Spreading the sauce spoodle-wise is an exercise in futility. The flat bottom of the spoodle either spreads too much sauce, or it wipes the sauce clean away.
Perhaps there is a spoodle-dance technique that I lack. I’m sure somewhere out there someone has a cheery instructional video on how to spoodle. Let’s google it!
And herein lies the rub with trying other people’s techniques. First of all, a) you don’t know if you’re getting the full intel on their technique. Has every nuance of their technique been made apparent, or are you twisting in the breeze of a dark night, hanging by a branch of the pizza tree with a spoodle dangling from your wrist?
And b), if you already have an effective technique honed over many years, change is a pain in the ass. It doesn’t matter how much you tell me that your technique is better. My neural pathways have been carved, cemented and plated in steel for the foreseeable future.
It’s not that I don’t try other saucing techniques. I’ve tried using wide-spout squeeze bottles for spreading sauce. It’s OK. It’s especially useful for Trenton-style tomato pie, where the sauce is on top of the cheese. But you still have to bring a spoon or other tool into the process to spread that sauce a bit.
I’ve tried spreading sauce with my hands. Don’t laugh. It’s a time-honored tradition. I tried spreading sauce with my hands because I saw video footage of Sal Consiglio of the legendary Sally’s Apizza in New Haven, Connecticut spreading sauce with his a hands. If it’s good enough for one of the godfathers of New Haven’s world-famous pizza scene, it’s good enough fore me.
Except it’s not. Forget using your hands. It’s messy and it wastes a lot of good tomato. Having your digits slathered in sauce is no fun, either. Maybe it’s an OCD thing. I dunno.
At the end of the day, I have a favorite method nobody taught me. I find the most practical method for spreading sauce is the one that I’ve modeled from pros who’ve been doing it in front of me my whole life.
One of the beauties of pizza is that it’s one of the few specialty cuisines that’s always prepared in full view. It’s a show, and you get to see how it all works.
I’ve watched Chris Bianco make pizza. I’ve seen the pizza team of small, swarthy men at Mozza in Los Angeles making one pizza after another like a hellsapoppin pizza machine. I’ve watched dozens of pizza makers in an uncountable number of pizza joints making pizza in more or less the same way for decades.
I’ve watched and borrowed their techniques. That doesn’t mean what I do is “right” or smart. But it works.
The Lesson: Be wary of tips from pros (or from the Self-Appointed Pizza Police of The Great Social Media Pizza Parlor Of Blind Men Describing An Elephant).
Yes, they know things. It doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Or that you fully understand their method. Or that they fully understand what you’re doing when they make sage advice in the vacuum of incomplete intel.
I hate my spoodle, but I have hope. I will revisit it on occasion. I will silently curse the expert who told me to use it. And one day, perhaps I will learn.
That’s doesn’t mean you have to. Part of the deal here is in defining what successful pizza means in your world.
I’m not a pizza chauvinist. I don’t demand you adhere to my best practices. I know only that I have a method that works. I’ve taught it. It works for other people who’ve thanked me. You are free to try my methods and then curse my name. Enjoy!
If you’re just starting your pizza journey and want to make the pizza of everyone’s imaginings in a spoodle-free zone, you can check out my silly little book, Free The Pizza: A System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have by clicking here.
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?
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