Sunday, April 17, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 4)

Last time, I tested quarry tiles for baking pizza, with 6 tiles in a 2x3 grid. But I have 12 tiles, so I decided to see if there was any benefit to stacking the tiles on top of each other.

The theory is that a thicker stone holds heat better, which is why many bakers seek out the thickest baking stones they can find. I was pretty happy with the way the pizza baked on my single layer of quarry tiles, but wondered if a double layer would be better.

Again, I preheated the oven for an hour. At the 45-minute mark, the tiles were at 525 degrees and at one hour, it was at 549 degrees. Slightly lower than when I tested the single layer at the same interval.

At exactly 8 minutes, the pizza was done, with a nicely browned underside. The top was just slightly less baked than the previous pizza. Not enough say it wasn't done enough, but enough to be noticeable. I wasn't sure what to attribute that to, and I also wondered why the stone wasn't any hotter than 549 degrees after an hour in the oven.

It took me just a little while to figure out the answer to both of those questions.

The difference wasn't the thickness of the double layer - it was the oven going through its heat cycles. So whatever slight difference there was in baking could be attributed to the oven.

Since I had nearly identical results baking on the double layer as when I baked on the single layer of tiles, there's no benefit that I can see in stacking the tiles, and a whole lot of downside, including the need to arrange 12 tiles instead of six.

To mitigate my annoyance with stacking tiles, I bought a 3/4 sheet pan to hold them. That worked to allow me to take them out all at once, but they still shifted around enough so that if I was placing the tile-filled pan in the oven, I needed to adjust the tiles once the pan was in place.

The benefit to using the pan was that it caught drips and spills that fell between the tiles. But the real downside was the ghastly scraping noise it made whenever I put the pan in or took it out. If I ever go back to using quarry tiles, I'll opt to use six tiles and arrange them directly on the rack.

But how will these tiles far compared to stones products that are made for pizza? Don't worry, we're getting there.


Leaper said...

I think I read someone - on The Fresh Loaf maybe? - talking about using tiles in a pan for a similar purpose, and they put a second layer underneath with them upsidedown, spread out to touch the edges, so the ridges on the bottoms of the tiles interlocked and held everything together and stable.

Donna Currie said...

Leaper, you might have read it here. I tried that, and it sort of worked, but they still shifted around after a while. I'm constantly moving my racks around, so they always needed to be adjusted.

Anonymous said...

Again, Donna, a great report and well worth the read. I thought about raw quarry tiles, including the double layer becasue they are inexpensive. About a year ago, I went with a painfully expensive FibraMent stone, as thick as available and custom-cut to fit one of my half sheet pans. It is much easier to handle when contained in a pan!! The operations folks called be back to double-check the size and cautioned about some heat expansion and I allowed them to reduce by 1/8". I don't remember the exact thickness, but it is well above the pan. Limited by an old, lame electric oven, I sought the largest heat-sinc mass that I could find. I also limited it to the half-sheet pan for handeling and to allow reasonable air circulation within the oven. For pizza or bread or anything else on the stone, I preheat for a full hour. If I'm still seeing frequent element cycles, I extend 10-15 minutes. It makes great pizza, if I do not screw up simething else. Pleaced at mid-level, it bakes breads that are fully equal to my dough and shaping skill. I know that some folks have been unhappy with FibraMent stones. I am not one one them. I am delighted, but I paid the extra bucks for a whopping thick stone, cot exactly to fit a containment pan and again, I bit my pocketbook. I could not be happier and it performes as advertized. I guess thte serious take-home for pizza cooking surfaces is primarily getting them hot enough. In my own kitchen, the next trial will be a large, rectangular cast iron griddle that has been rehabed. Moderatley heavy, smooth on one side and ribbed on the other. It is useless on t he stovetop or the grille, but it may, repeat *may* help with home-oven pizza. As always, a substantial pre-heat is part of my game and door openings are carefully planned to be as short as physically possible. Happy baking! -C.

Anonymous said...

Third try for the above -C.

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