To get charring like this, you need a HOT pizza stone.
Let's talk about temperature, and the way to measure it.
(By the way: that's medium-grind cornmeal. Next time, it's gonna be this instead.)
BackgroundPizza. Let me count the ways that it is awesome.
OK, I counted a lot.
To make a reliably good pizza at home, or anywhere else, you need results that can be duplicated.
And to do that, it helps to get a handle on the temperature.
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In This Article
How Hot Is A Home Oven?
No Ordinary Thermometer
Neapolitan Temperatures At Home
How Hot Is a Home Oven?
Most home ovens top out around 500 to 550 Fahrenheit. A lot depends on the make and model of oven. It also depends on how old the oven is; newer ovens might have more uniform temperature control, but they also limit the top-end temperature, because they figure you're never going to need it. That's one of those instances where an engineer or programmer guesses wrong or uses bad data ("garbage in"), and the result is something that limits you ("garbage out").
By chance, I got this kitchen oven that allows pizza-baking temperatures at home. (When I say pizza-baking temperatures, I mean well above the ones required for New York style.) No glass top, no fancy digital controls... and it's not even that pleasant to look at. But it works.
No Ordinary Thermometer
Earlier I decided to review one of these. It works great, and seems to hold the heat.
I was curious just how hot this stone could get in our oven. So I picked up one of these, which every home pizza maker should have. I can't even believe how handy this thing is if you're baking stuff.
Already, it was pretty obvious that our oven was way hot. As in, somewhere far above 550 Fahrenheit. It already maxes out a standard oven thermometer past 600 F, the highest number on the scale. And that's not even with the broiler on.
Back when my wife first tried making meat loaf, she burned it. Instead of blaming her inexperience, I went ahead and charred a batch of cookies. I realized the oven is a full 100 degrees hotter than the dial says. But it's sort of non-linear. So when you set the dial to 550 F...
...well, I checked it with this super-handy thermometer. At the surface of the pizza stone, it read 705 degrees Fahrenheit.
Seven hundred degrees in a home oven, without activating the cleaning cycle. And that's without the broiler being on.
Neapolitan Temperatures At Home
I don't know that you're going to get these kinds of temperatures in your oven. Most ovens turn off the broiler when the oven gets to 550 or 600. Digital ovens try to be "smart" but they're actually dumb.
If you're lucky, though, you might achieve this...
That's not even the hottest it got.
Try 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
But I couldn't stand it long enough to get a photo, because my hand was getting burned, and I was trying to hold the camera too.
The good news: if you can't get temperatures this high, you can still make a good pizza. New York style doesn't need those super high temperatures. 500 to 550 for 6 to 10 minutes, and you could get a very good pizza.
Better yet, just get one of these for your charcoal grill. If I didn't have an oven that could do 700-800 F, I would totally get one of these. You can use wood to fire this too, if for some reason you don't want to use charcoal.
I know a couple ovens that will cook a pizza in three-and-a-half minutes. Mine can do better, but 3:30 is not bad. Four minutes is not even bad. I'll have to check with this thermometer. It works so well and so simply. The only major consideration is to pick a surface with high emissivity .
Polished stainless steel has very low emissivity, so your readings will be very low (inaccurate).
A pizza stone, especially one with a dull, rough surface, has high emissivity. Well-seasoned cast iron is very good, too. As a general rule: oxidized, dull, rough, & sooty surfaces will read well with this thermometer. That's good, because my pizza stone is lookin' pretty primitive by now.
As good as they are, I don't think a Baking Steel would give you accurate readings with an infra-red thermometer, though (polished steel has lower emissivity). With time, this would change.
If you could get a pizza steel that was made of plain carbon steel, and let it blacken with use over a long time the emissivity will go up. I don't know if this one would blacken faster than a Baking Steel or not, but it does say "carbon steel". That means you should be able to get it to turn black eventually. (For baking, I love old-fashioned, ugly, functional stuff anyway.)
ConclusionIf you bake pizza, bread, or just about anything else that needs temperature control, get one of these thermometers immediately.
I could have used this page to review any expensive gadget I wanted, but here I'm reviewing a thermometer that costs less than 20 bucks. That's because I like to help you get the best products to make life easier. Please use the links on here to buy your gear; it's the only way I can keep this site online and bringing you helpful articles like this one.
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