James Lockman shares how his Tappecue thermometer and chamber probe can help with a more non-traditional application. Pizza!
"From time to time, we make pizza on our gas grill. We’ve been making pizza on the grill for years...way before the recent craze of grill top pizza ovens. However, without one, it’s easy to get a pizza with a burned bottom and raw top.
I use two stones like a sandwich. Aluminum foil is draped to trap heat and improve both the pizza quality and the predictability of the cook. The foil extends out beyond the bottom stone and through the grill grate, so that it doesn’t move due to rising hot air. This arrangement allows hot air to flow up into the oven and around the top of the top stone, maintaining even heat throughout the cook.
One of the biggest challenges with this approach is that the grill’s embedded thermometer doesn’t provide accurate readings for the makeshift oven. Tappecue to the rescue!
I position a chamber probe in the front of the oven to tell when the oven is ready to cook. An improvement will be a second chamber probe that will hang under the top stone. It takes around 45 minutes for the stones to get hot enough for cooking, so start the grill and head inside to make the pizza.
The oven temperature is monitored with my mobile phone app and my Apple Watch. I love that Tappecue has a watch integration!
I try to keep the temperature between 400ºF and 450ºF. Last night, the outside temperature was down in the single digits, so it was challenging to keep things above 400ºF, even with all burners in the 'POW-R-ZONE.'
Folks often ask me about the dough. I’ve been happy with our local supermarket pizza dough balls. Santa is awesome and brought us a Cuisinart 14 cup food processor, which we’ve been using to make bread dough. Bread dough in a food processor is awesome, but please use steel blades and have a heavy duty motor. For this recipe, I used Bobby Flay’s pizza dough recipe, which makes two pizza crusts.
First, turn on the oven (not the grill!) to 200°F. I use Christopher Kimball’s proofing box method from his Cook’s Bible, which works great and ensures a good rise for the dough. Add all of the dry ingredients (including yeast) to the food processor, pulse it a couple of times to mix, and then slowly pour the water and oil into the funnel while mixing. Once the dough ball forms, process the dough for a couple of minutes, then let it rest for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pulse the food processor to break it from the walls and blades, and drop it into a bowl to rise. Turn off the oven, cover the dough with Stretch Tite, and let it rise in the warm oven. If you haven’t found Stretch Tite yet, do yourself a favor and go get a roll. This cling wrap is a BBQ marination dream.
For making the pizza, you can use an aluminum or a wooden peel. The wooden one I have is less sticky, but the aluminum one is bigger. For both, use a generous amount of corn meal to ensure a non-stick surface. Throw the dough to make the round pie. It’s OK to roll it out too, but be sure that the middle is thinner than the edge, so that you have a recognizable crust. Add the sauce. On top of the sauce, I put some garlic powder and made certain to cover the exposed crust edge.
Next, I add shredded parmesan, 4-cheese pizza blend and mozzarella. Why three cheeses? The pizza blend doesn’t have enough of the robust parmesan flavor, and shredded mozzarella gives it a little more stretchy goodness. Finally, add your toppings. I added salami to one and onions, mushrooms and veggie sausage to the other.
Even with the corn meal, I jiggle the pie before sliding it onto the hot stone. Is it a jiggle or is it a shake? Maybe a fast twist is more accurate. This goal is to break the bond between the dough and the peel without dislodging any of the toppings. A shaking rotation does a great job of loosening the dough with little or no loss of toppings. Once the pie is loose, it’s onto the grill. Keep the lid up for as little as possible, but you know that already. We cook one at a time, but they don’t take too long to cook. I let each pie cook for about 10 minutes and then gave it a quick peek. Two more minutes or so and out they come.
The key to success is knowing the temperature of the grill. Before getting the Tappecue, I burned or undercooked my pizzas most of the time, because I checked on it too often or too late. Having Tappecue alert me to changes in temperature has allowed me to ensure a consistent cook with delicious results. If you use a grill, be sure to add a chamber probe to your Tappecue toolkit. I won’t use the grill without it."
Pre-Order Chamber Probe (Available to ship by March 22, 2019)