By: (Link: www.jeffhillyard.com) Jeff Hillyard
As you may know, I’ve been on a bit of a pizza kick lately. Much to the dismay of my wife I’ve been making pies a couple of times a month, taking up space on the counter or in the refrigerator to bulk ferment, and I keep asking her if she thinks my sauce tastes better than the last time.
One accessory I had my eye on for pizza making was the (Link: www.kettlepizza.com) KettlePizza (KP), a stainless steel insert that sits in a Weber Kettle and allows you to fire pies into it much like a traditional pizza oven.
I’ve owned my KettlePizza for a few months now, and I’ve taken the time to use it, play with it, tweak a few things, and finally, I'm at the point where I think I can make a decent bit of ‘za with it.
There are several different packages of KP available, from the basic which just includes the insert and a pizza pan that retails for $139.95, to a top of the line kit that was designed with the help of Kenji from (Link: www.seriouseats.com) Serious Eats and retails for $429.95 (more on that later). I went with a middle of the road kit which also included a larger, thicker cordierite pizza stone than what I already owned and an aluminum pizza peel.
Assembly was a snap, didn’t even need the instructions.
For my first time around, I did read the instructions on how to set up the KP. In short, they recommend you light a full charcoal chimney and dump it in the back of the kettle in a "C" pattern, this way no charcoal gets under the pizza stone. In my case, I used my charcoal baskets to help make the "C" and added about half of a chimney full of unlit briquettes as well as 4 – 5 chunks of hardwood. The hardwood will not smolder, but rather ignite and help get high temps (above 700°F).
After my first couple of attempts at pizza on the KP, I noticed the following: I was having a hard time getting my temp much above 500°F, and I was having difficulty sliding my pizzas off the peel and not hitting the KP while trying to shake the pizza off.
I did notice that it helped to add more flour than I thought was necessary to my wooden peel and that it was best to basically shove the whole peel into the KP, lay it down almost flat on the stone, and try to shake it off in one smooth movement. Also, don't get into the habit of making one pizza on the peel while another pizza is cooking. There's no way you're getting the un-cooked pizza off the peel without making a mess.
As for my temp issue, I re-read the instruction manual and I immediately noticed why I was having trouble: I was leaving the top vent 100% open. The end result, the heat was going straight up and out of the KP. Bam, easy fix.
Once I made that correction, and as I got more practice, I was starting to make pretty decent pies. It even got to the point where my wife told me that they were starting to taste like real pizzeria pizza's, not just some crap I made in the back yard (gee, thanks, honey).
As time went on, and the pizzas were getting more consistent, I decided to try and see just how hot I could get KP. I looked at the Serious Eats kit and noted that a major advantage was the addition of the baking steel lid that went on in place of the kettle lid. By adding the baking steel, you’re able to radiate heat very rapidly and cook pizza in minutes.
I decided to try and replicate it best I could. I took a second grill grate and wrapped it in tinfoil, and then I placed a second pizza stone on top. Couple of things to point out: 1 – after this pic was taken I had to re-do the tinfoil and put it on top of the grill grate (if you put it under the grill grate, it will droop down onto the pizza), 2 – don’t go out and buy a second stone just for this. I had an extra stone, and it didn’t matter to me if it broke due to high temps. Basically, do this at your own risk.
After I did this, I was able to crank out pies in a matter of minutes. The temp gauge on the side eventually went way past the 700°F mark a few mins after this pic was taken. Definitely a neat hack.
Bottom line, is the KettlePizza worth it?
Do you need a KP to make pizza on your kettle? No. Does it make it easier? I don’t think so. Is it really cool? Hells yes.
I think if you only make pizza a couple of times a year, the KP is not for you. But, if you’re someone like me who really enjoys making pizza it’s definitely a good buy. The price of admission is worth the coolness factor alone.
I also think that if you want to really get your money’s worth of your KettlePizza, it would definitely be worth looking at the Serious Eats kit. This kit (combined with the Weber Kettle) would make for the closest thing you will get to a real wood fired pizza oven on your patio without spending thousands of dollars.