Tips for Pizza Making from our La Cucina Romana Cooking Vacation
I’ll never forget the night my husband decided to grill pizza while we were on vacation in the Bahamas. There were no outdoor lights, and after he was done with the dough and assembling all the ingredients to the top the pizza with, it had grown dark out… But there wasn’t any oven in our rental, so we had to make do with the outdoor grill. His solution? Use a head lamp. The pizzas turned out wonderfully, and it’s a memory I’ll remember forever… but making pizza outdoors doesn’t always have to be so difficult!
In fact, grills and wood-fired ovens are often the best way to cook a pizza. That’s because it can get much hotter than your traditional oven, resulting in a crispier crust and even some delicious char. According to one of the hosts, Mike, of our La Cucina Romana in the Sabine Hills cooking vacation, “The temperature should be approximately 500 degrees or higher for pizza, but lower for meats so they cook more slowly. Round, domed ovens will evenly distribute the heat around and down.”
But even before you warm up that oven or grill, be sure to clean it out… As Mike says, “it should be ‘washed’ off with a wet rag or towel at the end of an oven spatula or stick, to remove the soot or ash from the cooking surface.” After that, Mike advises lighting the fire 2-3 hours in advance — at least if you’re using a wood fired oven, like you do during one of his cooking classes — so that the fire has a chance to evenly heat the oven and provide super hot embers. “Plan ahead and have a good supply of wood on hand (100 kilos) so that you have enough to burn a fire for more than 3 hours. When fire is evenly burning and mostly white hot embers, use long handed oven tools and move them to the side of the oven.”
That’s not all. Flour is an important component to getting the right crust on your pizza too. As Mike says, “Make sure there is plenty of flour or “farina” on the bottom pizza round and on the bottom of the oven. Before topping the pizza and to ensure a thin but crispy bottom, pre-cook the round for 2 minutes before pulling it out and topping it. Place the sauce and favorite toppings on the pizza and place back into oven for up to five or ten minutes, depending on desired “doneness” or crispness.”
Cooking a pizza on the grill is actually rather similar, although you may want to make your crust a bit thicker than a traditional Italian-style pizza to help it from falling through the grates. Additionally, rather than using flour on the dough, you’ll want to brush one side of the dough with oil so it doesn’t stick. As with the wood-fired oven, you’ll want to cook the dough for a minute or two first before adding the toppings. Once the toppings are added, put the lid on the grill and allow it to cook for just a couple minutes — it doesn’t take long!
Learn more about cooking pizza outdoors, as well as other traditional Italian dishes, with a trip to our La Cucina Romana in the Sabine Hills culinary vacation.
By Liz Hall
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