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Second pizza's bottom crust burning very quickly...

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  • Second pizza's bottom crust burning very quickly...

    I would appreciate any ideas/advice/help with a problem I'm having every Pizza Night at home. The first pizza I make and bake almost always turns out very well. The second pizza and any subsequent pizzas often begin smoking within a few seconds of placing the dough on the stone or steel. These pizzas "stick" to the stone/steel so that I have to use some force to push the peel beneath the pizza, and after taking the pizza out, residue remains which must be scraped off. The rest of the pizza, including the crust around the outside, is fine. Inspecting the bottom of the pizza usually reveals greater than 50% of the crust is charred. Again, this charring occurs within a few seconds of placing the pizza in the oven.

    My set-up is as follows:
    1. I usually place my Baking Steel at the second rack position, about 4" below the broiler; I place my baking stone at the middle rack position (the baking stone is my back-up to finish a pizza for when the pizza has the burning problem on the steel.
    2. I pre-heat the oven at 550F for 45-60 minutes, and then I switch to the broiler for about 15 minutes prior to placing the first pizza in the oven.
    3. I shape the pizzas on my counter-top, using a very small amount of flour on the counter for working the dough.
    4. I turn the broiler off and turn the oven back on set once again to 550F just prior to putting the pizza in the oven.
    5. I use a SuperPeel (i.e. the conveyor belt method) to transfer the first pizza to the oven. I use as little flour as possible on the cloth to prevent sticking. (I've recently started using rice flour for this, as I read that it burns less easily, but it doesn't seem to make a difference with the problem I am having.) With this method, I don't have a problem with dough sticking to the peel and there is very little "extra" flour deposited on the steel/stone.
    6. After four to five minutes the first pizza is done, and I remove it from the oven (with an aluminum peel). Because of my experiences with the burning crust problem, I've experimented with "cleaning" the steel between pizzas. In the past, I've brushed any excess residue off the steel. I now wet a towel and run it quickly once or twice over the surface. Whether I clean it or not, and whichever method I might use for cleaning the steel, do not seem to make any difference with subsequent burning.
    7. I turn the broiler back on and let it super-heat the steel for five minutes while I prepare the second pizza following steps three through five above.
    8. When I set the second pizza on the steel, smoke may immediately appear from beneath the pizza (by immediately, I mean less than five seconds), setting-off the smoke alarm in the kitchen (a bit annoying, and embarrassing when making pizzas for guests). As I describe in the initial paragraph, when this happens the bottom crust of the pizza is significantly charred and solid residue is stuck to the steel.

    I've been having this problem for quite a while, and I have tried to systematically vary my methods and procedure in an attempt to identify a cause for this problem, but I've not discovered one yet. Sometimes everything goes well, and so I replicate that method/procedure the next Pizza Night, but this time the pizza burns. To forestall some suggestions, I've tried the following so far:
    1. Varying the peel I use: wooden versus aluminum versus a SuperPeel.
    2. The type and amount of flour used to prevent sticking: AP flour, bread flour, semolina flour, and rice flour.
    3. Using a baking stone versus the baking steel.
    4. Not cleaning the platform between pizzas, to cleaning by brush, by wet towel, and by dry towel.
    5. Varying the amount of time I use the broiler between the pizzas, from no time to 15 minutes.
    6. Varying the thickness of the dough after shaping (although I admit that since I'm trying to make a thin-crust pizza, I try to stretch the dough thin).

    I apologize for the long post, but as I wrote, I've been struggling with this issue for a long time now. I always make my wife's pizza first, which she likes well enough to put up with the smoke alarm sounding so often. She has learned even to stand by with an extra peel to wave away the smoke from the alarm.

    And finally, I'm stubborn and I want to use the steel and the broiler method, because, when it works, it produces very good pizzas, and so I want to solve this problem. Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    It would be interesting to see what your actual temps are at the baking surface. Do you have an IR gun? If not they are pretty cheap and widely available. What kind of dough are you making...slow ferment, with or without oil? Is this an electric or gas oven? It seems like this is a temperature issue and until you can get some readings on the cooking surface...

    Let us know, nobody should be frustrated with at least one good pizza at a time
    Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
    Roseburg, Oregon

    FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
    Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile


    • #3
      In a wood oven we often test temps with semolina if it turns black within 3 seconds the surface is to hot, my first impression is that you should not use the broiler on the plate between pizzas ,but as SS said above, without accurate temps on the steel we can only guess


      • #4
        I rejected the idea of the temperature being too high almost from the beginning, since it seemed to me that the baking steel would be at its hottest when I put the first pizza on it. I reasoned that using the broiler to re-heat the steel between pizzas would bring the temperature back up to the initial temperature, but not higher. However, as both responses focused on temperature, I will test it tonight and report back.

        As for the questions SableSprings asks, I have an electric oven, and I make a wild-yeast, slow-ferment dough with no oil or sugar and around 65% hydration.

        And to Toomulla, I'm not sure I will have time to find an inexpensive IR gun prior to making pizzas this evening, and so I will try the semolina test you mentioned.

        Thanks to both for your suggestions.


        • #5
          It appears that this "logic" is more difficult than I thought. I threw a bit of semolina on the baking steel prior to putting the second pizza in, and it began burning immediately. I now have to re-think my approach to heating the baking steel. I was working with the idea that I should get the oven as hot as possible to approach the same type of crust as a wood-fired oven. I suppose that the greater thermal conductivity of the steel over stone means that too much heat can be transferred to the crust even with the steel surface temperature several hundred degrees lower than a wood-fired oven. It still does not make sense to me why the first pizza bottom does not burn immediately, given the amount of pre-heating I do, but it is clear that the steel is too hot for subsequent pizzas.

          I appreciate your help with this.

          I'm also required to add a statement that my wife was correct all along and that I will always listen to her in the future.


          • #6
            Remember that the reason the steel is put into an oven to preheat is to bring the metal to an equalized temperature with the oven. Using the broiler is like the difference of standing in the shade versus out in the sun. That radiant heat from the broiler changes the temp of the steel dramatically...(and different from the set oven temp) as you've seen.

            I suspect you'll get the best results by not using the broiler and allowing more time between pizzas to allow the steel to recover and equalize. Obviously you're happy with the first pizza, so simply extend the dinner hour

            (...and yes, smile and nod is always the best course of action for us guys )
            Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
            Roseburg, Oregon

            FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
            Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile