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Pizza/ high temp troubles

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Hi all,

I've just done my second round of pizzas, which although yummy, were cooked at only 400F. I has this temp trouble last time as well.

On this occasion, I was more aggressive with the weed burner, and lit multiple spots in the charcoal basket- top gasket wide open/ bottom vent wide open and pulled out. Had a roaring fire with flames shooting up from the coals (using the basket splitter in the 32" BB with the basket set at 50%). Within 15-20min I was approaching 400F, so decided to put in top grate/ pizza stone to give them a proper 1hr+ time to heat soak. But from that point on, despite the top and bottom staying wide open, I never got the dome temp above 400F. Pizzas took 15min+ to cook, so have no reason to believe the temp was any higher- but at this cooking time and temp, no great advantage over using my oven...

So- what should I change next time? Do I need a full basket (no splitter) to achieve 500F with a pizza stone in a 32"BB? Or should I only put in the stone/ top grate once I'm already at 500F dome?

Appreciate any tips



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I can't give 32" specific advice as I have a 23", but I don't use a basket splitter, and I'm careful to use "too much" lump charcoal, larger chunks loosely spaced to maximize airflow. My hoard of KK coffee lump is precious; I'll use a Fogo charcoal for pizza.

My problem is usually overshooting, not undershooting. Till you figure this out, be generous and loose with your lump. You're an apprentice arsonist, hoping to work on the line someday. Aaron Franklin thinks in "smoke", his cooker designs are all based on his intuitions for airflow. I have no idea what he's talking about, but you clearly need to work your way down from "sufficient" airflow. The KK won't melt if you watch it.

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2 hours ago, Troble said:

I always fill the basket when cooking pizza, it usually finishes 50% or more full but  I’d start with that first. My best results are at 500-515 temp 

Thanks- so would you remove/ disassemble the basket splitter when cooking pizza? I honestly thought 50% split with it filled up would have been sufficient. Still had leftover charcoal in there after the cooking session- despite being unable to nudge the temp any higher than 400…

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Remi pizza cooks burn the most charcoal, even though the cook may only last an hour.
Definitely fill the basket.
Once everything has soaked the heat, maybe wind your top down to about 3/4 turn open so all the heat isn’t just drafting through the oven.

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7 hours ago, remi said:

Thanks- so would you remove/ disassemble the basket splitter when cooking pizza? I honestly thought 50% split with it filled up would have been sufficient. Still had leftover charcoal in there after the cooking session- despite being unable to nudge the temp any higher than 400…

I do my bread baking in the 32 KK at about 250C using a half basket of coco briquettes.  I usually let the fire establish itself, minimum half an hour, before adding in the racks and baking stone.  No trouble at all hitting 250C and more when I need to.  Reading through your post I do similar things to you but I generally only need to light in one location and I do not need to pull out the lower vent, I just set it to fully open.  Your suggestion that you will wait longer for the KK to heat soak before adding in the stone etc seems like a good one to try.  

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How to get Kamado hot 500F°+

-Remove any items or debris from the lower intake vent (e.g. ash catcher, small charcoal pieces, etc.)

-Make sure the bottom of your firebox is well aligned with your lower intake vent.

-Store your charcoal inside away from the wet elements. Only use dry fuel.

-Use lump charcoal, it will get a lot hotter then briquettes or extruded charcoal and produce less ash.

-Don’t blame your brand of lump charcoal, all major lump brands are capable of producing high heat temps for cooking pizza.

-Deliberately build your fire:
* Keep in mind small pieces of lump burn hotter however they also restrict airflow.
* Larger pieces won’t burn quite as hot but they promote airflow.
* Airflow = Heat
* Airflow restriction is the primary factor preventing you from getting your Kamado to pizza cooking temperatures.
* Do not pour your charcoal directly into your firebox, small pieces of lump can fall into the bottom of your firebox and block free airflow.
* Lay your lump charcoal out in a wide mouthed bin.
* Sort your lump by large, medium, and small pieces.
* Discard any really small lump pieces and the dust that settles at the bottom.
* Deliberately build your fire box to promote free airflow.
* Start with large chunks (fist size or larger) place them one by one at the bottom of your firebox until you have a complete layer of large chunks on the bottom of your charcoal basket.
* Now light your layer of large lump pieces. I prefer using a torch until I get a visual flame coming off of two spots of the large lump pieces.
* Once your large lump is lit continue building your lump pile by using medium pieces on top of the large lit coals, lay them on top in such a way they don’t interlock with each other and block airflow.
* Fill your firebox to the brim with medium lump atop the large chunks at the bottom. Cooking at high temperatures requires a lot of fuel. If you do not use enough lump your fire will run out of steam.
* Optionally, you can place some smaller pieces of lump at the very top of your charcoal basket on top of the medium pieces. Don’t use too many small pieces and ensure they don’t fall down into your firebox.
* Again, light several more spots on top of your now fully filled firebox, I recommend lighting until the charcoal is glowing in at least four different additional spots.
* Once your fire has been built for airflow and is lit remove any platesetters, fire deflector plates, or any larger objects in your Kamado blocking the free airflow of convective and radiant heat up into the dome.
* Close your Kamado lid.
* Open your bottom vent completely.
* Open your top vent nearly fully open, the more your top vent is open the stronger vacuum airflow will be created making your fire burn hotter. However, if you completely remove the top vent then you also allow some of the hot convective air to escape rather then being trapped in the dome so there is a fine balance, explore this with your own grill.
* I like to let the grill heat soak for at least 1/2 hour at a temperature of 50 degrees above my intended cooking temperature.
* Time is your freind, I recommend starting this process 2 hours before your intended cook time. Rushing things will lead to unsatisfactory results.
* Once you’ve allowed sufficient time for the dome to heat soak open you grill and set up your pizza cook with your stone and deflectors if you are using such. Close you lid once again.
* Keep your grill lid open as minimally as possible. You will lose some heat after installing your deflectors, let your Kamado stabilize once again at your cooking temperature for at least 15 minutes without adjusting vents.
* Place your pizza on your stone.
* Check on your pizza as infrequently as possible, you want to retain dome heat for cooking your toppings.
* Burp your grill dome before opening.

*Additional tips
-You can pre-heat your pizza stone in your oven while you grill is heating up.
-An infrared temperature gun is a good idea, this will allow you to determine if your stone is to temp before placing your pizza on.
-A fan such as the BBQ dragon, a hair dryer, or leaf blower can force air into your lower vent speeding up this whole process. Getting your Kamado hot too fast can put additional stress on your ceramics.
-Beer helps. :)

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People will disagree with me ^^^ on pre-heating above your set temp, however I find the temp always drops once you add in your deflectors/stones. Find what works best for you.

Also heating a KK to high temps is way easier then ceramic Kamado’s, good luck! Be patient and use a ton of lit fuel, that is key.

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I'm going to make myself unpopular amongst the KK devotees here but we debated a pizza oven despite owning a 32 and 19KK. We have a pizza stone for each and a baking steel and have been able to produce consistently excellent pizzas. 12.5% gluten flour is your friend. :-) 

We've never really made much pizza in the KK since the pizza oven arrived (Alfa Forni). The oven is quicker, more convenient and consumes less fuel. Being able to see the pizza cooking and being able to judge when to turn it is much better than relying on spidey sense to know when to open the KK. Having said that, with experience, you learn how far to open and how quickly to check on the pizza without losing all the heat in the dome. 

I bought a Fluke 62 Max IR thermometer (recommended like most of what Fluke make) and it taught me a few things about the temperature and hot spots on the stone. What I learned from the pizza oven, I applied to the KK and I'd say that on balance, the pizza oven is more forgiving but you can achieve similar results in the KK. 

Irrespective of what you use, I highly recommend GI Metal pizza peels as being a KK build quality standard product. We have a rectangular perforated and a turning peel, they're both a joy to use.

Also of interest if you're into pizza is Modernist Pizza - due to arrive in September. Looking forward to seeing what I can learn from it. 


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Reviving this a bit to help out @KiwiIndo and @remi - I received my 32" KK over the winter and did some pizza testing this month. Our pizza background: we've made pizza several to many times a month for years now from scratch. It's fast if you plan ahead, you can vary the toppings based on the season, and if you make an extra, you have a solid lunch for the next day. We have a secret sauce recipe and use the dough recipe from Roberta's (yes the 00 flour is important). There are a number of good ways to get the dough ready, including making it ahead of time and letting it rise in the fridge overnight.

Anyway, here is the real KK content: commercial pizza ovens run 700-800F. Why? The dough needs to get to ~400F via conduction from your stone and your sauce and cheese will continuously vent water vapor (boil) at 212F from convection and radiant heat. Conduction is much more efficient than convection, which allows you to have the two sides of the pizza reach these respective states at the same time - this is THE most important thing to cooking good pizza and allows you to keep the pizza in the oven/KK for as little time as possible. Here is what happens when you cook pizza on a KK based on time and temperature:

  • You bring your KK up to 550F and properly heat soak the pizza stone: This is the equivalent of cooking pizza at max temp on an indoor electric/gas oven. It's fine and even good, but it's not the same as a professionally-cooked, wood-fired, brick-oven pizza. 
  • You bring your KK up to 700F, but don't maintain the heat long enough to get the stone to temp: This will result in too much bubbling. Your pizza will dry out and your cheese will scorch. The heat will penetrate the dough too much by the time it's cooked, resulting in a more dense and less springy crust.
  • You bring your KK up to 700F and properly soak the stone for at least 45 min: This produces legitimately restaurant-quality crust without burning or bubbling away your toppings. The crust will have that slight char and crispy exterior with the correct chewy and open crumb of a professionally-equipped pizzeria. At this temp, it takes me exactly 5 minutes to cook two side-by-side pizzas on a 32" KK at 700F after a heat soak. It might vary a touch if you make your dough thicker or assemble your pizza too early, such that the dough starts absorbing liquid from your sauce, but get your timing down so you never need to check on the pizza mid-cook.

Start with a very full basket and clean out any ash as others have recommended. To get to 700 is fairly easy with enough fuel and enough air - however, you really don't want it to run away from you; at 700 dome temps, accidentally touching grates etc. can produce hospital-level burns. Make sure you have a long-handled pizza peel. My most successful run last week had both vents fully open, plus the ash dump grate pulled out for extra air initially. I used the top vent to slow my ascent as I crossed into the 600s, and then once I was around 675, I closed the ash dump grate. You can then fine-tune from there.

Here is an after shot of one of my runs last week. Note that one side of my KK seemed a little hotter than the other, and the crust on the right-hand pizza is a little over. I probably needed another 5-10 minutes to soak is my guess.



Edited by DG_
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Remember charcoal always burns at the maximum volume for the allowed airflow.. temperature is airflow.. if it's not hot enough, you don't have enough air. The usual culprit is small pieces that restrict/reduce the volume of air coming thru the grill.
Different species of wood create charcoal that burns at different temps.. but all can easily get to pizza temps.

Pouring your lump into a box and shake to sort.. but the largest pieces dead center and the smaller ones if you must use them around the outside near the cement.  

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i just made a little double ferment poolish pizza with some left over dough in my home oven broiler set max and preheated the kk baking stone over an hour and maxed out stone temp to about 280c. i feel like the temps and environment were similar to a kk pizza bake. 

while the results were acceptable, i’m on team @Braai-Q here and add that the radiant heat from a live fire (wood or gas) is essential to the pizza experience (neopolitan). the biscotto stone in a pizza oven is also important here (something about the mineral content in the red bricks that retains high heat but doesnt burn the dough). its not to say i won’t use a kk to make pizzas, but for the amount of fuel it takes to get there, i prefer to use the dedicated pizza oven or home oven.




Edited by David Chang
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