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Big Green Egg - Pt. 6 - Best in Class Pizzas

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One of the great pleasures of owning the Big Green Egg (BGE) is Pizza on the Egg. Part of me is surprised to be writing this, because I really have pizza down on my gas grill. It was my favorite pizza. The Egg is my new Got To grill for making pizza. This blog entry will discuss pizza on the Egg and what changed my mind about this new method of cooking pizza.

GAS GRILL METHOD:
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First I’m going to briefly discuss the old method of making pizza on my gas grill. It was about the third method I tried for grilling pizza. It had several advantages and several disadvantages came along for the ride too. My latest method involved preheating the gas grill to use medium heat on all 6 burners. I would shoot for the lid thermometer to read 350 (177 C) degrees or so. The pizza gets topped at the grill (or in cold weather I’d bring it inside to the Kitchen while I top it) so I’d gather the ingredients, measure them out and put them in bowls. I’d head out t the grill with a big sheet pan containing the ingredients and the rolled out pizza dough. The pizza dough would go on the grill and cook for 3 minutes or so. When the first side was done you would pull the pizza off the grill, flip it and top the grilled side. In the warm weather I’d do the topping out at the grill, in the Winter I would run the pizza dough into the Kitchen. Once the pizza was topped I would return it to the grill over the middle two burners (3 & 4). I would turn burners 3 & 4 off and cook it indirectly using burners 1,2, 5 & 6. This takes anywhere from 6-10 minutes depending on the amount of toppings, the weather etc. I will put a link to a blog I wrote about this method at the end of this blog.

The advantages of this method were I could grill pizza year round. The pizza came off the grill to top it. In the Winter you brought the crust into the Kitchen. The other methods I’d tried involved topping the pizza on the grill over an area where the burners were unlit. In the Winter you lost too much heat this way. You were rushing to top the pizza before you lost all of your heat. A second advantage was you got this wonderful grilled on two sides crust. I thought it was a very tasty crust and it had a degree of crispiness to it, but you were using medium heat to grill it, so it wasn’t as crispy as it could be. I felt the flavor of the two-sided grilled crust trumped crispy. The disadvantage of this method was you were topping the pizza midway through. If you are doing a lot of pizzas in one sitting you can’t get them ready in advance. You are also looking at a total grill time of around 15 minutes or so. A 3 minute grill time, a 3 minute topping time plus 6-10 minutes to finish grilling it.

LUMP CHARCOAL SURPRISE:
Now don’t tell anybody, but I can be stubborn. However if you prove your point I am willing to be proven wrong. So it was with great interest that I made my first pizza on the Egg. I was looking forward to trying pizza on the Egg, but there was a break in time where you were supposed to do low temperature cooks to help break in the gasket between the lid and the base of the Egg. Earlier that day I had done a low and slow brisket cook on the Egg that took 8 hours and coupled with my first cook of 2 hours I was ready for pizza. I wasn’t sure whether the gasket was ready for a high temperature cook, but I was. A surprising and interesting sidebar issue this day was charcoal usage. I’d filled the firebox up and brought the level of the coals up to the top of the Fire Ring. This was an additional 4” (1o cm) of coals over what you use for short cooks. I got 8 hours of burn time during the brisket cook, plus another 2 hours of idle time until I began cranking the Egg from 225 (110 C) to 600 (316 C). When it was time to raise the temperature to 600 (316 C), I brought my Emile Henry pizza stone out and put it on the PlateSetter which was installed legs down. This puts the pizza up at the level of the base of the dome shaped top lid. Once I got the Egg up to 600 (316 C) I would let the pizza stone preheat at that temperature. The Egg was at 600 (316 C) degrees for around an hour between warmup and the time it took me to prep and cook two pizzas. So 10 hours at 225 (110 C), 30 minutes going from 225 (110 C) to 600 (316 C) and an hour at 600 (316 C) was all done on the same batch of charcoal. When I closed up and shut down the Egg it took a long time to cool down, but the next day there was still small amount of usable coals left. Very amazing! But enough about that. If you are interested in seeing more about charcoal usage, please see the blog: BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 5 - TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP.

FIRST PIZZAS:
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Back to the pizza. I was making GREEK PIZZA WITH YOGURT MINT SAUCE from the Big Green Egg Cookbook. This method of making grilled pizza is the first grilled pizza I’ve made that is identical to making one you cook in the oven. The pizza is topped and goes into the oven and is removed when it is done. No additional handling is required out at the grill. The big difference here is the temperature used and the time it takes. Unlike a standard Kitchen oven, which tops out at 450 (232 C) or 500 (260 C) degrees, I would be cooking at 600 (316 C) degrees. Some folks cook pizza on the Egg at 700 (371 C), but for this day I was going to follow the recipe to the letter. The high temperature makes for a very short cooking time of 5-6 minutes. So I rolled out the first dough ball and placed it on my wooden pizza peel which had been dusted with cornmeal. The pizza was topped and it was time to bake it. One thing I should mention is you should avoid doing anything that presses the dough down on the peel, because the pizza won’t slide off the peel when it is time to get it on the grill. Don’t ask me how I know this. Out at the grill you carefully open the grill and inch or so to burp the grill and let some air in. The Egg is so well sealed that if you just open the lid, a rush of air goes in and ignites the hot coals and causes a flashback. The flashback is a ball of flame that bursts out of the grill. So you burp the grill, then fully open the lid and slide the pizza from the peel onto the pizza stone.

The 12” (30 cm) thin crust pizza cooks for 5-6 minutes at 600 (316 C) degrees. For my first pie, I pulled it off at 5 minutes. I was amazed at how the toppings were all cooked through and the cheese was all melted. I sliced the pizza right on the wooden peel and served it to my guests while I went back to the Kitchen to top my pizza. When folks bit into the first slice I could hear the crunchy crust. Everyone really loved this pizza, I was quite happy with the looks of it, but decided to cook it for 30 seconds more since the crust looked like it could be a little more brown. So the second pizza was grilled for 5:30 and I feel that time is turning out the perfect crust: browned but not burned. The toppings were all cooked through and this was all done in a little over 5 minutes. I loved the cracklingly crispy crunchy crust. I still think the method I use on the gas grill turns out a slightly tastier crust, but the BGE crust was MUCH more crunchy. So after my first pizza I declared it a tie. It would take more pizzas on the Egg before I made up my mind.

SECOND PIZZAS:
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Two nights later I made my second round of pizzas using the last two dough balls I had stored in the refrigerator. During this cook I learned a lesson about the Egg. It took me nearly 45 minutes to get the Egg up to 600 degrees and it was reacting far slower than in the past. Doing a little research I found I should have done a full clean out of the Egg as opposed to just stirring the charcoal. So now when I do a high temperature cook of over 400 degrees I do a full clean out where I remove the usable charcoal, throw out the small stuff and clean out the lower firebox/ash drop. I then add the reserved lump in and top it off with the new stuff. When I got the Egg to temperature I cooked two PEPPERONI & HAM PIZZAS pizzas, which are my favorite pizza to order from a traditional pizzeria. I cooked the pizzas for 5:30 and I felt the crusts were perfect. Once again the toppings were all cooked through and the cheese was melted in less than 6 minutes. With my old method you were sweating whether the toppings would be melted before the crust started burning and getting too crunchy. Not a problem here. This was the best version of this pizza I’d ever had, and where it is my favorite pizza I am comparing it to hundreds of other similar pizzas.

THE WINNER:
This second pizza on the Egg got me off the fence in terms of which pizza cooking method turned out the best pizza. The pizza on the Egg was the winner. I still feel the pizza crust which is cooked on two sides on the gas grill is a bit tastier, but the extra crunchy crust on the Egg trumps this. You are giving up a tiny amount of flavor for far greater crunchiness. There are also some ease of use items making this pizza that entered into the equation:

PLUSSES:
Here are the biggest plusses for grilling/baking pizzas on the BGE:
  • This is a traditional pizza the gets topped in the Kitchen and baked on the grill. There is no handling and topping of the pizza at the grill or on the grill.
  • You are not worrying about will the topping melt before the crust burns.
  • Your pizza is ready in 6 minutes using high heat, not 15 or 16 minutes using medium heat.
  • Since this pizza is topped before baking, if you are turning out a lot of pizzas you can put two people on the job. One at the grill and one in the Kitchen making the next pizza. There is no way to do this with my gas grilled cooking method since the pizza gets topped midway through the cooking process.
  • Pizza on the Egg should be fairly weather independent. The pizzas are topped in the warm toasty or air conditioned Kitchen year round. With my other method I had to top it indoors in the Winter or rainy weather.
  • The extra insulation of the Egg should mean less heat loss when opening the lid in the winter. Doing the pizza on the gas grill at 20 degrees involves some trial and error on total cooking time to compensate for the heat loss when the lid is opened. I am guessing I will have to cook the pizza a little longer on the Egg too, I am guessing it is only going to be minute.
  • There is less handling at the grill using the Egg. The raw pizza goes on the grill and the cooked pizza comes off. The gas grilled pizza adds one more on and off the grill at the midpoint when the pizza gets topped. This means twice as many opportunities to drop or otherwise mishandle the pizza at the grill.

MINUSES:
As far as disadvantages there really are none. The two I can come up with aren’t necessarily big problems:
  • You are cooking at high heat and must be careful of flashbacks. I have managed to have two so far, although not cooking pizzas. They are unpleasant and I’ve managed to burn the hair off both of my arms. I guess it was a plus I did it to each arm as my arms match. Flashbacks are preventable. They can be cured by allowing enough time for the air to enter the Egg before fully opening the lid. I’ve taken to counting: “1 1001, 1 1002, 1 1003” before opening the lid all the way.
  • This second one is a problem only if I am not in the mood to cook. My family now feels there is no need to get pizzeria pizza since I can do better at home.

THE VERDICT:
So there you have it. I have found another category where the Egg has turned out a best in class meal. The spatchcocked chicken on the Egg was like a first round knockout, it was easily the best chicken ever. To continue with the boxing analogies pizza was a 15 round split decision in the first encounter and 15 round unanimous decision in the second fight.

SOME RELATED LINKS:
Here are some links to the series of blogs I am writing about my new Big Green Egg Kamado Cooker.
  Q: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? A: TAKEN BY A CULT- This Blog entry details how I came around to getting my Big Green Egg.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 1 - ASSEMBLY - My BGE came with free assembly. In this Blog I describe in a big picture fashion what is involved with assembly, so you can decide if you want to attempt it yourself.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 2 - 1ST COOK - What I chose to make for my first meal on my new BGE, why I chose it, my first impressions & how it turned out..
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 3 - MYTHS & LEGENDS - There are lots of things said about how good the BGE is. After using it for a while I use this Blog to address some of the popular claims about the BGE.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 4 - 1ST LOW & SLOW - The Big Green Egg may cost more up front, but it costs far less over time due to it's stingy use of charcoal.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 5 - TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP - The Big Green Egg may cost more up front, but it costs far less over time due to it's stingy use of charcoal.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 7 - EGGCESSORIES - BIG PICTURE - My take on Big Green Egg accessories. Are they too expensive or should some come with the Egg?
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 8 - EGGCESSORIES - GENERAL - The grill related accessories I bought along with my BGE.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 9 - EGGCESSORIES - COOKING - The cooking related accessories I bought along with my BGE.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 10 - STEAK ON THE EGG - My first steak on the Egg had a little drama, but was my best steak ever.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 11 - GASKET REPLACEMENT - BIG PICTURE - The background & what was involved doing my gasket replacement.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 12 - GASKET REPLACEMENT - BLOW BY BLOW - The actual story of how my gasket replacement experience went.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 13 - BIG GREEN EGG COOKBOOK - See why I consider the Big Green Egg Cookbook an essential tool for using a BGE.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 14 - IMPRESSIONS AFTER 90 DAYS - My impressions after 90 days using the Big Green Egg.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 15 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - GRIDDLE - Cast Iron Griddle Grate.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 16 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - RAISED GRID - Half Moon Raised Grid for indirect grilling.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 17 - STIR-FRYING ON THE BIG GREEN EGG - Getting set up for Stir-Frying with a Wok on the Big Green Egg.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 18 - FIRST STIR-FRY - My experiences on my first Stir-Fry using the Big Green Egg.
  BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 19 - IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE - I know it may sound crazy, but the Big Green Egg will really change your life.

Here are some links to the Picture entries discussed in this blog entry:
  GREEK PIZZA WITH YOGURT MINT SAUCE: Pizza Photo Entry for the 1st Pizza made on the Egg and discussed in this blog.
  PEPPERONI & HAM PIZZA: Pizza Photo Entry for the 2nd Pizza made on the Egg and discussed in this blog.

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  INDEX OF BLOGS: ALL YEARS
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