Cooking Techniques for the perfect Pizza
Christmas has come and gone and you’ve probably got turkey/ham/chicken/goose coming out of your ears (hopefully not literally) so at hungryhouse we decided to focus on a cuisine that you might have been neglecting recently: pizza!
Why do we love pizza so much?
Pizza; the food you can’t go wrong with! With zillions of topping combinations and a wide range of bases, it’s hard not to be a fan. We doubt that pizzas will lose their popularity any time soon (which other snack can be half-eaten on the way home from the club, then nibbled on again in the morning and still taste great?), but chefs are still coming up with ways to make the Italian delicacy more interesting. The ongoing war of deep-pan vs. thin crust pizza has led to new crusts being added to the mix. If cheese-stuffed crusts weren’t calorific enough, the cheeseburger pizza crust was invented in September 2013 (I guess it’s great if you can’t decide between a burger or a pizza?).
It seems though that we’re actually staying faithful and traditional as the world’s most popular crust is actually the thin crust! Good plan – save on the crust so you can overload on toppings!
Despite crazy toppings making their way onto our pizzas such as the alligator pizza from Prego Pizza in Birmingham or death by pepperoni pizza from Raja’s in Leeds, we actually prefer plain old chicken! (‘old’ being a figure of speech here, don’t worry). We recommend the chasseur pizza from Italian Connection in Edinburgh which is topped with our favourite poultry.
As well as using different ingredients and adding different toppings, the taste of a pizza can be determined by the way it’s cooked so let’s have a look at the different ways our cheesy friend is made:
A wood-fire oven is traditionally made from clay bricks, but more modern ones use concrete. The pizza is quickly done (around 90 seconds!) due to the heat absorbed and stored in the thick walls. There’s a distinct smoked flavour as the pizza absorbs some of the smoke. Even Jamie Oliver’s a fan of wood burning ovens: “These ovens really get people’s imaginations going…to my mind, wood-fired ovens are the ultimate foodie must-have”.
Many restaurants that specialise in pizzas will use a wood-fired oven as it looks good, is economical and is intriguing to customers.
La Salvia in Wandsworth offers authentic wood fire pizzas so sample their popular americana pizza or pepperoni passion pizza and prepare for the smokey, charred taste of the wood fire.
Coal is the original way that Italians cooked their pizzas, but with electricity and gas, this technique was pushed to the side. Now people are looking for a traditional approach again (typical) it’s become more popular! The distinctive taste comes from the heat, rather than the actual coal smoke. A pizza can be cooked in two to three minutes and is left with that characteristically charred taste. It requires more skill to cook, but at the end it’s all worth it. Just think of that when you’re chowing down on your meat feast pizza or Mediterranean supreme pizza and detect that delectable flavour.
It’s a hot summer’s day and the embers of the barbeque still have some life in them so why not pop on a pizza? Imagine the mozzarella melting and engulfing all the ham and pineapple on top, then dribbling over the crispy base. Watch out for embarrassing cheese strings that go on for miles after you bite into the slice! No-one wants to be stuck inside monitoring a boiling hot oven so this way you continue mingling with your guests. Don’t worry the pizza won’t fall through the grill, you’ll just get a nicely-charred base. It’s the nearest you’ll get to that wood-smoked taste and you won’t have to fork out thousands for a wood-fired oven.
Deck ovens have several tiers, allowing many pizzas to be baked simultaneously. Heat is created through elements or burners at the top and bottom of the chamber, which is then absorbed by the walls, ceiling and floor, resulting in an even cooking temperature. Pizzas are ‘peeled’ in, which means they’re slid in on a large paddle. If you’re partial to a crispy crust, a deck oven is the best choice! I can just taste the crispy-based hot and spicy pizza! The cooking time is slightly longer here: six to eight minutes.
This method of cooking the Italian delight is probably the most popular in the pizza industry due to being ‘idiot-proof’ as no-one needs to watch the pizzas or rotate them. The pizzas are pulled through the cooking chamber on a conveyor belt and get an even cooking. They then make an appearance at the other side where they should then be thoroughly cooked after four to five minutes. Seafood pizza for me, please!
If you’re feeling generous you could always make the most of our Give Your Mate A Pizza campaign and spread the pizza deliciousness to a friend in need!
What is the best method of cooking pizza in your opinion? Share your tasty pizza preferences in the comments!