Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A new toy

I saw a post on the pizza forum that the Black Stone Oven was on sale for $300 and available at Lowes. We were in Lowes for a few other things so I gave the oven the once over while we were there. Two days later I went back and bought. After I put it all together, I was giggling with excitement because I had this in my garage.

I fought getting the stickers off of the shelves but opted against dealing with the one around the thermometer. I figured some use would get that off without scratching it up. Not that it was together, I set about making some modifications I had read about online. The easiest was putting some stainless steel washers under the bottom stone to make an air gap. The bottom can get hotter than the top. Important safety tip: do not use zinc plated washers. When zinc plating gets hot it can put off a toxic gas. Splurge the extra buck for stainless steel.

I also rewired the power cable to the rotisserie motor (the bottom plate spins). With a counter clockwise rotation, you can see the pizza just before it goes through the hottest part of the oven so you can decide to pull the pizza a little easier. To rewire the motor, you just cut the wire, strip the plastic coating and attach the red to black, black to red and cover it all up. Right now it is just covered with electrical tape, but I plan to solder it and cover the wires in shrink wrap to make it look prettier.

Finally, I added a "Chau-flector." It's a little metal shield named for it's inventor on the pizza forum. People have used sheet metal, the end of a spatula or parts of a grater to make the Chau-flector. I went with a little flipper I found in a restaurant supply store.

I broke the handle off and flattened it a little bit. I tried to just bend it, but needed to use a hammer to convince it to bend. You can kind of see it hanging down from the upper stone. It's dark in the oven and the phone flash didn't really get a good shot. So the smaller piece of steel originally near the wood handle is tucked under the upper oven plate, and the longer part of the spatula reflect head back down onto the spinning pizza.

On Saturday, I made 8 dough balls using the Progessive flour I got from Restaurant Depot. Normally, I only make 4, but I wanted to play with my new toy. The plan was to go to Fall Ball softball games all morning, then make pizza all afternoon. But that got cancelled for a birthday party so I got the dough into the fridge and hoped it would still be good on Monday.

On Monday, the workday couldn't end fast enough. I got home and starting putting the toppings together and set up a working table in the garage - a piece of plywood on two saw horses covered with a Halloween tablecloth. I didn't hav enough space for the dough balls on the table, so I commandeered the kids' wagon. Pizza Emergency.

I fired up the oven and let it go until the bottom plate was reading in the mid 700s with my el-cheapo temp gun. You can see the burner is directly above that knob on the front of the oven.

Here we go, the first pizza launch, captured for posterity by my daughter Allison.

You can see the quick oven spring on the rim of the pizza.

About 2 minutes later, here was a lovely sausage and mushroom pie.

I cranked out five more fairly quickly with varying degrees of success.  I need to work on managing the heat and keeping the bottom stone a little cooler. One thing I'm going to do next time around is dial down the heat in between bakes. I did that at the end and I think it helped. I'm also going to adjust the position of my Chau-flector a little. You can kind of see the deflector while this pizza cooks. You can also see that front sticker being abused by the heat of the oven.

After six successful pizza launches onto an 800 degree pizza stone that is rotating counter clockwise, I hesitated while launching the 7th pizza. Here's my undercooked accidental calzone.

But we ended on a high note. This cherry tomato/black olive for the kids was pretty good.

Now I need to focus on oven management and dough. My dough balls were sized for 13.5 inch pizzas. I'm going to scale that down to 13 inches. I also have a list of doughs I want to try out. Definitely a work in progress. I still want a wood fired oven and this will be a good stepping stone.

This is going to be fun...and fattening.


  1. With the rotisserie/turntable exposing the pizza to the air at some point, where do you think the temperature nets out? Can you stick a probe in there for us next time?

  2. It's kind of hard to say because there is a lot thermal activity going on in that oven. You can't really see the air temperature gauge that come with the oven clearly in the pictures above. The needle in that probably mostly useless gauge gets pinned and then goes a little further - so it is was reading over 900 degrees.

    I have a crummy little temperature gun and I took some readings on the bottom stone. The best pies where when the bottom stone was about 700 degrees at the launch. I launched a few when it was above 800 and there was a little too much char on those. The bottom line is that I need more experience managing the heat in the oven, which is tough because I am also trying to dial in some dough recipes and each dough will probably have an optimum temperature. I think the key to managing the temperature will be preheating the oven and then cutting back on the heat to just maintain a bottom stone temperature around 700. Then once the pie is launched, crank up the heat so that the top can cook as fast as the bottom.

    To answer your question more directly, I have no doubt that you can get the bottom stone above 900. Not sure you'd want to, but you can. I don't know what the air temperature in there is but it is probably pretty turbulent and varying. I don't think I have anything that can read an air temperature that high.

    I can, however, say with certainty that if you aim your heat gun at the bottom tile and don't pay attention to how close your arm is to the oven opening, you can quickly and easily singe the hair on your arm.