Grill Tools Review : KettlePizza – Italy Meets the Grill
On a consistent basis the team here at GrillJunkie™ sets time aside to evaluate and communicate our formal rating on either a Grilling, BBQ or Burger related product. We do this via our Grilling Product Reviews process. As you certainly can imagine these BBQ Grill Tools and products run the gamut from: Gotta Have It!, Cool, Useful, Utilitarian, Ridiculous and the, well, Just Plain Asinine! The spectrum of grilling related products is wide. NOTE: We are NEVER compensated for our Grilling Product Reviews so as to protect our integrity, brand and Product Review objectivity.
Today’s Grilling Product Reviews candidate:
The GrillJunkie™ Grilling Product Reviews (GPR) Scale
Based on our extensive field research, the GrillJunkie Product Review team assigns a formal rating to every product that we test. This rating is based on a 1-5 Firepot structure as depicted through our Grilling Product Review (GPR) scale illustrated below. The number of Firepots given to the grilling product indicates its final rating. The higher the number of Firepots, the more positive the review.
Quick Product Reviews Rating: For the more impatient reader who needs to get the rating right away, we gave the KettlePizza a 4.3 out of 5 GrillJunkie™ GPR Firepots. This rating equates to a Hot product but not quite Searing. The product addresses and solves the problem for which it was designed in a highly effective, intelligently designed, uniquely useful, attractive and durable grill tool product. In fact, KettlePizza provides an affordable way to cook real wood-fired pizza on a traditional charcoal kettle grill by solving the problem of overcooked bottoms and undercooked tops: a common result when cooking pizza on an outdoor grill. Done correctly, the KettlePizza can perform equally well as a traditional wood fired or professional pizza oven that cost thousands of dollars. For more detail on this Made in the U.S.A. Grill Tools Product Review, a quick Slice of Pizza History, an overview of the Science Behind Excellent Pizza as well as the many upcoming Grilling Product Reviews on our schedule, read on! Below is quick video overview YouTube Video of the KettlePizza Product Review.
First Up: A Slice of Pizza’s History
The further back the GrillJunkie team looks in time, the more interesting details we uncover surrounding pizza. Rumaging through stories from our Italian ancenstry, while checking our collective information to sift myth from fact, we found some deliciously interesting things about the history of pizza. Today this iconic dish is one of the most popular foods on the entire Earth, but that fame and recognition came from the tireless backs and decades of work of many immigrants and international pizza restaurant franchises which spread this dish to all four corners of the world. Before these Pizza chains were formed, pizza slowly rose in popularity in the United Stated, brought from Europe by Italian settlers who did not want to be parted from one of their most iconic meals. There, in the Mediterranean coastal city of Naples, rich with culinary culture, the modern Pizza was created. Although 19th century Italy is vehemently guarded and regarded as a home of modern pizza, its deep roots go all the way back to the ancient Roman, Greek and Persian empires. The records from those times uncover various types of bread in round and flat shapes, complemented by a wide variety of toppings. Although many European civilizations continued to use meals created in this fashion even up to today, exemplified by Parmesan cheese from Parmigiano-Reggiano, coca from Catalonia and Valencia, or Greek Pita just to name a few, the cooks from Italy became most interested in pizza. They produced various pizza products from ancient times to the middle ages. In the preserved ruins of the Italian city of Pompei, archeologists have found unmistakable signs of the impressively inter-wined network that supported pizza production – from the street stands to the restaurant kitchens where pizzas were made. Interestingly, the most important ingredient that elevated the local Italian dish to the worldwide fame was the arrival of the tomato from the New World in the 16th century. Although Italian nobility looked down upon the lowly tomato as a poor man’s food, the inventive recipes and designs of Italian pizza cooks from Naples soon managed to change their minds, not dissimilar to some present day food trends. As the popularity of the pizza grew, pizza artisans started to expand their business. The first restaurant dedicated only for selling pizza was opened in Naples in 1830, and after that many more appeared across all of Italy. The pizza from which almost all designs are based was created in 1889 by the hands of the famous Naples chef Raffaele Esposito who made three pizzas for the King and Queen of Italy. King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and requested an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed Pizza Margherita. Esposito’s design of Pizza Margherita became gold standard for all future pizzas.
Today pizza continues to enchant hungry consumers all around the world. New combinations of crust, toppings and inventive combinations are created daily, influenced by the local cuisines and food traditions. The world of pizza has certainly expanded beyond the Margherita-style! But one challenge remains: recreating that unmistakable crust and taste of an authentic oven-baked or wood-fired oven pizza on the outdoor grill without spending a fortune. Did the KettlePizza team make a leap forward and bridge the gap between excellent pizza and the grill and qualify to become part of Pizza History?
Now let’s see how well the KettlePizza performed under the GrillJunkie Product Review Team’s merciless testing!
KettlePizza - Did Italy Meet the Grill?
The GrillJunkie Grill Tools Review follow a comprehensive structure which includes the:
- Problem that needs to be solved or addressed
- Solution to that problem
- Good, Bad and Ugly elements of the product
- Verdict – the official GrillJunkie™ GPR (Grilling Product Reviews Rating)
Official Product Review and GPR
Problem – The way we view it, there are three problems inherent to grilling a pizza with the desired result of authentic, consistent and professional results. The first issue is maintaining the critical high heat environment of a pizza oven in an outdoor grill prone to losing a massive amount of heat as soon as the lid is opened.
Secondly, there is an issue of creating and maintaining the high heat necessary to quickly cook a pizza both below and above its surface so as to cook the pizza’s top and bottom to perfection. Try cooking a pizza on a grill and you will immediately see that the results are an overcooked bottom and undercooked top….even with a grilling stone which at times makes the problem even more pronounced. Lastly, designing an outdoor pizza oven environment can cost thousands of dollars as many are simply indoor wood-fired ovens replicated outdoors with brick and mortar. The key is to design and emulate an authentic, high-heat pizza oven environment that can be used within an already existing grill at the fraction of the cost of highly expensive and space robbing outdoor units.
The Science of Excellent Pizza:
An authentic Neapolitan pizza is cooked by leveraging two means of transferring heat. The bottom of the pizza is cooked by conduction which directly transfers energy from the immensely hot oven bottom, brick or stone to the crust. The top of the pizza is cooked via convection which transfers the heat energy via hot air. The key is to get the Conduction to Convection ratio right! Conduction is a much more efficient method of heat transfer, which explains why in a professional oven, to cook a pizza properly, the base of the oven need only be around 750°F or so, while the air above must be significantly hotter—in the 1,000°F to 1,200°F range. The problem with trying to cook a pizza on a simple pizza stone, whether it be in an indoor oven or on an outdoor grill, is that the stone under the pizza dough gets really hot, yet it’s difficult to get the air temp above the pizza hot enough to match that high temperature environment with the critical Conduction to Convection ratio. The bottom of the pizza burns before the top takes on any color. The important variable is that moving air cooks a lot more efficiently than still air. The ultimate goal when cooking a pizza on the grill is to get as much hot air circulating over the top surface of the pizza as fast as possible. Product’s Genesis and Solution Pitch – The KettlePizza™ team’s approach to addressing the problem was to develop, market and distribute their line-up of Kettle Pizza Oven Kits and accessories. Here’s a bit of the KettlePizza story:
“Al Contarino is an inventor who had a passion for grilling. His main frustration was that whenever grill lids were opened or removed, all the stored heat would be lost stalling the cooking process. In 2005, he started developing a new type of gas grill that maintained the heat when the lid was opened. Countless hours and a substantial amount of money went into the patented design with the hopes of licensing to a major grill manufacturer.
Five years later, Al was completely frustrated with the challenges of licensing his ideas and he decided to focus his efforts on developing a product that he could design, manufacture and market completely on his own. This new product was KettlePizza.”
In May of 2010 Al built his first prototype of the KettlePizza. He called his friend and fellow inventor, George Peters, to check out the design of a crude pizza oven insert made to fit on top of common charcoal kettle grills. The prototype seemed to solve the problem of maintaining high temperatures throughout the cooking process and so they decided to invite some friends over for a pizza party. Everyone loved the pizza and the concept. That was all that Al and George needed to hear, they knew they had a winner.
The KettlePizza Product Pitch:
“KettlePizza was developed to give people an affordable way to cook real wood fired pizza on a traditional charcoal kettle grill. The stainless steel sleeve goes between the grill top and bottom creating a cooking chamber that remains consistently hot throughout the cooking cycle because the lid never needs to be removed. This solves the problem of overcooked bottoms and under cooked tops which is the common result when cooking pizza on an outdoor grill. Done correctly, the KettlePizza can perform equally as well as a traditional wood fired pizza oven that costs thousands of dollars.”
This diagram provides a basic three step overview of how the KettlePizza works:
The Good – The product has many important positive attributes. First of all, the KettlePizza® product team did indeed address the problem head on with a top quality, attractively packaged, uniquely-featured grilled pizza oven product. Under extensive product testing using various grills and a myriad of pizza dough and toppings, the hard to impress GrillJunkie team found that this grilling product:
- Arrived in a well-packed, easy to assemble packaging.
- Creates an immensely high-heat pizza cooking environment that sustains upper and lower heat throughout the entire grilling cycle.
- Creates good convection currents…a key variable to great pizza. With the coals banked in the back, hot air rises off the coals toward the domed lid, then gets drawn back down and out the oven door opening. This moving air cooks the top of the pizza a lot faster than the relatively still air inside a completely sealed kettle.
- Is designed to cook pizza in an existing outdoor kettle grill eliminating the need for an expensive and space robbing investment.
- Uses a well engineered stainless steel sleeve that goes between the grill top and bottom creating a cooking chamber that remains consistently hot throughout the cooking cycle because the lid never needs to be removed.
- Easily installs between the top and bottom of a traditional kettle grill. The product is adjustable and fits either 18.5 or 22.5 in. kettle grills such as Weber One Touch Silver or Gold Grills.
- Utilizes the grate of the grill as the floor of the cooking chamber.
- Is proudly designed and manufactured in the USA with an expanding worldwide dealer and reseller network.
- Is packaged in an attractive, visually-rich and see through design – fire one up at night and you will see what we mean.
- Makes pizza that looks and tastes like you ordered it at a high-end brick oven restaurant. See our grilled pizza recipes that were cooked on a KettlePizza.
The Bad – The product has a three, mostly minor negative attributes. These are more challenges than negatives. Getting the fire and positioning of the stone right takes a bit of practice and patience. Once mastered, life is good. We experienced a slight challenge getting the temperature hot enough at first and went through an extra 10 pounds of coal before we hit a sweet spot. A little tweaking and some hot coals on standby from our Charcoal Chimney readily prepared to maintain the high heat and the grill maintained its temperature at well over 950°F for a good 55 minutes (with a stone temperature of around 650°F). At about 3 to 4 minutes per pie, the GrillJunkie team found that was sufficient time to rapidly crank out 10 pies. In fact, after the pizzas were done, the coals were still hot enough to fire up an additional 6-8 Jalapeño burgers. Also, we found that it was a bit challenging to keep the fire stoked to maintain the high heat environment. No more challenging than maintaining a proper fire in a professional wood-fired oven but a bit of a tighter space and a little extra hustle and patience just the same. We recommend to be prepared to start with 3 to 3.5 chimneys’ worth of charcoal if you want to achieve the temperatures the KettlePizza needs to work.
The Ugly- We did not believe that this variable directly applied to this product. In fact, the KettlePizza has a clean and enticing design and the product itself is a very attractive, well produced and an extremely effective grilling tool. The only ugliness is that the product line is not available for non-kettle-sized grills but maybe that’s something that Al Contarino is working on.
Verdict – We give the KettlePizza a 4.3 out of 5 GrillJunkie™ GPR Firepots. This rating equates to a Hot product but not quite Searing. The product addresses and solves the problem for which it was designed in a highly effective, intelligently designed, highly useful, unique, attractive and durable grill tool. This rating equates to a Hot product but not quite Searing. In fact, KettlePizza provides an affordable way to cook real wood-fired pizza on a traditional charcoal kettle grill by solving the problem of overcooked bottoms and undercooked tops: a common result when cooking pizza on an outdoor grill. Done correctly, the KettlePizza can perform equally well as a traditional wood fired or professional pizza oven that cost thousands of dollars.We look forward to conducting our Grilling Product Reviews on any new product developments that will come from the KettlePizza team.
GrillJunkie Rating of KettlePizza = 4.3 / 5.0
Next Grilling Review: Squealers Mustard Madness Sauce
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