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First Try Cooking Pizza On My Kamado #9; Now I Question Everything

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  • Jim White
    Club Member
    • Sep 2019
    • 410
    • Gainesville, FL

    First Try Cooking Pizza On My Kamado #9; Now I Question Everything

    As I wrote last week, I'm starting to experiment with expanding what I can do on my Kamado #9 that I've had nearly 15 years. I'm especially interested in getting it to the extremely high temperatures it is supposed to be capable of. I got a Lodge 14 inch cast iron pizza pan and today was the day to try that out.

    For dough, I used the Baking Steel 72 hour recipe. I made a sauce from scratch with some fresh tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, basil, oregano, chicken stock and salt and pepper. After simmering a while, I hit it with the immersion blender and simmered a bit more.

    I rolled the dough out on a floured bamboo cutting board that's big enough to use as a peel. I topped with sauce, little balls of fresh mozzarella, slices of stick Boar's Head pepperoni with natural casing (since it should cup), onion, garlic, basil, jalapeno and sweet pepper:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1139(1).jpg Views:	0 Size:	5.44 MB ID:	850277

    Bottom line is that I never achieved temperatures as high as I wanted. It's possible I was too impatient. About 20 minutes after closing the lid, the temperature in the dome thermometer was at about 575 and stopped rising, even going down a little. I had the upper vent open about ten full rotations from where it closes down into contact and the lower vent drawer open about an inch and a half. This should have been in the range for maximum temperature according to original instructions with the cooker. Since the temp was dropping a bit, I decided to open up and check the pan temp with my IR gun. I got 585 on it and decided to put the pizza on, hoping the fire would flare up even more from the lid being opened.

    Of course, the step I was most worried about, transferring the pie from the peel to the hot pan, went much better than could have been expected for a first try. I must have had the angle just a bit high, as the leading edge folded back just a bit, but the majority of pie landed fine and I adjusted that fold a bit with a spatula.

    Having no good reference for cooking time, I opened to look at 4 minutes into the cook and again after 8. I finally removed it with a metal peel at ten minutes of cook time. The dome thermometer read only in the 400 to 450 range most of this time. At a proper 700 degree plus temp, this pie probably should have cooked in 2-4 minutes if not less.

    Here is the cooked pizza back inside on a cold pizza pan:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1141(1).jpg Views:	0 Size:	3.78 MB ID:	850278

    You can see the remains of that folding event on the top right, but the pie came out really well. It tasted good and the bottom crust was crisp:


    Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1142(1).jpg Views:	0 Size:	2.48 MB ID:	850279

    I didn't realize when taking this pic that it showed the fold, but you can still see a very nice underside of the crust. The darker stuff at the top here is from a little sauce hitting the hot pan after the fold.

    The real problem though is that the temperature dropped each time I opened the lid and recovered more slowly each time. The top of the pie didn't get the really nice char you want in a high temperature wood fire cook.

    Complicating matters here is that in doing further research on options for hanging different foods for very high temperature tandoori-style cooks, I ran into more information than I had seen before about the demise of the original Kamado Company. I knew that it had gone out of business, but it turns out that the major cause of it dying was huge problems with product quality and customer service. There even came to be websites dedicated "Kamado Fraud". So far, I haven’t encountered any of the quality issues others have seen.

    It turns out that just a few months before I joined AR, @Attjack had asked about a used Kamado he found and Max Good chimed into that thread with a review warning against these cookers. I just found the link to the Attjack thread here today when I was looking at some of the sordid past of the company.

    So now I'm questioning whether this cooker actually is capable of the 700 degree-plus range touted for it. I know that BGE's and other Kamado-style cookers can do that, so this is confusing for me. I will check to make sure tomorrow, but I'm 95% sure that airflow at the intake is not inhibited by ash buildup. Also , somehow I now have a stainless steel fire basket even though it came with a thick ceramic one. I'm thinking I may have scored with customer service with the old company and they provided the wire upgrade when the ceramic basket cracked but I really don't remember. Maybe the unit came with both fire baskets even though the packing slip doesn’t mention the stainless one.

    Before giving up entirely on the cooker going to high temps, I want to play with temps a few more times. Next time I'll leave the cooker lid open while the fire gets really roaring through most of the basket. I used two Tumbleweeds to start today and closed the lid shortly after the weeds were gone but with only those two areas having small amounts of flame and more red glow. My understanding is that we want glowing lump everywhere more than we want big flames, I'll try widespread big flames next.

    The other thing I want to try is to get the temp even into this 575 range and use the IR gun on the inside walls immediately after opening the lid. I'm starting to suspect that whatever material was used to build this thing doesn't really have the thermal properties it was advertised to have. The walls should be radiating heat to the point that the temperature on the dome thermometer doesn't drop as much as I saw today with these multiple openings of the lid or at least the temp should rebound quickly. I fully anticipated that the cooker would stay really hot long enough for me to cook several pies tonight. I get the feeling the wall material is a good insulator (I did think to use the IR gun on the outside walls and they only got to about 160 near the end of the cook time for the pie) but it just doesn't absorb and re-radiate heat.

    I'm open to suggestions on things to try, both in terms of trying to get this beast to higher temps and for tests to do to check out my suspicions on the walls not radiating. For those of you with BGE's, Primo's, Kamado Joes, Kamado Komodo or any other similar cookers, I'm especially interested in any observations you might have on what is going on here and if I can get this thing to do what I want. If any of you have taken an IR temp of an inside wall during a high temp cook, that would be very interesting, along with your observations on temperature recovery time on the lid thermometer.

    At least for me, this is still an outstanding, reliable cooker even if it can’t do the high temp stuff.
    Last edited by Jim White; May 23rd, 2020, 06:21 AM.
  • RonB
    Club Member
    • Apr 2016
    • 12132
    • Near Richmond VA
    • Weber Performer Deluxe
      SNS
      Pizza insert
      Rotisserie
      Smokenator 1000
      Cookshack Smokette Elite
      2 Thermapens
      Chefalarm
      Dot
      lots of probes.
      CyberQ

    #2
    I can't help, but the pics aren't showin'...

    Comment


    • Jim White
      Jim White commented
      Editing a comment
      Hmmm. Showing now on my phone. I’ll check on my laptop in the morning. My laptop bricked on me as I was about 90% finished writingthe post. Figured out finding the draft and finished on my phone. And then I got to learn about bitlocker. Good for you if you’ve never heard of it. But I got through it and my laptop recovered, thankfully. Pretty sure pics were there on the laptop after recovery, but I’ve seen other folks have pics not show up lately too.
  • Henrik
    Founding Member - Moderator Emeritus
    • Jul 2014
    • 4070
    • Stockholm, Sweden

    #3
    I can’t see photos either.

    But when I bake pizzas on my BGE I open the bottom vent fully and remove the top vent altogether. If you want it roaring hot you gotta let air flow freely through it.

    Comment


    • Jim White
      Jim White commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. I'll pull the drawer all the way out next time and try again on getting the top vent off. The last threads near the end get a bit hard to turn sometimes, I think mostly because they don't get used much.

      Do you put anything between the fire and the grill with stone? I was running with nothing between my fire and the grill.

    • Henrik
      Henrik commented
      Editing a comment
      I have used the plate setter as a pizza stone. Now that I have a proper Fredstone, I'm using that instead. I place it directly on the plate setter. I hope that answers your question.
  • Skip
    Founding Member
    • Jul 2014
    • 3023
    • Blue Earth, Minnesota
    • MAK Pellet Grill, Large BGE, Weber Kettle with SnS, Weber Gasser, Pit Barrel Cooker, Cast Iron Pans & Griddle, Grill Grates, Mostly Thermoworks Thermometers

    #4
    I agree with Henrik as far as leaving the top vent off and the bottom vent wide open. My pizza stone is on a raised grate so it's up in the dome of my BGE. You will get higher heat plus you can watch the pizza top bake. If I'm using a dough w/o 00 Flour I cook the pizza at a stone temp of about 450-500*. If using a dough with 00 Flour it works better for me to get the stone temp higher to maybe 600-700 or so. IMO from trying several dough recipes, 00 Flour not only works with higher heat but that it needs higher heat. One big thing that seems to work well is stretching the dough on to parchment paper so it can be slid right on to the hot pizza stone. The parchment will burn on the edges but that doesn't seem to hurt anything. I think you just need to try a few more pizza bakes Jim White and you will get the results you want. I've tried LOTS of dough recipes-Lol. Good luck!

    PS-couldn't see your photos either.

    Comment


    • Jim White
      Jim White commented
      Editing a comment
      In my post about the options I bought with the cooker I showed a photo of the the setup I planned to use. It got the pizza pan about 9.5 inches above the normal cooking surface and into the area where the dome lid begins to narrow. I was using KA bread flour for the crust.
  • fkrall
    Club Member
    • Jan 2017
    • 119
    • Northern NJ

    #5
    Not sure, but you may want to try uploading your photos at the end of your post rather than in-line.

    Comment

    • Jim White
      Club Member
      • Sep 2019
      • 410
      • Gainesville, FL

      #6
      Okay, I removed and reinstalled the photos. I hope they're visible now.

      Comment

      • RonB
        Club Member
        • Apr 2016
        • 12132
        • Near Richmond VA
        • Weber Performer Deluxe
          SNS
          Pizza insert
          Rotisserie
          Smokenator 1000
          Cookshack Smokette Elite
          2 Thermapens
          Chefalarm
          Dot
          lots of probes.
          CyberQ

        #7
        Yes - I can see 'em now. Great looking pie.

        Comment


        • Jim White
          Jim White commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks. So far, though, I'm not seeing an advantage over just putting the CI pan in my oven in the house on its maximum setting. In fact, that's probably how I'll finish off the dough before it goes bad.

        • RonB
          RonB commented
          Editing a comment
          In my Kettle, there is a definite charcoal flavor added to the pies that I really like, and don't forget that you can portion and freeze the dough balls.
      • Skip
        Founding Member
        • Jul 2014
        • 3023
        • Blue Earth, Minnesota
        • MAK Pellet Grill, Large BGE, Weber Kettle with SnS, Weber Gasser, Pit Barrel Cooker, Cast Iron Pans & Griddle, Grill Grates, Mostly Thermoworks Thermometers

        #8
        Jim White your pictures look good now. I think you maybe just need to practice your technique a little more and your results will great! Good job!!

        Comment


        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          Jim White I really like Cowboy briquettes and lump, both. I get 750F on the surface of the lump according to my IR therm

        • Jim White
          Jim White commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks, ecowper, it's nice to strike the lump off the list of variables to worry about.

        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          Jim White totally understand. I think the biggest issue is going to be airflow. On the Hasty-Bake I have to get the vents wide open and the cover open before I get 750F on the lump. Once I get the air flowing, though, that Cowboy lump gets hot!
      • Mosca
        Charter Member
        • Oct 2014
        • 3107
        • PA
        • Large Big Green Egg, Weber Performer Deluxe, Weber Smokey Joe Silver, Maverick 732, DigiQ, and too much other stuff to mention.

        #9
        It’s not the kamado getting hot, it’s the fire getting hot. The kamado is just trapping the heat.

        I agree with those that say open the vents more. A BGE will spin the temp dial beyond the limits with both vents wide open and a full charcoal load. I think your rig can do the same.

        Comment


        • Henrik
          Henrik commented
          Editing a comment
          I agree. I can't see why the grill would be a problem.

        • Jim White
          Jim White commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks. Top vent spins freely this morning. Before the next high temp cook, I'll take it out, clean the threads and hit with a little cooking spray for future ease. Will do the next try with the lower vent drawer removed and top removed.

          I ran a full fire basket of lump yesterday. Looking in this morning from the lower vent drawer, there may be a bit of ash restricting air flow through the basket itself. Also, the accumulation of ash in the bottom is a little higher than I like. Will clean.
      • Jim White
        Club Member
        • Sep 2019
        • 410
        • Gainesville, FL

        #10
        Did a pie indoor for lunch. My oven dial goes to 550. I set it there and put the CI pan in. After getting to temp for a while, my IR gun gave 590 on the pan. Transfer to the pan was rougher this time, but I did salvage it with the metal peel. After one minute in the oven, I switched from bake to broil. Total cook time was about 4 and a half minutes, with one opening of the oven to rotate the pie. Even as I pulled the pie out, the pan read 580. I like the look of this pie and its underside much better.

        Click image for larger version

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        Click image for larger version

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        Although the there wasn't any wood smoke flavor as RonB prefers, this pizza tasted much better than last night's because the crust was amazing. Best combination of crispness on the outside with a soft inside I've experienced with pizza.

        I'm not giving up on the cooker. If I can get to 600 or more and have it fairly stable, it would be the best of both worlds.

        Comment

        • Jim White
          Club Member
          • Sep 2019
          • 410
          • Gainesville, FL

          #11
          Thanks for all the help, folks. I just cleared a REALLY embarrassing amount of ash out from under the firebox in the cooker. I'm pretty sure that was a factor in airflow. Also, I cleaned up the threads on the top vent cap with an old toothbrush and cooking spray and can now get it all the way off again.

          I'm roasting a turkey breast on the cooker for dinner tonight, so instead of closing the cooker up when it's done, I may just pull the vent drawer out and take the top vent off and see where the temp goes while we eat dinner.

          Comment


          • Henrik
            Henrik commented
            Editing a comment
            Smart. That’s the way I clean mine out, great opportunity to check temps on your grill.
        • smokin fool
          Club Member
          • Apr 2019
          • 1388
          • Mississauga, Ont

          #12
          That Za looks fantastic
          Would last seconds here

          Comment

          • troymeister
            Charter Member
            • Aug 2014
            • 1247
            • Forest Park Il
            • Weber 26

              Weber Performer 22.5, Weber 18.5, WSM 18.5, Smokey Joe

              2 Slow N Sears, Charcoal Rotisserie, Kettle Pizza for Weber 22.5

              Smoke Thermometer, Igrill, Thermapen, Thermapop,Maverick 2 probe

              Good Cabernet, Merlot, Zin

              Anti Hero, Blue moon

              I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I put it in my food.

            #13
            Dude...Ummm...I'd eat either of those pizzas in a heartbeat. I cook all of my pizzas at 425°-500°. Oven, Grill or whatever. I do have a Kettle Pizza for the Weber 22. It seems I rarely use it.

            Comment


            • smokin fool
              smokin fool commented
              Editing a comment
              Agreed sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves
              Adjust those dampers and get her humming
              If conditions are right my BKK will blow by 650 may have passed 700
              That I’ve never seen but I wasn’t there
          • Oak Smoke
            Club Member
            • Aug 2018
            • 327
            • Central Texas

            #14
            I've learned that if I want high temps in my Kamado I need to stay away from the smaller pieces of lump. They just impede air flow too much. If I use larger chunks on the bottom and medium ones above those I can get 900 deg F easily. I know that's too hot, but it shows how hot you can achieve. If I'm using small pieces to grill some burgers or such I seldom get hotter that 475 deg F. It's about the air flow even through the charcoal.

            Comment

            • Jim White
              Club Member
              • Sep 2019
              • 410
              • Gainesville, FL

              #15
              Well, I tried opening up the cooker after my turkey breast came off this evening. I pulled the lower draft door out and started opening the top vent cap. I got it open more than 3 inches before my hands started getting hot in the gloves, so I went inside and started carving turkey.

              Came out about 10 minutes later and the temp gauge was showing about 550. I started working again to unscrew the top cap and I could literally see the temperature dropping as I opened the vent further. I closed it down a bit and the dropping stopped. I opened the lid and the highest temp reading I got with IR on the inside of the lid was just under 400. So I clearly have more work to do to sort out getting this thing to higher temps.

              But smokin fool was right. We are too hard on ourselves. I packed up some dough, sauce and toppings and our daughter came by and did a socially distant pickup to cook a pie at her place. The only food critic whose opinion really matters to me fully approved of this pizza:

              Click image for larger version

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              If my grandson's happy, I'm happy.

              Comment


              • EdF
                EdF commented
                Editing a comment
                A cute and happy kid. What more could anyone need? Obviously your descendant too!

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