As documented previously, the insert is easy to put together, and when we fit it on the Weber at our test facility high above the streets of Manhattan, it worked as expected. Let's see if we can get some pizzas cooked before this beautiful late-afternoon sunlight fades.
We started with a single starter chimney of coals and created a two-zone indirect fire.
And the Stretch
There are as many stretching techniques as there are pizzaioli. Use whatever technique is comfortable to you. Kenji used a sort of stick-and-pull method. The first few balls of dough were a little stiff and needed a little while longer to come up to an ideal workable temperature.
Once we put the lid on the Kettle Pizza device, the built-in thermometer started to rise. We started preheating our stone (here, a 14-inch round Fibrament stone).
The stone heats up fast on a grill. After about 30 minutes, our stone was at 454°F, nearing what we thought would be an ideal range.
Pizza No. 1
We opted for a simple Margherita pie for the first pizza sacrificed to the fire gods.
Lip not So Puffy
After a minute or so, the lip on this pizza is not as puffy as we'd like. In fact, for this first pizza, it would end up taking almost 10 minutes to cook. We weren't expecting the sub-2-minute cook times of wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, but we were surprised by how long this first one took.
Still, the results were decent if not spectacular. This first one was on par with something you could cook up using a stone in your home oven. If this was the best we could do with the Kettle Pizza, the most we could say for it was that it would allow you to cook pizza in the summer without heating your kitchen.
But we didn't think we had pushed the limits of the insert yet....
Oh, Here's the Crust
Here's the undercarriage. Not bad, right? But, like I just said, nothing much better than practiced home-oven quality. It was very crisp and solid with only a little chewiness or give.
The Kettle Pizza insert came with a pizza pan and is one of the ways the manufacturer recommends cooking pizza with the device. We tried it here. Note that air temps above the pizza are just north of 600°F, so we're getting to an area beyond the range of most home ovens.
Pizza No. 2
The pan-cooked pizza took even longer than the stone-cooked one, clocking in around 12 minutes. I was worried the whole time that it would be incinerated, but it remained intact. The bottom was done well before the top on this one, and in fact we had to pull it out earlier than we would have liked to prevent complete bottom charring.
Go Big or Go Home
By this point, we were a little disappointed with the Kettle Pizza insert's performance. Even with what we estimated to be 2 chimney loads of coal, we just could not get it hot enough.
That's when we decided to go for broke and threw 15 more pounds of coal onto the flame. If this doesn't do it, nothing will.
We finally redlined the thermometer. At this point, Kenji's infrared thermometer was reading air temperatures of 770°F to 800°F.
Pizza No. 3 (Stone Cooked with High Heat)
Despite the funny shape (the back got pinched while depositing it on the stone), this one had a nice crust. It was crisp, chewy, and not overcooked. Was it comparable to a wood-fired pizza? No. But this was a couple notches above what I've been able to get out of my home oven using a stone.
Pizza No. 4, Marinated Kale (Stone Cooked with High Heat)
After talking Kenji and I chatted about different stretching methods, he decided to use the Mathieu Palombino (Motorino) method to create a crazy-high end crust on this marinated-kale pizza. It was with this one that we saw the Kettle Pizza insert work to good effect, as the crust puffed up quickly upon entering the chamber.
The Autopsy and the Post-Mortem
And here's the autopsy shot of that kale pie's crust. Not bad, right?
Our verdict on the Kettle Pizza insert is that it does indeed add some juice to Weber-grill pizza-cooking — once you get the coal temperature and stone temperature up to snuff. And doing that takes a boatload of fuel.