The Pizza Bella oven was manufactured and sold in the early 2000s in the U.S. by small-appliance-maker Deni. It's since been discontinued but is available used on eBay and elsewhere. It's a subject of interest among at-home pizza-makers because it purports to solve a problem inherent in cooking pizza in a home oven — namely that the bottom of the crust always cooks faster than the top of the pizza.
With the Pizza Bella and other countertop electric ovens like it (see Rene Walhout's G3 Ferrari oven), a powerful heating element in the top of the machine is supposed to cook the top as quickly as the bottom, which has a circular pizza stone above a similar heating coil.
We received our eBay-bought Pizza Bella oven in the mail on Friday and immediately put it to the test. Videos, after the jump.
Pizza Bella Test: Pie No. 1
For pizza No. 1, we operated the Pizza Bella as per the included instructions, which to be honest, were a little unclear. You see, the instructions say to preheat about 10 minutes until the "On" light goes off.
But then it says only to cook when the "On" light is on.
You see the problem here?
Basically, the On light is on when the broiler element is on. Unfortunately, the element cycles on and off repeatedly whenever the internal temperature of the gadget reaches "High." (Sorry, folks, Kenji didn't know we'd be getting this thing on Friday and didn't have his infrared thermometer with him ... contrary to what you may believe, he doesn't walk around with it holstered to his belt.)
Anyway, there's a longish lag time between on and off, so while the top element is off, the bottom is meanwhile cooking away, thanks to the residual heat of the stone. We found that the first pizza had a good rise around the rim of the pie but that the long cooking time (about 10 minutes) left the pizza entirely crisp, crunchy, and crackery.
Watch the video if you want to see the results.
Inevitably, Slice'rs will ask about the dough, etc. We made an entirely Whole Foods–driven pizza, premade dough, sauce, and fresh mozzarella cheese. I can hear the groans, but, hey, this was short notice, and we didn't have homemade dough on hand. The WF is about 2 blocks from Slice/SE HQ, and it was the fastest way to test this thing.
(Oh, and if you're wondering about that crazy long-handled pizza peel, here's the explanation...)
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Pizza Bella Test: Pie No. 2
While testing the first pizza, Kenji noticed that if you just sort of tilted the temperature knob a certain way, the element would stay on for as long as you held it. So he stretched out a second pie and we had at it.
Unfortunately, the device gets very hot, and it's hard to hold the knob with your forearm perched above the heat-belching lid. Still, the second pizza came out slightly better than the first.
Links to Discussion of Deni Pizza Bella
In the first video, I mention some discussion on the site Pizzamaking.com. Here are the relevant links:
- Pizza Bella Oven introduces the device
- Modding Out My Pizza Bella Oven introduces the concept of hacking the device by bending a tab on the unit's thermostat
- Modifying a Deni 1200 shows how to hack the thing with helpful pictures
Disclaimer: Remember that hacking the thing will result in very high temperatures and may be unsafe. Officially, we at Slice do not recommend this, and if you do do it, it's all on you.