Gift Guide: For the Pizza-Maker
When Slice's editor, Meredith, asked me to write a Gift Guide for Home Pizza-Makers, I was like, how am I going to avoid this:
I mean, do you know how many of these I've written over the years? But you know, I realized that it's precisely BECAUSE I've galloped over these grounds so often that I can offer you my tried-and-true picks for the home pizza-maker in your life.
Some of these are stocking-stuffers, some are pretty pricey, but most are somewhere in between. What they all have in common is that I have turned to these products again and again in my own pizza-making life. I hope your pizza obsessive—novice or veteran—appreciates them as much as I do.
Note: Prices quoted are current as of date of publication and do not include shipping & handling unless otherwise noted.
A Kitchen Scale
A kitchen scale is absolutely indispensable for the serious home pizza-maker—or baker. If there is one thing on this list that's a must-have, this is it. Weighing ingredients for baking takes all the guesswork out of measurement and ensures consistent results from one dough to the next. And that's important when comparing variations in dough recipes. You can do your research and pick whatever, but I use Oxo's Food Scale with Pull-Out Display, which is nice if you've got a big bowl on top (because large items won't obscure the readout).
Baking Steel (1/4" Thick)
If you've spent any time on Slice in the last few months, you have seen the Baking Steel. (No? Go catch up!) The folks at Pizzamaking.com have been talking about the advantages of baking on steel for ages, but until this year there hasn't been a commercially available product. Sure, you could go out and source your own slab of quarter- to half-inch-thick steel at a local metal fabricator, clean off the mill scale, season the steel, and get it food-ready. Or you could just buy one of these puppies pictured here.
Get it: The 1/4"-thick Baking Steel is $79 (S&H included).
The 1/2"-thick version was created with serious pizza geeks in mind, and does cook pizzas quicker but weighs a whopping 30 pounds. It's up to you what your priorities are.
A Food Processor
I do most of my dough-making in a food processor. It makes lightning-quick work of mixing and even kneading. Not convinced? Here's Kenji's take on it. Not only the machine whiz up a batch of dough but it can also grate cheese, chop toppings, and do a bunch of other nonpizza stuff, too, which is a bonus if you're buying this for someone you share the kitchen with. I own Cuisinart's 11-Cup Prep Plus. I've had it a couple years. It was Kenji's top pick in this 2010 food processor survey. There may be newer, better models out there now, but this one does the job.
Another great-for-pizza, great-for-baking-in-general item. It does what it sounds like: scrapes your work surface clean after you've worked up some dough on it. It can also aid in moving and handling sticky doughs and is great for portioning large batches of dough. I like this one from Oxo for the ruler along the edge.
Large Dough Rising Buckets
I put these in last year's guide, and they're here again. I use my 6-quart bucket for large batches (~1,800 grams) of dough, and I have 4-quart buckets for smaller portions (~900 grams). The 6-quart size is great if you're making bread per any of the various no-knead or stretch-and-fold methods. I like to buy Cambro's containers because they're made in the U.S.
Hand-Crank Cheese Grater
My wife bought one of these for me a few years ago. I use it ALL THE TIME. Not only is it great for dusting pre- and post-bake pies with a good aged cheese, it also looks cool on the table when you want to serve cheese with pasta or vegetables or whatnot.
Get it: $24 from Kiosk.
UPDATE (2013-12-16): I would still stand by this list, but I have a sad update. The hand-crank cheese grater is out of stock at Kiosk, and they don't think they'll be able to get it in. "We've had a lot of trouble re-stocking that in the past," they told me today when I tried to buy one for a friend. I know, I was heartbroken. It's something I've given to a lot of people over the years. Sniff. —Adam K.
OK, so these are more nice-to-have rather than must-have. I like to bust 'em out when other folks join me and the wife for Pizza Night. They're practical in that they maximize table space, but there's also the "wow" factor, since guests will know that anyone who owns them MEANS SERIOUS PIZZA PARTY BUSINESS.
Again, a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, but if your pizza freak plans to do a lot of pizza entertaining, these are nice for serving red pepper flakes or oregano. (I don't use mine for cheese. Remember the crank grater from a couple slides back?)