My Pizza Oven: Tailbiter's FrankenEgg
If you follow My Pie Monday, then you've already seen Tailbiter's pies. Eric hails from Tulsa, OK, where he's a software engineer by day and a pizza maven by night. Now we have the pleasure of taking a look at his homemade pizza dome, handily designed to fit his Big Green Egg. You can check out more of Eric's pizza adventures on his Facebook fan page and view the step-by-step constructed of his oven in the slideshow above!
Wow, this looks like it was quite the undertaking. How long did it take, and did you do all the work yourself?
This project started back in November of 2012, with extensive CAD drawings in order to create a ceramic floor and dome for the 18" ceramic grills (mine is a Big Green Egg). This project proved to be more costly and time consuming that what I had, so I ended up creating a refractory cement dome and had a floor cut out of 1/4" stainless steel to direct the flow of hot air from the firebox directly below and shoot it over the dome. We started the actual construction of this around the beginning of February of 2013.
So it's spanking new! Guess it pays to be a software engineer, huh? You must be pretty excited that it's finally complete. How often do you fire it up?
We use it at least once a week. Sometimes two. My wife get a bit frustrated with the mess we make, but we do have a lot of fun with it.
Sounds pretty great. Does anything else go in there aside from pizza?
We mostly cook pizza in it, but I've done a couple of loafs of bread as well.
Mmmm...pizza. What kinds do you usually make?
I experiment with different doughs and techniques, but generally we'll have at least 1 marg, and a pepperoni with basil. Another personal favorite is our banana pizza that's made with cinnamon and sugar coated bananas, and a sweetened and condensed milk drizzle (heavy on the drizzle).
Oh man, you're making me hungry. Is there a special pie you've made that takes the cake?
One of my favorites was a white pizza we made with smoked mozzarella, basil, and some Italian herbs. The pepperoni's also come out really good if we can get the oven hot enough.
Speaking of, how hot does that thing get?
Here's a shot with my temp gun, with the oven at just over 700ºF:
Impressive! Those of us with lame old "normal" home ovens are seething with enraged jealousy. I bet your friends and family are pretty stoked on mooching off that oven action. Do they get to partake?
We occasionally have friends over, although the invite comes with a warning regarding the informality of the dinner. When we say "Go" it get's pretty crazy between the kitchen counter and the outside grill.
Sounds like a party! What does your family have to say about your pizza madness?
My wife thinks I'm crazy, but she's thought that for a number of years. The rest of the kids go with the flow. Our regulars are my daughter and son-in-law Josh. He's the fire man on the grill although I've got him started with shaping dough as well. We have a lot of fun judging and grading the cooks. We're getting more consistent, as we've only been doing this for around 6 months. Once the "dough bug" bit me, I started working with other breads and flours. My wife is impressed with some of the bread I've cranked out.
6 months! That's it? Has it been a difficult learning curve?
We've never completely lost a pie but we've come pretty close. The issue with this oven is that the "hearth" is really just an elevated pizza stone. You have to be pretty precise to fit a 13.5" pie on a 14" pizza stone with a peel. It makes for a real exciting moment when we go to put one on. Kind of like hitting the hoop at half court. I get a lot of cheers when it goes on well. A bunch of "oh craps" when they hang over one edge. ;0)
The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?
Don't know that I remember my first slice, I'm sure it was a frozen pizza from a box, but I do recall early memories of Pizza Hut pan pizza. Since we started making our own from scratch I've found the Lahey's no-knead dough to provide an excellent pan crust pie. We use the same dough for making the traditional pies as well. It's so easy, and our results have been fairly consistent.
But even not kneading takes some time and energy. Where do you go for pizza when a craving hits and you just need to satisfy it immediately?
We do have a local place out here called Uncle Vinny's which most in the house consider our "out of house" favorite. The owner, Larry, has been very generous in assisting in my dough adventures. He's a great guy, and I highly recommend his pizza to all our friends.
I wouldn't mind a pizza mentor of my own! So tell me, what's one thing that should just NEVER go on a pizza?
According to my wife it seems to be fruit, but we still keep doing it. For myself, I'm not sure that I'm ready to answer that question. Too many ideas keep popping into my head. This, especially due to the wide variety of pies posted on Slice. The My Pie Monday section is loaded with great idea from the community. It's a real tool in my arsenal.
Okay, so you're not ready to outlaw any toppings. How about the most unusual pizza you've ever eaten?
If you ever go to a "pizza" place in Japan, it's really very interesting. You sit around a hot griddle similar to a Benihana-style restaurant. Then you pick your toppings and they create an egg based omelet kind-o-thingy. It was actually pretty good, but very odd.
Weird! I'll have to get myself to Japan one of these days. Do you travel a lot? And, more importantly, what's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
I've taken advantage of a number of business trips to partake in pizza goodness, such as Japan, Sydney, and Brazil, but the best I've had so far was probably my trip to Atlanta, where I was able to got to Varasano's. It was a great experience. Next time I got to ATL I'm going to try Antico's.
Looks like you've got it all figured out! Congrats on your new oven, it's an inspiring undertaking. And speaking of inspiring, is there someone you admire who you'd like to see interviewed next?
I know a street vender that has a pretty cool WFO on a trailer up in KC. I think he might be on this site, but I'm not sure what his username would be. He makes great looking pies, and runs a real classy outfit. If you're interested I can try to locate his email. His name is David White, and he has a FB page here. His business is called Prairie Fire Oven.
Do you have your very own pizza oven? Would you like to be featured on Slice? Hit us up: firstname.lastname@example.org