The Holy Grail of Backyard Pizza

Pizza number four


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On my fourth go – with supermarket dough no less – I had achieved (or at least glimpsed) the Holy Grail of backyard pizza, a Neapolitan-style pizza in just under 90 seconds, telltale leopard-spotting on the cornicione, a bit of char on the undercarriage.

As a personal expression, I was turning out in these first attempts pizza competitive with the best in the state.

After twenty years of pizza making and all sorts of stoves and stones and grills – none actually better than a cheap grad school Magic Chef that melted the kitchen linoleum each time it came up to almost 600 degrees – I was a bit stunned.

I had expected a learning curve of weeks or longer. The raw dough, purchased at the local Big Y, anticipated failure.

Of course, there was room for improvement. A slow rise and homemade dough would have been better. I still needed to work on my technique with a turning peel — a tool I didn’t know existed until an hour or two before.

Roccbox with the optional wood burner attached (Credit: Gozney)

But I had only lit the silicone-clad space-age contraption for the first time about 45 minutes earlier – hooked up to the same propane cylinder common to gas grills — proving that it is possible to make seriously good pizza on short notice, after work, and without the hours long hassle of building and tending a fire that would in reality relegate the activity to the aspirational and odd weekends at home.

A few days later, after a bit more practice, we invited over a local pizzaiolo with serious professional skill making pizza in wood-fired ovens. He brought his own dough. We tweaked the temperature – easily 900° F — up and down over the 90 second process. He showed a bit of technique turning and manipulating the pizzas between hot and cool places in the oven.

The experience left him wanting one of his own for home.

Last Saturday, we topped this-time-homemade dough with a bit of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, oregano, cured meat, prunes, onions and grated Parmesan – it was superb – the prunes lending a bit of the sweet richness you want in a sauce, but can’t achieve with a pinch of sugar.

Another time it was capers, sausage, shaved fennel and walnuts. And have you tried bread crumbs, a topping common to Sicily? Or pepperoncini?

After years of contemplating building a brick oven, I’m so glad that I didn’t.

In grey or green, Gozney’s Roccbox, at $499, is a bit of a luxury, but it’s all the oven you’ll ever really need.

Highly recommended