By Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn of Cheater Chef
Even if you’re a complete sports nut, fully devoted to your teams and focused on all their stats, you’ve got to admit that a big part of the fun of competitive sports is the food, the drink, and the party that goes with them. There is no better excuse to call friends, fire up the grill, fill the crock pot, and ice the cooler. Game days are party days.
And party days are “made in the USA” KettlePizza days.
With a little planning and organizing you can have it all – hot from the KettlePizza, sides and snacks, friends and family, and cold beverages. And you can do it whether you’re in the crazy three-ring circus stadium parking lot or in a neighborhood backyard (yours or anyone else’s). Let’s face it, everything tastes better in a parking lot.
Successful tailgating and homegating are all about smart organizing and packing, efficient setting up, showing off a few parking lot cooking skills, laughing and talking, sharing food with others, cleaning up, and repacking. More or less in that order.
Accomplished ‘gaters are the ones checking the forecast on Tuesday or Wednesday, shopping on Thursday, and whenever there’s free time washing coolers and folding tables, and staging the necessary gear in the garage so everything is ready to go in the morning.
To get the most out of your KettlePizza tailgate time, here are a few tips:
— Pack the Weber kettle, charcoal, and charcoal chimney last so that they are the first items out of the car.
— Light the charcoal in the chimney as soon as you arrive and before you do anything else – no EZ-Up, no quick round of cornhole or ball-tossing, no beers and joke-telling. Get the fire going first and then get busy setting up tables and chairs, breaking out the coolers, and opening up snacks and pizza fixings.
— Parking lots and backyards can be busy places so set up your KettlePizza cooking zone on level ground and not too close to chairs, tables, and people or car traffic. Give yourself a room to maneuver safely around the kettle.
— Locate your stadium’s charcoal and ash dispensers. Most stadiums provide them.
–If you’re using a foldable plastic table with four separate table legs, bring four sections of plastic PVC pipe about 10-12-inches long and slide them onto the bottoms of each of the table legs. A higher table makes pizza prep and serving a whole lot easier on the back.
— Enlist a couple enthusiastic (i.e. responsible) friends to be your KettlePizza crew. Once the oven is hot, keep the pies rolling so you can enjoy the pizza, clean up, and get to your seats. One of you preps the pies, one works the oven, and one slices and serves.
–This is not the best time for lots of different individual pies. When tailgating, fewer choices are better. Decide your toppings ahead and keep it simple. Everyone can try them all.
–Consider creating a signature pie for your home team and go with that. Here in Nashville we’re taking a liking to pineapple in honor of our new QB, Marcus Mariota.
–As soon as the last pie is out of the oven, remove the KettlePizza kit from the Weber grill and set it in a safe place to cool down. Place the metal lid on the Weber and close all air vents to extinguish the charcoal.
–Use gallon size plastic bags to store leftover pizza slices (in the cooler) while you watch the game. You’ll need a post-game snack in the parking lot while you wait for the traffic to let up.
To make your KettlePizza tailgate time as easy and fun as possible, here’s our prep and packing KettlePizza checklist:
KettlePizza Cooking Equipment:
Weber grill and metal lid (emptied of leftover coal and ash)
KettlePizza kit components (metal ring, grate, pizza stone)
Charcoal chimney starter
Newspaper or fire starter cubes and lighter/matches
Bag of dried hardwood chunks
Long metal tongs for handling wood and charcoal
Heavy duty work or welder’s gloves
Long handled metal spatula for scraping pizza stone
Big cutting board and pizza slicer
Plastic jug of tap water (to extinguish coals if needed)
KettlePizza Pizza Elements:
Pizza dough options:
— tubs of your own homemade dough (see Mindy’s easy make-ahead pizza dough recipe. If you’re going roll out dough, be sure to bring a small container of flour for dusting the board and your hands.
— bagged dough from store or pizzeria (see our post on tips for using dough from the store
— refrigerated canned dough (see our post on tips for using canned refrigerated dough
— ready-made pizza crust from the store (plenty to choose from).
Sauce, cheese, and other toppings:
You know what you like and what works for you, but whatever you bring, rely on plenty of small plastic storage containers with tight-fitting lids that are easy to pack in a cooler and set out on a party table. Otherwise, just keep the ingredients simple and make it easy for you and your friends to mix and match the ingredients.
Your own sauce ( scroll down this post for a good simple one) or your favorite bottled sauce
Crushed red pepper
Any anything else you like. Simple is best.
For “Tips and Tools from the United States Tailgating Association” go to:
Instead of another last-minute tie for Father’s Day, why not buy something dad will really appreciate — like a wood-fired pizza oven from KettlePizza.
Selecting a thoughtful Father’s Day gift is an annual challenge. Studies show that over-analyzing the Father’s Day gift-buying process leads to gift buying paralysis,often resulting in a last-minute purchase like the dreaded Father’s Day tie. Don’t be that person!
KettlePizza is eradicating Father’s Day gift-buying paralysis forever and promoting a more deliberate approach by making available for sale its entire family of Made in the USA pizza oven kits that turn a kettle-style grill, like a Weber, into an affordable backyard, wood-fired pizza oven. KettlePizza is a great gift idea for dads who enjoy grilling — as well as for foodies, sports fans who enjoy ‘home gating’ for the big game, shoppers who enjoy giving American-made products as gifts, and anyone who likes to entertain with friends and family.
“Men’s closets throughout the USA are jammed with ties. Wide ties, thin ties, silk ties, linen ties and cotton ties. And most just hang there, unworn year-after-year,” said Al Contarino, KettlePizza president/co-founder. “We’re saying ‘enough with the ties already.’ Dads are too nice say to their kids or significant other, ‘I have enough ties for two life times.’ We’re nice too, but we’re not afraid to say it, so let’s cool it with the ties.”
Father’s Day coincides with the height of the summer grilling season for many Americans, and what better way to celebrate both occasions than with an at-home grilling experience that will create wonderful memories year-after-year,” said Contarino. “Dads who enjoy charcoal grilling can add new recipes to their cooking repertoire with our kits. KettlePizza kits turn a regular kettle-style grill into a wood-fired oven for authentic flavor at a fraction of the cost of a custom brick or stone oven.”
KettlePizza’s product line includes the original pizza oven kits, as well as aluminum pro-grade pizza peels, hand-crafted Cordierite baking stones, and other accessories, all of which are available directly at http://www.kettlepizza.com.
KettlePizza is a major sponsor of the Rotary Nashua West Rockn’ Ribfest, New Hampshire’s premier family event, which will be held over Father’s Day weekend, June 19 – 21, in Merrimack, NH.
Founded in 2010 by inventors and entrepreneurs Al Contarino and George Peters, KettlePizza™ is an all-American small business success story. From humble beginnings in Al’s barn to distribution partners across the country and around the world, KettlePizza offers grill aficionados and families that enjoy home cooked meals or entertaining friends an authentic wood-burning pizza oven experience. KettlePizza has multiple patents pending and was named 2013 Retailers Choice Award at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas and 2012 Vesta Award Finalist at the Hearth, Patio Expo Atlanta. For more information visit http://www.kettlepizza.com.
Don’t look now, but tomorrow — Friday (March 20) — the sun will appear to cross the celestial equator, pointing northward. That means that if you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere, come Friday you’ll be celebrating the vernal equinox — aka, the first day of spring. If you reside in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll be welcoming in the autumn equinox.
Both are truly glorious seasons with weather that’s ideal for taking your cooking to the great outdoors, aka your backyard. If the weather where you live isn’t quite grill-ready (and we can tell you that here in New England the weather remains downright wintry), we’re confident it will be turning the corner soon. And when it does, we want you and your kettle-style charcoal grill to be KettlePizza-ready.
So we have scoured the web (not really, we just know about this stuff because we’re grill guys too:) for the best kettle-style charcoal grill cleaning tips we could find. And we encourage you to add your secrete recipes for cleaning a charcoal grill in the comments section of this post.
Ready? Set? Here goes…
Wait a moment. First and foremost, make sure you have the right grill cleaning tools at the ready. Chances are you already have these household items at your disposal: sponges, rags, soap (dish washing soap is fine), glass cleaner (great for eliminating nasty stains from grease and smoke), a stainless-steel brush (we bet there’s one in your garage), a paint scraper you don’t care too much about…and that should do it.
Oh, and we also recommend a pair of rubber kitchen gloves too. Now you’re really ready!
1. Assume an athletic position, and address the exterior of your grill. Makes sense, right? Fill a small tub with warm water and a mild detergent, and with a sponge, wipe down the lid and bowl. Grab the glass cleaner and spray wherever you see unsightly stains. Then start wiping those stains away.
2. Now look for what the pros call carbonized grease. Look under the lid for what may appear to be peeling paint. In reality, it’s carbonized grease that builds up over time, and then begins to peel. Now take the stainless-steel brush — the non-scratch variety — and brush away the peels. Squeeze that sponge over the bucket of warm soapy water, wipe, rinse and dry. Voilà
3. Move on to the cooking grate. With the same brush and soapy water, brush the grate. And don’t be shy about using a little elbow grease. As you may know, cleaning a cooking grate isn’t a job for the meek!
4. Almost there. This isn’t actually a step, but we wanted there to be 6 steps, and we could only come up with 5 on our own.
5. Now you’re in the red zone. Take out your now sparkling cooking grate and the charcoal grate to make it easy to clean out the inside of your kettle-style grill. You will likely need the paint scraper again to remove the debris we are sure has settled on the bottom of your grill. If water found its way into your grill, chances are it blended with whatever ash and charcoal, and who knows what else, made a home of your grill during the off-season. Again, paint scraper to the rescue; then the warm soapy sponge, rinse clean and wipe dry.
6. Put everything back together, pop in your KettlePizza, fire it up, roll out the dough and invite your neighbors for a little chill time.
You’ve earned it!
When it comes to entertaining family and friends, little beats getting together outdoors when the food becomes the center of attention. Who doesn’t love hanging out by the grill to see what’s being prepared? Socializing around the grill has become a national pastime. And with the first official day of Spring only a month or so away, homeowners coast-to-coast are champing at the bit to make outdoor lifestyle improvements.
Depending on what part of the country you live in, an outdoor kitchen may or may not make sense. It may not seem like it during Snowmaggedon 2015, but even in New England (the home base for KettlePizza), we enjoy many months of temperate weather where spending time socializing outside is preferred over jamming guests in a hot and crowded kitchen.
In fact, a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that homeowners who have an outdoor kitchen consistently rate it as their favorite room. And the number one outdoor kitchen item the homeowners regretted not having was a backyard pizza oven. As our KettlePizza customers already know, an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven quickly becomes the central gathering spot for family and friends who not only want to see what’s cooking, but relish the opportunity to participate in a fun and entertaining cooking process.
“The number one item that current owners of outdoor kitchens regretted leaving out was a pizza oven. Backyard pizza ovens serve as a gathering place for guests to participate in the food prep process. It’s what I call ‘kitchen karaoke.'” … June Savage, Realtor associate, Coral Gables, Florida, ONE Sotheby’s International Realty
So if you’re flipping through outdoor kitchen furniture web pages and brochures these days, looking forward to a time in the not-too-distant future when snow drifts and ice will be replaced by green grass and flowers, don’t forget to budget for a wood-fired, backyard pizza oven. If you decide on a KettlePizza — which converts a kettle style charcoal grill, like a Weber, into a pizza oven — you’ll spend as a little as $150 for everything you need to take your entertaining capabilities to an all new level.
Beyond the entertainment benefits, an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven, such as a KettlePizza, has many other benefits, including:
- You and your guests will eat sooner. How long does it take for your indoor oven to reach its highest temperature (at least 20 minutes)? And at its highest temp of around 500 degrees F, it will take up to another 15 minutes to bake a pizza. A KettlePizza oven quickly hits temps of 700 – 800 degrees F, and beyond, so you can expect your pizza to be ready in two or three minutes.
- Your pizza will taste better. That’s because a KettlePizza distributes the heat evenly across the pizza and the wood-fired heat delivers a unique and delicious flavor.
- A wood-fired pizza is healthier for you. Since toppings like vegetables and some fruit will cook more quickly in a KettlePizza than in an indoor oven, these toppings retain more of their nutrients and antioxidants.
- A wood-fired oven is versatile. Baking bread, roasting meats, burgers and dogs and vegetables — all fun and easy to do in your KettlePizza.
- Wood-fired ovens are inexpensive to operate. No electricity. No propane. Just heat from fire.
Are you thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen to your home this year? Or adding items, like a wood-fired oven, to an existing one? If so, we’d love to hear what you have in mind.
By Al Contarino, KettlePizza president and co-founder
If you’re reading this post, you’ve likely thought about having a brick or stone pizza oven in your back yard. Who wouldn’t want one of these beauties gracing their lawn? And what better way to make new friends or rekindle relationships with long lost relatives:).
Many of you already know that George Peters and I had a similar dream, a dream that ultimately led to the establishment of KettlePizza. Since KettlePizza was founded, we’ve heard from many adventurous pizza lovers who thought it would be fun to build a backyard pizza oven, in part, due to the high cost of purchasing one. While I admire their passion and ambition, many have called me back to express their frustration about the inability to find the time to finish what they started.
For these folks, who may be price-sensitive and pressed for time but still insist on outstanding craftsmanship (USA craftsmanship, I should add) and excellent pizza, a KettlePizza is the perfect fit.
If you have looked at the alternatives, from a home-made brick or stone pizza oven for your yard to one you could buy assembled and installed, this post is specifically for you. You’ll see that KettlePizza is a great way to get started with an inexpensive pizza oven that doesn’t compromise quality and will deliver heavenly creations.
KettlePizza vs. a Traditional Backyard Pizza Oven
- Cost — KettlePizza kits with a Weber Kettle Grill costs between $200.00-$500.00, depending on the selected setup. The entry cost for a traditional pizza oven is no less than $1000.00, and that’s if you do the install yourself. Expect to pay $2500.00-$5000.00 and up if you have an oven professionally installed.
- Mobility — Because it’s light weight and on wheels, a KettlePizza and Weber Kettle Grill combo can be easily moved around a yard. If you’re taking the family on a summer vacation and renting a cottage for a week or two, don’t leave home without your outdoor wood-fired KettlePizza oven.
- Startup Time/Use — The KettlePizza takes about 20-25 minutes to get the charcoal/hardwood and the stone ready to start cooking pizza. Most traditional pizza ovens take an hour-and-a-half to get to temperature, so plan accordingly.
- Versatility – Since a KettlePizza is an oven, you can cook in it just about anything that you would cook in a standard oven. Traditional pizza ovens are great for cooking other foods as well, once you get past the learning curve.
If you can afford the cost, space requirements and the time to use it, a traditional pizza oven is a fantastic backyard addition for any pizza aficionado. But for those who may want to budget their money and time, but who value convenience and high quality, then the KettlePizza is an outstanding solution. And don’t forget — the KettlePizza is Made in the USA. If you’re interested in more information, please visit us at www.kettlepizza.com.
Quietly it lay buried in the advertising pages in the way-back of the October Sunset magazine comfortably-snuggled somewhere between the Incinolet and redwood hot tubs. The simple advertisement for the KettlePizza converter drew me in like moth to flame: The idea of turning my Weber kettle-grill into a Neapolitan pizza oven. Two weeks later came the familiar baying of the hounds as UPS’s man-in-brown dropped an enormous box off on my doorstep – holding within it the key to my satisfying, homemade pizza future.
An abundance of options are available through the fab folks at KettlePizza: The BASIC CONVERSION KIT simply uses charcoal briquettes and their sturdy 14″ pizza pan along with a unique converter – (this appears ideal for tailgating); the DELUXE KIT which includes a round 15″, 1/2″ thick cordierite pizza stone and wooden peel with the conversion kit; the PROGRATE TOMBSTONE COMBO KIT which is a step-up with a durable stainless-steel grate, extra-thick tombstone-shaped cordierite pizza stone (which heats up to 1000 degrees), and an aluminum peel (with built-in bottle opener); or the Taj Majal of options – the SERIOUS EATS SPECIAL EDITION – with an an add-on Baking Steel insert that heats the heck out of the upper ceiling of the kettle dome and allows for hotter temps and uber-quick blistering of pizza toppings (and I just noticed they’re on sale, too!). I opted for the Prograte Tombstone Combo kit – affordably priced, and able to quickly produce a pizza that’ll stand up to some of the best I’ve had!
Sure you’ve heard me rave about how Baking Steel changed my life (and it did!) – literally bringing my oven to the Nirvana-level of pizza baking. But this crazy KettlePizza add-on for my Weber grill? It’s literally the next best thing to having your own wood-fired pizza oven (but without the thousand-dollar pricetag). Instead of the 550-degree temperature cap on my Wolf oven, the KettlePizza peaks at temperatures exceeding 700-degrees. I was initially a little apprehensive as I began the assembly process – fully expecting a morning of fist-shaking and cursing missing parts and assuming Twister-like positions. Unexpectedly, within the first 10 minutes the wood handles had been attached, the grate installed, and my Weber was magically transformed. Now it was time to get down to business!
You’ve undoubtedly seen my blog post on the perfect pizza dough. With the beautiful blistering and bubbling this dough-making process achieves, you can imagine my anticipation in seeing how it’d react in the confines of an ultra-hot KettlePizza oven. I began the process by piling a hefty supply of hardwood-chunk coals in the far back reaches of my barbecue (most easily done before the grate is placed on the barbecue). Once ignited, I added two 2″-3″ diameter split hardwood pieces atop the coals to push the temperature up a notch. I was not disappointed: The temperatures quickly rose from 550 to 675 and was ready for pie! The key is keeping a steady, but low flame towards the rear of the kettle.
Then began the actual cooking process – deftly flinging my first pie off it’s wooden peel and onto the heated tombstone-shaped stone and watching as it quickly puffed, crisped and bubbled atop its blistering-hot bed. After about two minutes had passed, I carefully slipped the long-handled aluminum peel between pizza and stone to check the crispness of the crust’s bottom. Every 30-45 seconds, I turned the pizza a full 90 degrees to allow for consistent cooking. After approximately five minutes, I could see it was time to give the top a last bit of crisping to create the telltale charring that’s traditional on Neapolitan-style pizzas. Moving the pizza off the stone and gently guiding it up towards the super-heated top of the Weber’s dome did just the trick and in less than a minute it was time to enjoy the fruit of my labor.
Of course the key to fabulous pizza is the ultra-thin crust that’s best achieved with delicious dough and slow knuckle-work. A quick dusting of your peel with a fine grained semolina will help it gracefully transition from peel to stone. Fig and garlic, andouille and jalapeno, traditional pepperoni and cheese, margherita with fresh mozzarella and basil all came out with equal success over a course of an hour. Halfway through the process I stoked the fire with 3″-4″ hardwood chunks to keep a steady flame in the back and was pleased to see within just a matter of minutes temperatures quickly raised 100-125 degrees into the 700-degree range.
My take on this conversion kit? Definitely go with something in the mid-range. Although I didn’t try the basic kit, I suspect it’s likely the perfect selection for the novice pizza maker or die-hard tailgater. Because of the small size and portability factor, you’d likely be the most popular person at a tailgate! For me? The Tombstone kit offered everything I need – the longer handle on the aluminum peel made it quick and easy to manipulate the pie into the hottest parts of the kettle to achieve a spectacular end result. The icing on the cake? It’s built in the USA!
I haven’t posted in a long while to our blog and there are so many things to talk about. First, the Made in USA effort is successful and going strong. Over the past year we have increased our production parts from 90% to 96% American Made. Everything from our raw steel and wood to our nuts and bolts are now Made in USA – something we are very, very proud of.
As we have grown we have made numerous “running changes” to our products. These improvements would have been impossible to make if we were sourcing our products from China. When you buy from China you usually need to buy in large volumes. Then you are stuck with that amount of product in your warehouse and it is very difficult to make changes because you would have to scrap the product sitting in inventory. We work differently using lean manufacturing techniques. Our goal is to never have more than a couple weeks worth of inventory in our warehouse. This makes it very easy to make running changes to our product line.
Export count: 40+ countries shipped to! Another thing we are very proud of! We have shipped our products from New Zealand to Thailand to Chile. As our company grows, we are looking to increase our worldwide presence though distribution partners and dealers.
New products: We have added a number of new products to the line. The most popular of which is the KettlePizza Prograte and Tombstone combination kit. This product allows quick and easy re-stoking of your grill and allows higher dome temperatures via an elevated rear firebox. It is very popular with the hardcore pizza foodies! Everything including the steel, labor and cordierite stone are all American Made. More updates soon!