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:
By Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn of CheaterChef.Com.
It’s fall football season again and that means it’s KettlePizza tailgate time. So, let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Like many of you we love playing around with all kinds of homemade pizza dough. But, do we really want to be stretching dough at the stadium before the game? Sometimes maybe, most of the time, NO.
The goal is to maximize KettlePizza fun, feed everyone great pizza, and show off a little cooking finesse while surrounded by friends and family and plenty of busy parking lot activities.
Happily for tailgating KettlePizza fans we’ve got lots of delicious alternative pizza “carriers” ready to go at the store. Today let’s look at reliable canned biscuit dough and see how easily it transforms into stylish mini pizzas. You still get to cook pizza, but crust from canned dough is a great game day step-saver.
Ironically, one of Mindy’s mystery basket ingredients on her episode of Chopped was canned biscuit dough, so we already have a soft spot for it. If you haven’t explored the supermarket refrigerated dough section recently you’ll be amazed by the varieties now available. It’s clear to us that we’ll be continuing our test kitchen research on this subject.
For this round of alternative dough tests we experimented with two types — the big size of flaky buttermilk biscuits and a canned mini pizza dough. Both were super easy to handle and quick to roll out. but the mini pizza dough was “stretchier” and puffier. Both tasted great.
Even though you are not working with regular dough be sure to bring a little container of all-purpose flour for dusting the peel and a medium-size board to use as your work surface. A full, dry can or bottle from the cooler works great as a parking lot rolling pin. All you have to do is pop open the dough, separate the biscuits, and roll out the discs with your beer can rolling pin, add toppings, and slide them into the hot KettlePizza.
The most important packing and easy-prep tailgating tip we can offer is to get all your toppings cooked and ready-to-go in plastic containers of one consistent size that stack neatly and are easy to access on the pizza prep table.
Canned biscuit dough is forgiving on the temperature. It doesn’t require quite as hot a fire (or pizza stone) as classic yeast pizza dough. If your stone is super hot and the bottom sides brown before the top is cooked, cook the plain biscuit discs quickly on one side until browned as you would a flour tortilla. After a minute or so, remove the discs from the KettlePizza and top the browned side with pizza toppings. Return to the oven and cook until the underside is browned and the toppings are bubbly.
Doming (sliding the pizza on the metal peel and lifting it toward the top of the inside of the kettle) is always encouraged, as needed. We cooked a couple of pies at a time and had no trouble managing them. Long tongs sure helped moving them around. As always, they’re done in just a few minutes.
The sky is the limit on toppings, but somehow a classic Margherita made with petigreed San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella doesn’t seem the right match for canned biscuits. Instead, we offer a few All-American tailgate classic toppings that are perfect for beer drinking and tailgate fun.
Nacho Biscuit Pizza—This simple pie starts with a smear of refried beans and shredded cheese. Keep it pure or add cooked chicken or chorizo sausage. Once out of the KettlePizza, your friends can personalize their pizzas with a spoonful of salsa, sour cream, sliced black olives, jalapeno slices, chopped cilantro, or green onion slices.
Cheeseburger Biscuit Pizza—Our inner food scientist is in love with Velveeta. The umami flavor and creaminess just can’t be beat. All you have to do is cook up some ground meat (beef or turkey) and drain. Add a spoonful of yellow mustard and some Velveeta. Cook and stir on low to melt. Or, pile it all in the microwave oven, cover and zap until creamy.
We used a ratio of one pound of meat to ¾ pound of Velveeta plus 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard. Yes, when you tote this topping to the big game and open up the container, you will be greeted by a rubbery mass. Don’t fret! It’s just that characteristic congealing of processed cheese food. Simply do your best to spoon it on the biscuit disc. The KettlePizza will do its magic and turn it back to creamy goodness. Top the hot pizzas with dill pickle chips, sliced onion and ketchup as you like. This is R.B.’s favorite pie of this test batch. He almost sliced and ate the pizza without snapping a photo for this post.
Chili Dog Biscuit Pizza—You cannot go wrong with this tailgate pizza. Use your own chili or your favorite canned brand. Thinly slice up the hot dogs (a la pepperoni) and lay them in the plastic container. Just spoon on the chili “gravy” and arrange a few hot dog bites on top. Sprinkle with a little cheese and feed the KettlePizza. We like this one with a squirt of yellow mustard and chopped raw onions.
Sausage Gravy Biscuit Pizza—This may seem weird if you don’t live in the sausage gravy zone like we do, but why not? Sausage gravy is the classic Southern biscuit topper, so here it is in a new fun format. If you’ve got the KettlePizza fired up early for a noon game, this is the one to pair with those morning Bloody Marys.
You can find prepared sausage gravy in most supermarkets; however, it’s super-easy to make at home and yours will have a more generous ratio of sausage to gravy. It’s just basic white sauce made with sausage grease. Fry up and crumble ½ pound of bulk pork sausage in a skillet. When fully cooked, remove all but about two tablespoons of the drippings. Sprinkle two tablespoons of all-purpose flour over the mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat about one minute. Stir in one cup of milk. Cook and stir until bubbly and thickened. Add plenty of black pepper and taste for salt.
And now, for some KettlePizza dessert….
Apple Biscuit Pizza Pie—Here’s your All-American dessert (or another great KettlePizza for morning tailgating with Bloodies). Have the sweetened cooked apples ready to go in a container like your other toppings.
Cook a couple of peeled, cored and diced green apples (use Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or your favorite cooking apple) in ¼ cup of butter in a skillet over medium heat until slightly softened. Add a ¼ cup of sugar and a squirt of fresh lemon juice and cook a few minutes longer until soft and syrupy. Add a dusting of cinnamon to taste. Spread the apple mixture on the biscuit disc and slide into the KettlePizza.
You can also make cute little apple turnovers by filling and folding the dough in half and pressing the edges together with a fork. Flip the turnovers in the KettlePizza so both sides brown evenly. This pizza would take nicely to a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, too.
A stroll through the prepared foods at the supermarket with biscuit pizza in mind will give you a power surge of recipe creativity. Pretty much anything that tastes good, tastes good on a biscuit, a pizza. and a biscuit pizza—prepared pimiento cheese, barbecue, hummus and olives, macaroni and cheese, precooked sausage gravy, apples, pie filling. No need cook any toppings if you don’t want to.
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!
The NFL can lay claim to being the largest live spectator sport on the planet in terms of average attendance with close to 20 million people filling seats at stadiums throughout the US each season. That’s close to 70,000 fans per stadium on any given Sunday. And as we know, most of these fans — with their SUVs and pick-ups stocked with grills and coolers filled with burgers and dogs and wings and brew, treating each trek to their home team’s stadium more like a pilgrimage than a road trip — are season ticket holders. So a big percentage of the 20 million are attending games on a weekly basis.
While attending a game in person can be lots of fun, enjoying a “no-traffic” NFL football Sunday in the more intimate and cozy setting of a warm house filled with family and friends and high fives – and of course, pizza, because “pizza is the new hamburger” <The Today Show video> — is a great alternative.
For the majority of us, that’s our world. The world of “homegating”, where replacing the possibility of foul weather, big crowds and the time and money associated with attending an NFL game with the comfort of one’s own home – or a friend’s – is priceless. As we know from many of our customers, homegating with KettlePizza is a growing trend.
One of the primary reasons why we came up with the idea for KettlePizza was that we wanted to provide a product that would become the centerpiece for almost any environment where friends and family gather to enjoy each other’s company. Since it was invented in the late 1800’s in Naples, Italy, pizza has been a food that isn’t only delicious and nutritious (just try not to eat the whole pie!), but is best enjoyed when shared with others. Whether it be a birthday celebration, a backyard Halloween party, a Friday night get together or a NFL football Sunday, chances are pizza will be part of the mix.
Granted, we’re a bit biased, but we think KettlePizza marries the best of all worlds when it comes to a family and friends get together at home — aka homegating – on a Sunday or on any other day.
The warm glow of a wood-fired pizza oven before, during and after the game, friends and family members preparing favorite toppings for the next pie, your grilling skills the talk of the neighborhood…well, that’s a little slice of heaven.
With a Made in the USA KettlePizza in your backyard, the countdown to your next homegating event will begin as soon as the final whistle blows at the end of the game.