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 R.B. Quinn and Mindy Merrell of CheaterChef.Com.
Some folks prefer to do things the hard way, others just have better things to do. We do some of both depending on the circumstances. When it comes to making your own pizza dough, it may not be for you (or, just isn’t for you today). If that’s the case, the easiest alternate route to great KettlePizza pizza is to pick up some already made dough in the supermarket bakery department (or at your local pizzeria), and make pies on your KettlePizza with that. Store bought dough makes a great crust, but a little advanced planning (and a few other tips) can ensure a successful result. Here’s what we learned from the pizza dough we bought from our Publix supermarket in Nashville.
A very important point to keep in mind whether your make your own dough or buy it: yeast doughs must have rest and relaxation before you can make a pizza. This is good advice for the pizza cook as well!
Some store-bought dough tips for you:
A cold hard ball of dough is impossible to stretch into a pie and, even if it stretches a little and acts like it’s going to cooperate, the dough is likely to stretch unevenly and eventually tear. This frustrating situation we call the dreaded stretch-back leads to wads of dough flying about the patio or kitchen and a sad KettlePizza all fired up with no pies to bake. Cold dough = no pizza for you (not right now anyway).
The easy solution? Plan ahead and bring home the dough a day, preferably two days, before KettlePizza night. The best way to develop gluten and flavor is a slow rise right in the refrigerator. You don’t have to do anything but put the bags of dough in the refrigerator right in their plastic bags and forget about them for 48 hours (even up to 72 hours). You’ll notice two days later that the plastic bags have significantly puffed up and the dough feels light to the touch and airy. This is a very good development.
When it’s time to make pizza, open the puffed bags carefully and handle the dough gently so as not to force all the air out of the dough. Pizza dough is often sold in one-pound bags, so cut the ball of dough either in half for two larger (about 9 to 10-inch) pies or into thirds for smaller (about 5 to 6-inch) pies. We use a stainless dough scraper/cutter for a quick, clean cut. Place the balls on a floured surface and cover with plastic wrap or a warm damp towel. Let them rest protected from the air while you’re getting the KettlePizza up to pizza temperature.
Here’s the beauty part—with a nice, soft, relaxed ball of dough with well-developed gluten the ball stretches easily and brings our your inner pizza chef. Hold the dough with your fingers from the edges and allow gravity to gently stretch the dough downward.
You can also use your knuckles to expand the dough; just push it out in a circular motion.
Now your pie is ready for your favorite toppings and will puff up nicely in the hot KettlePizza.
A little forward thinking and planning ahead so you can let the dough develop on its own in the refrigerator will make for a relaxed dough, a relaxing KettlePizza night, and a relaxed you.
By R.B. Quinn and Mindy Merrell of CheaterChef.Com.
One of the joys of firing up your KettlePizza oven is knowing you’ve got leftover pizza ready for lunch or dinner over the next few days. And if you plan a little, you can create even more last minute pizza options. That’s the beauty of making extra. Even better, delicious leftover homemade KettlePizza beats any brand of frozen pizza any day.
You know the KettlePizza drill—you’ve got your dough relaxed and ready to stretch out on the peel, your sauce, cheese, and other toppings all lined up, and the KettlePizza temperature gauges are in the “Pizza Zone.” Now is the time to strike while it’s hot.
Mindy’s go-to dough recipe makes 6 medium pies, so that’s what we typically make for a KettlePizza session. That leaves us with the better part of 4 pies for later, unless the kids are home from school in which case that number plummets to zero pies for later.
As food writers we do quite a bit of cooking at our house, usually more than we can eat ourselves. So, we’ve had to develop some reliable freezer management practices to get the most out of our efforts and avoid wasting good food.
First, we always keep a supply of quart and gallon size sealable plastic freezer grade bags, freezer masking tape, and Sharpie pens in the top kitchen drawer. How many times have you popped something into a bag or plastic container and into the freezer only to discover months later that you have no idea what’s inside and how long it’s been there? A quick note with a marker to name and date your leftovers on the bag or on freezer tape stuck onto the container can mean the difference between enjoying something you made later, or tossing out the icy frozen mystery food. Keep in mind that you can keep frozen cooked pizza at least a good couple of months without worry of freezer burn.
We always cut the pies into slices so we can heat up just what we need. Slices are easier to store and easier for snacking and fitting into the toaster oven, too. The good news also is that you can spot the frozen triangle slices pretty easily in the freezer.
The key is proper thawing and reheating to get the best result possible. As with all foods, the best practice is to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, to prevent encouraging bacteria from developing in foods above 34 (refrigerator temp) degrees. So, as you head out the door to work in the morning, put your frozen pizza bag in the fridge and they’ll be ready for dinnertime.
Another great thing about a slice of pizza is that it really doesn’t need to be thawed to reheat well. So, you can go right from the freezer to the heat at the last minute for maximum last-minute flexibility.
KettlePizza Reheating Tips:
–No matter how you reheat pizza the key is to not leave your post while the pizza heats up. Even when frozen, a slice of pizza only takes a couple minutes to get good and hot and the cheese and toppings safely heated. Too much heat and the crust will become hard and cracker-like, and the cheese and sauce will burn. Don’t leave your post!
–For a few pieces we just use the toaster oven. It heats up faster and creates less kitchen heat than the conventional oven. They usually hold 2 to 4 slices depending on your oven and slice sizes. Set it at about 400 degrees and set the slices right on the rack. Check your progress after a couple minutes and when the slices are hot and bubbly, slide them onto a plate with your cooking tongs.
–For lots of pizza, preheat your regular oven to about 375 degrees and set the pizza/pizza slices either right on the racks, a baking sheet, or a perforated, nonstick pizza pan. If you have a heavy load of toppings and cheese that might drip onto the oven bottom, use a pan and save making a mess.
–Use your backyard grill. Medium heat is plenty hot enough to reheat pizza. Set slices on the grates, close the lid and check them after a couple minutes. Using tongs move the slices around as necessary to deal with grill hot and cold spots to ensure even heating.
–Use you KettlePizza oven. If you’re making new pizza but have some frozen and want to enjoy that, too, slide your leftover slices right onto the KettlePizza stone and watch them bubble back to life.
There’s a mystique to Neapolitan Pizza shared by no other style of pizza. On one hand it’s among the most basic of wood-fired pizzas — just add fresh tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese, a little basil and olive oil. On the other hand, however, you’ll need an oven capable of reaching up to 900 degrees F to turn out pizza in under two minutes.
Easy, right? Not so fast.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a stone pizza oven in your backyard, paying $3,000.00 and even up to $10,000 for the privilege, then we hope you have been enjoying authentic Neapolitan Pizza for some time. But if you’re anything like the rest of us, there’s a host of priorities that come before an expensive backyard wood-fired pizza stone oven. Oh, you know, things like heating bills, college tuition and Christmas presents come to mind.
But what if you could own an easy-to-use, very affordable wood-fired pizza oven that could turn out a delicious Neapolitan Pizza inside of two minutes, and for a fraction of the price of a wood-fired stone pizza oven?
That’s exactly why we partnered with our friend Andris Lagsdin, creator of the Baking Steel, and the folks at Slice Serious Eats, to create the KettlePizza Serious Eats Special Edition, which includes all the bells and whistles necessary for the budget-conscious, hard-core pizza lovers among us. The kit comes with our Prograte, tombstone, a Baking Steel, wood and aluminum peels and it’s all yours for only $399.99.
And as always, ten percent of the proceeds from every Made in the USA KettlePizza Serious Eats Special Edition Kit we sell goes to Feeding America — the largest hunger relief charity in the US.
Don’t only take our word for it, though. Here’s what a few KettlePizza Serious Eats Special Edition customers recently had to say:
Setup was very easy, took about 20 minutes to assemble. It was also very easy to get it heated up and ready to bake. My first pizzas cooked fast … and were perfect.
— Barry Duel from Frontenac, MO.
Amazing product that allows me to make the best pizza I’ve ever made.
— James LaCaria from Herndon, VA
I’m looking forward to pizza parties at the house. This is one of the best additions I’ve made to my entertaining repertoire in years. Great product with only a small learning curve for very respectable results.
— Gary from OH
This is awesome! Labor Day Weekend we were cranking pizzas out in under 4 minutes!
— Nick from Hawthorne, NJ
For more information about the KettlePizza Serious Eats Special Edition, please visit us. A Neapolitan Pizza is calling out to you!
P.S. Come back soon for more information on the versatility of the Baking Steel.
Not every food is celebrated for an entire month. And is there any food more deserving of a month-long celebration than pizza? Well, not one that we can think of.
October is National Pizza Month in the USA. Needless to say, here at KettlePizza we think of every month as national pizza month – but every October, it’s official! So we thought we’d take the opportunity to share some of the history of National Pizza Month with you. Next time you’re entertaining friends and family with a delicious pie cooked in your made in the USA KettlePizza, you’ll have a few pizza fun facts to share.
First of all, there are mixed reports on when National Pizza Month was first established. Some sources claim 1987 was the first year of the month-long celebration. But we’re pretty sure it was first observed in the USA three years prior by the founder of Pizza Today magazine and Pizza Expo, Gerry Durnell. At the time, Durnell was not only a pizzeria owner, but a savvy marketer. Realizing there wasn’t a publication serving the pizza industry, he launched Pizza Today in October of 1984 and created National Pizza Month at the same time to promote his new venture.
Thirty years later, National Pizza Month lives on, here in the USA and in Canada as well. If you’re like most Americans, however, every month is pretty much “pizza month.” On average, close to 95 percent of us eat pizza at least once per month (at KettlePizza, we’re definitely “above average”). If you were to lay out all of the pizzas Americans eat each day, they would cover 100 acres. And about 350 slices per second are consumed in the USA every single day! Phew.
Here are a few more facts about pizza we dug out for you:
- Super Bowl Sunday is one of the top five days in the year for pizza sales. Delivery sales of pizza also spike the most during close Super Bowl games (of course, having a KettlePizza means not having to wait for a busy delivery guy to show up).
- Some of the most popular gourmet pizza toppings include: oysters, crayfish, sprouts and cajun shrimp.
- The longest pizza delivery was from Cape Town, South Africa to Sydney, Australia (wonder if the pizza arrived hot?).
- Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria in Anchorage is the highest-grossing single-unit independent pizzeria in the nation with $6M annual sales.
- The world’s fastest pizza maker made 14 pizzas in a record two minutes and 35 seconds.
- Scientists report that eating pizza once a week can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. It’s the tomatoes and olive oil in the pizza.
We’d love to hear how you’ll be celebrating National Pizza Month. Feel free to send us your stories and we’ll share them with the KettlePizza community in the USA and around the world.
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!
We have had some pressure from the serious pizza foodies to develop a new pizza stone/grate combination. This combo can be used on the top and bottom KettlePizza standoffs. The stone is larger, thicker and “tombstone” shaped allowing more pizza cooking surface on the bottom as well as a refractory ceiling on the top. The grates are 304 grade stainless steel and provide access points on the sides and rear for restoking. The stones are made of cordierite for extreme temperatures. Delivery is expected to be September 2012. As always this product is proudly Made in USA. More details to come!