Tag Archive for ‘pizza’

The New Blackstone Pizza Oven for the 22″ Griddle

The brand new Blackstone Products Pizza Oven Conversion Kit
The brand new Blackstone Outdoor Pizza Oven Add-On for the 22″ Blackstone Griddle

About a month ago, Blackstone Products announced the release of a new outdoor pizza oven. Technically, it is called the Blackstone pizza oven conversion kit, or the Blackstone pizza oven add on. It is a Wal-Mart exclusive, website only, and it is for the 22″ tabletop models.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on one. In the last couple of years, I have become a pizza-making fiend. Prior to 2020, the thought of making homemade pizza left me in trepidation. Pan pizza is easy to throw together, but hand-tossed? It was always an exercise in failure. Being stuck at home more often during the pandemic afforded me the time and patience to delve into the world of pizza, and over time I have learned how to make a halfway decent pie.

My better half surprised me with an outdoor pizza oven (a Bertello) for Christmas last year. It heats up to over 900 degrees, and it is perfect for making 10-to-12 inch Neapolitan style pizzas. That pizza oven works great, but given the small opening of the door and the extreme heat, there isn’t a lot of options to do other styles than just a Neapolitan pie.

Enter the Blackstone Pizza Oven Add-On

I was skeptical.

When I watched the first couple of videos of the Blackstone pizza oven conversion kit in action, I noticed a difference between it and other outdoor pizza ovens, like Ooni and my Bertello oven.

Unlike most outdoor pizza ovens, the heat source isn’t coming from the back. That is the case with my Bertello: the fire source roars from the back of the oven with flames rolling over top of the pizza. The pizza sits on a pre-heated, piping hot stone and the bottom cooks up while the residual heat of the flames kiss the top of the pizza to finish it in about 90 seconds.

In the style of the new Blackstone pizza oven, the heat source is coming from the bottom-sides. This product features not one, but two pizza stones: a round stone that sits on the floor of the oven and a square stone that sits above the pizza. There are two mechanisms of cooking at play here. When you pre-heat the oven, both of the pizza stones heat up, so when you load your pizza, the heat coming off the top stone provides aid in cooking the top of the pizza along with the bottom stone. It is like a tag-team in action.

The pizza oven add-on itself is heavy. It is about 50-lbs. Installation is fairly simple. You remove the griddle-top from the 22″ Blackstone base, remove the ‘leg’ stubs on the bottom, add your heat shield, re-add the legs, sit the pizza oven accessory kit directly onto the base and — using a screw-driver — install the handles to the sides, door and the little base on top.

With the door of the oven closed, you can heat the oven up to 600 to 700 degrees in about 20 minutes, based on my anecdotal experiences. Within 30 minutes, you will be tapping it up to a surplus of 800 degrees.

One of the things I love about this pizza oven is that it is quite large. The round pizza stone that you cook on is a 15″ stone, so you can cook a large family style pizza. In addition to that, the opening is big enough to accompany pans. I love making bar style, Chicago style and Detroit style pizzas. With the adjustments of the two temperature control knobs, and a little practice, you can subjectively dial in the temperature to cook pan pies to personal perfection.

My First Pizza on the Blackstone Pizza Oven

14" pan pizza on the new Blackstone Pizza Oven Add-On
14″ pan pizza on the new Blackstone Pizza Oven Add-On
Right out of the Blackstone Pizza Oven
A slice of the pie

I was eager to test out the new Blackstone pizza oven, but I didn’t have any homemade dough, so I ran out to the grocery store and bought a pound of dough.

After letting the dough sit out for about an hour, I stretched the dough out in an oiled 14″ pan. I made a pizza that I can only call the ‘House Divided’ pizza with Rao’s marinara sauce, a blend of mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano and provolone cheeses, half pepperoni, green peppers, diced onion; half Italian sausage, pepperoni, jalapeños, banana peppers. This pie finished in only seven minutes and I capped it off with a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey.

I turned the burners down, because I wanted the dough to cook without burning the bottom crust.

Neapolitan and New York Style Pizza on the Blackstone Pizza Oven

As soon as I was afforded the time, I whipped up a Neapolitan style pizza dough: a 24-hour room temperature ferment with minimal yeast, bulk proofed for 24 hours and balled up four hours prior to cooking.

A pepperoni Neapolitan-style pie on the Blackstone Pizza Oven
A pepperoni Neapolitan-style pie on the Blackstone Pizza Oven

Boar’s Head pepperoni, a mix of white cheddar, mozzarella and Colby Jack cheese and a homemade sauce (San Marzano style tomatoes, salt, fresh basil, garlic and a pinch of oregano) was the ticket to a wonderful pizza.

With this style of pizza, I left the burners on high, with the door closed, rotating it every 45 seconds. It finished in about two minutes and thirty seconds. Yes, it took a little longer than a traditional Neapolitan pizza, but the results were still fantastic.

A New York style pizza in action on the Blackstone Pizza Oven
A slice of New York style pie on the Blackstone Pizza Oven
A slice of New York style pie on the Blackstone Pizza Oven
Bottom crust of a New York style pizza on the Blackstone Pizza Oven
A perfect under-carriage

I subsequently tried my hand at a New York style pizza. Once again, similar to the Neapolitan style pie, since NY-style is actually a derivative of Neapolitan pizza, I cooked it up with the burners turned on high, door closed. The only differences are that I was more rough when I stretched the dough, so the cornicione (rim of the pizza) was less poofy, and this dough was only about 55-56% hydration compared to the 60% hydration in the above Neapolitan pie.

Detroit Style Pizza in the Blackstone Pizza Oven

A Detroit style pizza in the Blackstone Pizza Oven
A Detroit Style Pizza in the Blackstone Pizza Oven
Detroit style pizza cooking away in the Blackstone Pizza Oven Conversion Kit
Hot & fresh Detroit style pizza cooking away in the Blackstone Pizza Oven

Detroit style pizza might just be my favorite style of pizza in the world, so I am biased in everything I write in this realm of things. I have been making this style of pizza in my home oven for about a year and a half. Typically, it takes 16 to 18 minutes to cook one in the said home oven, and I never have been able to acquire a perfectly browned, crispy crust no matter what. There are many reasons for this, and I think it is due to the fact that my home oven is old and inferior compared to many other ovens out there.

The Blackstone Pizza Oven Add-On perfectly accommodated the 10×14 pan I used for the Detroit style pie. With the burners turned down, I still managed to finish this pizza in nine minutes. Not only that, but the bottom of the crust was perfectly crispy. Again, it is something I have never experienced from my home oven, and the Blackstone pizza oven conversion kit finished it in roughly half the time.

Is the Blackstone Pizza Oven Add-On Worth It?

Considering that most outdoor pizza ovens are over $300 to $400 pending on what you are wanting to buy, my answer is a resounding yes.

The Blackstone pizza oven add-on sells for $227 on Wal-Mart’s website. If you already have a 22″ Blackstone griddle, that is an incredible price for what is a capable, heavy duty, thick and well-made pizza oven. Even if you don’t have a 22″ griddle, the price of the griddle and pizza oven add-on is significantly less than other stand-alone pizza ovens on the market, especially when you factor in the potential for large pizzas and the ability to cook pan pizzas. As I said earlier, many outdoor pizza ovens only give you one option of pizza: Neapolitan, since the heat source is usually incredibly hot. You can do multiple styles in the Blackstone pizza oven.

One might ask, “Well, I have a home oven that I can cook pizza in, even New York style at 550-600 degrees.” Sure, go ahead and use your home oven if it fits the bill for you, but what about during the summer months when it is far too hot to heat up your home? Enter this pizza oven.

I have been having a blast with this new oven. I am in no way, shape or form affiliated with Blackstone Products. I am merely an advocate. I only tout and endorse products I truly believe in and personally use. I will never post about something that does not live up to the hype.

I am not sure how long the new pizza oven accessory kit will be available, so get it while you can. I will be posting pizza recipes in the near future that will go along with the use of this pizza oven.

The Angry Italian – Bristol, TN – Food Review

The Angry Italian – Bristol, TN – Food Review

As much as I used to dislike the term, I’m a ‘foodie.’ In the last nine years of my own cooking, expanding my range of tastes and giving in to my desires to try different food by doing what I can to support small businesses while moving away from big corporate chain restaurant eating, I have had a great deal of opportunities to try out different spots while traveling.

Enter The Angry Italian, located in Bristol, Tennessee — about an hour away from my hometown.

The Angry Italian Bristol, TN

The Angry Italian in Bristol, TN

Keith Yonker, the owner/executive chef, was born and raised around Chicago, Illinois. He moved to the Tri-Cities of Tennessee back in 2015, fell in love with the area and, soon enough, kicked off The Angry Italian restaurant. He moved the restaurant from a rather tiny location to a bigger one in the beginning of 2021, and that decision has clearly paid dividends to the observing eye, evident by the amount of patrons frequenting the joint whenever one drives by on State Street.

I found out about The Angry Italian in 2018 for one simple reason: my search for a local Chicago style deep dish pizza. I had the pleasure of trying out such a pizza years ago, and I loved it. Call it a casserole or ‘overloaded tomato sauce bread’ all you want in your snide verbal jabs that are veritably rooted in pizza elitism, but a well made Chicago deep dish pie is delicious. Once I heard about the existence of this restaurant, of the owner being from Chicago and there being authentic deep dish Chicago pizza available, I had to give it a try, and that was a few years ago when I did, back in 2018.

Troy Sparks with The Angry Italian Chicago style deep dish pizza

Back in 2018: when I tried The Angry Italian’s Chicago style deep dish pizza.

The Angry Italian Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Back in 2018: when I tried The Angry Italian’s Chicago style deep dish pizza in Bristol, TN.

Chicago Style Deep Dishin’

The distinct taste of a real Chicago deep dish, I presume, is from the corn oil as well as the corn meal added to the dough along with butter (the existence of butter varying between recipes). The outer crust has a corny crunch to it while the toppings are piled high. I made a Chicago deep dish pizza earlier this year, sans corn oil since I didn’t have any on hand, and it turned out terrific, but it wasn’t the same.

The Angry Italian’s iteration of a Chicago style deep dish pizza featured an expected horde of shredded Wisconsin mozzarella cheese and loaded with a pizza sauce boasting large chunks of tomatoes on top. I ordered pepperoni and mushrooms on the one I ate. I wasn’t a huge fan of the large chunks of tomatoes being so prominent, but all in all it was delicious.

When you order the Chicago deep dish at The Angry Italian, there’s a brief prefacing statement on the menu that lets customers know that it will be a 45 minute wait. The wait is well worth it: that’s why you gotta order an appetizer to hold yourself over. I ordered the calamari pepper fritti: fried, lightly breaded calamari rings served with banana peppers and marinara sauce. Here’s a bold declaration from yours truly on their calamari: it sucks. I unabashedly must state that with ruthless honesty while at the same time saying that I must be a little lenient since I’m sure it is frozen calamari that is cooked. It is rubbery and hardly flavorful without the marinara. If you go out to eat at The Angry Italian, do not get the calamari.

When the coveted, highly anticipated Chicago style deep dish pizza arrived to the table with steam ascending from it. The server delivered the first slice — I grinned with gusto, like a hyped up child on Christmas morning, as I watched the stringy mozzarella cheese perform a circus act of cheese pull epicness — onto my plate given the tremendous high temperatures the pie was rockin’. I eagerly delved into it with a fork before reminding myself that I did not want to scorch the roof of my mouth, so I waited a couple of minutes before sending my tastebuds on a flavor journey.

One thing I’ve noticed about every pizza restaurant I have been to, and this includes The Angry Italian: the pizza sauce is always lightly seasoned. I can see why, and I assume it has a traditional background, as the sauce is typically not the star of the show on a pizza. However, I love bold flavors. When I make homemade pizza sauce at home, I give it a big hit of sautéed crushed, minced garlic, plenty of oregano, lots of fresh basil, onion powder, thyme, marjoram and crushed red pepper for a backdrop of heat. I noted the flavor of basil in The Angry Italian’s deep dish sauce, but lightly so. Not a lot going on, but I don’t hold that against them, although I will say that when you have this much sauce on a pizza, you should go for a bold flavor because there’s — again — so much of it!

The beauty is in the makeup of the rest of the pizza. The signature Chicago style crust, the generous toppings, all the cheese. You have to eat this pizza with a fork! Some people scoff at that (once again, looking at the elitists), saying that it isn’t pizza if you eat it with a fork, but that’s a rubbish mindset. Eat it however you like it.

The Angry Italian’s Chicago style deep dish pizza: I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

The Angry Italian Tavern-style pizza

The Angry Italian’s Original Southsider Tavern-style pizza.

The Real Chicago Pizza: Tavern Style

There’s a belief that appears to be valid in Chicago: the real Chicago style pizza that locals eat is the tavern style pizza. It is said that deep dish is for tourists or for random occasions when the mood for deep dish strikes.

I’m going to tell you now: I agree with the folks from Chicago. Tavern style is the best style, and that is a gate I will keep.

The defining characteristic of a tavern style pizza is its extremely thin crust. The crust is noticeably thinner than the standard New York style pie; might as well call it a cracker-crust pizza, but it is better than any cracker-crust pizza I have ever had, at least the one from The Angry Italian validates that opinion of mine on a personal level.

The Angry Italian’s tavern style crust is unique in that it is crispy and chewy at the same time. There’s more room for beer when there’s less dough in the pie, which explains why this pizza is a popular menu item at bars.

I returned for my second trip to The Angry Italian in early June 2021, at the new location. I was excited for my girlfriend to give it a shot. I had fully planned on going for another Chicago deep dish pie, but while perusing the menu I decided to give the tavern style a shot. They have a recommended pizza on the menu: the Original Southsider, tavern-style. The Southsider features Italian sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms. I ordered the 18″ because I wanted leftovers for the next day, and I’m glad for it.

From The Angry Italian’s website, a description of their tavern style pizza: “Thin Crust. Cut Into Squares. Built with freshly shredded Wisconsin cheese and Roma tomatoes. All pizzas are made according to the original Chicago recipes. To insure proper flavor and cooking, Keith recommends a 3-4 item limit on toppings.”

I couldn’t believe it when the pizza arrived. As you can see above, it was loaded with cheese, and the lacy edges are a thing of beauty. It was love at first bite. I don’t know how to describe the flavor, but essentially the crust is something special. The toppings were perfectly scattered throughout the pie and every bite prompted me to have another slice.

It was past 9 p.m., we had hardly eaten all day, and something about this pizza just hit differently unlike any other. I was no longer concerned with the deep dish, because the tavern style is in a completely different echelon and class of its own. It is currently my favorite style of pizza if I’m going to be eating out and about. The flavors pop in a better ratio compared to the lopsided deep dish.

The Angry Italian’s Original Tavern style pizza: I give it a whopping 8.7 out of 10.

The Angry Italian's Italian beef

The Italian beef from The Angry Italian.

The Angry Italian Original Southsider Tavern-style pizza.

The Angry Italian’s Original Southsider Tavern-style pizza.

Three Time’s a Charm: I Can’t Get Away From the Tavern Style

The third trip to The Angry Italian was a few days ago. My girlfriend took me for my birthday dinner. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I wanted another Southsider pizza; tavern style, of course!

But I also wanted to try The Angry Italian’s Italian beef (description from the website: “Thinly sliced beef in Chicago ‘gravy’ served with either Hot Giardiniera or sweet peppers on a gonella roll. Light gravy or dunked. Served with French fries.”) If you know, you know: the ‘gravy’ is the broth/juices from which the beef is cooked in.

If you know me, you know I had to have the hot giardiniera, and why not go ahead and have the gonnella roll ‘dunked’?! It was delicious, to keep it brief and simple. The beef was just as tender as you can imagine thinly sliced beef being. The bread was adequately dipped and had a tremendous flavor to it. Bread is the most important part of a sandwich, because if you are using mediocre bread, then it doesn’t matter what goes on the sandwich: it won’t be too appealing. My only complaint with the Italian beef is that I wish there had been more giardiniera.

We tried out two of the appetizers: the Polpette Di Manzo (four of Keith’s famous meatballs) and the stuffed mushroom formaggi (little mushroom caps stuffed with herb cheese and baked under a blanket of creamy mozzarella.)

The meatballs had a great flavor, but they were served lukewarm. Perhaps that is traditional to serve them that way at The Angry Italian, but I wish they’d been hotter. The stuffed mushroom formaggi was amazing — I highly recommend that appetizer if you go.

Once again, the tavern style pizza was delicious. My girlfriend ordered the chicken parmigiana: 6oz. chicken breast, lightly breaded, topped with meat sauce and baked with mozzarella cheese. Served with a pasta side and a garlic breadstick. She loved it, and I finished her leftovers off the following day (she’s not a fan of reheated chicken).

The Angry Italian is an excellent eatery that calls for more return trips in the future. Maybe one of these days I’ll order another deep dish, but I can’t quit those tavern style pizzas. They are so out-of-this-world good.

I do have to comment on the service at the restaurant. The first two visits, I had the same server each time. She was pedestrian as far as ‘good or bad’ service goes. Frowning, unenthusiastic, the personality of a wet rag, the whole nine yards. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and consider she had a bad day on both trips; she visited the table frequently and promptly refilled drinks, so that’s good enough for me. I’ll always tip 20% unless the service is downright disastrous. On the third trip, we actually had a different server, and she was phenomenal. She had a great attitude about her, gave her thoughts on the menu, treated us like old friends and left a shining impression. Service is more important than the food at any restaurant.

How to Make Thin and Crispy Pizza on the Blackstone Griddle

This was after I finished all the pizzas I made. Yeah, the photo is a little messy, but I will be making these again in the near future and I’ll recapture some better shots.

This, much like anything you can think of (asides from candy bars), can be made on any model of the Blackstone Griddle. It’s easy, simple and delicious. I love pizza any way I can get it. While my all-time favorite is an ultra-cheesy, Chicago deep dish pizza, thin’n’crispy is always a hit, too.

Recipe
— A pack of flour tortillas (8-10 inch ones)
— Pizza sauce (I use Classico pizza sauce, but you can use whatever you want; if using marinara sauce, I recommend adding a pinch of sugar to it for a little sweetness.)
— Cheese (I used shredded mozzarella, but you can use virtually any blend of cheese)
— Toppings (much like cheese, you can use virtually anything you want; I made a barrage of different pizzas, from pepperoni only to pepperoni and sliced’n’sauteed white button mushrooms to cooked’n’crumbled Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage.
— Basting cover (I used the 12″ basting cover from Blackstone Products, but you can use any kind of basting cover… even a cheap aluminum pan!)
Optional: Italian seasoning (I love the McCormick Organic Italian seasoning, which features a blend of marjoran, oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil). Adding this adds an extra punch of flavor to pizza. I like to add a little garlic powder to this mix as well.
— Optional: Fresh, chopped basil

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, but you can use any model, including the 22″, the 28″ or the 36″.
— Fire up the griddle to medium/medium-low heat
— Once hot, add a tortilla onto the flat top cooking surface
— Using a spoon, add your sauce all around the pizza — have the freedom of using how much sauce you want… a little or a lot!
— Optional: sprinkle the Italian seasoning all around the surface as it will sit into pockets of sauce
— Top with cheese
— Add your toppings onto the cheese; this is where I added the fresh, chopped basil.
— Cover with the basting cover for a minute or so; when I watched Todd Toven make pizzas on the griddle at the Blackstone Griddle More Tour demos, he added a couple of ice cubes to the surface when he covered the pizzas with the basting cover in order to promote steam and quicker melting, but I didn’t use any.
— Remove the basting cover; once the bottom side of the tortilla is browned the way you like it, carefully remove it from the flat top cooking surface (I used a couple of Blackstone spatulas).

It’s a really easy, simple recipe that makes for a delicious meal, and it’s fun to cook, because you can do virtually anything you want with these pizzas.

Note: I cooked up both the mushrooms and the Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage prior to cooking. As for why I cooked the mushrooms first, it is due to how how water they lose when they are cooked (nobody wants a watered down, soggy pizza), not to mention mushrooms are much more digestible when cooked.