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How do I make a pizza in a gas oven, with no temperature control and no pizza stone?

I have all ingredients to make pizza without actually knowing how it's made and baked. So I did some research first off course, and it seems I don't have the right "hardware" for the job.

How do I make a good pizza without a pizza stone in an ancient oven with no control on the temperature or air flow?

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It would be helpful to know what temperature your oven stabilizes at... Is there absolutely no controls at all? Just on/off? Do you have anything to use, pans etc? I've used an preheated inverted pan sprayed with oil when baking, lacking a stone. It worked fine for me, perhaps you could try that. –  Max Jan 2 '12 at 14:34
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Have you baked in the oven before? Do you have to turn it off and on to get it cool enough for common baked dishes? (If not, it might not actually be as hot as a lot of people bake their pizzas.) –  Jefromi Jan 2 '12 at 15:24
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no meat thermometer lying around? knowing your max temp is a good start. –  Pat Sommer Jan 3 '12 at 10:18
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4 Answers

For your missing equipment, calibration, and control, you will have to substitute vigilance and technique.

Basically, if you parbake your crust, you should get something good.

Turn on your oven, probably as hot as it'll go. Unless you have a thick crust and a very intense oven, it'll be hard to get too hot.

  1. Roll out your dough into a baking pan/cooking sheet/pizza pan.
  2. Bake in the oven until the dough is just starting to brown.
  3. Take it out, add toppings to the more-cooked side of the crust (flipping the crust, if necessary). Put it back in until the cheese starts to brown.

The process above is the lazy-man's method, and it works with my oven at 350F or at 500F or out on the grill at 750F and all points in between.

The "ideal" pizza that is the target of most pizza aficionados may well be beyond your reach. However, I make pizza a couple times a week, and most nights I don't worry about that. Delicious toppings on good bread and excellent cheese is a great meal, whether or not it matches stereotyped image of "pizza".

P.S. If you do get some equipment, get the pizza stone and put the crust directly on it (w/ or w/o parchment paper). Your crust will be crisper. In a pan, sometimes your crust may seem closer to bread than to pizza.

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+1 for 'as hot as it'll go'. –  BaffledCook Jan 2 '12 at 18:06
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Hm, if it's really 750F, and the toppings need some cooking, surely this might lead to overdone crust? –  Jefromi Jan 2 '12 at 21:35
    
I always precook my ingredients. E.g. mushrooms are sauteed or microwaved to remove excess water. Likewise, tomatoes are drained, squeezed, or cooked. Meat toppings like steak or chicken are cooked to very rare, and they finish cooking on the pizza. –  D Boy Jan 2 '12 at 22:21
    
@D Boy: please, please, pretty please... do not precook tomatoes for pizza... :( (sorry, whiny Italian here) –  nico Jan 2 '12 at 22:45
    
@nico cooked tomatoes = sauce. for american pizzas :-) –  D Boy Jan 3 '12 at 7:38
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What I do is to use a regular oven. Mine goes to 275 C; however, I have measured it to about 285 C. I let it preheat to 275 C for 30 minutes to ensure the entire oven has been thoroughly heated.

Instead of a pizza stone, I put in a baking sheet at the bottom and place a large cast iron lit on it (like this one). The cast iron works like a pizza stone, and helps keeping the temperature up when placing the pizza in the oven.

I then bake the pizza for a very short time (6-8 minutes) and get an amazing crust.

I use natural yeast and flour zero for the dough, and let it rest for 24 hours in refigirator before making pizzas.

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The marketing of pizza stones drive me crazy. Visit your local hardware store and buy a nice sized ceramic or even porcelain tile. It will cost you a couple of bucks.

I've also used a tile on a gas barbecue with remarkable results. The trick was getting the stone really hot before using it. I find the results on the barbecue to be better than from the oven, so a perfect controlled environment is not as necessary as you may think.

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I think one of the design features of a pizza stone is that it's porous so steam can escape through the bottom (which should allow for a crispier base), and another is that it's reasonably thick so has substantial thermal mass (doesn't cool down too quickly when you stick a pizza on it). This would mean a glazed ceramic tile, or a thin tile, would give less benefit. Disclaimer: I have no interest in the selling of pizza stones! –  Highly Irregular May 12 '12 at 9:16
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Buy an oven thermometer. Use the thermometer to figure out how hot you can get your oven. If it gets up above 500F (275C), then you can use normal pizza-making techniques, substituting an inverted baking sheet for the pizza stone. Since your oven is hot, though, a thinly-stretched pizza dough with toppings on parchment paper will cook up fine.

If it won't get above 450F (225C), then use a two-stage baking technique as D Boy suggests. Alternately, consider baking a foccacia with cheese & other stuff on top instead of a regular pizza.

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