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Char on your crust

There was a time when I thought that blackening meant you’ve burned your pizza, but these days I don’t cook a pizza without adding just a touch of char on the crust because charring adds flavor. My misconception that “black is burned” changed when I had my very first Neapolitan style pizza in New York. The pizza I ordered had a crust that was smattered in tiny black blisters, and I’ll never forget that first bite. The slight smokiness and ever-so-gentle bitterness were followed by the flavor of all the delicious ingredients piled on my pizza. So delicious! 

Technique and Tools

To get some char on your pizza crust there’s a simple adjustment you’ll need to make regarding temperature. There’s also a handy little tool we’ll be using, and it’s an aluminum pizza screen along with your Pizzeria Pronto indoor or outdoor oven. The below method is not in the Pizzeria Pronto owner’s manual – but trust me. Here’s where the pizza screen comes in. The pizza screen is a tool that allows you to slow down the rate at which the bottom of your pizza cooks.

Charring your pizza crust:

  1. Preheat oven on “High” setting for 20-25 minutes.
  2. Prepare your first pizza and slide it into the oven.
  3. Cook the pizza 30-45 seconds and remove the pizza when you start to see the bottom pick up some char.
  4. Place the pizza onto the pizza screen and return it to the oven.
  5. Finish cooking the pizza another 3-5 minutes or until the top crust and topping are cooked and cheese has melted.

When your pizza is finished, remove the pizza from the oven and off the screen using a pizza peel or heat safe mitt. Then remove the screen and let it cool on a heat safe surface as it will be very hot! Make sure the screen isn’t placed in a location where someone will touch it while it’s hot.

char on crust

This technique takes a little more attention to detail and some practice, but once you get the hang of things it might just be your new favorite method. Enjoy!


Pizzacraft 7 Nov 09:10

Hi Christian! Unfortunately Nick found another job! Oh so sad. We miss him. I’m not sure what dough recipe he used.

Christian 9 Oct 21:04

Hi Nick,

Do you happen to have the recipe for that dough that developed such nice charring?

Nick Wellhausen
Nick Wellhausen 10 Apr 11:34

Hi Jim,

To answer your question, what we’re doing here is slightly overheating the pizza stones. Normal preheat instructions for the oven tell you to preheat on high for 10-15 minutes, then turn down the heat to medium high. With this technique, you’ll want to keep the control knob on the high setting for the duration of the cook. Preheating for 20-25 minutes overheats the stones and produces char spotting on the bottom crust early on in the cooking process.

The trick is finding the perfect timing to transfer the pizza to the screen. You’ll have to experiment with the timing, but I find that usually around 30-40 seconds is when you want to remove the pizza, place it on the screen, and return it to the oven. What this does is slow down the bottom crust (since we already have our nice char) so that you can continue cooking the top crust. You’ll get more char on the bottom of the pizza, and any bubbles on the top side should blacken with this technique. I’ve also had some success doming the pizza, which is basically lifting the pizza up (using the peel while it’s still on the pizza screen) and holding it close to the reflector for 30 seconds.

I’ve also tried the torch method, which works, but I agree with you that it doesn’t quite produce the flavor of a true char. After experimenting with this technique I started using it every time I cook pizzas in this oven.

Nick Wellhausen
Nick Wellhausen 10 Apr 11:21

Hi Doug,

Getting a fresh pizza into the oven can be a bit tricky at first, but once you get used to the process it’s easy. Use plenty of flour when you stretch out your crust, then brush off any excess before you make the pizza. I suggest using a wooden pizza peel sprinkled with a light dusting of all purpose flour. After you make the pizza, shaking the peel with a side to side motion will help get it moving…doing this before you try to put it in the oven will help significantly. I have a video where I demonstrate this technique:

At the end of the video you’ll see the transfer technique I use. Hope this helps!

Nick Wellhausen
Nick Wellhausen 10 Apr 11:15

Hi Dan,

You can start your pizza on the screen, but you probably won’t get as much browning on the bottom crust. With this technique, we’re slightly overheating the pizza stones (to get some char on the bottom crust) then finishing the pizza on the screen so that the bottom doesn’t continue to over cook and the top will crisp up nicely.

If you start to pizza on the screen how does that effect it?

doug stokes
doug stokes 23 Mar 23:04

I seem to have problem with getting a fresh pizza into the oven without using a pan…just got some King Arthur Pizza Flour maybe that’ll work better. Maybe a bigger peel?

Jim Switz
Jim Switz 23 Mar 20:43

Can you elaborate a bit on why this technique works for charring or leopard-spotting? I’ve been trying to leopard-spot in my PizzaCue for a while, even flaming the crust edges with a propane torch (works, but doesn’t get the taste just right) and concluded the high, direct radiant heat of a wood-burning oven was necessary to do the trick. Charring really does take a pizza from very good to great.

So, obviously the longer preheat is the secret (I’ve been using screens at various stages of pizza baking for some time), well beyond your normal recommended limit of 15 minutes.

What’s doing it – are we preheating longer to add more thermal mass to the stones, or getting the surrounding metal shell up to a higher temp to provide radiant heat, or am I missing something?

Looking forward to trying this longer-preheat method once I get my pizza operation reestablished at my new residence. Still looking around for most things for basic living, so pizza will have to wait a bit!

Scott Borsick
Scott Borsick 22 Mar 17:44

Will this technique work with the PizzaQue

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