Pizza Kettle/Weber BBQ - Serious Eats Hack


Steve_A (Tatoosh)

TVWBB Super Fan
The Pizza Kettle is made for the Weber 22.5 inch kettle. Serious Eats reviewed sometime back and gave it a so-so rating. But they have since revisited it with some homemade upgrades. These are exactly the same upgrades I had discussed in a couple of other forums, it is a bit like they are in my brain! (Joke) Kenji-Alt and I think along the same lines when it comes to the Pizza Kettle. I am very happy to see them do this. I have not had a chance yet since I'm waiting for the second food grate that is necessary to form a ceiling.

But by using a good pizza stone (I suggest the Red Sky D shape) and a second stone to help with heat retention in the ceiling, plus a bit of aluminum foil, you can be knocking out TOP QUALITY pizza rivaling the commercial outfits. And I don't mean Papa Johns or Pizza Hut, I mean the really serious pizza outfits that take an artisan approach!

Here is the Serious Eats Hack --> Link

The temps on the stone kick up well past 700F and the reflected heat from ceiling cooks the top of the pizza just like a real wood fired oven. You'll need to have something to turn your pizza so it doesn't char! And with the right dough and toppings, you will have world class pizza from your Weber! Woohoo!

I need to play with mine and see how tight it fits. I'd like to try converting the Pizza Kettle into something on the order of a Cajun Bandit extension ring, but with a handy door. This would be perfect for those of us that use the Smokenator. We'd have easy access for refueling and adding wood, along with the second cooking grate the top of the Kettle insert will hold. Easy access, double the space. Hmm, sounds good to me!
Yeah, it is very exciting for me, since I live for .. uhmm .. really like Pizza! I will be cobbling up some sort of "grate" to hold my stone and doing this within the next couple of weeks.

But my second passion is smoking so I pulled my unit out and checked the fit of the Kettle Pizza unit to the sides of the Weber and there is a significant gap. But not an insurmountable one. I may start out playing with foil as a gasket. And a foil "door" to see how feasible converting the Pizza Kettle to a Smoker Extension is. For a truly workable solution, some of the high temp gasket along with some sort of sandwiched door to close the opening but provide access when necessary would be required.
Thanks, this sounds like a great idea
I had also noticed that the tops were slow to cook,
not a deal breaker but I just thought it was the nature of the beast.

Good Luck
I don't know how I managed to miss this until today, but thanks for posting it.

Might be the final push I need to pick up a cast iron grate for the Performer, since this gives me an excuse for needing two grates ;)

Also plan to see if I can notch out one side of the Kettle Pizza ring (and drill a hole in the other) to mount a rotisserie. For the door, I was going to start with a piece of scrap wood and some kind of heavy handle so you could put it inside the ring and stand it up. AFAICS that's been the solution for wood-fired ovens for a few hundred years...

EDIT -- I ran across the following post at about the same time -- using an almost-full-size pizza stone on top, eliminating the need for foil :

Now I'm getting tempted to look for a cheap used kettle so I can cut the lower door and leave it set up for pizza and baking...
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Saw this article on serious eats and have been looking for a used 22 1/2 of craigs list ever since. Definitely interested in knowing how it turns out.
came across this yesterday and have been thinking about getting a performer as well to go along with my wsm and gasser. now i just need to get enough compelling arguments over the winter to convince the better half to let me buy it
OK, here are versions 0.1 and 0.2 of the two stone approach.

Version 0.1

I was thinking "where can I get a cheap pizza stone" at the same time as I was thinking "I really need to pick up a clay saucer for the WSM" and the two thoughts just kind of stuck together.

All the local Home Depot stores carried a big selection of clay pot bases so figured I would go pick up the biggest one I could find and try that as an upper stone. However, apparently summer is over and the stores are pushing snowblowers rather than plant pots, so all I could get was one lousy 12.5" base.

Since I didn't have a second grate to hold up the saucer, I did the next best thing and cobbled together a temporary solution using rebar wire :

Covered the top of the ring with a couple of pieces of foil, and let it start warming up. In hindsight, I only gave it 10 mins or so to warm up, which wasn't enough.

Note that this pic was taken *before* warmup -- thermometer was pinned when I added the pizza:

Pizza was OK top although the top still cooked more slowly than the bottom. The thermometer on the ring was pinned while Performer dome temp stayed down around 500F (thanks to the foil, I guess).

Part of the problem seemed to be a misalignment between the upper and lower stones (upper stone was centered, lower stone closer to the front so only the back of the pizza really was affected by the upper stone) and part was probably lack of preheat time.

Version 0.2

Another Home Depot, another saucer (14" this time). Ripped out the wire and propped the saucers (I used both) on the standard Weber char baskets on their ends. Did this rather than firebricks because the upper "stone" wasn't really any larger than the lower one, so needed a way to get the supports further in. Guess I could have just put the firebricks on the lower stone, will try that next time.

Here's what it looked like from the top :

... and from the front (note I didn't foil the top of the ring this time, which IMO was a mistake)

Fired it up with briquettes this time (used lump last time), no wood, and let it preheat until the label on the bottom of the saucer fell off (about 25 mins). Did two pizzas, roughly 1/2 hr apart. Unfortunately there was rain and high wind blowing across the front of the ring, so temps dropped pretty quickly. First pizza cooked with high temps but I don't think the upper stone was sufficiently hot yet; temps were down to ~450 by the second pizza but wind even stronger.

Even with lower air temps I think the second pizza worked out better than the first, presumably because stones were hotter :

Note that I forgot to put the cheese on when making the above pizza so added it midway through the cook. The cheese did start to brown a bit on the previous pizza.

Lessons learned so far :

1. Foiling the top of the ring definitely reduces dome temperature which suggests that more heat would be kept inside the cooking area (and probably increases hot airflow over the bottom face of the upper stone, which is really important).

2. Cutting corners on preheat time isn't a good idea

3. I'm starting to suspect that my best pizzas with the ring before used a pizza pan *and* a lower stone (or maybe just pizza pan no stone, checking through notes now). Anyways, the bottom of the pizza is still cooking too fast.

EDIT -- just remembered that I had much better results using the "shiny" metal pan that came with the kettle pizza ring than a black pan, at least when *not* using a stone. The shiny pan caused the bottom to cook more slowly, giving a better top/bottom balance.

4. Now that I have a baseline, need to go back to using wood as well as charcoal to get the temps.

5. Home Depot 14" saucers are just a bit too small to fit in the WSM water bowl supports, although they fit fine in the water bowl.

I was going to add "6. Wind and rain suck when making pizza outside" but I guess that's kind of obvious.

I'm thinking of doing a "control" cook next -- no ring, pizza stone up on firebricks, with/without shiny pan.
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I'm curious if there is a way to close off the door to make the Pizza Kettle a Stacker to convert the kettle to a Smoker. That would be a nice kettle option.. high heat Pizza, indirect Smoker, or direct griller.
I'm curious if there is a way to close off the door to make the Pizza Kettle a Stacker to convert the kettle to a Smoker. That would be a nice kettle option.. high heat Pizza, indirect Smoker, or direct griller.

... or rotisserie :cool:

re: closing off the door, worst case I guess you buy/clone the hardware that the WSM door uses. In fact that's probably where I would start.

I was going to play with a door as part of a "kettle pizza rotisserie" project but (a) I got back into pizza instead and (b) someone here already mod'ed their kettle pizza to take a rotisserie and their work looked a lot nicer than mine ever would so I kinda lost interest ;)
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No pizza kettle update, but I cooked a couple of "control" pizzas in the oven, using a combination of pizza stone and broiler (generally accepted as the best oven technique without getting into big slabs of steel or iron). I hadn't been particularly impressed with the pizzas I was making on the Performer (they were OK but not great) so I thought I would spend a bit of time re-calibrating.

The interesting thing was that the control pizzas weren't very good either. Also OK but not great. That made me look closer at dough, toppings etc... and I realized I had probably fallen into bad habits over the last year or so. Putting sauce & cheese right out to the edge may have been stopping the dough from rising, I've probably been putting too many toppings on, and rather than keeping a stack of well fermented dough balls in the fridge I was making the dough less than an hour before baking.

Predictably, I'm going to make some more pizzas...

... and see how they turn out if I go back to "good practices". Will probably do one more in the oven tonight then try again on the kettle with (hopefully) a new baseline. Stay tuned...
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Thanks for all the great info John. I've been wanting to whip up a batch of dough for a little while now, but I haven't been home enough lately to do it. I've been guilty of bad practices previously as well, not letting dough rest enough, too many toppings, etc. It can be a tough hurdle to get over because it all tastes so good! I've read other places that some people still put two pizza stones under the broiler to keep the temps up
For those of you that have the Pizza Kettle am curious how wide the opeing is? I think I read 17" somewhere, but looking for confirmation. THanks!!
Saw this and was about to go measure my KettlePizza, then remembered that the design has been tweaked a bit (ring is lower, opening is smaller) so my measurements wouldn't be much use.

BTW I did make a few more pizzas using a stock Performer (no ring) with the stone raised on firebricks. One of the pizzas was absolutely the best I have ever made (I think it was the third one baked in that session, so lots of preheat time) but I have never been able to duplicate it and all my attempts since then have been so-so at best (temperatures too low).

The winning pizza was baked with the last of my Kingsford while the subsequent pizzas were done using Royal Oak briquettes (big bags were on end-of-summer sale) but I can't believe different briquettes would make *that* much difference. I suppose different charcoal *and* the effects of non-stop rain for the last few weeks might be enough to explain the difference.

There's now a Baking Steel custom-made to fit in the top of the ring. Price is OK (just under $100) but shipping to Canada is more $$$ than the baking steel so waiting for the local big-*** BBQ store to start carrying it. In the meantime, I had a crazy idea about (a) turning the ring upside down and (b) using the "pizza stone on two firebricks" trick that another member uses for making pizza without the KettlePizza ring. I figure that should get the pizza a lot closer to the Performer lid while still giving access to the pizza stone via the opening in the ring.

(pause to run outside and try said crazy idea)

OK, not as good as I hoped. Turning the ring over only raises the opening a couple of inches, so had to lay the firebricks flat in order to still have access to the top of the stone. The Performer lid is a couple of inches closer, but still not as close as using on-edge firebricks and a Performer without the ring... but it might be enough of a "cooler bottom, warmer top" adjustment to bring things into balance until I can score a Baking Steel for the top of the ring.

OK, turns out that the margins on the BakingSteel lid don't leave room for dealers right now, so I gave in and ordered one from the mfg. At least shipping is cheaper than driving down to pick it up myself.

Not quite sure yet how to reconcile "trying to eat less pizza to help with losing weight" with "buying a new toy for making more and better pizzas" but I'm sure the answer is out there somewhere. At least now I can turn the ring right-side-up again.

EDIT -- forgot to mention, the shipping costs to Canada turned out to be a lot lower than I expected -- under $40 rather than almost $120. Not sure if it's coming via UPS or USPS so there might be a UPS customs brokerage charge on top but it's still less than I was expecting.

Jerk chicken tonight then we switch to pizza mode for the forseeable future :)

EDIT 2 -- UPS tag on the door when I got home. Total owing was about $58 but some of that is tax, so total shipping to Canada including UPS brokerage was around $80. More than I would like but less than I feared, which is about right for ordering heavy stuff from the US for prompt delivery to Canada. Now to make some dough balls for tomorrow...
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nice finished product! how many pounds of charcoal to achieve that cooking temperature if i might ask?
Geez, at that price you might as well start looking at replacing your kettle setup with a ceramic kamado style cooker.