How did I end up with an Uuni pizza oven?
When I bought my Weber gear I tried to do pizzas on a pizza stone in the grill and whilst it was OK, it was never a great pizza. I went on to buy the Weber pizza oven attachment which was better but it took an incredible amount of effort to get it hot enough, burnt a lot of fuel, took ages to cook each pizza and didn’t cook the top or crust the sides properly.
I was playing with the idea of buying a proper Italian pizza oven when I noticed Uuni on Kickstarter. It looked cool and quite different, they had some great pictures of pizzas but I wasn’t convinced it could be as easy as they said it was. Gradually, more and more folk in the BBQ community were buying Uuni pizza ovens and raving about how easy they were to light, use and cook with but posting pictures of awesome looking pizzas. I placed my order! (It is as easy as they say it is.)
Method 1: It’s very easy to light the Uuni, but it’s taken me a while to master a technique which now appears to be fail-safe.
Start off by raising the hopper to the highest point. The hopper controls the temperature and the lowest setting appears to be the hottest.
Take the pellet crate out and put 2 large fistfuls of pellets in.
Put the pellet crate back in part way and slot in a “Flamer” firelighter before pushing the crate all the way in.
Make sure the hopper handle is facing inwards away from the fire and make sure the pellet scoop is in the hopper. The Uuni works on convection so you need the scoop in and the front door shut.
I light the flamer with one of the long nosed fire lighters. You can use a blowtorch to light it but I find it harder to get the fire going. With the flamers it’s a quick light and walk away.
The flamer will get to work quickly.
You will see a bit of smoke as the pellets get going.
Update 24/10/17: Up until this month I have always used my Uuni outside and living on the coast there is always a breeze which helped stoke the fire. I have just had a BBQ Hut built and since I have moved the Uuni inside there isn’t a breeze and the fire seems to struggle to light a bit plus the smoke is heavier at the start. I started blowing the back of the hopper to get it going but then I remembered I had a looftlighter so I have started using that to give the fire a good kick at the start. This has helped reduce the amount of smoke and made the fire take much quicker. I have also given the pellets a blast with the looftlighter when I top up with pellets between pizza cooks which ends up like a turbo boost to the fire!
After 3 minutes I drop the hopper 1 level. Lately I have just been dropping it right down to the bottom at this point but gradual changes work. Stick another handful of pellets down the hopper.
After another 3 minutes drop the hopper to the bottom notch and fill it with pellets up to the top of the collar (the bit that sticks out above the top notch below).
The fire will be well under way now.
After about 10 minutes from lighting the flamer the fire should be raging and the stone should be above 500C. I use this IR Thermometer from Amazon, only £19. Make sure you get one that goes above 500C, this one goes to 750C. If your stone isn’t at 500C close the door and leave it for a bit. Make sure the pellets are topped up above the collar.
Gratuitous arty fire shot!
Gratuitous arty smoke shot!
When the fire is well underway and you are at temperature, you will hear the flames roaring inside the oven.
Be careful when you open the door as the flames roll all the way up to the front!
You are now good to go!
Method 2: Preferred method.
I spotted this video on You Tube:
It suggests dropping the hopper to the lowest level, putting 2 handfuls of pellets in the hopper, lighting it and waiting 3 minutes then topping the pellets up to the level of that first notch on the hopper.
I did this on a recent cook and it was really easy to get the Uuni lit and up to temp, this will be the preferred method in future:
I have tried a lot of pizza doughs over the years and I tried a few of them with the Uuni; but the best recipe I have found so far is from Uuni themselves.
You can make the dough on the day but the taste and flexibility of the dough does improve if you leave it a couple of days. It’s hard to be so organised though and if you are in a rush making the dough on the day is fine. I use our Kitchenaid with a dough hook to knead the dough, makes it even easier!
Early on I was using 00 flour from the supermarket, dried yeast in a pot from the supermarket and I was rolling the dough with a rolling pin. Through trial and error, practice and tears, I have found the best results come from:
- Molino Grassi 00 flour – I tested this as the first change to our process and the difference in the dough was unbelievable. Lighter, more flexible and the crust on the edge formed far easier. I got it from Amazon, 10KG for £10.
- Saf-Levure yeast – I tried this instead of supermarket yeast and the smell of the dough was very different, it had a smell that reminded me of fresh bread in a bakers. The dough rose better, was more flexible and crispier. £6 for a big pot on Amazon.
You can get fresh yeast from the supermarket, just go up to the bakers bit and ask them. I have tried it once and didn’t get as good results as I did with the Saf-Levure. I will try it again but it’s handy having a big pot to one side.
I have also tried premium British 00 flour and not had results close to the Molino Grassi flour. This flour has a high gluten level which helps create more bubbles in the pizza dough.
Update 26/08/17: On the last run the dough didn’t rise much and I blamed it on the supermarket yeast we had used. But this time round my wife checked the temperature of the water before she put the yeast in and it was 46 degrees Celsius. Looking online the optimum temperature range for yeast fermentation is 27c to 38c. We added more cold water and got it down to 36c, this time the dough rose much better so maybe 46c is too hot for the yeast.
Update: 28/12/17: ArtustBBQ found some frozen pizza dough from Northern Dough Company in the supermarket which he has had good results with when too short on time to make his own dough, I haven’t tried it yet but it might be worth sticking some in the freezer for an emergency cook!
Update: 07/01/18: Quite a few changes on a recent cook:
I followed this video when making the dough:
I left the yeast in the water for 10 minutes before adding it to the flour and the mixed dough was put into a 6 litre plastic container for 2 hours. I got the container from Amazon for £5.23:
It was then rolled underneath to form smooth dough balls and put into 3x 7 Litre Plastic Stacking Food Grade Commercial Pizza Dough Trays. I got 3 of these from Amazon for £22.95. 2 trays hold dough and the top tray acts as a lid but the trays are the right size to fit in the fridge when you want to cold proove the dough.
To start with we were rolling the dough with a rolling pin but we weren’t getting much of a raised crust round the edge of the pizza. I watched a few videos online and started stretching the dough by hand just by spinning it round with one hand and squeezing it with the other. This became a lot easier when we started using the Molino Grassi flour as the dough was far more flexible so easier to work with.
Sometimes you get an odd batch of dough that doesn’t want to behave. You can use a rolling pin but it might affect the crust so I have rolled a glass in the middle before as you can roll out the dough and avoid the edges.
At one point I did test using the rolling pin then folding the edges of the dough back in to create a sausage but it didn’t really work!
If you want a raised crust stretch the dough by hand. To stop it sticking keep dusting it with plenty of flour and before you put it down make sure the base is dusted. I don’t put it on the peel and build the pizza until the last possible moment as any heat in the base could cause it to stick to the peel.
Update 07/01/2018: The dough made in the post above was very soft, very stretchy and easy to shape. The cooked pizza seemed lighter and crispier also.
This video provided all the information that I followed:
Again, I have tried a lot of pizza sauces over the years but my favourite is this one by Kenji.
The tomatoes I use are Lupetta San Marzano plum tomatoes D.O.P – I got a 12 pack from Amazon with the flour and yeast for £16. It’s out of stock at the moment but these Zia Rose San Marzano plum tomatoes D.O.P are available at £16.70 for 12 tins which I will use next.
I have tried British tomatoes but the results weren’t quite as good. Plum tomatoes are better than chopped as the chopped can be firmer. When we don’t have tomatoes we have used jars of passata which, whilst not as good as the tinned tomatoes, still turn out a nice sauce.
I know an authentic pizza will use Mozzarella di bufala Campana D.O.P but it’s not a strong tasting cheese and with the balls you slice the cheese and end up with discs of cheese on the pizza. The pre-grated stuff is quite odd, again it doesn’t taste of much but seems quite plastic in it’s texture! You will end up with a better spread of cheese on the pizza though.
Personally I prefer to grate some hard cheese, even better if you have cold smoked the cheese in advance. Pizza aficionado’s will kill me for this but one I liked the best was Pilgrim’s choice extra mature cheddar cheese which had been double smoked over whisky oak. The flavour of that with some pulled pork on was cracking! Experiment and see what you like, my wife doesn’t like strong tasting cheese so prefers mozzarella but I prefer a stronger tasting cheese. I think it’s best to use grated cheese though, preferably one you grate yourself.
Best advice here – keep it simple.
In an ideal world if you have 2 peels you make it on one then slide the other one underneath which helps make sure it will slide into the pizza oven to cook. As you work with the dough and move it about make sure to keep dusting it with flour. Don’t put it on a hot peel as it will stick and don’t over sauce as that can cause it to stick. Best advice is to have the pizza on the peel for as short a time as possible to reduce the risk of sticking!
If it does stick, try and get another peel (or spatula / fish slice) underneath to raise it so you can chuck some flour underneath. Semolina flour seems to work best but can be quite hard to find for some reason, if you don’t have semolina flour just use the same flour you used for the pizza base.
Update 24/10/17: I had some issues with the bases sticking on the last run so what I do now is make the pizza on one peel then slide another one underneath before moving it back to the original peel. I then keep wiggling the peel to keep the pizza moving stopping it from sticking.
Spread the pizza sauce thinly round the base leaving a rim round the edge, then place your toppings on. If you put loads of stuff on the pizza it won’t cook properly. I tend to try and keep it down to 4 slices of meat as you get a well cooked top.
Check the temperature of the stone. If it’s 500c or above slide the pizza in. Aim for the centre of the stone. Mine is the Uuni 2s so you can catch your pizza on the flames at the back and burn it so the centre is best.
For some reason it took me a long time to learn you don’t need to take the whole door off to put stuff in / take it out. You just pivot the door up on it’s latch!
Now, this thing burns hot and it will cremate your pizza if you aren’t careful. My method, which does sound mad, is as follows:
- Count to 40 – take pizza out, spin it 180 degrees and back in.
- Count to 30 – take pizza out, spin it 90 degrees and back in.
- Count to 30 – take pizza out, spin it 180 degrees and back in.
- Check pizza for any bits that need a bit extra. Usually a maximum count of 10 here or it will burn.
- Should be under 2 minutes all in.
When the pizza is ready, put another fistful of pellets in the hopper then go and make the next pizza. The time it takes to make the next pizza is usually long enough for the Uuni to get back up to temperature. Check it’s 500C or above before trying to cook the next pizza.
Update 24/10/17: As I mentioned above when I add more pellets I now give the hopper a blast with the looftlighter just to kick the fire on a bit.
When the hut was built I ordered a load of stuff from Nisbets and as part of the order I bought the 3 types of cast iron sizzler dishes they sell. I seasoned these by rubbing rapeseed oil on then sticking them in the oven at 250c for half an hour, letting them cool and repeating the process a further 2 times.
The cast iron gets crazy hot in the Uuni, I have taken to moving them using 2 pairs of welding gloves. The gloves are easier to use than the handle you get but a single glove wasn’t enough first time!
I have had great fun cooking on the cast iron dishes lately and will be doing more in the future as well:
The Uuni pizza oven is an absolute steal at £200. The quality of the pizza you can get out of it is frankly unbelievable. Buy one here!
It takes a bit of practice but hopefully my notes will help. I haven’t settled on any of my techniques yet and would love to hear any tips from other Uuni users that might help me improve my pizzas further – comment below or message me on Twitter.
You aren’t just restricted to pizzas either, I have done flatbreads on the Uuni and have recently cooked some meat in the sizzler dishes (see above).
Below are some of my favourite cooks on the Uuni to date. I am by no means an expert and there is still room for improvement but I will create a post on my blog showing the progress from the first pizza to where I am now as it’s quite an improvement.
Update 27/12/17: I have finally written up “Uuni: A year of Pizza”:
I got some great pizza’s out of a recent cook with all the changes listed above: